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Old 2018-07-13, 17:08   Link #1
Akito Kinomoto
Sekiroad-Idols Sing Twice
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Blooming Blue Rose
Age: 31
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The iDOLM@STER Movie: Beyond the Brilliant Future!

I recently had the pleasure of watching The iDOLM@STER Movie: Beyond the Brilliant Future!, bringing my experience with this franchise back to the ensemble that started it all. It was an unexpected round trip due to my checkered history with this franchise, not being terribly enamored with the original TV series--letís save time and call it ďClassicĒ--falling in love with the Cinderella Girls TV series, trying to get into the SideM TV series to no effect, and peeking back to the closing chapter of Classic out of curiosity

Perhaps my on and off relationship with this franchise disqualifies me from quantifying this filmís place among its co-branded relatives. I know not whether I can speak for iDOLM@STER fans, idol fans in general, or even anime fans. I can only speak for myself, but the disparity between Classic and Beyond the Brilliant Future! despite sharing the same ensemble, makes for an emotional core that eludes description

But to be honest, my first impression with this film was rather pedestrian; simultaneously enjoyable while starved for a sign of incoming narrative catharsis. But as the curtain fell on the filmís first act, I realized what this film was about, and from there I knew I was in for something a little special

Beyond the Brilliant Future! is a film dealing in experience, walking side by side with enthusiastic aspirations and tangling with tangible insecurity. At the center of it all is Haruka Amami, thrust into the role of leader as she guides her peers to their first arena concert. Along the way, a group of aspiring idols is taken under Haruka and coís tutelage. Though the gap in on-stage performance ability between the established idols and the idols in training is obvious, itís soon clear the established idols, and especially Haruka herself, still have a lot to learn themselves

This is Harukaís story through and through. Her bestowment of experience and the experience she gains is the canvas through which her character is expressed, painted by scene and song alike. Rain or shine, there are many moments where a certain frankness permeates her feelings. The whimsical fluttering in the early morning sun beyond her cheerful demeanor in the everyday. Her emotional maturity in confiding with her closest friend despite her role as leader, the only visible expressions mere reflections off a nearby window. To the very songs themselves, encapsulating everything from when she was a new idol herself, to the heights sheís reached and the triumphís sheís had

But where Harukaís character is most realized is through her relationship with a certain idol in training named Kana Yabuki. The plucky Kana adores the idol Haruka, her nervousness and fervor apparent but never a caricature of either shyness or admiration. At the same time, Harukaís response to Kanaís intensity never elevates her to being above Kana, but sets them as equals from the outside looking in. At once, Haruka is elated and embarrassed, flattered and flustered, happy to be mentor and nervous -as- mentor, learning as much as Kana is along the way. The balance of humors between them perfectly grounds their relationship. The story understands what being starstruck is while the film understands how admiration acts

Through it all, Haruka runs through an emotional gauntlet as she juggles leading her peers while guiding Kana and the new idols. Throughout the film, the story slowly builds an escalation of tension on palpable worries and fears. But rarely does the story overstep anything it ever establishes; itís clear their problems are a major obstacle for them, but the film scarcely draws attention to it with manufactured musical moments, instead preferring to punctuate high drama with low ambience. The film has -confidence- in itself enough to let the writing quality of its story come through in its deliberate pacing, to let the character writing express its depth for itself than to cue in for when itís being expressed

But in committing so heavily to one main character from a cast of characters that was a true ensemble, the film runs afoul of having too many characters that contribute nary a much to the story. Remember how I said I might be disqualified from quantifying this film? I wasnít terribly enamored with Classic in the first place, so where the film would go in terms of its focal point would be irrelevant to me. It might be safe of me to assume youíd really like movie this if Haruka was your favorite character from Classic, but Kana is the deuteragonist. Iíd feel a bit dishonest if I didnít disclose where Iím approaching this film from

That isnít to say all of the characters got lost in the shuffle from Classic to movie. Chihaya Kisaragi has the same role to Haruka as before, being a close friend to confide in and be open with. The Producer and Ritsuko Akizuki are also more or less intact, but now distancing themselves from Haruka and her peers as they become the mentors for Kana and the new idols. Most pleasantly surprising, however, is Iori Minase, who imparts a few words of wisdom for the competitive Shiho Kitazawa

While Shiho felt like an antagonist who only expedited what wouldíve happened eventually, sheís at least understandable, owing much to the preamble set in the early parts of the film that build to more drama as the story goes on. But the biggest problem with Shihoís storyline, and Kanaís by extension, is the disconnect between what underlies their aspirations and the cinematography of the arena concert. The story is focused on Haruka and Kana, but the arena concert emphasizes Haruka and her peers. I know this is likely due to what The iDOLM@STER is as a franchise, but the disconnect between them is still noticeable

Thatís my biggest issue with that storyline, but itís overall just a nitpick thatís amplified because of how much I bought into that thread in the first place. Putting that aside, the arena concert song itself, M@STERPIECE, is, well, worthy of its title. Itís a tour de force of the Classic ensemble, as each of their voices stand out when they need to before harmonizing to perfection. The overall feel is nothing if not triumphant, emblematic of their accomplishments. Some of the insert songs are also nice callbacks to when Classic was the only anime The iDOLM@STER had. Definitely a nice touch of the past to accentuate the story-driven songs of the filmís present

But what I found more pleasing than the music were the visuals, and not solely for how good they look in and of themselves--high polish and budget can fade over time--but the direction within them. The film has a knack for communicating in juxtaposition between characters where dialog would be redundant, from the idols in training to Haruka to Miki Hoshii to Chihaya to Iori. And at its best, the film expresses some emphatically poignant epiphanies with nary a line of confirmation. This is part of why the film is often so confident to let the character and story writing express itself, because it can still speak volumes without uttering a word. And I just realized how ironic that is for a franchise rooted to characters who dance and -sing-

Regardless of what the core of the franchise is, Iím glad the original iDOLM@STER anime had this chapter and Iím highly satisfied I checked this out. This was the entry the original series needed, and the film the first face of the franchise in Haruka Amami deserved. Beyond the Brilliant Future! isnít quite the M@STERPIECE to end a Classic, but if subsequent entries in the franchise can stick to this level of care, then thatís just one more step to a Brilliant Future
Heil Muse. Bow before the Cinderella GirlsMuses are red
Cinderellas are blue
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