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THE IDOLM@STER #1 -- Special Review

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The Idolm@ster Anime series which originally came out in 2011 as well as its sequel/spiritual successor “The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls,” are similar in many ways to the movie “Fame.” They follow a group of talented young women who, for a wide variety of reasons, decide they want to enter Japan’s entertainment industry and try their hand at climbing the ladder of stardom, and becoming Idols. (A celebrated class of entertainers on the forefront of Japanese pop-culture who sing, dance, act, model, make public appearances, and oftentimes have fiercely loyal fan followings.)

However, one important storytelling choice which makes Idolm@ster very different from “Fame” is that while “Fame” chooses to focus primarily on all the pain, suffering, and hardships of show-business (at one point even depicting a scene where a hopeful performer is so crushed after failing to gain approval from a cold and unfeeling entertainment industry that they decide to commit suicide) Idolm@ster focuses on the joy of being a performer. The characters in Idolm@ster sing and dance and act, not merely because they hope to be famous and successful someday, but because they genuinely love singing and dancing and acting. The show focuses on all the fun places the protagonists get to go, and all the fascinating people they get to meet, and all the wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experiences they get to have as a result of the life path they’ve chosen for themselves.

And while The Idolm@ster does acknowledge that there are many trials and tribulations performers have to deal with when making their way in the entertainment industry (rehearsals that stretch on for ungodly lengths of time, complicated dance steps and acting routines, rivalries with other idols, inability to spend as much time as one might like with friends/family/loved ones, etc.) these difficulties are treated as tests of character, and challenges which we, the audience, are rooting for the heroines to overcome. What’s more, their daily lives are portrayed with a sort of…optimistic hopefulness that one might see in a movie about someone training to win the Olympics, as opposed to the grim, f#$k-everything, I-hate-my-life fatalism which marks “Fame” and so many other movies about the American entertainment industry.

Now, having never been an idol, I must confess, I don’t know if Idolm@ster is necessarily the most accurate portrayal of the Japanese entertainment industry (in fact I’ve heard that in some ways the Japanese entertainment industry is actually MORE cutthroat and cold-hearted than America’s) but I do know that this show, with the way it talks about life and friendship and following your heart, manages to lift my spirits every time I watch it. And in a time when there are so many things out there in the media landscape that are dark, drab and depressing, I for one, could do with a little bit of uplift.

For this reason, I heartily recommend Idolm@ster to anyone looking for a fun, happy, upbeat show with engaging characters, a charming color-palette, music, dance, and a look at what goes on in the entertainment industry in the land of the rising sun.

(Special thanks to Hyper-User Takashichea for the screencaps)

Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.

Wraithon Jan. 22, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.
Yeah the show is really upbeat and I have to say the best character has to be the producer. It's just so odd to see this yakuza looking guy trying to recruit girls for an idol group
sickVisionz moderator on Jan. 23, 2015 at 12:18 p.m.

I haven't seen Cinderella Girls yet (I think I'll wait for the whole thing to be done) but I loved the original Im@s anime from 2011 (was it really that long ago?) and will definitely check this out.

@Wraith said:

Yeah the show is really upbeat and I have to say the best character has to be the producer. It's just so odd to see this yakuza looking guy trying to recruit girls for an idol group

From what I've heard, this is definitely art imitates life for some of the lower profile idol groups.

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