「輝きの向こう側へ!」 (Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!)
“To the Other Side of the Light!”

Let’s make something clear: I know next to nothing about the IDOLM@STER franchise. I gather that it’s a big thing in Japan, but I’ve never played simulation games, and I’ve never really gotten into pop music, so the entire concept of THE IDOLM@STER was a bit alien to me. I mean, seriously? There’s an idol industry? They mass produce young girls flaunting themselves in entirely superficial ways? I couldn’t help but be cynical going into the original anime, especially considering that it was a show based on a game—Hollywood does movies based on games so well, right? To this day I still have no idea whether THE IDOLM@STER was faithful adaptation of the game, but I’m of the opinion that adaptations should be able to stand on their own anyway, and boy, did THE IDOLM@STER take a stand, to the point of being Divine favourite slice of life of 2011. To be direct: it proved me wrong completely, and I’m glad for that. This movie, Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!, is a direct extension of the anime series and builds on all the good things it had built—namely, a diverse and likeable cast that we’ve soaked in for 25 or so episodes. Those wishing to get the most out of this movie should watch the original series first, or otherwise be familiar with the characters beforehand—the really are the backbone of the entire thing.

So the entire cast is back—even some secondary faces you might recognise—and it’s a comforting feeling to see them still more or less as they were, like the nostalgic taste of home cooking. At the same time, growth is central theme of THE IDOLM@STER and this movie is insistent on reminding us how the girls have matured, especially on the part of our main heroine Amami Haruka (still voiced by Nakamura Eiko; all original seiyuu reprise their roles), freshly promoted from ad hoc leader to official leader. But the whole ‘aim towards Top Idol’ thing was the overarching driver of the original anime (nebulous MacGuffin though it was) and now that Haruka has won the Whatever Award it leaves us to wonder what else they can do her. The answer, apparently, is to throw a bunch of new characters at her. The newbies serve to contrast our veterans and create a cyclical narrative where our old guard must pave the way for the new (and, if I can be allowed to be cynical again for a moment, to bridge a new series). They also addresses one of the elephants in the room that the anime only deals with in passing: for a bunch of rivals in direct competition with each other, 765PRO sure is chummy. I expected the idol industry to be more fake smiles and cutthroat backstabbing. Y’know, like actual showbiz. It does serve to highlight Haruka’s life philosophy—unrelenting goodwill to all mankind, or something like that—and this conflict of ideals turns Kagayaki no Mukougawa e! into strange version of Saving Private Ryan, where no man or idol is left behind. But while a war movie may make you question whether it was all worth it, THE IDOLM@STER‘s brand of triumphant optimism says, ‘Hell yes, definitely’.

The Prodigal Son in question is Yabuki Kana (Kido Ibuki), more or less the face of the scrub team. She’s by far the most developed of the backup dancers, but that’s not actually saying all that much. It’s a natural problem of introducing so many new characters in your movie and making them fight for screentime with an established main cast. The lack of development does hurt the narrative. The strength of the original anime was that although the drama was not necessarily the most sophisticated, the characters were well done (and done over two cours instead of just two hours). The drama doesn’t have to overblown, viewers just need to be more sensitive to the characters. The new characters of Kagayaki no Mukougawa e! still remain new; I don’t really know who these people are. I went through the movie in fair detail and I still can’t put the seven’s names to their faces (and, to be honest, had to check my notes again to make sure there were actually seven of them). The lack of connection between character and viewer makes some of the conflict feel artificial (if they’re only looking for backup dancers, why did they choose someone who expressly has no confidence in dancing?). Kana’s weight problem was done relatively well, though, even if, frankly, she doesn’t look that bad. (For a hobbit No, no I didn’t mean that. I’m really sorry.). I would have liked a serious discussion on body image and the effect of celebrity standards, but eating disorders are discussed so rarely in anime that I was happy to have any mention of it at all. I do need to give props to A-1 Pictures and director Nishigori Atsushi for attention to detail. I was thinking, every time we saw Kana snacking, whether an idol could afford to snack that much. When I saw Kana’s room I noted that it didn’t look like the room of a healthy person. I kicked myself for being too cynical to see it all as a potential plot point. So Kana earned some empathy from me there, but even if she didn’t I’d still feel empathy for Haruka’s empathy, so all in all the narrative will still work out.

