THE iDOLM@STER MOVIE: Beyond the Brilliant Future!
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THE iDOLM@STER MOVIE: Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!
Year:
2014
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Format:
121 minutes
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Review date:
10 February 2017
idolmaster
It's the iDOLM@STER movie! This franchise has lots of incarnations, but so far just one movie. It stars the core cast and it's a sequel to the 2011 TV series. It has no significant drama for more than an hour, yet it's thoroughly watchable and a pretty much guaranteed good time. It won big at the Newtype Anime awards, incidentally, coming top with Best Picture, Best Theme Song and Best Director.
To set the scene, iDOLM@STER is a video game franchise where you're a producer trying to build the careers of your idols. Its anime adaptations are the same, except for Xenoglossia which sounds loopy and now I'm thinking of watching that too. The 2011 show took its heroines to a respectable level of professional success, so that's where this movie begins. Their producer wants to do an arena concert. The girls like this idea, so they agree. That's the film. The end of the movie is simply their concert performance, although we also get some "where are they now" glimpses during the closing credits.
The film's first half has no crisis at all, which is an unusual decision for a movie. It's slice of life. The girls are being themselves. They rehearse and hang out together. (They've got better at juggling their professional lives since we last saw them, so they don't have scheduling hell any more.) You might expect this to be boring, but it's not. It's relaxing. It's low-pressure and easy to enjoy. I never found myself clock-watching and indeed I'd have been happy to spend even longer just getting involved with their lives. Mind you, it will have helped that I already knew everyone from the 2011 TV series and I don't know how I'd have reacted had this been my first iDOLM@STER. They don't do big character gags. They even don't really do introductions, instead just letting you spend time with them and sort of pick things up as you go.
On reflection, I don't think this first half is drama-free. It's micro-drama. It's domestic and small-scale, with a focus on the simple things that matter on an everyday level. It also helps that they have a big goal, though, i.e. the concert.
The second half has a story, though. The producer brought in some back-up dancers. These younger idols are awestruck by the more experienced 765 girls. They're famous! They're successful! They're on TV! In short, the juniors are putting the seniors on an unattainable pedestal and will be suffering from ever-diminishing confidence. What's more, one of them is a lone wolf who disapproves of bonding as a group because everyone is really your rival. Haruka has been chosen as the 765 leader and she's the one trying to hold all this together, encouraging the weaker ones and stonewalling the rational but ruthless arguments when one of the juniors drops out altogether.
I liked the film's second half too. It's a good showcase for Haruka, incidentally, who's technically the main character of iDOLM@STER but has always had a tendency to blend into the crowd.
I think this is a deceptively good film. There are all kinds of traps it could have fallen into. It could have strained too hard for artificial crisis. It could have been boring when nothing was happening. It could have struggled with the show's huge cast, which I'd say is the main failing with, say, Girls und Panzer der Film. (I love that movie anyway, but I wanted more Miho. This film, on the other hand, has no problem giving the spotlight to Haruka.) That said, it's a low-impact film and I'm not sure it's worth watching if you haven't seen the TV series. Nothing in it is particularly memorable. It's nice, rather than special. However I really do think it's very well done.
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