Please, Cinderella

A classic rags to riches story; a tale of a poor woman, suffering an unfortunate fate only to have that magically turned around with a misplaced glass slipper.

The Idolmaster (stylised as Idolm@aster) Cinderella Girls is a video game series for smartphones. The first game is a collectible card game while the second is a rhythm game. Both feature multiple idols to collect and perform with who are all segmented into three different categories: cute, cool and passion. These categories signify whether an idol’s major asset is her cuteness, her coolness or her passion. Due to the popularity of the series, it has been adapted into multiple other types of media such as mangas and animes.

I recently got done watching everything that is currently available for The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls. That includes two seasons of the anime, two shorts, one special and two new shorts that started airing a couple of weeks ago. I did NOT watch the original Idolmaster anime. I might eventually but not quite yet.

I’m going to straight up say it right now; I enjoyed Cinderella Girls. Honestly, I wanted to watch it ever since I saw some of the figurines (most are done by Alter) and was taken in by how great they look. I also quite enjoy the idea of the Cinderella Girls project and that the idols themselves are referred to as Cinderellas. I don’t particularly love Cinderella but mixing her theme and design with idols actually make for quite a great combination.

Cinderella Girls handles itself quite well for an idol anime. There is the obvious clichéd ideologies but compared to Love Live, I believe Cinderella Girls has the advantage of the setting. You follow the Producer (the player character in the games) as he recruits the girls for the project and eventually trains them up to success. The girls attend lessons, go through promotional shoots, join talkshows and obviously, sing and dance but those feel routine enough that the attention can be shifted onto more specific things. They aren’t driven to save their school and enter a competition that will eventually result in them receiving the underdog storyplot. These girls are aspiring idols hired and put to work by a professional company.

For the most part, each episode is dedicated to exploring the different units between the 14 main girls and their relationships with one another and other idols within the company. There are crossovers with other characters but for the most part, each episode explores and tells a self-contained story surrounding the various aspects of being an idol. You have episodes that explore how the reality of new idols is very much different from the dreams of youth and you have episodes that explore how the idols are perceived by the community in general, not just the fans.

I think the anime does a good part of grounding the idol aspect within the realities of the situation. There isn’t any romanticism in how the girls perceive their dreams. Sure, they talk about being stars and working together and all that, but ultimately go through the motions as you would expect. One of the best storylines, I think, comes from Uzuki Shimamura (the main character for all intents and purposes) as she struggles to come to terms with the passion, talent and success of the idol industry compared with her own capabilities and aspirations. I don’t want to spoil anything but her story was handled quite caringly in my opinion.

Besides that, there is a character who consistently speaks with a ‘-nyan’ slang but you realise later that that isn’t just some character trait typical of anime. She understands what she likes and what she does sets her apart from others, thereby allowing her to sell herself as an idol capitalising on a specific trait. You want a chuunibyou? You have that too! You want an oxymoronic idol? Go ahead! I don’t want to get into an argument whether or not Love Live did it first though because I honestly don’t know the timelines between formulation and conception for both the series.

I like Cinderella Girls primarily because of the characters. They’re portrayed relatively well, play off each other easily and have quite a wide range of designs to work with. Remember how I like Dia because of her design? Design, I feel, plays quite an important bit for me with regards to idols. This brings me back to why I said combining the idols with the Cinderella theme is great.

That’s not to say the show isn’t without flaws. There are loads of subpar writing, the animation isn’t as good as Love Live, and things can get very confusing and messy because of the sheer number of idols unless you have experience with the game. Love Live gives you 9 idols and everyone else surrounding them is beside the point. You get the backstory of these idols, you get their motivations and you ultimately just keep getting them in the limelight. Cinderella Girls feature side characters that are, in fact, extremely popular characters within the game. That contrast comes to light when I can’t exactly tell who they’re supposed to be truly focusing on in the anime. Also, because they’re consistently adding more girls into the show, things get saturated and there simply isn’t enough airtime for it. As I said before, each episode explores a unit and after everything is said and done, you’re left with 2 episodes left to rush the plot.

However, all in all, I really enjoyed the show and I still adore the concept of the Cinderella Girls project. It’s quite unfortunate that there isn’t another season of the anime and also quite upsetting that I can’t ever play the games. Sure, I can use methods to obtain it from the Japanese app store but I don’t much like collectible card or rhythm games. None of the girls felt annoying to me and because nothing was romanticised aside from the whole Cinderella concept, it was easier to digest than Love Live was.

Oh, who's my favourite Cinderella? Who else! SPACIBO!

P.S. I’m not dissing Love Live or anything if it comes off that way. After all, I am watching Sunshine’s second season that started airing just recently and I actually think it’s pretty good for the most part. I can get to that in another post. As for now, I’ll say that Cinderella Girls just swings my way a little more. But of course, my love for Dia transcends mediums!

P.P.S. I’m not quite a music person for idol songs but the main song for the show (Onegai, Cinderella) is pretty damn great. I listen to it quite regularly to be honest, especially with the music video. Damn fine job.


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