Title: The iDOLM@STER
Summary: The arduous struggle of the 13 girls from Talent Production 765 who dream of one day becoming idols in the competitive Japanese entertainment industry
Review: The iDOLM@STER has touched the hearts of millions… of fictional anime characters. The title and summary are exactly what the series is. A rather simple story of thirteen young girls trying to make it big in the idol industry. With no real experience the girls must rely on the hard-working Producer and their motivation. Another anime that caught me by surprise and had me questioning why I even bother with first looks. It seems to me like there are always hidden gems out there such as these that don’t get the attention they deserve. Judged quickly and harshly by some, or completely ignored by others, anime such as The iDOLM@STER sometimes falls short. Naturally I’m not the only fanbase of this magnificent anime and I’m sure there are a lot others out there who feel the same way. However, it is my mission in this review to get those who dropped this anime or didn’t give it a shot in the first place to change their mind. Take it from my personal view, someone who was in the same shoes as you, telling you that this series is worth taking a gander. For one, and possibly the strongest argument I have, is the series spanned over two seasons with twenty five episodes; quite a lengthy run for my tastes, and yet I still am hoping for a season two. So let’s get this review going so you can listen to my supporting claims to put this on your anime list.
Starting with the art, it is evident that The iDOLM@STER is pretty top notch. With a simplistic look as K-ON! the series was able to focus their attention on much more important areas of the series. The art wasn’t bad despite its simplicity because at points where it seemed lacking, it picked up very well at others. Instead of relying heavily on CG and other such computerized methods, the series stuck true to anime roots and drew out many of the choreographed danced. So instead of making the characters extremely detailed and bold, the series decided to focus on the fluid moments and facial expression to get their message across. And they did so with a bang. It is a bad habit of mine to start fading out when a series has integrated music sung by one of the characters. And with a series dedicated to the creation of idols it is rather obvious this would be a reoccurring theme. Thanks to the anime’s fluid art style I was pulled in and actually enjoyed watching the singing and dancing. Whether it was during practice sessions of the real deal the anime never held back. Sweat drops, tired body language, and shining faces made these fake shows seem real. At times I felt as though I was part of the audience, screaming my lungs out and cheering these new idols on. It is unfortunate that the series rarely went through an entire song, but thanks to flashing text naming the song and artist I’ll be able to check out the full versions (hopefully) at a later date. For art it is pretty obvious that the series didn’t cut expenses and I’m sure glad they didn’t.
The overall plot of the series isn’t that thrilling. They didn’t have many unexpected moments of twists that had you sitting at the edge of your seat. I said earlier that the summary is short, sweet and to the point. It follows the girls of 765 Pro and basically goes about their daily lives. So what’s so special? Why did I fall for such a basic series? It was the characters. Simple as that. The thing about these type of anime is you can’t get into it if you don’t actually like the characters it is following. With thirteen different girls, each with their own personality and unique talents, I figured it would be rather difficult to get me to like each and every one of them. Thanks to the twenty five episodes though we were able to see the back stories and present hardships of each and every one. The amount of thought that the series put into the characters (or rather the game it was based off of) was phenomenal. I’m not a huge fan of everyone having a deep dark secret, or a heartbreaking past experience. It always seemed to cliché or a poor effort to get the audience to feel for a character. The iDOLM@STER wasn’t all fun and games, but the character’s problems were always plausible. Not everyone needs abusive parents or unsupportive friends to get motivated. In fact, I would say background stories such as that don’t capture the audience as well. Why? Because most audience members won’t relate, instead they will only feel sorry for a fictional character.
One of the best backgrounds stories I’ve seen in a while was of Yayoi Takatsuki. It wasn’t sad or tragic; it was sweet. She is one of the younger idols (age 13) and has five younger siblings. Needless to say her parents work quite hard, they both worked long hours to provide food and shelter for their family. Yayoi takes up the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, tutoring, and other household chores while still tackling the demanding schedule of an idol and school. She never complained or regretted being part of such a big family because everyday was a tiny miracle for her. She loved each and every one of her siblings and personally volunteered to help out around the house whenever possible. Her parents of course being very thankful. Like I said, the story isn’t sad or bitter. It is sweet and simple. I find that sometimes daily life activities can bog everyone down, and seeing someone so motivated and inspired to work hard helps take the edge off. I know it made me realize how lucky I am to be part of such a loving family.
There were times where the series did dive into a pretty harsh reality. It is a drama end-all-be-all. Even so, I didn’t mind it. I’m not a huge fan of the heartbreak stories of death or loners, but the series did such a good job getting me to actually like the characters that I stayed interested. The backgrounds helped the audience see how tight knit this group of idols can be. Just as I was sitting by supporting the character, so were her friends and fans. They even introduced a rival company, 961 Pro. The anime did such a good job making 961 Pro out to be the bad guy that I starting hating the NUMBER 961. The continuous poking and prodding by 961 Pro was well done. It made the anime far more interesting in the second half and brought out the best and worst in characters.
The soundtrack for The iDOLM@STER is expectedly good. It has such a wide variety of songs that I’m sure there will be at least one for anyone to like. Unless of course you are into heavy metal or techno. Then you might have a bit of trouble. Nevertheless the number of songs the game/anime put is worth mentioning. I’m sure I will be checking out the full versions of any of the songs that come out. Additionally the performances were all well done. As I mentioned earlier the art style and choreography were all very fitting of the songs and fun to watch. The upbeat opening of Change!!! and the soothing sounds of Aoi Tori are only a couple of the songs this anime puts together well.
Final statements: The iDOLM@STER sure came as a surprise but I’m glad that I stuck with it. The comedy and drama pulled me in, but it was the characters that kept me going. There was not a single one that I disliked. The animated was beautiful and the soundtrack vast. Even if the original summary did not catch your attention I really suggest checking out this high priority watch.