Movie Reviews: The iDOLM@STER and Tamako Love Story

Two movies I had been looking forward to recently got their home video release which means I finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch them. I liked both The iDOLM@STER and Tamako Market quite a lot so these moves had high standards to live up to. Did they live up to the hype? We shall see:

Glasses are a good start

Glasses are a good start

The iDOLM@STER Movie: Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!

The iDOLM@STER movie is a companion piece to the TV series which chronicles the girls’ preparation for an arena concert. It has all the things you’d expect from such a premise: training camps and the like. The big change in the movie is the addition of seven backup dancers to accompany the main group of thirteen on stage. Each of these backup dancers is an aspiring idol. It makes sense that they would introduce such a dynamic since the TV series mostly covered the main girls as they struggled to gain fame in the idol world so the addition of new up and coming idols could help recreate that winning formula.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like the movie really succeeds at this. The TV series managed to juggle thirteen girls although some didn’t get much in the way of screen time and there were times when the cast felt unwieldy. That was the case when there were twenty-five episodes to work with. In only two hours, it was almost impossible to replicate that with seven new girls and it shows as the dancers, despite being the main point of the movie, really only have about one and a half personalities between them. There was really no way to make things work with this many new characters, plus a whole cast of existing characters to give time to in order to appease their fans. Most of the new girls are just left off to the side, which is generally how backup dancers work but their presence felt pretty pointless for the most part.

Aside from the new cast members that lacked any real personality, the story of the one girl who did get some development, Yabuki Kana (Kido Ibuki), suffered from a lot of the problems that the original series suffered from. In general The iDOLM@STER sets a very upbeat and idealistic tone, with every one of the girls apparently making it in an industry that tends to spit out 90% of the people who attempt to break in. That’s fine as far as it goes, I don’t need every anime to show me the grizzly reality of whatever its chosen topic is. The problem came when the show did try to inject some drama into things as this clashed with the overall tone and often felt overwrought and manufactured. In the TV series this issue centered on the rival idol company and in the movie Kana’s self-doubt was the culprit.

Self-doubt in the idol industry is common to be sure, but when you have a girl surrounded by success stories and everybody saying all these positive things, seeing her suddenly flip a switch from idealistic aspiring idol to girl caught in crippling self-doubt and eating herself fat was very jarring. Again, the lack of time could be an issue here as I could see this plot line working if we got a slow progression from Kana being a bright-eyed fan of Haruka to wallowing in her own feelings of inadequacy but the rate at which it progressed in the movie just felt unnatural. It struck me as very mechanical and calculated in order to give us something, anything, to slow down the party train heading towards the arena concert. The dramatic portions of a story should feel like natural results of what came before rather than something that happens because “well, we need to get some adversity in here somewhere.” The resolution comes just as quickly and leaves a hollow feeling more than anything.

Forever 72

Forever 72

When the movie wasn’t wallowing in artificial-feeling moments of drama, it was actually quite enjoyable. I really liked the cast of characters in the TV series and seeing them again was really nice. The movie threw in a lot of fodder for the fans who, like myself, ship Haruka with Chihaya so that was nice. The final performance itself was quite a spectacle and a fitting climax for the movie. The whole sequence was full of energy and color and really brought out the best of what The iDOLM@STER can be. It’s unfortunate that what came before had to be so lackluster. Overall, I did enjoy my time with the movie and would recommend it to anybody who liked the TV series. The drama was questionably executed and the pacing is off as it drags at time and feels rushed at others. Still, it’s a nice to be back with the girls of 765pro and I’m glad to have that time despite all the movie’s flaws.

Final Verdict: 6/10

Tamako Love Story

Tamako Love Story is a different animal from the iDOLM@STER movie as it actually continues the story from the TV series rather than telling what amounts to a side-story. If I had to pick one serious flaw in Tamako Market it was the fact that the show never went anywhere with the love triangle that it set up. Tamako Love Story does an excellent job of solving this problem as the focus is almost entirely on the budding romance between Tamako and Mochizou.

I mean how can you not love this?

I mean how can you not love her?

The movie retains the strengths of the TV series as KyoAni’s typical outstanding visuals give a great sense of immersion of the everyday lives of Tamako and her friends. The scenes of the baton club members discussing their upcoming plans for a competition along with random tangents about this or that really make great use of the quirky cast of characters and set up a calm, welcoming atmosphere that suddenly gets broken by Mochizou’s bombshell. The movie has a great sense of the chaos and confusion that one experiences when they’re in love for the first time and while Tamako’s reaction may seem extreme, her behavior is understandable given her circumstances. Mochizou by the same token is very believable as a high school boy caught between his family, his career passion and his romantic interest.

Seriously, she’s the cutest

Seriously, she’s the cutest

However, I think the best performance comes from Midori whose unspoken attraction to Tamako adds a tragic element to an otherwise upbeat story. Midori knows her love is doomed but also can’t help how she feels as she struggle to support her friends and deal with her own emotions. The scene between her an Tamako near the end was superbly handled as you can understand all the emotions she’s feeling even without her saying anything. It’s mostly a sideshow to the fireworks between Tamako and Mochizou but it’s an outstanding sideshow that adds a lot to the overall picture.

The movie ends rather abruptly but it also closes on a high note. It’s better for the movie to end too soon and leave you wanting more than to drag on while you’re checking your watch. Overall the movie is an excellent continuation of the TV series that solves a lot of problems the original had. I felt like the writers did a much better job when they were limited by the time constraints of the movie. Having an entire TV series to work with allowed the plot to meander and spend a lot of time not really going anywhere while the writing in the movie was much more taught and refined. I also loved the inclusion of Tamako’s father’s love song for her mother as that was my favorite part of the original series. It might not have quite been a fairy tale ending, but this was a heartwarming love story that I won’t soon forget.

Final Verdict: 7/10



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