Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > The Idolmaster Episodes 1 and 2 – Broken Dreams Club

The Idolmaster Episodes 1 and 2 – Broken Dreams Club

The best thing I can say about The Idolmaster is that the first episode is not completely garbage. The show is an adaptation of the management simulation/aircraft paint theme of the same name and follows the adventures of 13 young girls who are aspiring pop stars working for the unbelievably dysfunctional 765 Productions.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first anime adaptation for the franchise. The first version, 2007’s Idolmaster: Xenoglossia decided (wisely, it turns out) that the core concept was far too dull to appeal to viewers, so they instead turned the prospective idols into giant robot pilots. I can’t comment on its quality because, although I normally enjoy stupid, stupid television, even I have limits.

Anyway, The Idolmaster was never going to be a show I deeply cared about, but anytime I watch a new show, I have some faint hope that it will do something different, be something special. Or at least tolerable.

The Idolmaster committed the most grievous sin, then: it gave me false hope.

This image captures my feelings about the show

The first episode takes the form of a documentary, chronicling a day in the life of the studio and its idols. It’s not a particularly interesting day, but that’s more because they’re not particularly interesting characters.

It is an excellent device for introducing us to the characters, and giving a different feel to what would otherwise be a very dull introductory episode to a very dull slice of life moe anime. The animation is well-done, with realistic camera movements and some slightly exaggerated rack focus giving the appearance of something shot on a handheld camera.

I expected the whole series to be done in this style, a la The Office. It probably wouldn’t be enough to keep me watching, but it’d be an interesting change of pace for anyone into watching cutesy middle school girls doing cutesy things. The second episode, however, drops the documentary style and introduces the requisite hapless, incompetent, and bland male protagonist, giving me a complete row in obnoxious anime cliché Bingo.

In fact, before I go further, let me talk about the characters some. The Producer may be bland and generic, but that’s far from unique in this show.

There's probably a better shot of all the girls, but no way was I going to watch through both episodes again to find one

Cramming 13 different idols into one show may seem like a lot, and it’s really far too many. Having to focus on so many characters means no one really gets the attention they need to become anything more than a shallow, meager template of a character.

Here are the 13 girls and everything I learned about them in two episodes:

-Ritsuko Akizuki: wears glasses

-Haruka Amami: klutzy

-Ami Futami: Twin

-Mami Futami: Other Twin

-Hibiki Ganaha: mischievous

-Yukiho Hagiwara: inexplicably androphobic

-Miki Hoshii: Sleepyhead

-Makoto Kikuchi: boyish (but secretly wants to be girly)

-Chihaya Kisaragi: I can’t even remember her existing

-Iori Minase: rich tsundere

-Azusa Miura: older sister

-Takane Shijou: space cadet

-Yayoi Takatsuki: poor protagonist

Yes, everything I know about every main character can fit into two words or less (except Makoto, who is absurdly high concept by comparison). I’m guessing this would hold up even if I decided to stick around for the entire run.

The Producer is as hapless and spineless as any anime protagonist, but he also has power over the future careers of 12 young girls. Scary

That’s something that most certainly is not going to happen. Even if for some reason I was into moe slice of life shows, The Idolmaster would still not be worth my time. Too many characters means time is spread far too thin for anyone to be interesting.

Even if the characters were interesting, it’d still be hard to root for people so incredibly dumb. 765 Productions seems to have fallen on hard times, but it’s pretty obviously their own fault.

Most of the characters have pretty dubious reasons for wanting to be an idol, and only a handful of them seem like they have the passion to work as a professional singer. The management seems completely incompetent, which is probably the point of the original game, but here just makes the whole thing seem ridiculous.

There's so many idols in the cast, they could only focus on three this episode (technically four, but the identical twins are basically the same irritating person duplicated)

It’s played for laughs, of course, but some of the characters are so dumb it’d be stretching my suspension of disbelief to claim they can dress themselves. I think the show wants me to sympathize with the plucky losers, but they’re all so uselessly vapid that I just can’t.

I don’t mind ridiculous farce, but only if placed in an equally ridiculous context. Instead we get the usual mix of bad sitcom plots and maudlin sentimentality.

The show is mostly free of gratuitous sexualization of its characters, which is a mercy given the average age of its girls is 14. While I’d assume that a hapless bunch of incompetents would mostly attract the same (or hopeless dreamers, which rounds out the rest of the cast), it raises questions in my mind about child labor laws, in addition to the complete lack of any parental supervision or involvement (which is, admittedly, par for the course in anime, but I don’t have ‘Parental Abandonment’ on my Bingo card).

The one bright spot in this bland, unappealing episode is the office assistant's yuri daydreams about the girls, rendered here in manga form. It'd be even better if I wasn't absolutely certain this same story exists in real life

Look, even if you’re a fan of this kind of thing, all you’re going to get is a bunch of half-baked, mediocre nonsense. There are too many characters for any of them to be interesting, and everyone is too dumb for the show to be the least bit entertaining.

