What’s it about ?
The iDOLM@STER is a massive multimedia franchise, originally adapted from various videogames where you manage a unit of idols. There was a big TV series in 2011, adapting the original game (+ various other spin-offs, including a movie last year). But you really don’t need to know anything about it ; while Cinderella Girls takes place in the same universe, it adapts a different game, features a completely different cast and has a slightly different premise.
Uzuki is your archetypal idol hopeful : not much skill, but tons of enthusiasm to make up for it. She’s sticking with her training even though all her classmates have long given up, in spite of all her rejections. And now she’s finally getting a second chance to join 346 Production’s Cinderella Project !
The Producer (no name given, following a franchise-wide running joke) from 346 Production has a big problem : he looks very creepy and menacing, and has trouble expressing himself in anything else than a few terse words. Really he’s just a bit shy and inexperienced, but that fearsome appearance doesn’t help him dealing with…
Rin, a random high school girl he crossed paths with. He’s determined to recruit her, despite her explicit and repeated lack of interest in becoming an idol, and her growing annoyance at the rumours of a creepy stalker hounding her. (Which sounds worse than it actually is, but he does approach her every day in the street…)
As this kind of things happen, it’s Uzuki who eventually convinces Rin to give it a try.
Apparently there are at least a dozen new idols involved in the Cinderella Project (presumably introduced in further episodes), but the Producer needed to recruit a trio of them before going any further in developing Uzuki’s career. (Presumably the third member is the one making a cameo auditioning for it at the episode’s tail end.)
Decent enough. It’s always a shame that this franchise’s idol songs are consistently forgettable crap, but them’s the breaks. At least their dancing looks good.
The iDOLM@STER (2011) had an absolutely terrible first episode, sketchily introducing all 12 of its idols (+ the supporting cast) at once and using a “documentary” gimmick that only mucked out its Producer’s actual personality (not that he had much of it, but still). This is a very notable improvement, taking things much more slowly and devoting itself to only a couple of girls and the Producer. It’s all the stronger for it, especially as it opens on the start of their story instead of joining it halfway through. Which is only to be expected, as the whole point of the Cinderella Project is to offer a “from nobody to idol” narrative.
But what really makes this episode sing is its impeccable comedic timing. It gets a ton of mileage out of its Producer, who’s got way more presence and charm than his 2011 counterpart, and manages to be funny just by by being onscreen. He’s also got really good chemistry with Uzuki and Rin, which bodes well for when the cast’s size increases.
I expect a pleasantly forgettable workcom like its predecessor ; this is turning out to quite surpass my expectations.