Secret Santa Review – Idolmaster

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If your Christmas tree is still up, it’s not too late to post on Secret Santa! Every year for a while now, Reverse Thieves has done an anime Secret Santa project where you sign up, receive a person to pick three shows for, and someone else secretly gives you three recommendations. This year I gave out series to Nazarielle (who picked xxxHolic), and received The Idolmaster, Yuru Yuri, and Kujibiki Unbalance from Kevo. I’d wanted to check out Idolmaster for a while, mostly due to the harassment recommendations from CrazyDave and Aeroblip. Plus I’d tried Yuru Yuri when it aired and it wasn’t for me, and everyone, EVERYONE I talked to on Twitter said that Kujibiki Unbalance was terrible even if you liked Genshiken. So Idolmaster it was, and I have to say that while I’m not as in love with it as many in the Greater AniBlogoTwitter Realm, I did enjoy it quite a bit.


The Show

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[This portion of the post contains no spoilers.] The premise of the show is that 765 Productions, a small up-and-coming idol production company, is starting off with a group of new idols and attempting to find them work and start their careers. This ranges from the usual concert bookings to TV show segments, commercials, photo shoots, and other things you’d expect to see idols in. The show follows the group’s careers and everyday antics in a mostly lighthearted and fun way. Drama does feature in the show somewhat, in the form of personal issues with some of the idols and the clash with 765’s nemesis 961 Productions. That said, this is mostly a for-fun show, though one drama arc does work really well.

Idolmaster is definitely fanservice. It’s just character and personality fanservice rather than visual. The characters are at their cores a bunch of different archetypes familiar to any anime fan. There’s the spoiled, rich young ojousama (Iori), the mischievous twins (Ami and Mami), the tomboy (Makoto), etc. But, Idolmaster really succeeded in making them more than the sum of their tropes. The archetypes were taken as starting points to build actual characters around, which was nice to see and something many shows are too lazy to do. Some characters get a lot more development than others (Chihaya, Miki, and Haruka seem to get the most) while others more or less have their episode and then only feature as side characters (Yayoi and Hibiki, for example.) But you do end up liking all the characters to varying degrees, enjoying the part they play in 765’s attempt at fame. Except Yukiho, but we’ll get to her later.

As a last word on the dramatic elements, the way that Chihaya’s character arc was handled should be a lesson to all shows trying to build up to a ‘big deal’ moment. We get hints here and there that something is going on in the background with Chihaya for a while. A phone call that she hangs up on or briefly seems upset about. Maybe a hint at her dissatisfaction with why or how she’s singing. This goes on for a long time before her arc starts, and then blows up all at once. But you had some idea that it was coming. It’s not out of the blue like the very forced drama at the end of the recently-finished airing Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai. Those who’ve watched it know of what I speak. [From this point on in the post, there may be spoilers.]


One of the things I enjoyed most about watching this show was the feedback I got from people on Twitter as I tweeted while watching some of the episodes. There are a lot of passionate fans of Idolmaster out there, and it was great fun discussing the show with them. Particularly fun was people asking me who my favorite characters were, and then arguing over them. Since there are so many characters, this took the form of ranking them. Or rankingu after Akira/Desucabforcutie facetiously termed it when he, Lelangir, and I met up to discuss all the classic anime RAGE topics. Such as how Mao is the best girl in Kimi Kiss: Pure Rouge. So here is my ranking after having completed the series. It changed a bit over the course of the show, but not majorly.


visual rankingu

Moon princess Takane is obviously the best. I could listen to her talk elegantly about ramen all day. Close second is idol-turned-OL Ritsuko for her managerial skills and office lady style. Yukiho is so far from the top that it would take light from the top millions of years to reach her. I generally hate androphobia as a character trait, and she reinforced my hatred with her whiny style and overall lack of any appeal whatsoever.

Best Moment

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The full scene, if you want to see it again. Chihaya’s comeback concert after all the tabloid smears about her brother dying in a car accident when they were younger was absolutely the best moment in the show, as far as I’m concerned. The gradual buildup to her arc made the drama all the better, and the comeback concert was great emotionally in two ways. The 765 girls’ support for her and her overcoming her depressed state was a feel-good moment, and it was also enjoyable to see 961 and the paparazzi’s plans frustrated so thoroughly. I can’t say why exactly it was so good though. It’s basically the same ‘pure-of-heart good guys support each other and overcome dastardly tricks’ stuff that you’d expect to see in a crappy teen movie or something. Even the singing on stage together after the false start. Maybe it’s just that the characters are better than in most similar situations? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was emotional in a way that I didn’t expect it to be.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Reverse Thieves for running Secret Santa, and to Kevo for the recommendation! Also, I plan on returning to posting weekly during the new winter season. Haven’t decided which show to blog yet, but I am going to start again with this new season. Though I’m going to try some shorter post formats since I don’t have as much time to spend on blogging as I used to (as I’m sure you can tell by my being sparse on here lately, heh.)



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  1. Stranger
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    If you’re any more interested in the series, I’d suggest trying one of the games. The anime is honestly really bad.

