Adaptation Distillation: The anime combines story elements from all of the game routes, and Miki, Takane, and Hibiki are already part of 765 Pro from the start instead of eventually defecting from 961 Pro.
Mujin Gattai Kisaragi can be taken as an Ascended Meme as a whole. In there we have Black Haruka, The Washboard on Kisaragi, and Yukiho's hole-digging antics are referred to in Takane's (Yukidrill's pilot) catchphrase.
All There in the Manual: Some events in the anime series make a lot more sense if you've played through the game and unlocked the backstories for the idols.
An Aesop: The second episode teaches Ami, Mami, Yayoi, and Iori about individuality.
The seventh deals with running away, although it's not any of the idols who runs awaynote And even then, the one who did run away was just hiding.
Really, each episode gives a lesson to at least one character. In Episode 6, the Producer learns to trust his idols' abilities.
And the Adventure Continues: The characters keep stressing that even though 765 Pro is a huge success, this is only the beginning for them. Plus, they're financially back at square zero after getting scammed by Kuroi.
Animation Bump: The majority of the dance numbers flow quite nicely, especially in Episode 13. And when Chihaya regains her voice.
An Odd Place to Sleep: Miki can sleep most anywhere. This includes the trunk of a van, two or three foldable chairs, and even while Haruka is piggybacking her in the Live For You OVA.
Bland-Name Product: Miki's headphones are a Somy, Chihaya lives near a Burger Queen, the camera Yoshizawa uses is a Qanon, the bilboard announces a Tricster, there's a PSB in the office in episode 17, etc.
Blank White Eyes: Haruka gets this when the Futami twins are trying to discover who stole the pudding.
Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Miki (blonde), Chihaya (brunettenote She has blue hair, but in the Arcade game she has black hair.), and Haruka (redhead) fit this trope when they host Live!? On Sunday.
Blue with Shock: Yukiho had several of these at the beggining of the series. Haruka, Makoto and Iori also had one in at least one occasion.
Iori and Makoto telling Yukiho to shut up in episode 10 the same way Haruka and Iori do it on the song Danketsu. Works too as a Shout-Out to itself.
Camera Abuse: Ami and Mami literally grab a hold of the camera demanding to be filmed in the first episode.
Cat Smile: The Futami twins do this sometimes. More prominent during their introduction on the first episode.
Makoto has this too when the Producer tells her there's comments about how "sexy" she's becoming.
The Cameo: 876Pro's Ai, Eri, and Ryo show up for The Big Talent Agency Sports Competition in episode 10. They also are shown in one of the shots of episode 18's ending, and on episode 25 during an interview with Yoshikawa. The last moment also features Manami, Ai, and Ryo's manager.
Dancing Theme: Both openings. At least the first ending (The World Is All One) counts as well.
Darker and Edgier: While the first half of the series was very lighthearted, the second half progressively began to take on darker tones, culminating in 765 Pro's rivalry with 961, Chihaya's dead little brother plot, and the Producer getting into a life threatening accident and Haruka's subsequent breakdown.
Also, the movie trailer in the standalone episode 26. It's for a mafia-esque flick in which almost all of the characters the idols are playing die except four (Iori, Haruka, Azusa, and Ritsuko's).
Date Crêpe: The Producer with Makoto on their "date" to the amusement park.
Date Peepers: Miki, Takane, Makoto, and Yukiho each spy on the others in their date with the Producer.
Ending Theme: Subverted. Each episode has a different song sung by the idols.
Epic Fail: Episode 15, Makoto tried to wear a cute Magical Girl-style dress and 'cutefy' herself (call herself 'Mako-rin' and make up cute sounds). The audience is not amused...At least until Yukiho fixes her to a more boyish outfit, and the audience instead Squees like crazy.
The Everyman: The Producer so very much. Even his description is nondescript.
Evidence Scavenger Hunt: It's played with when the Futami twins are trying to discover who stole Iori's pudding from the fridge. Complete with summation in the end.
Another one from the same episode, earlier they are shooting a drama episode where this happens to the three sisters that are the played by the three girls from the Ryuugu Komachi.
Evolving Credits: The ending credits always change depending on which idol was the focus of the episode.
Executive Meddling: An in-universe example occurs when the variety show "Are We Live?", which stars a number of the idols as hosts, is canceled despite good ratings. The main reason for the cancellation is to free up the Sunday timeslots for other shows.
