r#88 – the idolm@ster

Hello hello and welcome back to another review on #moe404! After writing my first review for the blog last week, I’m slowly starting to get the hang of how things are done on this blog but it may take a couple more weeks to fully settle in. Anyhow, here’s a write-up revolving around something that I’ve been an enthusiast of, especially in recent months.

I think most people know or at least acknowledge as anime viewers the massive presence of idols and it’s popularity. A Japanese and South Korean cultural staple with girls (*don’t forget the guys as well) looking cute while singing and dancing on stage in front of crazed fans, it really is an interesting aspect of entertainment to watch and be a part of. If you know me and/or have followed my personal blog before, you already know that I enjoy talking about the Japanese idol culture a lot. Whether it be the music, the idols themselves or even the dark and controversial side behind all the cuteness, I am an avid follower of idol culture.

That being said, this cultural phenomenon is greatly depicted in the world of anime as there are a ton of idol based shows to watch. As a matter of fact, there has probably been at least one or two idol anime featured in at least the past two years of seasonal anime, that’s how popular it is! Those shows and their stories can really range from idols being magical girls saving the world to a pretty realistic portrayal of being in the competitive and busy industry. Either type of show, I think it’s safe to say that they are extremely well liked in general.

Today’s show has one of the more realistic stories so let’s just jump right in!

synopsis – the idolmaster.

A world of the massive entertainment industry in Japan, what lies in the middle of it is 765 Productions, a tiny idol agency that manages the talents and careers of thirteen unique and passionate idols. With the support of a president, a secretary and two producers, everyone at this establishment works together through the tough obstacles, hard work, tears and sweat in order to get these idols to the level of fame they desire.

However, even though they do eventually get that boost of popularity, they find out that it comes with a price. More and more work makes these ladies do not have the same amount of bonding time as before, personal life issues start to negatively affect their idol-related tasks and the presence of their bitter rivals; 961 Productions begins to change not only the individual idols, but the group as a whole.

But hope is not lost as the girls believe that having trust in each other and doing things as a team is the only way to succeed.

settings.

If you didn’t know, THE IDOLM@STER series is one of the most popular idol franchises out of the ones we see in anime at least. But before 765 Pro received their own full-fledged show in 2011, it actually was originally a video game series. The first IDOLM@STER game was made in 2005 by Bandai Namco, and it was produced for arcade machines rather than your normal gaming consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation. You —the player— assumed the role as a producer of an idol agency and your job was to assist and guide your company’s idols by scheduling jobs, auditions and performances for them. Another gameplay aspect was playing various mini-games in order to train and level your idols up. Basically, this is essentially just an idol simulation game, similar to other sims you may have encountered before.

Surprisingly given that THE IDOLM@STER series is about music and performing, Bandai Namco did not go the standard/expected route of doing a rhythm gameplay to represent the main thing that idols do. However, since this series does show the more realistic and specific side of the idol industry, I can see why they made the game what it is.

This arcade game would later spawn a plethora of sequels and spin-offs over the years that added more stories, idols and was ported to many different game systems like the Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, and even mobile apps. To keep this short, this video game series was and still is extremely popular in Japan and it’s no surprise that it got its anime adaptation.

story.

One of the strong points of this show’s story is definitely the realism. As you may know after my last review, I tend to enjoy anime shows that have a real setting to it and allows you to have the ability to relate to it or actually believe that something like what you see in said anime can really happen in the world around you. THE IDOLM@STER definitely exceeds in having a rational setting as we can really see what goes on in a professional idol’s life, being in the competitive and hectic industry. Watching these thirteen girls and their producers go to television program rehearsals, participate in radio interviews, rush to the next event with the chance of being late, go to training camps and even seeing the idols simply practice in a dance studio; you can see how spot on they wanted to express what it’s like being an idol.

THE IDOLM@STER is also known for its drama, and the way we see that drama occur is kind of in a formulaic episode format where one idol is in the spotlight for their own episode. In essence, most of the episodes in this show pretty obviously follow the regular story elements you’d expect in a story with the idols having a conflict at hand, events leading up to the climax, how they find a way to solve the said conflict, and a resolution at the end. While it sounds very simple, boring and cliche, in my opinion, I think you’d be surprised at really how interesting this show can get. And it can vary such as episodes where it’s an enjoyable and fun way a character is handling an issue or even one involving more serious quarrels. It’s almost surprising how dark the story can get.

Connecting back to the realistic scenes of the idol industry and combining that with the different personalities and lives of each and every idol, most stories and conflicts were honestly each a unique experience to see.

characters.

