THE IDOLM@STER Review (Secret Santa)

IDOLM@STER

This is a review of the 2011 anime series THE IDOLM@STER for the Reverse Thieves’ 2012 Secret Santa. Basically, participants all received a list of three shows from another, anonymous participant and must watch one of these three shows completely. Though it isn’t really the show I would normally go for, and I am not sure if it was recommended with the intention of suffering either, from my choices I choose THE IDOLM@STER. This means that this review is not just my first Secret Santa, but also my first ever review on this blog.

This being the first review and all, I would really appreciate it if you did check out my How I Review page. It will basically be a text review, but I want to start a scoring system here that will continue  in all future reviews.

The basic premise of THE IDOLM@STER is pretty simple, but I am afraid that because the show is so simple, it is hard to discuss anything worthwhile without giving away some of the enjoyable quirks of the show. I will refrain from giving away any spoilers, but I will be discussing some of these quirks that may be more enjoyable to discover on your own.

The first episode of the series is basically a huge quirk all in itself. The first episode is shot in a documentary style, as a nameless, voiceless, faceless cameraman interviews a small, (hopefully)up-and-coming idol agency called 765 Productions. The episode basically functions to give you a brief introduction of the 12 idols of 765 Productions. Here is a quick round-up; there is the normal one, the lazy one, the rich one, the poor one, the animal lover, the old(by idol standards) one, the mysterious one, the boyish one, the androphobe, the one who just wants to sing, and the twins. After we learn about all of them a little and what exactly they think it means to be an idol and why they want to be one, we learn that the cameraman is actually their new producer! And thus the show begins! FYI, they already have one other producer who used to be an idol herself, along with a female clerk.

From this point the show is very easy to summarize. You basically follow these idols and get at least an episode dedicated to each of them to basically try to emotionally connect you to them as they rise towards stardom. The producer himself usually plays some sort of essential role in each of the episodes, helping the idols in someway. As most probably know, THE IDOLM@STER is originally a video game franchise where you play as the producer and basically raise these girls into idols. This is what keeps the producer so present in the show, and though I really would have liked less of him, they never make it excessive or creepy at all.

As these character vignette episodes continue we slowly learn more about the idols, and also that there is another (male)idol group, named Jupiter, who’s president has a vendetta against 765 productions. This conflict pops up every few episodes to keep things interesting. In the character episodes themselves they have plenty of insert songs sung by the idols as well as the ending theme and  its visuals changes every episode to reflect what was the focus that episode. Though I thought this was really nice, I really did not find it enjoyable. I appreciated the sentiment greatly, and even sat through every single ending theme to see what they did, but I really am not a fan of “idol” music, and very few of the songs I found enjoyable at all.

Eventually, of the 12 idols, 3 of them are brought together by the female producer to form their own idol unit, Ryuuguu Komachi, which marks the start of 765 Productions’ actual rise into relevance. This part of the show, with their debut of this unit on TV in episode 6, marked my turning point for the show. Up until that point, I found the show not just boring, but in a way, incredibly depressing, seeing these teenage girls just come into work and sort of just wait for a chance at fame. It was really eating away at me. With Ryuuguu Komachi’s debut though, the tone of the show entirely changed for me, and I liked every episode after that. We see that this actually is going to be a story about them attaining success, and not just chasing it.

Of the girls, there are only two who have significant character arcs in the show. These two arcs are the best part of the show, and as such, they saved them till the end and placed them back-to-back. I really thought it was great for them to end so strong, but even though I want shows to get better with every episode, the quality shift between those first 6 episodes and the rest of the show was way to drastic for me.

The first girl is the one who just wants to sing, Chihaya Kisaragi, and we learn that she has a tragic past that is driving her to want to sing so bad. From the very beginning of the show she is emotionally distant within the group of idols, and this arc is really rewarding to watch as we see her have to open up. This arc had the scene that hit me the most in the series, which is when we see Haruka Amami, the normal one, vistit Chihaya’s house for the first time, where she lives alone, and her entire apartment is basically entirely barren except for a cd player. This scene vividly reminded me of the character of Rei Ayanami from the series Neon Genesis Evangelion, who lives in similarly depressing conditions. Even more shocking though, is that in that same scene Chihaya comments that she rarely cooks so she even just takes nutrition supplements, JUST LIKE HOW REI AYANAMI DOES AS WELL. My mind was slightly blown. Besides that, I was already suspisious of the fact that Chihaya herself already had a very similar last name and appearance to the character Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Misato Katsuragi(right) and Chihaya Kisaragi(left)

Misato Katsuragi(left) and Chihaya Kisaragi(right)

The second significant character arc was Haruka Amamai’s and followed right after Chihaya’s. In the first episode Haruka states that she is an idol because it was always her dream, but in this arc, as everyone has gotten more popular and busy she finds they don’t work together as much anymore. Haruka stops enjoying being an idol like she used to and this makes her question what she truly wanted. This arc was very impactful for me, because in the first episode her saying, “It’s my dream,” when asked why she was becoming an idol would be something I would be incredibly jealous of in real life. I hope that everyone can find their dream and those people who already know their’s, I am extremely jealous of. The fact that she learns that what she thought was her dream might not be, and that the people who she thought would always be there weren’t, was a really great way to deepen her character and wrap up the series nicely after she comes to her own conclusion.

Overall, the show was good. The first 6 episodes though definitely bring the show down to a lot lower level. I wasn’t able care about the characters at all before that and even now don’t really ever want to have to watch those episodes again. I really wish that the show could have started off a lot stronger than it did.