Festival Episode: The girls make their first stage as a group on Ep 3 during a festival. Episode 19 shows the girls visiting one, and Chihaya remembers her dead brother when they were both at a festival.
And a more concrete example comes in the next episode when she starts singing in a capella while the audience looks in disbelief.
Hidden Depths: Episode 21 shows that Kotori isn't just a simple Sexy Secretary. She has the skills and the voice talent to rival any of the current idols. She was in fact an idol herself in her younger days, under the tutelage of Takagi and Kuroi before the falling-out of the two executives.
Hidden Eyes: Chihaya gets this during the bath scene in episode 5. Kuroi's face is normally hidden, but the only time we see his face he's actually like this too in episode 25.
Hypocritical Humor: Ritsuko tells the girls to overcome the heat with their minds... while she's with both her feet in a bucket of iced water. Also a shoutout to a near-identical scene in You're Under Arrest!.
Hoist by His Own Petard: PresidentKuroi convinces the audio technician from the Idol Jam to conveniently forget where he put the CD with the 765PRO idols songs. This comes to bites him in the rear, when Chihaya starts to sing "Nemuri Hime" in a cappella, making the tech (and the crowd) be so moved by the scene that he restarts the audio in the next chorus, effectively creating a greater effect on the public than it would be if she had just started singing normally.
Also, this little stunt was the last drop for his own group of Idols who didn't want to keep up with his crap anymore and quit his company before "Nemuri Hime" even ended.
Idol Singer: Quite obviously a whole bunch of them, not only the girls on the 765PRO.
Limited Social Circle: The girls aren't shown to have many friends outside their 765PRO ones. The only one with a named friend is Azusa, and even then, Tomomi is never shown (or voiced for that matter). To be fair, at least Haruka was shown in episode 11 eating lunch with her classmates in the ending sequence, but they never appear in the main show.
Luminescent Blush: Played for laughs. Chihaya blushes when Miki enters the bath with her and Haruka on the Live For You OVA, though it isn't as much an embarrassed blush and more anenviousone.
Magic Skirt: Despite all the dance routines, there's not a single Panty Shot during the whole show. Maybe justified since the stage outfits are, well stage outfits and therefore made to be this way. The only time this is almost averted is with Azusa in episode 15 when she's wearing the same clothes as the workers from the daycare center they're filming at.
Male Gaze: The cameraman on Ribbit Ribbit Kitchen certainly knows where he's aiming.
Mood Whiplash: Episode 19 ends with quite a predicament for Chihaya, but the ending theme sung by Takane is strangely cheerful. Only justified in that this episode, the character focus was Takane, but even then...
In episode 26, Ami ad Mami remark about how the Producer has gone to America. He shows up shortly after, although he actually does go to America in the Good or True endings of Idolmaster 2.
The "Chihaya vs. the Karaoke Machine" scene is a reference to an incident in the production of the game. When Asami Imai was recording "Ohayou! Asagohan", she sang it in a more natural/classical style, which the staff didn't think matched the mood of the song. They kept telling her to make it more staccato, and the result led to the Robo-Chihaya meme. Cue this scene, with the machine standing in for the staff.
Pinky Swear: The Producer twice to Yukiho (episode 3) and Miki (episode 12).
Plot Tumor: Chihaya's issues concerning her dead little brother keep popping up in various episodes, even when the focus isn't on her, and are constantly foreshadowed throughout the series, before it eventually blows open in episode 20 when the series does focus on her.
Poor Communication Kills: The Producer to Miki on episode 6, setting the chain of events that almost made her quit for good on episode 12. Though, to be fair, he was in the middle of what seemed to be an important phone call, and the fact that Miki kept talking to him despite the fact probably didn't help.
The Producer Is Useless: Mostly through the first half of the anime and in the Live For You OVA. When Chousuke (Yayoi's brother) ran away from home in episode 7, he just runs around without stopping to think about it (Iori calls him out on this afterwards). When Azusa disappears in the next episode, he started running around without doing much of anything while Makoto is beating up thugs.
Shout-Out: There's probably some staff from Sora No Woto working on the series, given Sister Yumina's appearance as a minor background character (the photographer's assistant) in episode 2. Wait, why does Chihaya in the anime look like Rio?
In episode 6, Miki is wearing a Mr. Driller T-shirt in one scene.
The Oil Baron's henchmen who fought in the epic kung-fu fight with Makoto atop the ladder in episode 8 looks very much like one of the Bakusa brothers from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Hint: both shows share the same character designer!
