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.)