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The iDOLM@STER (review)

Final impression – above average is really the best that can be said (6/10)

Summer 2011 to autumn 2011 (25 episodes) (title synonym – The Idolmaster)

The innocent Yayoi, Ami and Mami the twin combo, Hibiki the animal lover, soft and timid Yukiho, Miki the flirt, Makoto the tomboy, serious Chihaya, Iori from a wealthy family, Azusa the plucky boob, Takane the foreign flavor and Haruka the stable pillar are the team of aspiring idols working for the studio 765 Pro.   In order to manage the human resources of the growing, young company, the president hires a producer to get the girls in top shape to start their careers.  They each have special traits that need the careful attention of their new supervisor to properly highlight their strengths.  But as they start to get noticed and their popularity begins to rise, the president’s old partner turned rival isn’t about to let 765 Pro attain success without resorting to dirty tactics.  These young women, guided by the leadership of their producer, will face this challenge with the strength of their convictions and a terrific display of talent.  As individuals they shine brightly, but together they begin to sparkle even brighter and nothing is going to get in the way of their path to stardom.

I’m not sure how to really categorize The iDOLM@STER.  It’s not a harem anime, as its major themes are nearly devoid of romance of any kind.  It has some music elements as a recurring theme, but it also touches on other topics such as TV, acting and photography.  With so many girls on this cast, you’d think there would be a lot of temptation to sneak in some fan service from time to time.  But The iDOLM@STER scoffs at the notion of doing anything risqué.  So given a lot of compounding factors, this anime could have been a really lowbrow feature that just melted into the background without finding any identity for itself.  So it manages to avoid a destiny of mediocrity, but in my opinion just barely.  The huge cast is well managed and everyone gets a chance to have some time in the spotlight.  The characters all have clearly defined goals and personalities, but for all it does right I just can’t call The iDOLM@STER a good anime.  It’s just so underwhelmingly mediocre.  Everything is so feel-good there’s never a chance for something to really grip the heartstrings and move you.  And when it does finally start to develop and mature into something meaningful, it’s over too quickly and we’re back to sugary happiness.  All in all, The iDOLM@STER’s best moments are too few and far between to be impactful in a 25 episode series.  It succeeds in setting itself apart with some original character composition and storytelling as well as the occasional catchy beat, but there’s nothing to make it truly memorable.

Anime of the Week 1/22 – 1/28

Anime of the Week – Another
The art is immersive and the story has deliciously calculated pacing. With an amazing combination of mystery and suspense, Another is keeping me keeping me hungry for more.
January 23 Mirai Nikki Ep. 13 What is going on? This is all very exciting, but I was under the impression Yukiteru and Yuno were in the clear by now.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 14 Who are these new adversaries? They’re a team, but what are their motives? In a survival game there’s only one winner.
Daily Lives of High School Boys Ep. 1 Final impression – a guy’s anime for sure (5/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gG
January 24 Another Ep. 2 I hate these kinds of shallow cliffhangers. There’s just no purpose for them other than to get you to watch the next episode.
Another Ep. 3 I see a web of bonds and painful pasts coming together to form a big picture, but I can’t imagine what it will turn out to be.
Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! Ep. 1 Final impression – scattered and uncoordinated (3/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gM
January 26 Ano Natsu Ep. 3 Oh the unfortunate misunderstandings and the wild imaginations. Where would we be if everyone stopped assuming?
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 25 A nice, generic ending to get everything wrapped up with no loose ends. Nothing special, but I’m not complaining.
Persona 4 Ep. 14 Yuu’s summer vacation has ended. I was worried the down time in P4 wouldn’t be given good service. I’m glad I was wrong.
January 27 Guilty Crown Ep. 14 This episode’s ending was a little awkward, but I like how everyone keeps finding smart solutions to their predicament.
January 28 Inu x Boku Ep. 3 I’m not sure about the pacing of the fast turn around of emotions, but I’m pleased to see a sense of responsibility.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 1/15 – 1/21