The only reason I could imagine wanting to watch The Idolmaster is because you’ve already played the games and/or Haruka currently adorns your F-22 in Ace Combat 6 (and given the lack of a US release for the former, that’s highly unlikely), and in that case you’re probably already watching. In Japanese without subtitles.

Everyone else: stay away. Even if you like to watch cute girls doing silly things, if you aren’t already acquainted with this particularly batch, The Idolmaster is going to do nothing for you.

  1. August 2, 2011 at 10:45 am

    >the management simulation/aircraft paint theme of the same name

    Far more importantly, it is one of the 3 pillars of the NicoNico Douga video site (the other two being Vocaloid and Touhou), the games (and their many overpriced DLCs) providing raw materials for countless fan-made music videos.

    >The only reason… to watch The Idolmaster

    The names of Gainax veterans working on the show alone are enough reason for watching it.

    From my perspective, precisely because the original source is so light on story, yet has such a rabid fan base, there are a lot of storytelling challenges in this adaptation. While I don’t care about the game itself, I am interested to see what narrative choices would such a talented staff make.

    With that said, I agree that what I’ve seen (Ep 1 and part of Ep 2) are definitely not encouraging. The reception to this show seems lukewarm so far, even when we have someone like Kazuya Tsurumaki directing Ep 4.

    >unadorned archetypes

    To be nitpicky, I learned from the parts I’ve seen:

    Hibiki Ganaha: nature-loving and energetic like a typical Okinawese.

    Takane Shijou: she uses the speech pattern of a noblewoman, which suggests her being a true aristocratic who’s hidden her identity, as opposed to Iori who’s merely rich.

    Their names happen to contain rather unsubtle hints: “Gahana” is an Okinawese name, with “Naha” referring to the capital city of Okinawa, and the kanji for Takane means “noble voice”. But understanding their archetypes require no knowledge of kanji.

    Also, sources outside of the show say that it’s Haruka and Miki who are generally considered to be the protagonists.

    • August 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

      One thing I should have more made clear in the article is how big a part of otaku culture the games are. There’s a huge fan community for them that makes an anime adaptation (or two) a no-brainer…in Japan. People in the West probably haven’t heard of Idolmaster if they watch anime but aren’t immersed in otaku culture, because the only part of the series that I know has come to the US is the Ace Combat skins.

      A-1 has a wealth of talent for its size, and it’s one of the reason why the first episode is so well-executed, but even the best-made show is going to suffer with poor writing. The best thing Touko Machida has been in charge of series composition on is Lucky Star (although I haven’t seen Tears to Tiara), which doesn’t give me a lot of hope. Add to that the challenges inherent to adaptating a game with little story and a massive cast, and you have a recipe for disaster.

      As for the characters, well, you’ll have to excuse a little overexaggeration for comic effect. Still, the animal-loving Okinawan and disguised aristocrat are standard character concepts, albeit a little rarer.

  2. August 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Japanese pop culture observer David Marx has just finished his article series on the system behind the idols, based on his Master’s Thesis:

    It’s an enlightening read about a topic that hasn’t got enough coverage in English.

    The J-List blog has a post about the Japanese public’s (limited but existing) level of awareness of the system, which should be read before Marx’s serious dissection, as it is something that article takes for guaranteed and doesn’t mention.

    Of course Marx also has many interesting posts on his site, such as this:

  3. August 9, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Man…I guess…some people…really like…Idolmaster? Alright, that’s…that’s cool… *backs away, VERY SLOWLY*

  4. HA HA
    September 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I gather that this is your own opinon however it is not an exseption to critasise it at every possible chance. If people attually watched the whole series so far (episode 9 is about to come out) you and all the people who agree with you may think more of it. Further more even if you think its bad theres no point in disguraging people about it as they may like it but never got the chance to try it due to the lack of respect taken to it by you.

    (sorry about dodgy spelling)

    • threeheadedmonkeys
      September 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      Hate to break it to you, but as an anime blog it’s sort of our job to report our opinions, and if a show doesn’t impress us we aren’t going to hide the fact. You, too, are welcome to your opinion, but it would help if, like in bear’s review here, you provided some reasons behind it. Why do you think Idolmaster is a good show? What does it do right that we didn’t account for? Are one or more of bear’s criticisms off base, and if so, how? We welcome constructive criticism and commentary–there’s some of that in the other comments here–so feel free to provide us with that if you are so inclined.

      If, however, you are only writing to voice how your feelings were hurt because we trashed on a show you like, thinking that alone should be a reason for us to shut up … well, you are welcome to that opinion too. Just don’t expect us to care.

  5. HA HA
    September 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you very much for the advice and i will think carefully about what to write next time.
    As said in the review people only that have played idolmaster before (such as myself) would like the show.

    Once again thanks for pointing this out to me.
    (@ threeheaded)

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