The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, S1 – Review

I apparently just can’t help myself with the dang idols, so I went back and took another look at Cinderella Girls. This show’s early material pretty much confirmed my first impression – the early episodes here are awkward, and the first major conflict kind of undercooked. On top of that, the aesthetic magic that made the original so unimpeachably solid is in large part missing here. Fortunately, the second half of this season pulls together fairly well, and at this point I already know the second season will be even more of an improvement. Cinderella Girls is a scrappy one, but it works out in the end

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!


Episode 1

Opens with this show’s girls staring at the screen, where the existing stars are already dancing

And the Cinderella motif

Uzuki’s the MC. Currently in training, trying to gain a spot at a competition

Uzuki’s classmates have all dropped out. Like with the first season, there’s always that slight note of sharpness that gives Idolmaster more power

This scary-ass manager

The lighting, shot framing, and body language are as strong as ever, though this premiere doesn’t really have the forward momentum or energy of the original’s

“Why me?” Seems like it’ll be an important question

The manager’s awkward body language is so great

“Oh, you’re just a creepy recruiter?” Nice, more sharpness from Rin. Though I doubt this season will take idol culture to task in any serious way, either

346 Productions

Rin is a very solid character type for this sort of story

And he gives her that same canned smile line, and she actually calls him on it

The expression work is excellent and backgrounds strong

Lots of simple but effective piano melodies

This episode has a strong argument. It’s not necessarily that being an idol is great – it’s that dreams are valuable for their own sake, and striving to succeed can help you find who you want to be, regardless of your goals

And there’s some nice stuff with the flower imagery, how being an idol is like being retained as the blooming flower on the wind

Also this episode has A++ hair animation

Mio Honda’s the last one

Episode 2

In contrast to 765, 346 is a huge studio with a great deal of existing talent

The aesthetic here is of an imposing, glamorous castle. A very different feeling

Uzuki and Rin have good chemistry

Chihiro Senkawa is the support lady. Certainly no Ritsuko

Impressing the constant reality of training

Lots of understated humor and sight gags in this one

Ah, here’s the first insert song

And the three go on an adventure all around the studio

A very warm show so far

“Isn’t this too many idols?” Rin is important

We meet the rest of the group in a rush, a total of 14. Some of them feel pretty one-note, others are mysteries

The main trio start out stiff, but their comfort with each other gets them through their first job. And then they’re immediately picked to be backup dancers

But everyone wants to succeed. It’s hard to believe you’re all on the same side

Episode 3

This episode’s shot framing is a lot more intimate than the last one. Really changes the mood. Again, Imas has a wide stable of personalities

Miku, the cat girl, can’t accept the new girls performing before her

Snack girl made snacks

Fantastic Miku expressions

Training with Mika, the current star idol. The situation is so different from the original

The producer thinks it’s too soon. “But whatever happens, it’ll be a good experience, right?” says the assistant girl. Again, effort for its own sake

The body language continues to be great, though it doesn’t match the original

And some of the girls just don’t feel like people at all – the chuuni, the rock girl, etc

They achieve the bare minimum!

Anya trying to get more comfortable connecting with her teammates

Everything’s moving incredibly fast for them. Meeting important executives, performing as backups on a major stage

Great shots of Mio successively losing her cool. And the show really strongly conveys the anxiety of this moment, how out of their depth they feel

Rin pulls the three together

And the performance is excellent

The leadup across this episode felt a bit fast, but the whole show sequence was excellent. Well-earned happiness at the end

“Is this really real?” staring out at the reality of the huge auditorium

“It was like a dream, wasn’t it?” The Cinderella motif again

Episode 4

The main trio are making a video introducing all of their fellow idols. A necessary idea with a cast this big

In spite of the last episode, the show is a bit more tonally/structurally consistent than the first one

Their camerawork is suitably bad

Miku is pretty much the Nico of this unit

Holy crap, this sequence with Rika and Miria is so well-animated

Rika is more than a little precocious. You get the impression she’s grown up faster to race her sister

The age differences across the team feel more meaningful here. Even compared to the twins, these two feel like kids

Kirari in a giant godzilla costume

Nice intentionally staggered animation for Anzu’s silly escape

Okay, Ranko screwing up her chuunibyou act is great

And Riina’s basically a chuunibyou too, of rock music. Sitting in the corner waiting for people to notice her

Anzu gags are also good

Anastasia/Minami unit and Uzuki/Mio/Rin unit are being founded and making their CD debuts

Episode 5

“What about the rest of us?”

