The Producer has become one of the most fascinating characters in imas. Conceptually, it’s very simple: the Producer is you. This is why the guys and gals keep on shouting out to Producer-san. Once we leave the realm of interactivity though, the Producer as a character needs a bit more work. We all know that the idea of the self-insert as a character usually turns out rather lame. This is why it’s such a strange and happy accident that imas seems to have solved this problem.
Each anime Producer has managed to balance two seemingly opposed qualities. First, the Producer has to be interesting and consequential. No one wants to watch a lame, useless character flailing about or fucking things up. But at the same time, the Producer can’t outshine the idols. Their job is to support the true stars of the show, the idols that they’re in charge of. That’s not to say that the Producer can’t be a popular character because the Producers have turned out to be extremely popular. Rather, the bigger danger is that the show becomes about the Producer instead of being about the idols.
SideM’s Producer was an interesting enigma before his appearance in the anime solidified his character. The Producer shows up frequently in the mobage web manga, so they already were a character with as much of a personality as you could give someone without a concrete identity. As a result, to SideM Ps, the Producer already existed as an androgynous, slim ponytailed individual in a sharp suit with an ahoge.
Of course, this means nothing; there have been plenty of Producers in all sorts of adapted material for the original Idolmaster and Cinderella Girls, so there was no reason to believe that mobage P was going to be the anime P. Even worse, that P was androgynous, which was an aspect of that character that would be very difficult to retain in an anime. And so Producer speculation was doubly frenetic. Was the anime P going to be a man? A woman? Androgynous? Who’s going to play them? Let’s use our koebuta powers and analyze their breathing in Episode 0.
As with the other two anime before it, SideM’s P turned out to be perfect. I found it interesting that they decided to keep the design of the web manga P and filled out the details, so to speak. Similarly, they chose to make the P unmistakably male. Ishikawa Kaito fits so well that it’s almost impossible to see the faceless mobage P as anyone else.
There is a third quality for an imas P that has become more relevant, which is that the P should be their own character. Back when Cinderella Girls started airing and people were wondering about what the Producer was going to be like, one of the worries was that the P was just going to be some variation on AkabaneP from the original Animas. TakeuchiP defied all expectations and turned out to be wildly different from AkabaneP.
IshikawaP resembles AkabaneP simply by not being as wildly different as TakeuchiP, but he’s still a noticeably distinct character. Both AkabaneP and TakeuchiP acted like relative newcomers to the producing game. AkabaneP was noticeably less confident and TakeuchiP made some critical missteps. On the other hand, while it’s not clear whether this is IshikawaP’s first producing gig, he is introduced as far more skilled. This is a reflection on the cast of idols he’s in charge of. Would former pro idols and professionals leave their jobs for a producer who’s inexperienced and unsure of themselves?
So while each of the three anime Ps have the same goal, to make their idols shine, their stories in how they accomplish this is unique. AkabaneP grows into the job, alongside the idols he’s in charge of. TakeuchiP tries to express his belief in his idols’ abilities and qualities to them and everyone else. And IshikawaP acts as a trusted partner to the idols he’s in charge of.
Finally, there’s one more thing that ties them all together, although it probably isn’t strictly necessary. It’s that all the Ps are so dang likeable. Even though they’re not you, you can’t help but cheer them on because they’re doing they’re best to try and take care of our boys and girls.