It’s a good thing that Kana’s story didn’t sputter because, to me, it’s the central plot of Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!. Preparing for the arena concert may have been the overarching plot, but there was no question that it wouldn’t be a blast once Kana got her funk back. And what a blast it was! Philistine that I am, I wasn’t really sure what an arena concert was at first, but it turned out to just be a concert in an arena, which didn’t seem that big a deal until I was shown the size of the venue. Considering the size of the stage, the complexities of choreographing for that stage, and the intricacies working the camera to show off that choreography, I was quite impressed with the entire performance, and willing to forgive A-1 Pictures for finally buckling and breaking out the CGI, and needing product placement to pay for everything. I still don’t understand idol dance moves as more than coordinated fibrillation, but it looked very active, the song was appropriate as a finale piece, and everyone got some stage-time even if they had to photobomb for it. I felt it closed the story with a bang, even if I’m still wondering: aren’t the seats in the middle of the stage actually terrible? You’re too close to see everything and you’re constantly being rained on with confetti. Nagging questions aside, I went out of the big payoff feeling very satisfied.

Besides the main song and dance, there are other bits of entertainment to be found in this movie. Fans will notice ship-teasing in full effect. While Miki may consider Haruka her biggest rival, but what she actually needs to watch out for are Kotori sneak attacks. Tell me: is this not the face that launched a thousand ships? It’s still all innocent fun, though. Of course, Kotori sails her own ships at full steam, and those are more risque. The point is the comedy, though, and that’s still worth laughs when THE IDOLM@STER plays those cards. We can’t talk about comedy, though, without mentioning the opening parody trailer, which is without a doubt the best one to date. I laughed out loud when it went from Harry Potter horror to faux-sci-fi action, and laughed again at Magical Girl Chihaya. Every moment was gold. I loved the cheesy romance, the inappropriate casting, the stupid reveals, the silly attacks, the clichéd melodrama, the ham villain, the complete absurdity. If you want to do parody (unlike another show this season) you have to be at least this crazy. Though I don’t think I’d mind watching it played straight, either.

Final Thoughts

The parody trailer, pure fanservice though it may be, reveals one of the truths of storytelling. You can get a set of developed characters and throw them into any setting you can imagine and make a good story out of it. Such is the strength of THE IDOLM@STER, having invested into its characters and now being able to insert them into any scenario and just let them more or less write themselves. I’d watch idols as magical schoolgirls, or idols as sealed evil in a can, or as actions heroes, or yakuza, or giant mecha pilots, simply because I know the characters will amuse me (though, note the different between concept and execution; there are traumas we’d still all rather stay buried). I wonder if the staff just took the episode 26 fake-out about the Producer going to America and just ran with it; the actual drama was resolved mostly as an afterthought, but it did set characters into motion along the way. Whatever the case may be, I was reminded me of how I missed THE IDOLM@STER and its cast. Every time a good slice-of-life ends it’s like saying goodbye to dear friends (or at least friends you’re used to seeing every week). It’s a complex feeling, finding myself wishing fictional people luck for the future. I used to have a dream about being a performer too, but I gave that up a long time ago. It does my soul good to see people succeed after all their blood, sweat and tears. That’s the way the world ought to be.

As I mentioned before, there’s going to be a new IDOLM@STER anime in January, and this movie, in part, paves the way for that (I’m assuming that’s what this is all about). I’m not going to treat it strictly as a sequel, though, because it’s not the same cast; I hope I’ve emphasised enough that it’s the characters that define a slice of life. And I have no idea what Cinderella Girls is either. But it may happen that an anime about idols may unexpectedly surprise me, once again.


Full-length images: 008, 024, 029, 042, 075, 103, 139, 146, 152, 153, 159, 162.


ED Sequence

ED: 「虹色ミラクル」 (Nijiiro Miracle) by 765PRO ALLSTARS

End Card


  1. Excuse my rudeness (wtf did I go all Miyuki an’ shit?), but as a person with next to no knowledge to IDOLM@STER as well (didn’t watch anything yet), let me ask: if I were to compare between the IDOLM@STER series and other shows/manga/anime, would it be anything like AKB49(manga) and SkipBeat(manga/anime) drama,comedy, and slice of life combined? Just asking because I don’t have that “umph!” in me to try and start the series.

