TL;DR – it’s not about quantity, but quality, once overhead has been accounted for.
Evirus says here:
There are entirely too many Cinderella Girls. It wasn’t a problem during the first cour when it appeared the show was content with keeping the story on the 14 main idols; that worked for its two-cour predecessor. However, the current season of THE iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls seems intent on cramming more and more of the game’s enormous battery of idols into the anime, presumably attempting to placate ardent fans of niche characters with cameos. Unfortunately, this practice dilutes the show as a whole, making this half of the Cinderella Girls anime somewhat underwhelming.
and concludes with
I’m sure there are disappointed Harada Miyo fans who just want five freaking minutes watching her gap spark plugs, and Yorita Yoshino apostles who want a subplot about her talking to strangers, but neither of these scenarios is likely to do much for the Cinderella Girls anime as a whole. How about spending more time with the ostensible lead trio in New Generations? How about that?
It’s a fair ask, but it’s the wrong ask. Here are some arguments against what Evirus is asking.
First of all, the first season is more or less in line with the same formula as season two, because it cannot possibly focus on all 14 main idols. So what happened was each idol was assigned a grouping and put into the canonical network of interpersonal relationships, and when it’s their turn in the spotlight, we get an group episode. I mean, compare the Miria episode in season 1 versus the Miria episode in season 2. What Miria episode in season 1? The one she just tags along Rika and gets lost? LOL.
I’m just going to interpret what Evirus is whining about as the usual ask in the context of focusing on the development of the main characters. It’s why I say it’s a fair ask. But that’s not the IM@S way.
Which is to say, second, New Generations is kind of meh. Meh in terms of what? There are reasons why there are Yorita fans. Or Momoka fans (in the case of episode 17–look at how those 2-bit minor characters present for fanservice diluted a great episode! Wait). If you took a look at the regularly scheduled elections in the game, you’ll notice one thing: The New Gen girls are just so-so popular until the anime. They may be spotlit as “lead” characters but they cannot carry the show by themselves. That is both true cynically/critically, and true to the theme of IDOLM@STER.
[I am just glad Mio has fans now ;_;]
Also, they’ve been dropping hints on TriPri so I’m sure we’re just going to get a giant ball of mess coming our way when that setup pops. Honestly when Cinderella Project was first announced there was some minor murmur of discontent, because some weren’t sure if Uzuki and Mio can really pull it off.
Last, to answer the question I posed in the title of this post: one idol is too many if it is the wrong one. Unfortunately the anime has only enough time and resources to showcase so many characters while giving them a fair shake, and the Animas formula that Deremas anime is following dictated the kind of complex character development which involve a lot of intercharacter exploration, further limiting how many characters the show can write for. There are going to be times when idols most don’t care about go on stage. (I get the feeling Evirus is knee jerk about his comments based solely on the variety show episode, given the 4 season 2 episodes, thus far, are all very similar in the showcasing-extra-idols aspect, at least by the clock.) But so far every time this happens in Deremas anime it was done in a context that goes with the story of that week. It’s the most we can really ask it to do. The concept behind Cinderella Girls is to have at least one idol you care about than trying to sell a handful of idols that you don’t, and unfortunately it also means having to deal with many idols you don’t care about to get to the ones you do.
If they can make such crafty episodes like #17 every week, I don’t think I would care which idol it is about, because quality is what’s important. And much like that episode demonstrates, one can showcase minor characters just fine while delivering a great experience. Quantity is just an obstacle that needs management.
In that sense, the compromise I offer is that the writing has to account for this aspect. I imagine if you weren’t moved by the Big Sisters moment, the whole episode was a little on the dry side. Maybe we can’t please everybody but the same can be said of all the prior episodes. It comes down to just how well the execution is, I guess.
PS. Here’s a man who has not the right idol in the show.