Well here we are again at another Afterword, seems like just yesterday that I finished the spectacular Cross Game. And now after months of being on the air, I finally finish up the last half of The iDOLM@STER.

The iDOLM@STER was one of those shows that was known as one of the big heavy hitters of the 2011 Summer Anime Season. The show was almost guaranteed a huge following because it promised to be a faithful adaptation to the widely successful game that started everything. If you consider that and the fact that the main characters are a bunch of teenage (mostly) girls, then you have a recipe for success in anime. (To be fair the Summer season wasn’t ripe with blockbusters either).

Coming back to the show, The iDOLM@STER follows the story of 12 aspiring idols as they try to make a name for themselves. The “main character” is a guy simple known as “the Producer” (in the games he is the character you play as and his face is never shown).

The show is played as a slice-of-life type of show, with each episode mainly focusing on one heroine (though all the girls seem to appear in every episode). To be blunt, I didn’t finish watching the show as it aired, as slice-of-life shows (for me anyways) do not quite fit into weekly anime format, that and I was working way over full time AND was going to school at the same time.

However, for the past few days I’ve been marathoning the show (on blu-ray!) and I’ve gained a new love of the show. The first 19 episodes do a good job of following the slice-of-life formula and place the show as a good (if not great) show in the genre. It is only in episodes 20-25 that the show CEMENTS itself as one of the greatest in the genre and undisputedly (imo) the top anime of Summer 2011 (if not more).

Starting with the later episodes is when the show really shows you who the main heroines are; Haruka, Chihaya, and Miki in that order. Episode 20’s focus on Chihaya’s past is one of the most GRIPPING episodes seen in this genre in years. At the beginning, I thought she was a really shallow character and it was not until episode 20 that the viewer can really see her shine. She is faced with losing the only thing that she can use to atone for her past sin (her brother’s death) and that is music. As she falls deeper and deeper into the darkness of despair, it takes the encouraging hand of the group’s unofficial leader and all around encourager to pull her out. Only with the help of everyone (though mainly its the Producer and Haruka) that she is able to realize what it was her brother wanted for her, not her song, but her smile when she sang.

The followup episode helped to tie up Chihaya’s story together and viewers were treated to a very special performance by Kotori, one of the helpers from the office, which manages to place a side character into the memories of viewers.

The next episodes focus on Haruka, the unofficial leader and main heroine of the story. Throughout the 20-some episodes she has been the klutzy, supporter of the group. But what happens when the person who supports everyone else needs support, who then will help her? As we watch Haruka slowly fall in to despair and helplessness, we can’t help but feel her pain. After-all the girl wants to keep everyone together, but because of life everyone seems to be moving on, apart from each other, and as a result, leaving her behind. It is when the Producer reaches out to her that we think her salvation has finally come, but as fate would have it, Haruka’s action lead him into a serious injury, and she is left with the feeling of guilt added to her desperation.

It is in the 24th episode that Haruka loses sight of everything, she is so lost that she no longer knows why it was she wanted to be an idol. Everything seems almost like a dream to her and after one last desperate attempt to fix everything that fails, we watch helplessly as Haruka finally breaks down.

Luckily Haruka is a strong girl and she manages, in her own way, to pull herself out of this despair. But it is only with the efforts of Chihaya (who she ironically saved a few episodes before) and the group that she is able to truly come out of her despair. It is undeniable that if your hearts truly understand each other that you will have be able to pull each other out of despair.

Chihaya and Haruka’s powerful episodes made me step back and re-evaluate The iDOLM@STER, was I really watch a slice-of-life show or a gripping drama? The message that Miki hints at, that if you move forward too fast, then you lose your way is truly resonating to me, as it is truly the case common in life.

The final episodes shows the crew at A-1 Pictures pulling out all the stops, with massive animation/cg production values, the budget must have been thrown out the window.

Character wise, I was a Miki fan until the Haruka focused episodes and now she is my favorite of the girls (though Miki is cemented in second place). I can see why it is natural for Miki to have fallen for the Producer (as I suspect most of the girls have), as he truly tries to understand each of them (that and he is the only male they constantly interact with). Chihaya makes the third girl that I really like, as I felt her character really developed substantially in the 2nd arc of the series. Kotori, surprisingly earns a place in my top side-characters of all time, though admittedly most of her development is assumed and not outright told to the viewer.

Music wise, if you have any love for Japanese music, there is a song for you. The iDOLM@STER features new music EVERY episode, with new ending animation to go with it. The VA’s chosen for the twelve girls are truly talented and that is most apparent in the songs, which are all sung by  VAs in the anime.

I think that at the end of the day, The iDOLM@STER is a show about unity, the journey that takes you apart from everything, the way back, and most importantly, the dreams we have as kids and the motivations that drive them.

The iDOLM@STER is a show for everyone and anyone, the girls are fun to watch, the stories are pleasant, and the animation/music is great. If nothing else, it is entertaining and a sure re-watch in years to come.

Though an interesting idea, would be to make a sequel (it IS slice-of-life afteral) that is ongoing, I can see tons of potential.

(Harem, Haruka, or Miki end for Producer-san anyone?)

(Kotori X President relationship? Seems like it would mirror an older Miki X Producer relationship).

An anime that I can enjoy anytime, as many times as I want.

All in all a solid 5/5.