chihaya kisaragi

Views of Ryuugu Komachi

The much-maligned — rightfully so, given their general lack of creativity — anime beach episode is a strong turning point in The Idolm@ster anime adaptation, part fanservice, part dig at the girls’ lack of success. Tongue firmly in cheek, the series is fully confident that its target audience knows that the many idols of 795 Production will find stardom eventually. In the meantime, it’s time for them to enjoy all that summer has to offer while they can.

With their air conditioner broken amidst sweltering heat, and little to no idol work, the would-be idols of 765 Production head to the beach. It’s a convenient excuse to have a beach episode that cleverly points to the production company’s current woes. None of their idols are successful, which gives them the time to take a vacation. A few of the girls remark on this throughout the episode, lamenting that they don’t have jobs, or urging their producer to find them steady work.

At the end of the episode, idol-turned-producer Ritsuko Akizuki’s proposed subunit of Ryuuguu Komachi — Azusa Miura, Iori Minase, and Ami Futami — is announced. The arrival of Ryuuguu Komachi changes everything.

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The Castle and the Girl: The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls

uzuki shimamura, the idolm@ster cinderella girls, cinderella girls uzuki, uzuki shimamura will do her best!, the idolm@ster, cinderella girls performance finale

There are certain accepted truths in respective fandoms that one simply does not challenge, lest they draw the ire of nearly every other fan. In 2011, The Idolm@ster was brought to the small screen – sorry, 2007 Xenoglossia, it just wasn’t your time – creating an entirely new subset of Idolm@ster fans who were introduced to the franchise through the anime, rather than the game. This naturally gave rise to a battleground upon which favorites were declared, championed, and to this day are consistently fought for in a never-ending “best girl” war.

Naturally, this didn’t end with The Idolm@ster. For the franchise as a whole, the anime Idolm@ster cast is only the beginning – and had already expanded the game cast beyond the original ten girls to include the 961/Project Fairy idols – and delving into the games or fandom around that time led to the girls of 346 Productions, or the Cinderella Girls. When the 2015 Cinderella Girls anime aired, it was met with inevitable dismay and found lacking to the 2011 anime. Many dropped the series after the first few episodes, as these new girls couldn’t compete with their tried and true favorites.

It is commonly accepted that Cinderella Girls is inferior to The Idolm@ster, a statement that I wholeheartedly disagree with. A viewer who sticks with Cinderella Girls to the end is rewarded far beyond any emotional gratification that the 2011 anime provides.

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Finding Cinderella in The Idolm@ster: Cinderella Girls

the idolm@ster, the idolm@ster cinderella girls, cinderella girls, star, idolm@ster cinderella girls opening song, idolm@ster cinderella girls animation

“In the arms of my love I am flying

Over mountain and meadow and glen

And I like it so well that for all I can tell

I may never come down again.

I may never come down to Earth again.”

-From “Ten Minutes Ago,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

But come down to Earth we shall. After all, how well can you possibly know someone after only ten minutes?

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Memories in the Future: Aikatsu! and Family

ringo hoshimiya, ichigo hoshimiya, aikatsu!, always passionate idol activities, ichigo and ringo, miya

“I wonder if you’ve realized that I change a bit every day. I’m at my most beautiful singing by your side.”

– From the insert song, “Wake Up My Music,” first featured in Aikatsu! episode 31

It is not rare for an idol show to touch upon family, particularly when said family is opposed to the heroine in question becoming an idol (hello there, AKB0048). In fact, family plays a role in nearly every idol series I’ve had the pleasure of seeing – and additionally, many magical girl series – although it’s usually to provide an obstacle for a character to overcome, much like Chihaya Kisaragi’s emotional character arc in The Idolm@ster, or the stories of both Nagisa Motomiya and Chieri Sono in AKB0048. In all three cases, family members are not present to offer support, but to give the would-be idol a reason to sing or, in the case of AKB0048, rebel against her family and become a member of a forbidden organization.

These narratives put the position of an idol as something removed from every day life. Even in the case of the school idol series, Love Live!, becoming a school idol automatically puts one in a different position as compared to the rest of the student body. The separation between family or a so-called normal school life, and being an idol is a distinct one. Likewise, the idol is all-to-often forced to sacrifice their family ties in order to become a true idol.

This is not so with the recent idol series, Aikatsu!, and I love it for that. Not only does it make the process of becoming an idol the every day life of its heroines, but it also incorporates family into that same narrative wonderfully.

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Standing alone while standing together, Aikatsu! and The Idolm@ster.

"The best picture I could ever take."

“The best picture I could ever take.”

“True friends stab you in the front.”

-Oscar Wilde

Towards the end of The Idolm@ster, I was disappointed in its execution of protagonist Haruka Amami’s character arc. However, it wasn’t until I recently watched episode 35 of Aikatsu! that I was able to articulate why.

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