Anime of the Week – Guilty Crown
The second half has started and Guilty Crown continues to balance action with deeply moving themes and fresh ideas that keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for more.
January 15 Shana III Ep. 14 This anime is showing some brilliant moments that cut to the heart of story and overturn everything that came before.
January 16 Ano Natsu de Matteru Ep. 1 Initial impression – an interesting story that deserves a closer look http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fT
January 17 Mashiro-iro Ep. 7 Inui gets a little arc to herself. I’m not fond of these kinds of tsundere characters that have way too much attitude.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 1 Initial impression – if you haven’t seen Bakemonogatari, go watch it so you can enjoy its sequel http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fY
Mashiro-iro Ep. 8 I’m not sure where the story is going. It’s all very sweet, but I’d prefer a more romantic tone done in this style.
January 18 Rinne no Lagrange Ep. 1 Initial impression – natural enthusiasm http://wp.me/p1Gaby-g8
Ano Natsu Ep. 2 I like the route this anime is taking by putting a fresh spin on the homeless girl coming to live with the nice protagonist.
January 19 Rinne Ep. 2 Like so many metaphysical mecha that have come before it, the Vox Aura is piloted by emotion more than mechanical input.
Mouretsu Pirates Ep. 1 Final impression – plot holes big enough to fly a spaceship through (3/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gi
January 20 Guilty Crown Ep. 13 Wow. The situation was rough but now what? I like how the plot continues to transform in ways that I can never foresee.
Inu x Boku SS Ep. 1 Initial impression – a dynamic duo of attitude and gallantry http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gm
Inu x Boku Ep. 2 This is an intriguing turn of events. There’s still nothing very meaty about this anime’s plot, but that’s ok for now.
January 21 High School DxD Ep. 1 Initial impression – Succeeding at being bad http://wp.me/p1Gaby-gt
High School DxD Ep. 2 Their prejudices are right, but it really bothers me how the girls in Issei’s school openly call him a pervert.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 20 Overcoming a difficult moment and pouring healing feelings into a fabulous song made this an awesome episode.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 21 So it turns out Kotori had a little idol in her, too. What challenges still await the girls of 765 pro?
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 22 As Christmas specials go, this one was just ok. It’s nice to see everyone happy, but there’s no pressure anymore.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 23 Oh my that was quite a shock. Seeing how everyone copes with this shakeup is going to make a dynamic ending.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 24 Success can do funny things to friends when they’re working at different paces. But the girls are staying together.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 1/8 – 1/14

Anime of the Week – Another
The impressive attention to detail, an atmosphere so heavy you can taste it and mystery tantilizingly enticing combine into a superb episode 1.
January 9 Kill Me Baby Ep. 1 Initial impression – not as bad as I thought it might be http://wp.me/p1Gaby-eX
Amagami SS+ Ep. 1 Initial impression – a surprise present for fans of the first season http://wp.me/p1Gaby-f2
January 10 Zero no Tsukaima F Ep. 1 Initial impression – you already know if you’re going to like this show http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fc
January 11 Shana III Ep. 13 I’m sad to see one of my favorite villains come to an end, but he faced his demise with conviction and a fullness of peace.
Another Ep. 1 Initial impression – spine-tingling beauty http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fi
January 12 The iDOLM@STER Ep. 19 Takane isn’t my favorite character but she is very cool and smooth. 961 Pro is a cheesy villain, but he’s fun to hate.
Brave 10 Ep. 1 Final impression – unpolished and childish shounen (4/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fm
January 13 Guilty Crown Ep. 13 What was with this episode? Is it over? That can’t be. There’s still 11 more episodes left but it feels like the end.
Vocaloid The Daughter and Servant of Evil http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fs
Persona 4 Ep. 13 This was a fun episode that gave the anime some individuality that will help separate it from its video game roots.
January 14 Senki Zesshou Symphogear Ep. 1 Initial impression – action, music and variety http://wp.me/p1Gaby-fF
Symphogear Ep. 2 I’d very much like to know more about the enemy they’re fighting. What are the Noise and what are their objectives?

