Some of you might roll your eyes in disbelief, so before anything else, let me stress: I hate shows that try to have value primarily on cuteness. I hate forced (harem) anime humor. I hate poorly thought-out pandering. I hate mind-rotting garbage where characters just do whatever they please for hours on end with no real substance.
The Idolm@ster has a simple base plot. It’s about a group of girls working together to make their dreams of becoming famous idols come true, alongside their producer (who by the way is literally named “Producer”, and is pretty much the only male in the show that matters a whole lot.)
My first impression was already surrounded in all sorts of skepticism. At first glance you’d even figure this would be another generic “cute girls doing cute things” show, where mindless weeaboo gratification and being funny on occasion are the high points. I was also in a rather pessimist mood, in the context that less than a week before, I sat through Sakura Trick and Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka; confidence for this type of show’s quality was quite a distance away from me. Mix those in with the fact I’d randomly seen the first two episodes about over half a year ago (left with a rather unordinary impression to boot), and you have my initial disposition.
Despite all that, I can say with confidence that The Idolm@ster is legitimately one of the best things I’ve ever watched. You might be one of those people that have the idea this anime has no value for anything other than lonely neckbeard appeal. Well that’s okay because without the use of spoilers, I’m going to prove you wrong. If you have no idea what the series is about, I can also suggest this anime as a starting point. For now, we’re going to split this into two sections:
1. Shock Value
This is to explain for a multitude of reasons why the anime is far from what one would label “moeshit”, as some people I know would put it (if you’re already willing to believe me on that then you might as well just skip to the next part, this isn’t meant to explain why it’s good, just “different”.)
My interest honestly wasn’t too sold by the first three episodes. They were far from the worst things I’d ever seen, but also somewhat far from a more quality production. My friends seemed to be really into it for some reason, so deciding that it was tolerable, I continued watching. It was some point quickly after that the pace really picked itself up. I soon found myself shocked at a lot of things, one of said things mainly being how many awful clichés it DIDN’T have to resort to using in order to be good. The entire setup was pretty much begging for a hundred tropes to go off, but that sort of disaster managed avoidance.
It goes without saying all the girls have their own attaining personality. Normally you would expect them to be one dimensional anime stereotypes where their selling point is (annoyingly) their only point. Rather than hamfist their main traits (e.g.: Iori’s haughtiness, Yayoi’s crybaby tendencies) incessantly into everything they do, we’re shown those traits instead of being forcibly “told” them. They play off differently in a load of changing situations throughout the show, so they’re never permanently glued to one emotion when different things happen for whatever reason. (That’s another thing actually. Unlike your typical moeblob garbage, all sorts of different things do happen!) Each of them come with their strengths and flaws, but in the end I don’t think I could hate any of them over having too much of either (not even Iori, who I had the most sour impression of beforehand.) It really gives them the element of being human, which you end up respecting them for. We’re provided a balance of the weak and strong points, never being sold too much on one or the other (unlike some characters *COUGHERENJAEGARCOUGH*) This isn’t to say they have the most intricate personalities ever written, but credit’s due where it’s due.
What also surprised me was the very existence of Producer. Yeah you know, the one plain-looking dude surrounded by all those young girls? Aside from one character (who has plenty of attributes that don’t involve him regardless), the cast doesn’t magically jump on his dick like it’s a vag-magnet because he’s the only guy. No carbon copy tsundere romance, no in-group fighting over his love, all that uninspired tripe is pretty much nonexistent. He’s treated platonically like a normal human being (which I’m IMMENSELY grateful for. Not that I’m against romance but scripts that declare someone must fall in love with someone else because “omg it’s boy and girl”, “IIYAAA IT’S FORBIDDEN LOOVE XDD” or whatever other shallow purpose is one of the most redundant aspects of writing ever.) What’s just as commendable about Producer’s role is that he’s conventional enough to be the self-insert based off the games, but has enough personality to make him feel like a separate entity, which is kind of amazing.
Oh yeah and all that waifu stuff that one would expect from the vast load of characters? I’m not going to lie, Idolm@ster is actually very accomplished in that it has a 2D anime chick to pine after for everyone¸ but the waifu factor will always just be a thing people can decide on their own. It’s never shoehorned as any necessary portion of the show, so you don’t need to concern yourself with that if you don’t want to.
Which brings me to the next part:
2. Legitimate Value
All that stuff before was to set apart Idolm@ster from moeblob trash, which may now leave you asking “okay but why is it worth my time?” Of course any work is expected to set a standard for itself so it’s neither too mentally numbing or pretentious. Then why consider it worth your time based on that?
I did state earlier this anime is a good start for those that have no idea what Idolm@ster is. That’s mostly because the writers made it easy to understand exactly who everyone is; all on the accounts of their histories, names, and personalities. But then that might leave you supposing it’s a forgettable cast with the simple benefit of being large. Fortunately, that’s not a problem either, because these girls do what I think needs to be done more with fictional friendships, in that they feel more like a family (given how much more naturally they behave opposed to how friends normally would.) This opens up a perfect way for the viewer to feel immersed quicker since they’re getting to know who each person is and why they came to be (at the same pace characters in the show are discovering the same things the viewer is.) This also removes the dread of an overly weighted pace, preventing episodes that may feel meticulous in nature. Every time someone gets focus, a weighted interest associates with it. Whether you just enjoy watching their antics, or feel like what they do is important for the plot, there’s always some reason to pay attention to each of the main girls. Even if their archetypes may feel artificial, their behaviors don’t, so good equity is struck in lots of areas.
Additionally, these characters aren’t just good for playing off eachother, but also their goals. Yeah, you probably forgot the whole plot thing existed. At first I thought it sounded rather dull, but in hindsight it used itself rather creatively. In a simple way of saying it, the setting was a great excuse to get away with all sorts of contrasting ups and downs presented in the anime, which is made even better with the largely variant cast, keeping things both interesting and progressive. Everything that’s said and done feels vital because they show enough personality while keeping afloat the stardom they’ve been working hard for, somehow without having it feel like work is the only thing anyone cares about.
As for the “contrasting ups and downs” I mentioned, heavier details would be spoiler territory, but I will say at multiple points towards the end it was used so well I nearly cried for the first time in months. That talk about how the characters feel like family will rub off quite a lot on the viewer.
And at some point it’s going to crash horribly before it gets better.
(For those of you that fling “forced drama” whenever something sad happens, or like to use the complaint reasonably, I can guarantee it won’t be found here.)
So in closing, I hope this convinces someone to watch the anime. If you’re picky about quality, then I can at the most suggest skipping episodes 2 and 3. And if for some silly reason you’re not ever going to watch this because of its theme or atmosphere, I’m sure someone can argue how easily that qualifies for close-minded idiocy. But that’s another can of worms for another day. Otherwise, you should be in for an overall emotional rollercoaster by the end.
If nothing else at least watch it for Chihaya. Her voice actress’ singing is phenomenal.
P.S.: I don’t normally write reviews for anime, ever.