The Honorable Mentions:
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
Written by jonuiuc and Dexomega
Genre: Idol, Comedy, Slice of Life
Spoiler-free Synopsis: In this new entry in the iDOLM@STER franchise, we follow the talent agency 346 Production as they form a new project: The Cinderella Project. Rin Shibuya, Uzuki Shimamura, and Mio Honda become the newest members of the project and are set on the path to becoming idols as the New Generations sub-unit. What future lies in store? Will the Project succeed?
Why You Should be Watching: This series surprised me (jonuiuc). When I had learned it was an adaptation of a mobile game, I didn't really have the highest of expectations. My previous experience with the "idol" genre was limited to Locodols (which was super cute) and perhaps HaNaYaMaTa (which was super-duper cute) which had vague similarities but wasn't not truly an idol show. Having enjoyed those two series way beyond my expectations, I decided to go "Full Idol". I certainly wasn't disappointed.
Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls is very friendly to those new to genre. At its heart, it is very much the simple story of group of girls' efforts to make it in show business, specifically as idols. This is a good thing, as it makes the story and characters accessible. There is some drama of course as the girls have to struggle with self-confidence, overcome the challenges of performing, and deal with each other's personalities and expectations. I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how "real" the series and its drama is presented, and there haven't been any situations so far that stretch plausibility for the sake of drama.
Of course there is a wide cast of characters, and while most are very stereotypical, none are unlikable or presented in a way that off putting. Most of the characters are actually endearing in their own way. In a series comprised of 99% idols this show also thankfully never indulges in any fanservice, instead inviting the viewer to really just root for the characters based on their individual quirks and personalities. Within the confines of its premise, Cinderella girls is easy, fun, and compelling to watch. I'd say the appeal and tone of the show is revealed almost immediately, so I recommend giving the first episode a try and seeing if it grabs you.
Why You Shouldn't be Watching: There are of course some reasons you wouldn't want to watch Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls. The first major reason is at its heart, this is essentially a highly specific Slice of Life show. In fairness, the show makes the whole "idol" concept/career very easy to understand, so that is not really an issue. The greater question is, are you as a viewer content to watch a show that is essentially about people at work? There is no antagonist, there is no greater conflict (at least in sports anime there are opponents or rivals) nor is there any romantic/relationship drama. This is a show that essentially documents a group of amateur performers' development into the pro "idol" scene. I liken the series to a harem in which there is no male protagonist. For some viewers the more "cute girls doing cute things" the better, but for others, there will simply not be enough to go on.
The other major problem for some viewers will be the cast. The characters themselves are plentiful and spread across a wide spectrum of archetypes. This may widen the net, but most characters will simply not receive enough screen time to be memorable. As I mentioned before, the characters are likable but stereotypical, and none are truly unique or original. One sticking point for me is the single male "producer" who is charged with getting this cast of "Cinderella Girls" to the ball. Ostensibly this is the male viewers POV character, and he is probably the most blank, uncommunicative characters ever devised. I'm sure this reflects that the "producer" is essentially a stand in for the player character in the mobile game, but its a wasted opportunity I think. There have been hints at some depth for this character as of episode 7, but I'm not confident that will develop into anything compelling as the focus of the story seems to be squarely on the three lead Cinderella Girls.
You will have to ask for yourself what kind of subject matter you are comfortable with, and what will hold your interest. Like I said before, I was surprised at how much I liked this show, but I am turning into an old softie these days.
Kantai Collection: KanColle
Written by Exile
Genre: Action, Slice-of-Life, Military, School
Sometime in the future... Sometime in the past... Sometime, mysterious enemies from beneath the sea arise to inflict terror upon those that travel the waves. Presenting an insurmountable threat for conventional forces, it is found that all which can stand against them are the souls of former naval vessels, reborn as girls in the current age. And so the KanMusu (lit: "Fleet-Daughters") go forth to battle these "Abyssals", in the anime adaptation of an incredibly popular browser game from Japan. And, as much as the devs can manage, kept in Japan.
Why You Should be Watching: Honestly, the majority of people who "should" be watching probably already are, this anime is very-much targeted at the fans of the game. But there is a reason the game is quite so popular: each Shipgirl has her own design, mannerisms and personality which serve to distinguish them, and it can be fun to effectively run a dormitory for an ever-growing group of disparate girls who happen to get involved in combat. The anime realises this, and much of its time is spent on slice-of-life affairs, in the grand tradition of "cute girls doing cute things", rather than warfare. In-jokes to the game abound, but never distract the unknowing; the necessary ones are explained and the rest left to drift calmly around until they're picked up. Numerous fan-favourites from the game feature: Kongou (and her sisters), Destroyer Division Six, Carrier Group One, with occasional episodes giving prominent focus to some of these over the "main" cast members.
On a more technical basis, KanColle has set a new high water mark for the use of CGI in anime. I frequently found myself watching the earlier episodes for a second (or further) time and suddenly realising that a particular scene was CG rather than hand-drawn. This is used particularly well to add fine detail to the visuals, such as rifled cannon barrels, and IMO shows how well the blend of traditional and CG imagery can be used.
Why You Shouldn't be Watching: Well, now we come to the stormy issues. First off, unfortunately, the CGI is inconsistent. Whilst being difficult to distinguish from traditional animation in the earlier episodes, during action scenes further into the series the quality can noticeably decrease. Not to terrible levels, but given one of the points as to why you should be watching is the quality of the CGI, losing that is something that must be mentioned.
Additionally, for a show built to appeal to an already-existing fanbase, KC has been successful in displeasing wide swathes of said fanbase with some of the artistic license it takes. The show centers on a rather generic Destroyer, which is forgivable, but it compounds the already apparent issues with an uneven reverence to the source material. While it sometimes adheres to the mechanics of the game, it also tosses them out in favor of more 'realistic' consequences on occasion.
Such is the biggest problem of KanColle: it fails to get the balance of Slice-of-Life and drama correct. KC tries hard to be both a happy slife-of-life and a heartwrenching drama at the same time, which results in distinct mood dissonance in episodes. It is still enjoyable, but even for a show with such an absurd premise it's all too easy to watch it and think of the multitude of ways it could be better. There is a dearth of content for mecha musume fans like myself and so I am not unhappy this anime exists, but when I think of KanColle adaptations, my first stop is still going to be somewhere else.
This article was a collaboration by several people of the Ani-TAY community on Talk Amongst Yourselves. You can join the fun on our Sunday Cafes or by posting your own articles on Kinja with the Ani-TAY tag.