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 1/1 – 1/7

Anime of the Week – C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious
The deep metaphors of this anime heighten it well above any inflamitory attempts at defamation and the character acting is top-notch.
January 1 Fate/Zero Ep. 13 The dynamic duo of Ryuunosuke and Caster is delightfully twisted and delicious in the way they feed each other’s egos.
January 2 Toradora OVA Even two years later, this anime still knows how to put a funny spin on the simplest of concepts and give you a big smile.
Hidan no Aria OVA As hot springs episodes go, this one isn’t awful. However, it does focus too much on ecchi to the detriment of the story.
C3 Ep. 11 I feel an affinity for Haruaki’s wisdom and selflessness. He’s a strong, rare character. He is a natural axis for the story.
January 3 Persona 4 Ep. 12 The twist in this episode was a fabulous surprise for everyone who was expecting a copy and paste from the video game.
Shana III Ep. 11 With all the soft, wishy-washy feelings in the first two seasons, I never thought I’d see true romance in this series.
Shana III Ep. 12 It feels like this series has revealed a natural decisiveness that always existed but never had a chance to show itself.
Working 2 Ep. 13 Because of the nature of this series, it just wouldn’t feel right to have a concise ending. That’s an uncommon quality.
Boku wa Tomodachi Ep. 12 I really liked the long flashback in this episode detailing Yozora’s inner thoughts. It wrapped things up nicely.
Ben-to Ep. 8 This anime was never very sophisticated, but what’s with inserting two new characters with absolutely no introduction?
C3 Ep. 12 This is a beautiful metaphor of the relationships we have with our possessions. Where does the tool end and the human begin?
January 4 Mashiro-iro Ep. 5 This anime is sweet, but oftentimes silly. This episode was ridiculous in the way it depicted Ange the wandering maid.
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 7 I like how this anime doesn’t try to explain things too much and just keeps up the pace of its quirky comedy.
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 8 Usually the anime of funny misunderstandings is Working!!, but Squid Girl can put a silly spin on those situations, too.
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 9 The reality of the world is often sad. But if you’re an outside observer, others’ misfortune suddenly becomes hilarious.
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 10 With the three stooges, all things are possible. I was wondering if this anime would ever get a winter-themed episode.
January 5 Mashiro-iro Ep. 6 I like the sweetness of this anime, but it’s getting to be a bit much and sadly, it’s getting overly predictable.
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 11 What is it that makes Chizuru such a frightening person? Is it her eyes or her calm demeanor while she threatens people?
Squid Girl 2 Ep. 12 Chizuru may be right. While Squid Girl didn’t invade the world, she can certainly invade the hearts of her viewers.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 17 I think Makoto shows us that we need to use our talents more, even if we don’t particularly like those talents.
The iDOLM@STER Ep. 18 Ritsuko is one of the more interesting characters. She actually has a back story that relates well to the setting.
January 6 Ben-to Ep. 9 The abuse Satou goes through is sad. But if he’s such a good fighter when it comes to bento, why can’t he protect himself?
Ben-to Ep. 10 As rivalries go, taking out a duo by yourself is unlikely. I anticipate some cool team building as this anime wraps up.
January 7 Ben-to Ep. 11 It must be a universal constant that now matter what the competition, there’s always someone bigger and better to challenge.
Ben-to Ep. 12 Satou really doesn’t deserve the title he was given. The chivalry he showed in this episode makes up for his past failings.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 12/11 – 12/17

Anime of the Week – Shakugan no Shana III
It took a while, but Shana is really starting to get its pace balanced with action and story. Anyone who was worried of a repeat of Shana II can rest assured that things have definitely improved.
December 12 Working 2 Ep. 11 I’m reminded of a Jeff Foxworthy moment; a lost item is always in the last place you thought to look for it.
December 13 Mirai Nikki Ep. 10 This episode didn’t move the plot along much, but it did reveal a lot about the main characters’ inner personalities.
December 14 The iDOLM@STER Ep. 16 This episode was all about Hibiki and considering that she’s my least favorite character, I didn’t like this episode.
Shana III Ep. 9 This is what I’ve been waiting for. Finally, the series is starting to get into a good pace and it’s not even half over.
Shana III Ep. 10 A climax is coming, but for now I’m enjoying the action. I feel some information overload with all the various objectives.
December 16 Mashiro-iro Ep. 4 Some major headway is made between the hero and heroine. But Inui’s sudden personality shift doesn’t have any context.
Guilty Crown Ep. 10 So Shu has decided to pull a Shinji and run away from his problems, only to find his problems are chasing him.
December 17 Boku wa Tomodachi Ep. 11 Since Kodaka’s flashbacks started, I’ve been anticipating a climax that finally happened with one episode left.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Last Week’s Tweets 11/27 – 12/3

