OP2: 「CHANGE!!!!」 by 765PRO ALLSTARS
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「みんなと、いっしょに！」 (Minna to, Issho ni!)
“Together With Everyone!”
I was anticipating A-1 Pictures to pull out all the stops for the 765 Pro’s New Year Live, but they really outdid themselves with a fully animated, 2.5-minute special performance of “READY!! & CHANGE!!!!”, followed up by a second insert song, “Itsudemo mo, Dokodemo mo”, before wrapping the series up with one more ending theme. It was just about everything I could’ve asked for in IM@S’ finale. There wasn’t much in the way of story, except for maybe the Producer sneaking out of the hospital to check up on everyone, but there really didn’t need to be as this was more of an uplifting epilogue than anything else. It was nice to see confirmation that the Producer knew something was bothering Haruka though, simply because it led to a rather touching moment for Haruka. After that, all that was left was to enjoy the live performance, which featured more consistent animation than all the previous ones.
It probably goes without saying, but the amount of effort required to produce a live performance sequence like this shouldn’t be underestimated. On top of the choreographed dance that’s heavily accentuated by the girls’ animated hair — a clear sign that the extra budget’s been invested — the free-floating camera pretty much ensures that very few frames can be recycled with only minor changes. As such, I’m generally quite forgiving of any shortcuts that are taken for the in-between animation, but I actually didn’t notice any disproportionate faces in any of the frames while I was screen capping. I did in previous performances, such as “SMOKY THRILL” in episode six and “Jibun REST@RT” in episode thirteen, but not here. Even the characters’ faces in the distant shot looked pretty darn good. In motion, the difference is practically indistinguishable, but the extra attention to detail really shows when I’m stepping through the animation frame by frame to capture the exact shots that I want.
Overshadowed by the animation quality was of course the more sentimental side of things with the girls getting Ritsuko to perform the second song with them. The flashbacks with character credits were very bittersweet, but it wasn’t until Kotori broke down in tears at the end did it actually hit me how much I’m going to miss seeing the 765 Pro girls. That’s not to say that I want to see this show go on indefinitely though. It’s just a testament to how much the show’s grown on me over the past six months, especially considering that I wasn’t really planning to watch it at first. This was a great finale for a (surprisingly) great series.
* Haruka was finally able to give the Producer the wallet. She inadvertently made Miki jealous too. Go Haruka!
* The opening sequence didn’t actually change this episode, but I wanted to put together a collage of all the character shots.
* Full-length images: 05, 06, 40.
INS25.1: 「READY!! & CHANGE!!!! SPECIAL EDITION」 by 765PRO ALLSTARS
Watch the INS!: Streaming ▼
INS25.2: 「いつまでも、どこまでも」 (Itsumade mo, Dokomade mo) by 765PRO ALLSTARS
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ED25: 「いっしょ」 (Issho) by 765PRO ALLSTARS
Watch the 25th ED!: Streaming ▼
The most telling impression that I can give about IM@S is probably, “I’m glad I decided to watch it.” I had known that the franchise is really popular in Japan and much less so overseas, but as someone who hasn’t played any of the idol producer simulation games and wasn’t very familiar with any of the characters, I simply figured that I wasn’t the intended audience for this adaptation. Twenty-five episodes later, I can tell you how wrong I was, as the anime slowly introduced the characters and highlighted all their various nuances, much like the games probably did. This adaptation is by no means only targeted toward existing fans, as I can speak from experience on how someone can come into this show with little knowledge of the 765 Pro idols and leave intimately familiar with all of them. When I first started watching, I was able to get into it relatively easily by picking a favorite character (i.e. Miki) and then watching mainly because of her. However, as the show went on and featured more episodes about others (…and Miki became obsessed with her “Honey” Producer), I was no longer fixated on any one character and was more interested in the group as a whole and the difficulties they encountered to realize their idol dreams.
The characters’ struggles deserve special mention, as what appeared to be a slice-of-life series with an idol twist on the surface proved to be much more than that. The last quarter of the series really dialed up the drama aspect in a way that didn’t come off unnatural whatsoever. It received proper build-up — most notably in regards to Chihaya’s traumatic childhood — and provided a completely unexpected dimension to the series. The drama may not compare to an actual drama series where it’s the main focus, but within the context of this relatively lighthearted series and the characters it’s established, it worked impeccably well. From episode twenty onward, I had a completely different image of the show, and it didn’t disappoint in carrying on with what it started when the focus shifted to the main heroine of the series, Haruka. The best part of it all was how the drama just crept up out of nowhere, as newcomers probably don’t expect to get choked up watching IM@S. I know I didn’t, though I’m quite glad that I did to take in everything that this adaptation had to offer. A-1 Pictures, director Nishigori Atsushi, and all the staff involved have done well in promoting the IM@S franchise as an anime — from the animation, series composition, and of course the music — so if a continuation is ever made, you can be rest-assured I’ll be watching.