In episode 10, a possible reference to Perfume is made with the "three member technopop unit Barium." One of the members is even named Necchi.
There is a Taiko no Tatsujin arcade booth in episode 12, and also a logo of Mr. Driller is been seen.
Episode 24 showed a preschooler had an uncanny resemblance to Kanata. Likely intentional since the character designer for Sora No Woto was involved in the production of the episode.
While they do use a different name, episode 5 had the Futami twins give one to Hedorah, The Smog Monsternote The twins complain that they were so hot they melt to the slime monster Hedoran. Most likely a nickname to the actual Kaiju.
Blink and you miss it, but in episode 2, one of the old promo photos of the idols has Azusa dress up in Marilyn Monroe's famous white dress, complete with the up-skirt wind blow.
There's another one from episode 26, a romantic movie about a girl finally getting married that starred Azusa. It ended with a happy but tearjerking end, but ironically used "Tonari ni" as the main theme. A handful of fans argued further that this is a shout-out to a semi-famous fanmade video, 3A07, based on some stylistic similarities.
Significant Birth Date: Yukiho's is on Christmas Eve, so the Christmas party in episode 22 doubles as her birthday party.
Staring Kid: Episode 5, the kids are amazed by Yukiho digging a hole on the sand... for the sake of digging a hole in the sand.
Stealth Pun: In episode 5, there's a scene where Azusa and The Producer are drinking, while Ritsuko is there too but doesn't drink. As The Producer and Ritsuko converse, one can hear the tipsy Azusa going "Neko neko nyan nyan~ Neko nyan nyan~" in the background. Doesn't that make her Azunyan?
It seems to be a song that Azusa likes personally. In the Puchimasu subseries, she can be heard humming the same thing while going for work. "Kitty kitty meow meow~"
Stock Footage Failure: How can Azusa and Takane be dancing on the floor in front of the stairs and in the next take they're still descending said stairs?
In a less obvious example, the animators themselves got confused over Ami and Mami's costumes. Ami starts off wearing yellow and Mami with pink, then during the CHANGE!!!! segment, both of them are wearing pink. Mami's costume then changes to yellow during the last bits of the READY!! segment with the close-up of her and Iori, before they revert back to the original costumes they were in.
10-Minute Retirement: Miki stops showing up when she finds out she's not going to get into Ryuuguu Komachi. The Producer does make sure to get her back, though.
Later, Chihaya stops coming after her tragic past is revealed by Kuroi, causing her to lose her voice. It takes the whole crew at 765 Studios to finally help her out.
Then later still, Haruka taking several days off as a result of her Heroic BSOD after the producer gets injured saving her life. Like Chihaya, the rest of 765 Studios help her out, however she also gets "help" from her subconsious self.
Theme Music Power-Up: The relay race in episode 10 with L.O.B.M. playing. A few of the events of the race played exactly timed with the changes in the song rhythm to added effect, such as Hibiki's initial burst, Iori encouraging Yayoi to keep running, Makoto's overtakes and Yayoi cheering/begging Makoto to win. Interesting enough is that L.O.B.M. means Love OrganizedBoostMusic.
There Are No Therapists: Let alone a family one which Chihaya and her parents really needed after Chihaya's brother's death. It would have probably saved her parents' divorce and her breakdown when it's made public.
Wham Episode: Episode 19, which marks the point at which the show stops subtly flirting with drama and decides to go for the kill.The preview for episode 20 makes it very clear that the tone of the story has changed completely.
Fortunately, despite Haruka falling into a Heroic BSOD in episode 24, the whole situation eventually gets resolved within the episode in a two-pronged way: the power of True Companions when the rest of the 765 girls realize what Haruka was feeling, and Haruka's subconsious younger self getting her back on her feet.
Wing Ding Eyes: Ritsuko and Kotori thinking about the next auditions after the girls retook their promo pictures.
Woman in White: Yukiho during the photoshoot on episode 2. Justified since it's her theme color.
Workaholic: The Producer doesn't seem to have a personal life... or any at all outside his job.
You Are Not Alone: Haruka's pledge to Chihaya on episode 20 when she's remembering her Darkest Hour and all the other girls calling for Haruka on episode 24 during their commercial for their next live.
Your Singing Needs Work: Chihaya, an idol who loves to sing and makes a career out of it, gets a sixty from a karaoke machine while singing her own songs!