Back in 2011, Namco Bandai decided to make an anime of a popular idol video game called The Idolmaster. It is basically an idol raising game where the player manages and produce idols for a talent agency named 765 Productions. The show was well received although it had some flaws.
Since then, Namco has been expanding the franchise by expanding in the mobile space with Cinderella Girls and the other being Million Live, which has yet to receive an adaptation. Cinderella Girls features a new and growing cast of idols with a small percentage of those receiving voices from idol elections. When an anime adaptation has been announced, it makes me wonder how they will make a show with such a huge cast aside from the thirteen girls in the main group. Let’s find out.
The story of Cinderella Girls focuses on a group of girls who are part of a project called “Cinderella Project” in a talent production company, 346 Productions. The first group of girls has already graduated or rather become full-fledged idols. The first half focuses on the main group as the Producer who successfully produced and managed idols in the past have difficulty communicating with the girls for his new project, which leads to situations that could have been avoided such as Mio having expectations set too high and wanting to quit being an idol after New Generations’s first live performance before he convinced her to come back. After understanding that he needs to open up, he starts communicating better with the girls as he begins to create other units after New Generations and Love Laika debuted. Eventually, the girls prepared for the big festival, which is their first step of reaching their dream.
The second half focuses more on the overall 346 Productions as the Cinderella Project faces another challenge after the girls took their first step to stardom. Director Mishiro decides to dissolve all projects all the sudden and try to do things her way to create a “unified image” for 346 Productions. With the threat of Cinderella Project being disbanded by her, the Producer decides on a new effort with the Cinderella Ball, which all the departments eventually participate. To make it a success, the Cinderella Project girls do their best with the challenges they face with Mishiro forcing her ideals on everyone. However, there is one girl named Shimamura Uzuki that feels that she is being left behind as the girls do their own things. Will she be able to resolve her feelings before the ball or will she get sacked by Mishiro against the Producer’s will?
While I enjoyed the first Idolmaster anime, there are some things that make Cinderella Girls better. While I like some of the girls, the Producer is definitely more enjoyable in this show compared to one in the main one. I have to admit that while the one from the main series was enjoyable since he is nice to the girls and was able to connect with them well, he is rather incompetent. In comparison, the one in this show is competent considering that he managed to produced successful idols. He simply lacks proper communication skills. I have to admit that while the misunderstandings from not clearly communicating with the girls caused some drama, especially with Honda Mio. At the same time, some of them led to funny moments, most namely the police. This becomes a running gag, especially when he took pictures of Mira, Kirari and Rika and gets taken to the police station in order to get questioned as a result.
Moreover, I felt that some of the moments were handled better. Sure, while seeing Haruka as a child is perhaps the strangest thing ever, I felt that the drama dealing with Uzuki is handled slightly better in comparison as she fears that she would get left behind. Since she is an ordinary girl, she does not like the fact that New Generations is drifting apart as Rin and Mio do their own things, leaving her with nothing else to motivate herself to reach her dream. I liked how the Producer finally steps up his game by helping her as Mishiro threatens to sack Uzuki. Eventually, he gave Uzuki something that will motivate her to reach the dream she desires.
On the other hand, while grown to like some of the girls such as Anastasia and Minami aside from the ones I like (Anzu, Ranko and Kanako), I felt that there were some weaknesses, especially in regards to the character development. Although the character development was strong in the first half since it focused primarily on the Cinderella Project girls, I felt that the second half was weak in that regard. I know that they want to put everyone the spotlight in the whole “everyone is a main character” thing, but I felt that this goal was a bit too ambitious. The characters they introduce barely have any develop beyond their archetype, which make this premise felt more like a gimmick more than anything instead of giving them meaningful development. If I was the director, I would have focus on the main group and try to incorporate the other characters in the story. To me, doing this in twelve episodes in the second half is simply not possible, especially considering how big the cast is. Not to mention, some of the girls from the Cinderella Project, especially Ranko who is a very popular character barely get any screen time in the second half.
As a whole, while there are some flaws that make the main anime adaptation better, there are still some improvements that make this show very enjoyable to watch, even more so than Love Live in terms of the characters, music and the performances. I felt that the Cinderella Project girls are portrayed better, although there are some girls I wish that got a bit more character development such as Chieri, who is simply there to be cute instead of revealing her difficulties with her family that was mentioned in the games. Also, I wanted to see more character development for Kanako as well given how society pressures her to lose weight despite maintaining a healthy one.
While Cinderella Girls does not exactly have the same level of enjoyment that the 765 Production idols have, I have to admit that the 346 ones are enjoyable in their own right. When Namco decides to make a Million Live adaptation, hopefully they will not become too ambitious and perhaps make the show longer so that all the girls can have some time in the spotlight.
Strengths: Enjoyable characters and story. Also, the animation, music and performances were excellent.
Weaknesses: Too many characters that it is not possible to develop all of them adequately without the expense of the main cast. Also, Mishiro is somewhat of an annoyance, although not as bad compared to Kuroi.
Would I Recommend: Yes