We actually get a bit of the main trio’s lives outside of the agency

The manager is basically a small newbie in his own way

“This isn’t a game. It’s a showdown for our existence as idols”

Managing the expectations of these girls against the expectations of the company. And the producer is certainly not a smooth negotiator

Rin wonders why they were chosen

While the chosen group thinks of a name, the losers get stuck in costumes for other idols

This show definitely has a more straightforward narrative than the last so far

A big contrast between the main girls feeling like professionals and the others acting like kids, drawing up concert proposals

Minami feels nervous, like she’s nothing but the things the studio has given them

Large parts of the cast feel more childish than the original’s

Miku decides to go on strike. Anzu and Rika are all for it

Miku’s feelings of getting left behind, of just working towards nothing and losing her one chance, feel real. A good finale

This show is very inconsistent, but has occasional moments of real emotional impact

And the animation also wasn’t great this week

“I envy them their youth.” Hah, yep

The director says they’re debuting in waves, and then kinda accidentally names the main trio “New Generations”

Episode 6

Recording and interviews with an old friend. The main trio don’t really know what to say

Apparently Mio is the leader? I’d thought they’d decided on Uzuki

Minami and Anya practiced their interview sessions. Much more level-headed

Yeah, it’s quite a change of pace how much these three are the main characters. And the lack of fun episodic stories outside the strict job is a real drag – this season really is far worse than the original

Another pretty flat episode in terms of direction and animation. And even the story is just “getting ready for a concert”

Good radio conversation between the three of them. Mio really is the only one who could be the leader

The fact that the other characters are just waiting around to be successful doesn’t give them much to do – they just sit there and offer commentary

Mio feels like their concert will be in the way

This producer is an interesting contrast from the last one – he can’t really pull it together emotionally to comfort his idols, so they need to help each other

Yeah, he can’t think up a good speech for them

Anya and Minami holding each other together. The feeling of these girls keeping each other from losing confidence is probably the show’s most consistently effective emotional note

This show lacks the true sharpness of a show like Shounen Hollywood, but also the consistent sense of fun of Love Live or Imas S1

Excellent performance sequence, as usual. And it’s nice how small this crowd is

Mio feels shocked that the crowd is so small and unenthused, and ashamed that she built this up for her friends. She doesn’t understand how this works

Oh my god, the broken glass slipper

Episode 7

Some very nice shots and lighting in this episode, even if the conflict is a bit meh

“This isn’t an issue for you alone.” He takes the frank adult angle, which doesn’t work here

Yeah, this episode’s direction is much better than the average one

Rin actually challenging the producer. This is good. Rin is far and away the show’s best character

Miku getting bitter about this situation is also good. Miku would give anything to have their position

The producer feels totally lost, but he can’t really express it. It’s actually kinda nice

Uzuki gives producer his confidence, and he rushes off to regain both Mio and Rin. He’s more of a full character in this one than the last one – he can’t fix everything, he’s kinda bad at his job

So he lost his confidence in the past doing things the straightforward way, and has since then become basically empty

In spite of feeling ashamed, Mio has to be strong

And the producer tries to loosen up a bit, and be more honest with his idols

Episode 8

Mio thinks everyone should bring something personal into the office

“I want to keep my work and private life separate!” Miku is pretty interesting

Ranko is making a solo debut

The producer trying to translate Ranko’s gibberish into actual criticism is pretty great