    1. To describe idolmaster the anime, its a slice of life of each of the idol’s and 765pro’s rise to stardom. The representation of the idol industry is very idealized and vague (as compared to Wake Up Girls’ harsh representation of the idol industry and AKB0048’s exaggerated depiction of the industry).

      Idolmaster does not require any prior knowledge of the games, or the music to enjoy the series as they introduce and build each of the girls’ personality and quirks very well in the first half and that buildup does very well for the story in the second half. However, the anime does do its fanservice sometimes subtly like Haruka’s face being hit by opening a box (which actually happened to Haruka’s seiyuu during a radio show), and such.

    2. There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I’m not talking about the AKB48 (forty-eight) itself, but the “based on real life” manga that’s based off the real world and timeline of AKB48 (forty-eight), called AKB49 (forty-nine), where the main character is a male, which shows the other side and inside look of the idol industry

    3. Neither am I talking about the AKB0048 anime series.

      However, I thank you two for your helpful replies (that’s a rarity on FB, hahaha)

      Since both of you seem enthusiastic about IDOLM@STER and it’s slice of life genre, I’d like to suggest the AKB49 (forty-nine) manga. The comedy is what hooks you at first, but the SoL comes in before you can realize it (in my case anyhow).

  2. I really had a similar first impression, but one day decided to watch the anime.
    I’m sure everyone has likes and not in genre of anime.

    For me, I actually enjoyed great moral in each episode with catchy OP/ED!I especially loved Chihaya’s episode and her songs “Yakusoku” and “Aoi Tori”. I really recommend everyone to watch her episodes <3

    For this movie, "M@sterpiece" was a hit for me.lol

  3. My body wasn’t lady!

    Anyway, the backup dancer girls aren’t from the Cinderella Girls cast, but from the Million Live! cast, so it wasn’t so much about greatly developing them as much as it was homage it felt like, but perhaps their appearance here could potentially lead to a Million Live! spin-off series after Cinderella Girls. I certainly would love to see more of the Million Live! girls like Megumi, Fuka, Rio, Reika, Elena, Kotoha, Arisa, and others.

  4. Great writeup. The movie really captured the iM@S spirit (danketsu), and M@STERPIECE was a nice song to finish things off. Looking forward to Cinderella Girls, even if it possibly marks the end of the original cast being the main focus.

  5. What a coincidence! I just watched this online yesterday on a whim!

    The only 2 conflicts that happened in this surprisingly LONG movie was was 1.) the back-up dancers were less experienced, couldn’t work as a team as well, and had confidence issues, and 2.) Producer-san was going to Hollywood after the live. While I do think those are realistic problems in a slice-of-life show, these really feel drawn out in a 2-hour-long movie, and the middle part really felt dragged! There were a bit too many Haruka speeches by the last half, and the problems were resolved in a fairly easy way, but I do feel for Kana anyway. It’s natural that a movie of the idols would deal with problem rises from NEW characters, because the idols have alraedy learned their lessons and became better human beings in the TV series, so this movie was more about revisiting all the idols has more perfect, entertaining characters that only wish to make us all happy and feel good, which I appreciate. I do wish Producer-san, Hibiki, Makoto, and Asuza had more to do in this movie, but otherwise every idol had their time in the spotlight and had memorable moments to themselves. The show always struck a happy note with me because it showed that happiness can conquer any problem, and this film brought that feeling back!

    1. If I had to dissect things, I’d organise the movie as a few overarching plots that drive a series of subplots. None of them had sufficient meat on them, which is why I think the middle felt dragged out. There’s also the matter of the movie both beginning and ending on very high notes, which makes the middle feel less appealing by comparison.

      Perhaps it’s a problem with lack of focus, what with there being so many characters. They have to make sure everybody gets screentime, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s going to be relevant. It didn’t have to be that way; they gave the primary-colour trio a fair bit of attention (they even get their own insert song), like in the anime, and while I can understand wanting to satisfy all the fans, perhaps it would have been healthier for the narrative to narrow the focus even more on fewer characters.

