After a season-long break, The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls is back, and I for one could not be happier. As my numerous posts about this show earlier this year might indicate, I am a big fan of this show, as well as the original iM@S anime. The second half of Cinderella Girls continues right where the first half left off, without even resetting the episode numbers: the girls of the Cinderella Project have all had success in their sub-units and have also made a performance as one big group, and now have notable fame in the idol fandom to their names. Of course, this means that just like in the original iM@S anime, it is time to test the girls’ resolve by introducing an antagonist to threaten their careers.
However, this time around, we do not get a rival idol company with a cartoony villain manager like Kuroi from the first iM@S series. For the girls of 346 Productions, their threat comes from within, in the form of their new executive director, Mishiro. For what it’s worth, she is by no means evil; she does nothing out of malice, only out of her own beliefs of how to achieve success. However, those beliefs prioritize quick and significant results over the feelings of the idols themselves, and lead her to disband all current idol projects in 346 Productions while she personally pushes forward the careers of only those idols she believes will get those results.
Naturally, this announcement does not go over well with the girls of 346 Productions. With CD debuts getting cancelled and the future of everyone’s careers uncertain, the mood at the company becomes quite grim. However, the Producer of our main cast realizes that something is wrong with Mishiro’s approach, and quickly protests against it, expressing his belief that the girls should approach their careers in their own ways so as to protect their smiles. Mishiro’s only reply is to ask him to propose his own plan that can also produce the results she is looking for, and to continue on with her own plans in the meantime.
It’s easy to classify this as a simple conflict between someone who just wants results and someone who actually cares about the people who can bring those results. However, the show does take a slightly different approach toward the matter, looking rather at the different goals the various girls have that differ from Mishiro’s vision. This is the basis for the Producer’s opposition, and it also forms the basis for episode 15’s mini-arc featuring Kaede.
Kaede is one of 346 Productions’ most successful idols, and this immediately brings her to Mishiro’s attention. Wanting to further advance her career, she immediately arranges for her to headline a major performance. To the shock of everyone in the company, including Mishiro, she declines the offer as it was intended to replace an existing performance she had at a much smaller venue. However, she has a very personal reason for her decision: that venue was the first venue she performed at, and wanted to hold a concert there as a special dedication to those fans that have supported her throughout her career. When Mishiro asks if she cares about advancing her career, Kaede replies by saying that the two of them have different goals, and that she herself wants to take the next step with her fans, rather than just by herself.
It is worth noting that the show does not have anything specifically against seeking results. A common sentiment regarding the conflict between results and people is that those who focus heavily on getting results are cold, uncaring people, but to an extent, results are important. An organization that accomplishes nothing is arguably just as bad as one that mistreats its members to accomplish things, if not because of evil, then because of simply having no point in existing. Even the Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of a fruitful Christian life, and how “faith without works is dead”.
The potential danger lies not in the concern for results, but in being too specific in what exactly those results are. A manager of a musical performer may end up too concerned about how much money they are making, and forget about either seeking the mastery of her musical craft or forming strong relations with her fans. In churches, this can come up if a church gets too focused on increasing attendance or membership sizes and neglect the care of its existing members… or, if they get so caught up with caring for their existing members that they forget about reaching out to the lost entirely.
It is important to remember how Paul describes the Church as like a human body, with each part having a different function, and thus, different goals. Individually, we all share a common goal in the Great Commission of making disciples in all nations; however, God will direct each of us differently in our individual roles in that mission. Some of us will go far into other nations and reach the people there, while others will stay rooted in one place and focus on serving the community nearby. Some will concern themselves primarily with reaching out to the unsaved while others will focus more on instructing and guiding those that are already saved. Some might even enter a field associated primarily with personal achievement, such as sports or musical performance, in order to shine a light in places known to be rather dark.
Being aware of our own goals in doing God’s work is good. What is not good is judging other Christians based on how they are matching up to our own goals. The brother who wakes up early on Sunday mornings to help set up church services is every bit as important as the one who organizes evangelistic outreaches and the small group leader who helps guide other Christians in their own walks. The evangelist who criticizes the small group leader for not reaching out to as many unsaved people, or the small group leader that criticizes the evangelist for not taking all the people he’s saved under his wing to guide their growth into mature Christians, fails to take into consideration the different nature of each other’s callings. Instead, we should take the opportunity to learn from each other’s goals, because even if our main goals are different, we can be inspired by each others’ goals to do additional things for a more complete Christian life.
Whereas Mishiro is concerned with the expansion of 346 Productions, Kaede instead wants to foster strong relationships with her existing fans. When the former tried to impose her goals on the entire company, the latter’s defiance started to inspire the rest of the company to find their own voice to speak up for their own goals. Indeed, at the end of the episode, the Producer presents his own alternate plan to Mishiro, with the hopes of preserving the dreams and smiles of his Cinderella Girls. Whether Mishiro will ultimately be convinced to let the girls pursue their own goals remains to be seen, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing how these girls face up to the new challenges in front of them.