Anime of the Week – C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious
C3 is definitely this season’s most underappreciated anime. I expected to watch a lot of good anime this season and I found myself disappointed with several series I had high hopes for. Cube is a surprise hit and it seems to be going largely unnoticed, which is really sad.
November 27 Shana III Ep. 8 Current events feel like the run down to the final battle. But with 16 episodes left, it’s far from over. What’s going on?
Fate/Zero Ep. 9 While this episode was important for character building, there was absolutely no plot development to forward the story.
Guilty Crown Ep. 7 Why is Shu back at school? This makes no sense. Didn’t the GHQ learn last episode that he’s a member of Funeral Parlor?
Working 2 Ep. 9 Sato’s life must be frustrating. Yachio’s life is too narrow. Takanashi is easily influenced. Yamada is a two-faced fraud.
C3 Ep. 8 Even when this anime has ecchi moments, it’s still brilliant and well composed. Yukari Tamura is in her element as Fear Kubrick.
Boku wa Tomodachi Ep. 8 That was a very different spin on the obligatory swimsuit episode. It’s nice to see a break from stereotypes.
Last Exile 2 Ep. 3 I guess the plot is progressing…? I see the character’s motivations, but their methods are haphazard at best.
Last Exile 2 Ep. 4 It’s all just too random. I can’t follow the plot without reading someone else’s summary. Fam is such a scatterbrain.
November 28 Persona 4 Ep. 8 The comedic twists continue to please, even if they aren’t very surprising for people who have played the game.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 8 Is this anime one big parable about how nice guys finish last? Amano needs to be more careful to avoid these situations.
November 29 iDOLM@STER Ep. 15 It seems that the key to improving daytime Japanese TV is to substitute all of the regular hosts for anime characters.
C3 Ep. 9 This was the setup episode for what is this series’ final arc. Not all the new villian’s motives are clear, but it’s still fun.
Ben-to Ep. 3 For being an anime about fighting over boxed meals at supermarkets, the metaphors are surprisingly deep and significant.
November 30 Ben-to Ep. 4 This anime’s ecchi colors were shining brightly this episode. Fortunately, it didn’t detract from the usual high-tempo pace.
December 1 Ben-to Ep. 5 Superficially, the plot of this anime could fit into many settings. The fact that this war involves box lunches makes it fun.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 3 Most of this episode was the ordinary fare of tsundere-ness, but the twist at the end put a huge smile on my face.
December 2 Ben-to Ep. 6 For an episode that was supposed to be about an epic rivalry and a grand battle, there was very little tension or energy.
Guilty Crown Ep. 8 And… the obligatory swimsuit episode. At least it didn’t take too much time. Sadly, this episode was a dead end.
Ben-to Ep. 7 Two swimsuit episodes in a row, but across different anime. The ridiculousness of this show compliments its ecchi and hilarity.
Persona 4 Ep. 9 I’d known Rie Kugimiya was the voice of Rise when the P4 game was released in Japan, but it’s cool to hear her for real.
December 3 Boku wa Tomodachi Ep. 9 Kodaka is one of the coolest and most composed male characters in a harem-esque anime I have seen in a long time.
K-On! (Movie) Set somewhere between the final episodes of the second season, it watches as if it was a missing segment from the TV series.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

The iDOLM@STER (ongoing)

Impression – not bad at all

Summer 2011 to autumn 2011 (25 episodes) (more info)

