Here’s my actual hot take, after I dried it from my tears. There are some spoilers for Episode of Jupiter (#EOJ) in this post, but they target mostly people who are invested in the series already. If you are new or don’t care, keep going!
Direction. Its contemplated and slow-burn take reminds me of moviemas. The fact that it literally takes scenes from the movie doesn’t help either. IMO it is a bold statement, and to me it says that this prologue targets not only the current crop of SideM Ps, but also the existing fans of the greater IDOLM@STER franchise–many of whom may not be all that interested in SideM.
The second thing about this statement is that they probably chose this approach to wrap up Jupiter because it showcases the strongest aspect of IDOLM@STER, which is the wall of feels my ~kokoro~ is smushed on, the tingling feeling I got when Alice or Guilty came on, or the warm burn when Brand New Field wrapped up the episode. This is the Million Live template, except Jupiter and 876pro have legs up on them. (I cannot begin to imagine what Ryo’s 15 minutes of SideM anime fame would look like.) They don’t call it nakimas for no reason.
The third thing is, well, if you’re new to imas or just casual about it, you probably won’t find EOJ very enjoyable. Moviemas was kind of a drag. I felt it years ago and I still feel it today, but IDOLM@STER is a deep fandom that has one of the highest walls I’ve encountered for a mainstream-y franchise. It’s definitely a thing not for everyone, and the parts of the thing are not for every fan within. I’m not even talking about fandom’s usual gatekeeping trolls, but just the source material can be really hard to wrap your head around at times.
As dense and interspersed with introductory material as it may, EOJ purposefully left some gaps that I hope they will exploit in the series later on. In fact, another bold thing about starting SideM anime this way is just how subdued it was. Despite having 3 song and dance numbers none of it was flashy, comparatively to other male idol performances. They weren’t really built up by the show, and frankly they didn’t have the luxury to do so. I don’t know if this is a good choice or not, in light of possibly alienating a lot of the general audience curious to check out 1 episode of SideM and ended up picking the specially branded, prologue episode.
Animation. It’s got the flare of team animas in spurts, but this is a big fat love letter to Jupiter in a nutshell. (Big and fat because it’s 34 minutes long.) Read Ryan’s write-up (and every week a new hot take from Sakugablog, hopefully) for deets.
Kouno only did one cut towards the beginning, but striking movement and fabric detail's all there regardless pic.twitter.com/TVeS2rP2Qu
— Ryan@Yes, セレンディピティ！ (@Disgaeamad) September 30, 2017
Characters. They’re a bit two-dimensional still. As men who stuck to their principles, the members of Jupiter are faithfully reprised here as I remembered them from IM@S2. Arguably this is the best take of them that I’ve seen since the beginning, but I don’t play the SideM mobage and I didn’t get too far in Live On Stage. Jupiter have come a long way from cartoonesque villains along with Kuroi to actual idols you can produce, I guess.
What’s important character-wise in EOJ was Saitou Shacho. He’s not going to get a ton of development as the series begins proper at episode 1, at least that is what I’d expect them to do. Yet, he will play an important role throughout the series. The camera is going to turn around and our Producer (Produnu? LOL) will enter the picture properly, so Saitou will bow out of the limelight appropriately to yield, or so I hope. SideM has a lot of idols to cover, so I don’t think our interesting support cast members will have much more spotlight on them, at least in a concentrated way.
References. The aforementioned moviemas connections aside (and I got a big kick seeing those Starpiece Memories posters, as those iconic Nishigori designs really stuck to my mind emotionally) there were a bunch of 765pro soundtrack used and it is just unfair to fans who were weaned on that stuff. But it’s only fitting with Jupiter, who acts as the bridge between the mainline series and SideM, the pivotal first contact of Second Vision to the present.
I guess I should mention Astral Hall, which I think is a reference to Harajuku’s Astro Hall. It’s a small venue that I managed to visit once, which more or less EOJ faithfully modelled (it definitely is much longer than it is wide).
For new viewers. I think there will be lots of people who will watch SideM, going into it without much knowledge or even awareness of IM@S. I guess they could possibly start from the IDOLM@STER TV series? LOL. SideM has clearly explained that it does continue from the mainline animas continuum with EOJ (if prior hints were unconvincing). I guess they didn’t want to spell it out more clearly for the super-foreign viewers, in fear of spoilage. I mean, yeah, you can get spoiled. The fact that unlike a lot of idol anime, the protagonist/Producer character is its own character is part of IM@S’s trademark differentiator in anime adaptations. Or that the producer’s boss always hides his face (except, I guess, for 346pro).
Conclusion. While I was thinking about SideM after watching it, I thought about the beginning of Cinderella Girls anime and how Uzuki, Rin and Mio ran into each other at a generic concert venue; Uzuki dressed like a temp (“buppan Uzuki”?), Mio a courier, and Rin carried a flower stand into the venue. This too is kind of like the SideM formula where everyone used to be something different.
In other words, it’s IM@S folks! It’s IM@S.
PS. The Brand New Field outfit kind of reminds me of the Million Live back dancer outfits in the movie…