The iDOLM@STER and Cinderella Girls are often compared to each other. For good reason, as they are part of the same franchise. Today, I would like to take a look at their similarities and differences and answer the never-ending question of what’s better. (Spoiler: It depends on what you like.)
Being one of the more popular franchises in the idol-genre of anime, The iDOLM@STER focuses on a group of young girls, ranging from around 12-20 years in their age, and their life in the idol-industry. Both it and Cinderella Girls are episodic series’, always featuring one or two different girls in focus for 1-3 episodes. But even just in the premise, the first big difference is observable. The iDOLM@STER is about working as idols, while Cinderella Girls centers around becoming idols.
The characters in the original show are very much grounded and normal, with the exception being Hibiki. They have depth, get foreshadowing and always act based on their character. Miki is always Miki, and until Chihaya’s arc, she’s always kind of distant and only wants to sing.
In 2015’s Cinderella Girls though, the girls are unique, or “fancy”. They have some character trait or feature you might not have seen before, especially not in an idol show, and while that might be fresh and cool, it sometimes doesn’t make sense at all. Anzu Futaba might just be the worst case of this. She’s lazy and doesn’t want to work. Why is she an idol then? Outside of their specific arcs, the girls often don’t do anything. The conflicts centered around them are introduced in the episode they are resolved in, and if someone else has the focus, they just observe and are basically replaceable.
The producer himself is also quite different in both shows. Fans dubbed them Broducer for OG and Manducer for CG, but what really seperates them is their ability to act. The latter just contemplates what he can do and says he supports the girls, while the first actually does so. He wants the girls to succeed and does his best to help them achieve something.
The biggest difference is probably the use of drama. Both shows are centered around the girls’ insecurities or problems, but they differ between internal and external drama. The girls in The iDOLM@STER worry, but rarely do they involve others. Cinderella Girls does exactly that. Everything inconveniences someone else or is the result of someone’s actions or personality. This isn’t always the case, as Ranko fits more into the first category, while Miki and Chihaya do create problems for the others. It’s just what the general focus of the specific show is.
The only “objective” advantage the new show has is how inconsistent the original series looks. While the well-animated scenes heavily outweigh the horrible ones, they do exist, unlike in Cinderella Girls, where the animation is pretty much constantly solid.
All in all, what the better show is depends on what kind of characters and drama you prefer. I recommend starting with The iDOLM@STER though, as everything seems a lot more reasonable. If you’re bored, go ahead and try Cinderella Girls. There will surely be at least one girl in either of them that you can get enjoyment from watching.