How to Get Started With the Idolmaster Franchise

Beginning in 2005 as an arcade video game, The Idolmaster franchise has gone on to encompass pretty much every possible modern medium in existence. Along with a long list of video games across several platforms, it's had no less than eleven anime adaptations, several radio shows and almost 30 different manga from various creators. These all focus on the careers of different idol groups as they try to rise in the ranks of popularity as pop culture icons, ruling the charts and the airwaves with hits.

While the sheer volume of content might seem overwhelming, The Idolmaster's many entries are surprisingly accessible. Here are the best ways to get into the massive idol-raising franchise, including where to read, watch and play the installments available in English.

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How to Read The Idolmaster

There are 26 different Idolmaster manga, making it the medium where the franchise has the most installments. These books all have the same one or two authors, giving them more consistency than the various anime adaptations. Some of these manga adapt stories and characters from the video games, while some are based on or even inspire the many anime. The titles over the years include The Idolmaster, XenoglossiaThe Idolmaster Relations and most recently, The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls U149. There are also many short story anthologies as well as light novels, and much like with the manga, these all center around different groups of young girls striving to become pop culture idols.

Sadly for English-speaking fans hoping to get into the series through manga, most of them are unavailable officially. This is a recurring problem with much of the franchise's series and adaptations, which are mostly exclusive to Japan and East Asia. This likely stems from the much greater popularity influence of pop idol culture that Japan has compared to most English-speaking countries.

How to Watch The Idolmaster

Though it wasn't where the franchise got its start, anime is the most accessible way for non-Japanese fans to get into Idolmaster. The original anime in the series, 2007's Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, was a bit of a strange entry, as it reimagined the games' idols as mecha and fighter planes. This turned the show from what could've been a straightforward idol show into a comedic mishmash of genres. 2011's The Idolmaster was a more accurate adaptation and was based on the second game. Since then, several other anime have come out, including Shiny Festa and Puchimas!! Petit Idolmaster, a slice-of-life comedy series. There was even a live-action Korean adaptation, The Idolmaster KR.

Two of the male-oriented Idolm@ster SideM anime are available on Crunchyroll, as are the two Cinderella Girls shows. One of the Puchimas shows is on Funimation, while The Idolmaster KR is an Amazon Prime Video exclusive. While this makes things seem a bit out of order, none of the shows are connected to a point where one has to be watched before the other.

How to Play The Idolmaster

The Idolmaster games are the start and heart of the franchise, and while they're incredibly fun, their Eastern-only releases have kept them out of English speakers'. The games combine rhythm-based gameplay with raising simulations, with players literally producing a pop star idol from rags to riches.

The franchise's first game was released in arcades before receiving an Xbox 360 port, and those who still have that console can play it and its 2008 sequel. Currently, the most accessible titles are The Idolmaster Platinum Stars and The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: Viewing Revolution, though sadly, these and other games in the series have only been released in Japan.