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
[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.
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.
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.)