  6. An idol industry is here in the States too! …ever heard of a sleeper cult company called the Disney Channel?? Their young teenie-bopper singers/”actors”/musicians are mass-produced as well, along with FOX’s music shows which birth upcoming new musical talent all the time! Of course there’s no bitter business stories in this movie because the TV show really didn’t have any either- the worst it had was like one or two slimy executives who were plain cardboard evil! This way, the movie felt more like it was about a close-knit family or class body.

    Kana’s weight problem…. it was written very realistically, and I felt for her SO much in that moment. Though I highly doubt a teenage girl can lose it all in time for the live and have the stripper outfit suit her perfectly that fast. Maybe she really wasn’t that fat and was simply talking out of stress? I like how the weight problem was only the cherry on top of all the other things she stressed over like lack of confidence, the incident during that previous performance, and the level of achievement the idols set that she felt she would never be able to reach!

    The semi-CGI finale was done really well! I can tell they stuck with hand-drawn animation for some of the dance moves while in some far away shots, it looked like the idols were all-CGI! I couldn’t tell which was which, and that’s a plus in my book coming from life-long animator! The hand-drawn artists really stepped up their game in this movie. They knew the dances had to be better than the TV series and they achieved it well!

    1. Oh yes, Xenoglossia. I think I sneaked in referenced to that somewhere in there somewhere. No, Xenoglossia is strange, malformed doppelgangers piloting giant mecha. It formed part of my cynicism prior to going into THE IDOLM@STER.

  7. This show is amazingly fun, in fact I only watched this show yesterday. I love how A1 put some more effort in animation like the trailer of “Sleeping Beauty”, damn that action scenes and special effect. Another is the animation in the concert where they sung M@sterpiece, i don’t know if they use CGI in that but it’s really great especially the camera pan that makes me feel like I’m watching a real concert.

    As for the story, the moral lesson of this movie tells that if you really want that dream to happen, never give up and don’t lose your confidence,never give up and take it one step at a time,and through fighting spirit, everything’s possible because in one line on the song “M@sterpiece” says (lol i just read that part through subtitles so credits to the sub groups) “Because dream is a proof that you’re born to fulfill it yourself”.

    I really love this movie to the fullest that I crave for more in the future. As for my random thoughts:
    I really like how Chihaya reacts when bouncing off from Takane’s (you know what I mean).
    Kotori and her fujoshi abilities strikes again.
    Broducer strikes again.
    Yukiho and her “magical shovel” strikes again, and she really dig holes too(based on someone who said that part).
    And guess what, who is that girl looking at the billboards?
    Show Spoiler ▼

      1. Yes, it is confirmed that A1 will animate Cinderella Girls and based on myanimelist the staff is still the same except for the one in charge of character design, which is now Matsuo Yuusuke, so expect to have a change in art.

  8. Never thought I’d see RandomC reviewing this movie. I knew Divine liked the TV series, but as the days went by with no review by him I almost gave up, as I didn’t see any of the other writers seem to be enthusiastic about the franchise. So glad you put your hat in the ring for this review, Passerby.

    To be honest, this movie for me was a good but not great movie. On the pros, I’m just so happy to see the girls of 765 Pro once more. The parody movie trailer was really awesome, with its mishmash of numerous elements, from sci-fi to mahou shoujo and even yuri undertones, it was just a blast seeing all the girls playing those characters and hamming it up to 11. I’m also loving all the comedic bits they preserved from the TV series. From Yukiho’s I-want-to-dig-a-hole routine, Chihaya’s frustrations at seeing the other girls more well endowed assets, to Kotori’s overactive romantic delusions, the jokes still haven’t gotten old for me. Then there was all the shipping going on. That private photo shoot at the beach between Haruka and Chihaya was really fueling my S.S Haruka X Chihaya ship, while Kotori’s stealth ‘confession’ to Broducer was fanning my fire for that pairing. Yup, Miki should really stop worrying about Haruka and focus on the bigger threat that is Kotori.

