Framing IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls U149

As I was watching the final episode of U149, I thought back to how a lot of the core concepts of Cinderella Girls come down to pretty silly, bare-bones ideas but taken to the extremely-real. To use a metaphor, when the fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a horse carriage in the Disney rendition of Cinderella, it was literally a pumpkin that morphed magically and gained the functions of a carriage. When you think of the tomboy 5th grader, maybe you can conjure up Haru. When you think of a gal 5th grader, maybe you can conjure up Risa. These acts of speaking into reality through the power of imagination is underneath all of that.

Much of this show is about fleshing out not just these character ideas, but depicting the unreal origins of these ideas with the reality of what the IDOLM@STER brand is about: idol production and all that jazz. It both sells that fantasy but it still have to tip the hat to all of the rest underneath, to use the madly-peddling swan metaphor. What’s also unreal, in the sense that this is an anime about the following topic, is that children signed under a major idol agency are child laborers. Granted, this is probably the kind people don’t look down upon in general (although many still do), but playing heavily on the “child vs adult” themes (Arisu is the child idol who wants to be an adult but is too childish to do so, in a nutshell.) all of those comes into play. It is a weird feeling to think of U149 in those terms, yet every time these kids bump into those types of workplace problems, it’s hard to not think of it.

So many scenes in the series, we see the U149 Producer working hard, putting his money towards his charges, not to mention spending all his time working for their projects. The U149 Producer displays plenty of childishness as depicted by societal norms, but is overall quite a normal adult dealing with the usual adult problems (in a work setting). He is the foil for the U149 idols.

It gets amusing and a bit confusing because the children themselves also take care of each other. One of them produces costumes, another cooks well. Some of them demonstrate emotional maturity and others have leadership skills. Some are stronger than others. In as much as U149 is a team or a unit, in demonstrating a satisfactory level of respect, or attractiveness, the kids also loses some of what makes kids kids I think.

Maybe that is why I really enjoy this aspect when Miria brings that standard kid-energy and that shadow of fear underneath her steel-woman-child visage during the live stream. Miria episodes are all so good because there’s this obvious internal conflict in which she out-matures it.

But as it were, why do people dote over Arisu…? Rhetorically, yes, I get it, I’m just saying every bratty snot in the 3rd Division has a surprising amount of inner qualities that makes them admirable as people. Maybe those qualities also make (at least some of) them attractive as idols, but it would be safe to say it is quite too early for that for the majority of them.

PS. Ever since COVID, Cinderella Girls shows all use smart/digital tickets. It means for oversea Producers, getting tickets require jumping a different set of hoops than before. It also means it’s harder than ever to proxy. Yet we see them draw in these paper tickets into the show and it just make me shake my head in disbelief. Go on, magical anime about little kids who tries to sing, dance, and behave like amusing little things. This is also amusing (in a not-so-great way).

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