To be honest, the only reason I gave The iDOLM@STER a snowball’s chance in hell is because I play the Japanese trading card game Weiss Schwarz, and The iDOLM@STER is a very popular title (it’s also quite strong for those who don’t know anything about the game).  So I wanted to learn more about the source material for this set of cards.  Overall, I’ve been intriuged.  The iDOLM@STER started out painfully slow, but it’s started to work its way into my heart and on a couple occasions I caught myself cheering for the girls.  When I first started watching, I had mistakenly thought the series was only 13 episodes and I was wondering how they were going to cover all the girls without feeling a nasty time crunch come episode 12.  Even with 25 episodes it’s a bit of a squeeze, but I’m seeing the method to the madness.  The writers have chosen not to focus on particular girls as facets while the story progresses, but rather on the whole gem that is all the girls working together as a cohesive unit.  Ocassionally one girl will be the target for a particular side sequence, but it’s always about highlighting the teamwork the girls share to accomplish their dreams together and that’s surprisingly powerful given this anime’s premise and source material.  There’s nothing earthshattering about The iDOLM@STER, but it’s fun and that counts for a lot.

Summer 2011 Anime Summary

Having watched all the releases and ongoing shows for summer 2011, here’s my recommendations in order from most recommended to least recommended (or “best to worst” if you prefer I be direct).  Summer 2011 is a pretty average season in my opinion.  There’s nothing much that stands out but nothing terribly offensive, either.  But it is summer, so I think it’s understandable we’re not seeing any blockbusters.  For now, this will be my last word on many of these anime until they conclude in 10 more weeks.  Until then, please keep checking back as I begin to write my reviews of last season’s anime.  You can stay up to date with my new posts as they get released by following me on my Twitter account.  I’ll continue to move into the past reviewing anime with the eventual goal of having at least one post about every anime I’ve watched over the past eight years.

1. Kamisama no Memochou

1. Kamisama no Memochou – colorful (J.C. Staff)

2. No. 6

2. No. 6 – atmospheric (Bones)

3. Dantalian no Shoka

3. Dantalian no Shoka – dramatic (Gainax)

4. Mayo Chiki

4. Mayo Chiki! – best comedy of summer 2011

5. Blue Exorcist – awesome action

6. Hanasaku Iroha – mellow drama…melodrama?

7. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – interesting development

8. Blood-C – fine action (CLAMP)

9. Kamisama Dolls – interesting concept

10. Yuru Yuri – moe comedy

11. Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi – romance

12. Ro-Kyu-Bu! – sports loli

13. The iDOLM@STER – variety

14. Usagi Drop – unsure (not bad)

15. Uta no Prince-sama – underdeveloped

16. Mawaru Penguindrum – confusing

17. R-15 – misplaced ecchi

18. Nekogami Yaoyorozu – simple

19. Sacred Seven – bland (Sunrise)

20. Manyuu Hikenchou – borderline hentai

21. Twin Angel: Twinkle Paradise – boring

The iDOLM@STER Ep 2

Impression – progressing nicely

For the idols of Studio 765, this month is pretty harsh.  Nobody was able to get a job this month, so resources are running low.  The producer thinks maybe the lack of jobs can be blamed on some poorly done promotion photos that Studio 765 had taken before he arrived.  Thus, by his recommendation, the staff is going to retake them.  Most of the girls know what kind of image they want to portray, but the four youngest, Ami, Mami, Irori, and Yayoi, have trouble deciding on a theme that suits them best.  After failing to portray a more mature look, they start a brainstorming session to decide what look works best to give them individuality.

The iDOLM@STER is certainly entertaining, even if it lacks any big potential.  With a cast this big, it’s certainly hard to fit everyone in and give equal time, which is a bit disappointing because each character brings a considerable amount of pep and variety.  There are some very fun, relatable moments in episode 2 that give you a nice smile.  While there have been many anime that feature idols as a side diversion, seeing a “behind the scenes” portrayal is a refreshing take on the concept.  Another idol anime that comes to mind is White Album, but the tone of The iDOLM@STER is much more fun and colorful.  With only twelve episodes, I have a sinking feeling that everything is going to feel rushed, but all things considered, I’m not discouraged.

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