    For the cons, I really didn’t feel much for all the new girls introduced in the movie. I could barely remember all their names besides Kana, and only then because Haruka kept mentioning it over and over again. The whole drama with Kana was also a big pain to watch, and when the reason for it all finally came to light, I stopped watching it for a bit to clutch my head in disbelief and mutter expletives under my breath at how idiotic it was. I also felt that the whole thing with Kana could have been resolved so easily if Haruka had just went to Kana’s house early on instead of angsting about it all. The final performance at the concert, M@sterpiece, was also rather disappointing for me personally. I wasn’t feeling the song, while the choreography was only so-so to me (and when I compare it to Rest@rt and Change!!!! from the TV series, it feels even worse).

    In the end though, I still enjoyed watching the movie. I’m a bit sad that we probably won’t be seeing much more of the 765 Pro girls as the next series will focus on the new girls, but hopefully the TV series can flesh them out much better and I’ll enjoy watching their journey to Top Idol.

    P.S. My favorite 765 Pro girl is Haruka, followed by Chihaya and Takane. Anyone else want to give their top 3?

    P.P.S. I really wished they’d make an OVA about Kotori’s past and her implied idol days under Takagi and Kuroi. I don’t think its canon to the games, but I was really digging her songs in episode 21 and had a faint hope it might happen. Oh well..

    1. No worries! Thanks for reading. And of course, a great thank you to everyone else who reads, and everybody who comments. Even if I don’t get manage to reply to everybody, I still read them all and appreciate people participating in the community (yes, even you negative nancies. I get to temper my thick skin). Being a writer just isn’t the same without readers.

      On topic: I think the drama of THE IDOLM@STER has always been rather mundane because, after all, it is at its heart a slice-of-life. Kana’s problem may have been simple, but I wouldn’t call it idiotic; some people do eat uncontrollably as a coping mechanism, and psychological eating disorders are a real problem that many people have to deal with. On my part, I think the issue is while we got a lot of time to know all the characters in the main anime series, we didn’t get a lot of time to know Kana. Therefore we just aren’t as inclined to care about her, and that’s natural. If she had been around for 20 episodes maybe we’d have more empathy for her, simply because she’d be closer.

      (When the anime pushed Haruka, Chihaya and Miki I followed along diligently, because I’m vulnerable to suggestion or something. I tend to rate characters by how compelling their narratives were, so the most fleshed characters get the highest marks from me. That said, I still find myself wanting more Kotori, so maybe a lack of narrative can be compelling too.)

  9. Man people were making the M@STERPIECE performance sound like this monumental animation achievement and then when I actually end up watching it I can all but count the frames involved, there is in fact obvious and conspicuous use of CGI on the more unfocused frames and at times I almost feel like I’m watching a rough version of the actual video. Really not what I would expect out of a big climactic performance for a feature length movie, but then again it is A-1 who are pretty infamous for their inconsistency at the best of times.

    John Hunt
    1. Okay, I’ll bite.

      I think I mentioned the CGI, and I’m not going to tout the performance as a ‘monumental animation achievement’ or whatever hyperbole you want to attribute to those you don’t agree with. I will praise, and have praised, them for the performance as a whole. It’s an incredibly technically demanding sequence. Did you watch the Episode 25 performance? Even with animation cannibalised from the OP it still blew the budget. It’s not just about making characters move, it’s about choreographing movement across an entire stage. A real performance can just spam cameras at all angles and piece it together later. In animation, that camera work is all simulated. Being able to put together a song and dance routine of that scope together is already, for me, quite impressive. It’ll of course be even better if it looked even better, but that’s gravy. More important is that it served as a bookend to the overall IDOLM@STER narrative, with an achievement that was ambitious for our characters in scope and a song that sounded apt as a goodbye. If it does those things then I can forgive the CGI. I can forgive far shots losing detail. I can forgive the reliance on rotoscoping. Call me generous if you must.

      I don’t know about A-1 animation inconsistency being a subject of infamy—at least not the level of infamy where I’ve heard anyone other than you call it such—but I do understand that they’re not the richest studio. They can’t afford to throw all the money at every scene all the time; few studios can. Try not to be so negative about these things; think of it not as the studio slipping in some areas and instead try to think of them putting extra effort into others (and let’s be honest: A-1’s offerings this season don’t look bad at all). Try to recognise where the heart is; often it’s in the right place. Life will be much more enjoyable that way.

