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The Spring 2024 Anime Preview Guide

How would you rate episode 1 of
The IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors ?
Community score: 3.2

What is this?


Hands clasped, hearts alight, idols take flight! Watch as wannabe idols band together to forge friendships and pursue their dreams.

The IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors is based on a Bandai Namco Entertainment's The IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors browser game launched in April 2018. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Fridays.

How was the first episode?

James Beckett

You know what I'm happy about? We live in an era where all-CG anime shows usually end up being pretty okay. Sure, you can still end up with a stinker like Highspeed Étoile but it used to be that pretty much any CGI production that wasn't produced specifically by Studio Orange was to be treated with caution and low expectations. Now, though, even studios with spotty track records like Polygon Pictures can crank out a show like Idolm@ster Shiny Colors, which looks fine! It even looks good, in spots. I'm sure this animation method makes these song-and-dance-heavy series a lot easier to manage, and I'm all for it if the colors are vibrant and the character animation is lively.

Anyway, there is more to this new Idolm@ster than its animation style for me to cover. To the surprise of nobody who has ever watched one of these shows, my response to this new Shiny Colors series is the same reaction I have whenever I watch any hyper-corporate idol anime which is to say that it please preexisting diehard fans of the genre…which I am not. It looks and sounds as pleasant as any throwaway bubblegum pop track, and it has the same amount of staying power. I'm writing this preview immediately after finishing the episode — I literally hit the “Pause” button on the Crunchyroll player and then clicked over to the open Word document within a single second — and I still cannot remember any of these girls' names!

This is especially crazy because the first of these two episodes spends practically its whole runtime clogging up the screen with intertitles and character profile sheets that exist to explain that information, and yet…nada. So, you'll have to forgive me for referring to the girls in the only way I know how to differentiate them: There's The Perky One (with Blonde Pigtails), The Serious One (with Long, Dark Hair), and The Shy One (with Shoulder-Length Brown Hair). Later on, we meet The Punk Rock Girl (with Cool, Purple Hair), The Other Perky One (with a Bow), The Tall One (with Long Black Hair), The Other Shy One (with, Like, Grey Pigtails, I Guess?), and The One With a HAT (She Wears a HAT). Also, there's Producer Guy. You know him, right? He's…well, he's Producer Guy.

The moral of the story is that, if you've seen any of these shows, then you've seen this one. All of the different haircuts sit, stand, walk, and/or dance around together, talking about stuff and, occasionally, also things. Producer Guy is there to talk about Idol Business, and then the haircuts all go around and do Idol Business. On a slow day, that may mean watching the haircuts practice a new routine or taking photos in their (admittedly pretty sweet-looking) steampunky outfits. On a better day, you get a music video at the end of the episode. Episode 2 has one of those, and it's fine. The choreography is nice, and did I mention that the steampunk costumes are cool?

That's just about it! Aside from the pleasant-looking 3D animation, I have almost nothing else to say about this one. Too safe and squeaky clean to be interesting and too afraid of risk to be genuinely bad or upsetting. Idolm@ster is Idolm@ster.

Nicholas Dupree

This first episode felt like watching a recap movie. I know it's not, but that's the thought I couldn't escape as I sat through this premiere. It feels like it was written for somebody who already knows these characters and their story and just wants a quick, condensed reminder of the big moments. Perhaps that's exactly what it is for folks who have played the Shiny Colors mobile game and already know all 16 of these girls, but for the uninitiated (read: me), it's a confusing mess that does practically nothing to make me want to watch more.

Take, for instance, the character arc for Mano in this episode. By all appearances, she's our perspective character for the story: the only girl not already working at 283 Productions, the quiet and insecure girl who doesn't think she can be an idol, and the one with the most individual screen time. She begins the episode by monologuing about finding a new world by becoming an idol. Then she disappears from the episode for 10 minutes while we introduce all the other characters. Eventually, she returns when the producer character overhears her humming in a park and immediately asks her to be an idol. She says no, then has a couple of scenes where she looks thoughtful and stares into the distance before meeting him again and saying yes. She's then introduced to her unit-mates and bonds with them across a dialogue-free montage before they're all told they'll be performing at a big event—end of episode.

