765 Productions is an agency for idol talent. At the moment they have many girls but little success. One producer is determined to make each a star. Each girl has her special talent, it's just a matter of getting them out there to showcase it. The days are slow and fun, but as things pick up the girls discover success may come at the price of friendship.
What Idolmaster is (and isn't) has a lot to do with the RPG game it's based off of. In the game you take charge of an idol(s) to help her achieve stardom. Personalties in the anime make more sense since they're intended as game choices. This is also why the main male character is referred to generically as "producer". It may seem strange to have an idol anime with few performances, but the anime styled game already covers every performance scenario possible. Any combination of girls can be chosen to perform songs, and they're well coriographed, so it's been done before and fairly well. With the game's extensive song catalog, the Idolmaster soundtrack is impressive. They're too generic for my tastes, and I'm not a fan of the unison singing Japanese idol groups do anyway. Even so, there was occasionally a song I really wanted to hear, but only a sliver of the performance is shown. If you want an anime about idols with singing / dancing, Idolmaster doesn't have much of that. Instead of delving into the performance aspect of idols, Idolmaster follows the story of the 765 Productions' idols.
The first episode was strong enough I had hope for this one, but even five episodes in, I hadn't decided if I liked it or not. With so many characters Idolmaster seemed doomed to character sprawl where it's hard to remember who's who. The anime has a clever approach to character introductions, working around that very problem. As a girl gets "her episode", two or three other idols are involved with her story as well. It's like a random shuffle of side-kicks. This keeps introductions digestible and works quite well. I figured if they could make the busty air-head's story fun, this anime might be okay.
Then... it wanders for 16 episodes. Fluff stories with weak characters fail to accomplish much. Chihaya was the only girl who really interested me with her serious gloomy aura (very un-idol like). Obviously she had past issues, so I figured if her story turned out good the show would be worth the watch. It's a long wait though. Idolmaster hits a good point every now and then but nothing remarkable. Later on, a ridiculous diabolical villain is introduced heading a rival idol agency. He serves a needed role in a needlessly eye rolling way.
Then Chihaya's story really did pull it off, with memorable moments I found quite moving. The next drama story was decent, and felt like a good way to wrap up the show.
Idolmaster captures many nuances of idol concerts (while overlooking the creepy aspects of idol culture), otherwise it doesn't seem to do much with the idol theme considering the small amount of performance stuff. The engaging story content is fairly small, with most of the time spent on fluffy light hearted filler. These reveal key events, so it's not like the fluff can be entirely skipped either. Thus it becomes a long watch for a payoff packed together at the end. It's hard to recommend due to the time investment, so probably better to skip unless specifically interested in idols.
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