The 2011 Idolm@ster anime was kind of a big deal. It was a work made with heart, effort, and finesse, with boom-spectacular dance sequences, cute comedy, and soulful drama (sometimes onscreen simultaneously). It enjoyed nigh-unprecedented success for an anime adaptation of a non-VN video game – aside from slightly-bigger P4A, no other game adaptation comes within 15000 copies per volume of Im@s’s 28,892 copy average. No matter how you slice it, that’s a tough act to follow.
Follow, though, is exactly what the staff of Cinderella Girls, were tasked with doing. This crack team, led by director Noriko Takao (a deputy on the original series) have come out of the gate swinging, offering a different flavor of the franchise that may surpass the original in terms of inner shine. Unlike the original, Cinderella Girls has to this point largely eschewed full episodes focused on individual characters, instead dedicating the bulk of the time to shoving the cast into situations together and letting the organic chemistry go blam like a room stuffed with methane and lit matches. This approach to composition is par for the course for the series’ head writer, Takahashi Tatsuya, who, in addition to heavy involvement with the first anime series, pioneered a revolutionary character-centric method of visual novel design while creating To Heart. This process has two key steps; first, characters are designed and fleshed out by the creative types. Then, once the characters have been fully shaped, the individual scenes and overarching stories are made to evolve out of the cast continually interacting with another in various combinations and contexts. By all accounts, this adaptation has been well-received by fans so far, and a steep uptick in dramatic tension at the end of the series’ 6th episode represents a good opportunity to take a timed-comment look at how viewers have been responding to bits and pieces of the show.
(Spoiler Alert: Episode 6 was a kind of a big deal. I’ll be talking about moments from the first couple of episodes here, obviously.)
For people who haven’t seen me run through a stack of timed comments before and don’t have time to read one of this fun set of posts, here’s a quick rundown. Major Japanese streaming sites handle comments differently than youtube does in two key ways. One, the comments get overlaid on top of the video they’re on (though turning them off is easily done). Two, and more interestingly, the comments are all timestamped, most often to the moment in the video when the user watching it made the comment. The in-no-way-legal-but-large-enough-to-provide-useful-data himawari douga makes those comment streams (and their timestamps) easily available even after anime episodes get taken down, so we can check those timestamps and get a pretty good idea of when comments were happening. Theoretically, it takes focus to comment, so moments with more comments were more actively engaging, perhaps through funny jokes or potent drama. Analyses of comment data for whole shows, linked to above, seem to bear this idea out.
Anyways, here’s how the comment data says viewer engagement went over CG’s first 6 episodes:
A couple of things stand out to me in these charts. First of all, the end of episode 6, punctuated by a New Generations debut that went worse than expected and a choked-up staredown between Mio and the Producer, set off a *really* long streak of continuously positive z-score – 290 seconds. That’s almost a full five minutes! Even excluding the 60-second irregular end credits, that’s still 230 seconds in length. It’s a level of sustained interest that doesn’t happen unless people are really keyed in to the moment.
For comparison, the next-longest streak in the show was a 160-second one in episode 2 where the majority of the cast was introduced. No other continuous-positive interval in the show thus far has exceeded 2 minutes. I’ve analyzed 4 other shows at length, and none of them had a streak that long – 2+ minute streaks themselves typically happen at a clip of one per 3 episodes, but 3+ minute streaks like the one in Episode 6 happen, on average, less than once per show. It’s way out of the ordinary.
While the most notable streak was rolled up around a dramatic core, the bigger blips in interest have come from a wider variety of moments – episode 3’s use of a wide-angle lens in a shot, the character intros for Ranko and Kirari in episode 2, and cameos of popular franchise characters who didn’t make anime main status in episode 3.
I love love love Cinderella Girls right now, and it’s in a fantastically fun duel with Koufuku Graffitti for best of season status in my personal evaluation of things as they stand. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it can build on its early success in episode 7 and beyond.