If this is your first time meeting these characters, it's a comprehensible plot, but it has nothing to get you invested. Mano barely speaks across this entire episode. She has a total of one (1) conversation with her unit-mates that we get to hear. She never interacts with the other 13 girls outside of watching one group perform for about ten seconds. We have no idea why she wants to be an idol outside of the incredibly vague platitude of seeing "a new world." Nothing here would endear somebody who isn't already ingratiated with this sub-franchise. Yet, it's presented with the dramatic gravitas of the most impactful coming-of-age story ever put to screen. There are no character interactions. No musical numbers. No jokes. There is nothing but the novelty of seeing these characters moving and talking with marginally better CG than in the game.

That CG, at least, looks pretty nice. I've long had problems with Polygon Pictures' dedication to washed-out gray color palettes, and this is thankfully much more vibrant. The characters look nice, capturing the appeal of their original incarnations. There's some very nice framing and lighting in the dramatic moments. Unfortunately, PolyPic is still cutting frames for their releases, making a lot of awkward, jerky movement. The models also aren't nearly as expressive as you'd want, leaving many characters feeling like ciphers. In all, it's a premiere that looks pretty good in stills but just doesn't move quite right. It isn't being done any favors by airing in the same season as Girls Band Cry. On that same note, it's also miles ahead of Highspeed Étoile, so I guess we'll give these girls the silver medal for now.

If this works as a nice treat for fans, more power to you. I know at least a few people who love these characters, and I might watch another episode to get more screenshots of the purple-haired punk girl. But as an emotional, narrative experience, this is a total dud.

Rebecca Silverman

I have sampled a lot of Idolm@ster in my time, and while I can recognize the appeal, I can't say that it appeals to me. Mostly, this is because each and every iteration of the franchise feels blandly similar to those that came before. You've got a nameless producer who takes charge of a large group of fledgling girl idols and attempts to propel them to stardom, preferably by first sorting them into smaller units and then eventually putting them all on a stage together in perfectly coordinated fussy outfits. There are a variety of preset personalities easily determined by character names, hairstyles, and clothing choices, and even if no one gets along at first, they all do before too much time has passed.

In this case, “stardom” is the awkwardly abbreviated W.I.N.G. competition, which someone was clearly desperate to use because of the various feather analogies present in this episode. Producer (yes, that's his full name) already has a swathe of perky girl groups to enter, but he's also got two unitless sweeties who need to join one if they're going to fill out the W.I.N.G. roster at the production company. He needs just one more darling to make this work, and wouldn't you know it, he finds one singing to herself in the park, as one does. Oblivious to the optics, he approaches her to see if she has any interest in becoming an idol, although it must be said that he's not surprised when she runs away.

That little issue aside, this iteration of the franchise feels like it's dialed down the creepy factor present in my first encounter with the franchise. Producer may not have a name, but he does have a face (although Amai, the director of the company, does not; he's a bearded chin atop a suit). He's also clearly making at least a token effort when he approaches Mano not to terrify her. There's also not a lot of sexualization; yes, skirts are short, and costumes are tight, but I appreciate that the camera isn't lingering where it oughtn't. It is still clear that the episode is really banking on Mano's overdone innocence, which has its issues, but that's more of an idol culture thing than a this show thing.

In all honesty, there isn't much to this. It introduces far too many characters, goes all-in on their cute/sweet/shy/perky appeal, indulges in as many types as it can cram in, and sprinkles some dancing on top. The CG animation makes for odd feet and stiff hair but otherwise isn't terrible. If you're a franchise fan, I think this will have a comfortable appeal, even if there's not much here for anyone else.

Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.

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