Now, just a little more personal stuff here, I had previously tried to watch this series on Crunchyroll when it premiered, but I totally gave up on it by the 5th episode. I am glad that I got this chance to revisit it, because I honestly never would have otherwise. I was surprised I even tried it the first time, but the reason was because of the staff working on it. The animation was done by A-1 Pictures and directed by Atsuchi Nishigori, who was the character designer for Gurren Lagann and was the animation director of 4 of the 5 biggest episodes of the show. There was a lot of other staff from Gurren Lagann that carried over along with him too. Also, the director of Gurren Lagann, Hiroyuki Imaishi, had his newly founded studio, Trigger, do the animation work for episode 17, which I did check out when it first came out on Crucnhyroll as well. The entire show overall has good art and animation, but more than anything, with A-1 Pictures shows the only word that comes to mind to describe their quality is…..interesting. The reason I say this, is because a lot of A-1 shows have great animation in the sense of choreography, but they completely slack on their number of frames. There are some shows right now *cough*Magi*cough*New World*cough* that are perfect examples of this. I don’t exactly understands why this happens, since I feel like the attention to detail they put in motion is so high that it doesn’t make sense why they would spend all their time on that and then botch frame rate. I get that there is a budget, but they are putting so much effort in that I don’t know why they don’t balance the animation more.

One of the nice things, is that you can pretty much tell that most of the staff on this show saw this as a labor of love(again why I don’t get the effort put into some things but not others). Much of the staff has public twitter accounts where you can see them express their love of not just THE IDOLM@STER, but idols in general. This may also be one of the sources of disconnect between the show and myself as well. I do not get idols. I don’t know a lot, but what I do know, mostly makes me feel like a creeper. I don’t think it is a Japanese thing, because there are plenty of western idol fans as well, but I just can’t understand it. First off, I have never been to a concert, and my favorite type of music is podcasts, so yeah, I don’t know much in the realm of music in general. I do understand how people can get excited for a Beatles concert, or Madonna concert, or even a Justin Bieber concert. I just don’t understand idols, mainly because of their audience’s age. In THE IDOLM@STER most of the idols are still in high school or even middle school, and when I say in school, I mean IN SCHOOL. Like they go to a regular school and everything not like some trailer tutor that a child star in America would get. That blows my mind. And I know that when idols get really popular that stops being the case, but still, the fact that these 15-year-olds who are essentially like any other 15-year-old, are singing and dancing for an audience of mostly men in their late 20’s to 30’s just is so weird to me.

I know of  AKB48 and Morning Musume, but really just their name and nothing more. The only idol group I can actually say that I particularly know anything about is Momoiro Clover Z. They started the group when they were all like 14 and 15, but now they are around my age, which makes me feel so much better, because I have to say, I actually sort of like them. They did the opening for Bodasious Space Pirates, which I dropped like after 9 episodes, but how I really came across them is because one my favorite people to follow on twitter, Sushio, always posts like super awesome fanart of them:

Momoiro Clover Z

You can check out Sushio’s gallery at here.

Sushio actually was the animation director for episode 17 of THE IDOLM@STER as well of the animation director for he 5th out of the 5 key episodes of Gurren Lagann which Atsuchi Nishigori, the director of THE IDOLM@STER,  did not do the animation direction on.

Even though the review is basically over, I wanted to bring up Momoiro Clover Z just to illustrate that I really don’t get idols. I watch their music videos, I like them, but then when I see the audience at a live performance like this, it just kinda really puts me off. When I was watching THE IDOLM@STER there were multiple times were I was like, “There really isn’t this many guys in the crowds there, are there?” And yep. Looking at Momoiro Clover Z there totally is. At least I know that the whole girls wanting to be idols really is a thing though. Here you can see them practically having a meltdowns when they find out their cd broke the top ten in the daily rankings.

THE_IDOLM@STER_score

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3 Comments

  1. Wow. I was particularly interested if the lucky person who got my choices would even consider this among the three (which I forgot…), but not only you picked this one, you really put some serious personal thought into it. Thanks!
    I’m a huge Idolm@ster fan. Been so since the 360 release, so I’m glad it picked in interest with pretty much every corner of the net and media in some way. But I totally understand if it’s not up some people’s alley. I fall in love with the music and choreography before I took an interest in the characters. Oh, and the cel-shaded look in the games. Beautiful!

    I really enjoy your rating system, too. I don’t really understand how most people use the 10 scale system (they kind of abuse by marking everything under 7 as “bad”), but seeing your “respect” scale puts it all into perspective. When I have to rate something I use colors!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the reply! Actually, of your other two recommendations, I had actually seen both…. I just forgot to put them on my watched list….
      I was really happy I got to see Idolm@ster though. Did you know I picked it too, because your one tweet totally made it seem like you knew.
      I do wish I could have enjoyed the music more though. For some reason none of the songs really stood out to me. I really love insert songs in general too, especially when they are actually being performed in the show itself.
      The series has definitely peaked my interest in the games as well. I’m not sure I want commit to a console version, but I have seen the new psp incarnations of it at clearance price. I was seriously considering getting them, but it seems those psp versions actually will be getting a release at least in the UK, and hopefully in the US too. As long as it is a physical release in the UK at least, I will probably just wait to import it then.

      And I sometimes don’t get some people’s rating systems too. I feel like mine still be a bit confusing, so I may change it, maybe to a scale of -50 to 50 instead of 0 to 100, but I am happy you found it enjoyable. 🙂

      Reply
  1. Secret Santa 2012 Project Reveal « Reverse Thieves

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