And Ranko gasping happily whenever he actually parses one of her speeches. A good dynamic

Anya trying to help Ranko

Ranko’s actually scared of horror stuff. She just likes the goth look

Miku lives at the dorm too. More information about their full lives

And Ranko actually likes frilly, angelic stuff

Anya reveals to everyone that Ranko doesn’t really like horror

Good use of soft filters for this finale sequence

Ranko feels really insecure until the producer makes sure she knows he’s on her side

Cinderella Girls’ narratives are more grounded and mundane in general than the first show’s

Miria can actually parse her nonsense all the time, and just figured everyone else could too. Hahaha

Episode 9

“Candy Island” is the new trio, featuring Anzu, Sweets, and Clover. They’re going on TV!

Miku and Mio trying to drill the others on manzai routines. This is great

Chieri is “nervous plus likes four leaf clovers”

Welp, turns out it’s not a quiz show, it’s an action show

It seems like another priority of the show is to get in cameos of all the other random Cinderella idols

Here we go. A good concept episode that lets the characters express more of themselves, or at least be themselves in new contexts

Fighting through the last segment to avoid doing a friggin’ bungee jump

“I knew I never wouldv’e been able to do anything alone. I’m scared…”

These three actually have a great chemistry. Much better than Anzu and Kirari, which is very simple – these three act like friends

Anzu’s apparently a science/math genius

This whole quiz segment was excellent. Lots of fun

Episode 10

Now Kirari, Rika, and Miria are a group

They’ll be going on a talk show

Kirari and Rika are also a good pair

Dekoration is their group name

“I think of Dekoration as a fun unit that has the freedom to act for itself”

The girls just hanging around the shopping district

Rika sure makes this tough for the producer

Producer gets picked up by the cops again. He can’t help himself

“The producer is lost!”

This one’s better than the early episodes, but still not up to first season par

Rika hiding the fact that she’s getting worn out, her feet are getting hurt

Mika gets understandably upset at the producer. His plan to let them do their own thing has backfired, and Mika constantly worries about her sister

The girls building each other up again

Miria’s outfit is ten kinds of illegal

Episode 11

Miku and Rock are the final unit. Which is pretty good – their angles are very different, but more importantly, they’ve already been shown having lots of tiny arguments

The direction seems stronger again for this one

Riina, that’s Rock’s actual name

They get stuck living together to improve their communication. This is basically Dance Like You Want To Win

Miku takes every aspect of her life seriously

Miku calling Riina on her bullshit is great

And of course they learn to compromise

Their unit name is Asterisk

Episode 12

Minami ends up being the leader when the producer has to leave, which makes sense

The producer springs a group song on them, and everyone’s worried

Some nice individual shots in this episode, and nice sequences of unlikely idol groups coming together

Ranko actually thinks to herself in a normal voice, which is a nice detail

Minami forcing herself to put on a smile

And she designs some group activities to force them to get more in sync with each other. Minami’s a good leader – much more together than basically any of the idols in either show

“I was able to split that anxiety in half.” Sharing the load again

Minami even makes good speeches. A very strong leader

Episode 13

Minami carried all the weight herself, and so her anxiety brought on a fever. Aw, Minami

Ranko volunteers to sub for Minami. A very nice moment

Excellent performance scenes throughout the episode

“This time for sure, it’s not a dream!”

One thought on “The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls, S1 – Review

  1. Though you said it’s cruel to compare the series to its predecessor, you kept on doing it throughout the article. 😀

    But I know, it’s hard not to compare. I agree with you on most points, but I think CGirls has its own unique charm that, unfortunately, was watered down with the choice of execution (as you mentioned). I noticed you made hints to the second season, which was by far much more balanced and focused more on the dynamic of the group rather than just the three “lead” idols.

    Sure, CGirls lacks the melodrama and punch that the original had, and the current iteration of the Producer makes me want to gut him every time he says “egao”, but it’s still unmistakably iDOLM@STER.

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