    • Posted January 6, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      Really? I thought it was really well done, especially for what it is. And I haven’t really talked to anyone else that had a negative opinion of it. Unless you mean the other Idolmaster one, Xenoglossia or something? Regardless, the game doesn’t at first sound like my kind of thing, but maybe some day I’ll give it a shot.

      • Author
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        I would say that games are not really necessary or even the best way to dip into it. We have various talk tracks, books/manga, interviews, and such to help define (or exploit) the characters. One can easily sample games by way of Youtube videos.

        So when someone says “games”, I rather automatically assume he says “not anime”, rather than actually games in particular. That said, games, of course, drive the whole thing forward and define the canon — and in many case do it more successfuly.

        One element of the game canon that I really appreciated was how strikingly Makoto changed in 3 game releases through IM@S 2 for PS3. She was getting more and more feminine, with Hibiki eventually slotting into her own slot. Really breathtaking. But then the TV series executed a sharp reset. Not only it was unpleasant and threw out all the subtle development, it also begged the question: what is the role of Hibiki now?

        But if the issue of Makoto was perhaps debatable, Yukiho’s was infuriating. In the old canon, she is shy and fragile, but sympathetic. In the TV anime they made her a psychopath, and there’s a big difference. The way they demonstrated Producer winning her trust made it all worse, because the only internal logic of the situation was that she actually was crazy: she would not turn around so completely otherwise. The anime needs to be institutionalized, and that’s sad.

        On the gripping hand, anime develops Takane expertly. In the other canon, she did not have quite enough of the air of mystery, and essentially was another edition of Iori in the same way Hibiki was Makoto redux. So thanks for that at least.

      • Stranger
        Posted January 8, 2013 at 12:12 am | Permalink

        Author got a bit of it right. I do mean to suggest trying out the games anyway since many of them have become more accessible, but I guess I do mean more of a “non-anime” look at the franchise. It’s mostly because I can’t accept the idea that the anime is really good “for what it is” when I know it can be far more than just that. It misses a ton of marks as an adaptation of the series, and it doesn’t even adapt some of the better parts of the iM@S2 game that it’s more directly based on.

        My issue is with the characters more than anything. Yukiho is definitely my favorite character in the franchise, but I perfectly understand why’d you or anyone else would hate her here. But everyone else mentioned just how bad it is with her, so I’ll skip that and go onto Author’s point about Makoto. It’s hard to separate Makoto from her appearance issues, but her more feminine moments were either used as jokes or just handwaved. It really felt like the basics of some characters were completely glossed over. Maybe it’s the broad strokes frag mentioned, but it hurts to have a large cast and pull things like episode 3 out. It was hardly ever addressed because no one probably wanted to, so why did they go through with it anyway?

        What hurts even more is that I honestly don’t care for episode 20 either. I’ve personally come to like Chihaya through other works that show her dedication, independence, and maturity, and her attitude throughout the series is really off-putting. Her big moment in episode 20 seemed more like a great moment for everyone else coming together than it did for Chihaya’s character. It really seemed like her personality was adjusted for a cheap tug at heartstrings. The staff certainly knew what they were doing, too; her feelings of being responsible for her brother’s death are specially for the anime.

        Like I said, I really think there could have been far more to the anime than what it is right now. At least it has nice production values and increased interest…

        On another note, I’m going through Xenoglossia right now. It’s weird but surprisingly solid. Just note that the iDOLM@STER association is basically limited to character names and designs, it’ll save you some possible confusion if you check it out later.

  2. fragb85
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Give Yukiho some slack, she’s supposed to be timid and shy. Androphobia is NOT her defining characteristic. Yes she has androphobia, but its mostly subdued and she certainly doesn’t go into over-the-top panic attacks. Its just unfortunate that her character focus episode was terrible since it took that one aspect of her personality, over-empathized it, then ran it the ground and left a very bad first impression. She is not like this at all in the games and you might have noticed that this part of her is hardly ever addressed in subsequent episodes. In fact there are quite a few scenes where she hangs around with Broducer and doesn’t end up as a quivering mess.

    Speaking of which, no mention of Broducer? In this day and age of anime, Its quite impressive to have a guy surrounded by 13 girls and write him as a sane adult who treats the girls with respect and never takes advantage of them. Its a very good interpretation of him quite frankly, especially since in the games he’s supposed to be the player character.

  3. Maki
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’d say that regardless of the rest of the anime, which was fairly fun and entertaining to watch, by the way, not saying it wasn’t. But even if the genre is not your cup of tea or you don’t find it all that appealing, the whole thing is worth it just for Chihaya’s character act, specially the ending. I still get choked up every time I rewatch those 4 last minutes of the 20th episode in youtube.

  4. JohnNiles
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    So does this mean Yukiho now resides in the heretofore undiscovered tenth circle of Hell? I guess she really meant it when she said she’d dig a hole…

  5. Posted January 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone ever post around here any more?

    • darkfireblade25
      Posted January 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      I think after ghostlightning fell of the face of the internet, everybody else just gave up lol.

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