With a big cast like THE IDOLM@STER’s, there’s a vast variety of characters to enjoy and it’s shown that whoever came up with these idols wanted to make each and every one of them unique and fresh from one another. They do have some pretty average personality traits such as a tsundere who think she’s better than everyone or a joyful yet clumsy lady, but I think you can certainly find someone to like appreciate and maybe even relate to. Other than the personalities of these idols, the special type of relationships they have with each other is one of the best things about the characters in this show. Seeing the friendships of best friends, rivalries of idols who can’t stand each other and overall the family-esque behaviour everyone has was fun and almost heart-warming to watch.

But even though there is a wide range of idols to watch, the character aspect of this show definitely was hurt because of how this particular story was told. The problem is that only a certain amount of ladies were in the main spotlight, or other words have shown throughout the show a lot, while the rest only had their one or two episodes to shine. Because of that, characters like Takane and Azusa never got the chance to be more developed and pretty much become memorable to viewers due to the story only wanting to focus more on a bigger and more important conflict with a more prominent character.

Besides the idols, the next character who has the most screen time and relevance is the producer of 765 Productions … which named Producer 😅 —they could at least give him a name. However, despite the great amount of screen time he has, Producer is very-very bland; not only in his overall appearance, but his personality as well. We never got to see what he’s really like, his backstory and past history, why he took this job as a producer, etc. —and because of that, it’s the one thing that could’ve made him a lot more interesting to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I like Producer and what he does, but he had the potential to be something more than some guy who helps the idols succeed.

Lastly, while some side characters like the secretary were nice to watch because of their comedic and sweet nature, others had the same problem as the some of the main cast where they were just not memorable or interesting due to their limited time in the story; one good example being the rival male idol group is Jupiter.

visuals and art.

Despite the weak aspects of the story and characters … the art, animation, and music are where THE IDOLM@STER shines bright like a diamond. The art is gorgeous and its animation is beautifully smooth, most notably in any scene where dancing is shown. It seemed very much so that the studio put careful attention to make performances, practices and concerts look good as things like the choreography, uniforms, camera angles, lights and even the fan behaviour felt like you were watching a realistic idol concert that you could experience at an actual arena in Japan.

The music in this show is probably one of my favourite things I love about THE IDOLM@STER. Pretty much most songs are themed around the individual conflicts in each episode which is a really nice touch while watching the story. They’re absolutely fun to listen to and it reflects idol music very well; the great examples are the opening themes titled “READY!!!” and “CHANGE!!!!”. Both are very upbeat, have a lot of passion in theme and you can suspect that these voice actresses/singers have a bunch of fun singing these kinds of songs. But if you’re sceptical that every single track is filled with happiness and sunshine, there are some songs that are completely different from the others and can have a unique tone and meaning to them.

closing – al’s final verdict.

THE IDOLM@STER, it being the first idol related thing I’ve seen in my life, definitely sparked my interest and love for this cultural phenomenon as years later. I would watch other franchises like Love Live!, listen to more idol music and even discuss them on many social platforms such as WordPress and Twitter.

I know that not too many people would be willing to watch an idol show, simply because of the visuals being a little too cute and childish for people’s tastes but if you go beyond that, this is an anime that expresses a pretty realistic depiction of the idol industry which by itself is considered an interesting topic to be learnt about. Watching the busy lives of idols and essentially what happens behind-the-scenes gives you a much different perspective rather than just seeing them dance and sing on a stage. While elements in this show like the story and characterization aren’t the best, there are many positive traits to it such as the characters generally being very likeable and passionate, songs are fun and also can be powerful to listen to and you can definitely appreciate the tight bond between this group of thirteen ladies.

It’s not a show for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

additional pieces of information.

*material references: http://www.idolmaster-anime.jp/tv/AllcinemacrunchyrollOfficial pageWiki (en)AnimeNfoAnisonMAL, and MAL (S1)

*this image is available to (click and) download!

Thanks for reading and it was my pleasure to discuss the Japanese idol culture through an anime review! It certainly is an interesting aspect of Japanese entertainment to experience, as you discover a lot of different things (positive or negative) that may drastically change the way you see and enjoy this massively popular culture. And don’t worry, I probably won’t be talking a whole bunch about idols here on #moe404, that’s for my personal blog.

The Winter 2018 anime season is nearing the end next week so I may consider reviewing a show that I’ve been following for the past few months. To be determined later but until then, I’ll see you next week!

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