  10. A good movie that is probably enjoyed more by fans of the franchise or the original series. It also has the best transition between CGI and hand drawn animation. Seeing that actually made me think: “how the heck did I notice that?”. Seeing that seamless transition also made me forgive this movie for using CGI. For some reason I still think it’s best used on mechs and vehicles.

    As for the characters, well I still can’t remember the names of the new girls. For someone who was introduced to Idolm@ster from aircraft models, the original series (not xenoglasia) actually managed to make me remember all their names. It might have something to do with screen time though. In that the respect the new girls definitely lack screen time and unfortunately Producer-san too. He was one the best characters in the original series and his lack of screen time here was rather regrettable. His choice of Haruka to be leader was understandable, she’s always been the one to hold the group together. It looks like Producer-san didn’t make the wrong choice, thought it probably gave him a bit more stress there.

    So, yeah, I like the movie. Let’s see how Cinderella girls do. It will be good if it can make me remember all their names, lol.

    My top three 765 Pro girls are Azusa, Chihaya and.. uh.. I need to check my pictures folder….

    1. You got Azusa and Chihaya right, so you’re good lol.

      Round it out with Takane and you have the perfect Vocal trio (unfortunately not stats wise from the game because they nerfed Azusa hard, but definitely the most pleasing to the ears…)

      1. This got me curious, any song titles or samples to check out? I don’t have the game and I already spent the day checking out most of the songs from the original series. Still can’t get a feel on what that’s like.

  11. I had my eyes glued on Takane-sama for the whole time. Sadly though, its not enough ><!!!

    Well, i dunno about the whole franchise or game series, but having this movie as a farewell gift is definitely right on. Everything is good in here, though i did get tired for awhile with the dramas. But Haruka was great with the leader stuffs, persevering when everyone else is not. Thats Saint Haruka for you! XDD

    BTW, my top girls are Takane, Azusa and Haruka ^^ and i wish the two big girls especially Takane-sama get some personal close-up since they always in the background =="

    onion warrior
  12. Passerby, that’s exactly how I felt going into the pilot episode of the TV anime. The first time I encountered anything iM@S was an Xbox 360 trailer featuring Go My Way. I forgot which idols performed it but I still thought it was a cute and catchy song. When the anime adaptation was announced, I was really curious to see what it was all about, considering that it was back then an Xbox 360 exclusive and, in a country where the said console I think isn’t so popular, was its killer app. W

    1. Sorry about that. I accidentally clicked on the Submit button. Anyways, I was really glad to have started this series. Now on the movie itself, I definitely liked it. The last few episodes of the TV anime for me really showed why Haruka is the main heroine and it shows more in the movie. While the likes of Miki and Takane(personally my favorites) trump her in looks and in Miki’s case talent. it’s Haruka’s optimism and, as you put it, unrelenting goodwill that makes her endearing. I really can’t say Shiho was cruel here because she was just thinking realistically that Kana should be cut from the concert, but what is more impressive is how Haruka never gave up on her kouhai/fan. While Haruka’s optimism and goodwill does borderline on being unrealistic, even nonsensical, in the idol industry, I’d prefer Haruka over the reality. On the ships too Passerby, I think you should also not count Ritsuko out of the battle for Producer-san. In scene where Producer encouraged Ritsuko to join the dance practice and when she punched his knee, I thought I saw some slight red blush lines. Okay they may or may not signify actual feelings, but personally I just think Ritsuko and Producer also look good together. And for the record, while the choreography for the M@sterpiece number was pretty simple, it was still an awesome performance by 765 Pro. Really looking forward to seeing what the Cinderella Girls anime adaptation has to offer

  13. So…in the end, all the overseas idols (chihaya+miki) and producer and all other project 765 idols reunited back in the japan? lol, talk about summarizing happy endings into a single photograph. After this, I wonder if we will ever see our 765 idols in their own animation again?
    Btw cinderella girls is great.

    And I loved those “pairings” in the movie trailer within the movie lol. that was like mocking yuri fans out there ’cause it’s a fiction that takes place in a fiction.

    SuperIdol 5989

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