The Memo That I Forgot to Write: The IDOLM@STER Movie: Beyond the Brilliant Future

Happy Birthday, Hibiki!

Fans write love letters to the creators of their favorite things. Creators write love letters to their fans. This is the IM@S movie in a nutshell. I feel that is the central concept behind everything related to the IM@S movie.

The IDOLM@STER Movie used to have this English subtitle, “To the other side of the sparkle,” which is a very literal translation of the “kagayaki no mugougawa e” tag line. Actually I’m not sure if it’s a subtitle or a tag line, although subtitle probably is the right term here. As you might think, this story is actually about one’s inner darkness and how to overcome it.

It’s not even that different than the two idol anime I enjoyed a long time ago: Perfect Blue and Key the Metal Idol. The whole idol biz, even from the 80s and 90s, were really about that gap between the sparking on-stage side and the internal strife side. I think this is why when an AKB48 shaved her head, it was a big shock. I mean, it’s just hair in the end, right?

To that end, Moviem@s (henceforth) nailed it. The bulk of the movie is actually a traditional idol story although the critique is as softly pitched as it gets. That’s okay, this is IM@S, not WUG. And because it’s cartoon, fat idol is a-okay too.

Oh, spoilers. [As if you can really spoil the movie.]

I thought this movie was long, and it still is long. I think it could have been much tighter and shorter, or much tighter, period. It’s really the main complaint that I’ve heard from everybody. The pacing is only a problem because there’s all this extra stuff that, IMO, ought to be cut. They should’ve done a director’s edition instead if they want to give us the better bang per buck, charging us like $110 for the entire proverbial enchilada. [That said, I hope someone re-encode a sub of the Shiny Festa OVAs.]

One “feature” (it’s not a bug, really) of the Moviem@s home video release is that it’s jam packed with goodies and omake material, both on-disc and off. The result is a package that’s over 3 pounds. It’s heavier than a 13″ MBA (2014). It means shipping it EMS costs like 6000+ yen. That blows major buttocks for us importers, but the goodies and omake material probably does make up for a lot of it–the 2nd coming of Ogi Star Memories, for example. As someone who has four copies of Shiny Festa, the OVA on blu-ray is a pithy consolation prize.

The only other issue I have (and it’s a good thing) with the physical release of Moviem@s so far (having not gotten my hands on it yet) is that the Aniplex+ special edition sure is OP. I half regret not ordering it and instead gunned for HMV’s. Partly because the cost between the two are not very big (HMV has a 20% discount, so that’s about 2000 yen difference) but that baller Starpiece Memories-themed box! It is so classy, Aniplex. Who does your packaging concepts?

I still want a Kido-chan cover of Jibun Rest@rt.

Maybe I’ll talk about my impression on the ML girls, now that I’ve fallen into that hole after first seeing the movie so many months ago. Let’s get it out there: my first impression of the ML girls (and partly why I fell into that hole) has a lot to do with the theater greetings I attended. During the intro and talk sessions, the voice actresses each pitched for their characters–so I got 7 ML character pitches essentially. Kana and Shiho get a pass, because in the show they’re fairly well-represented, even if Moviem@s Shiho is somewhat different than ML Shiho typically. Anna, in particular, gets the shaft, because she has this “on” mode where she’s super cute idol-chan, versus normal Anna. Moviem@s Anna is basically normal Anna the entire time. You can get an idea of Anna’s “on” mode if you watch Sora no Method, i think, as Nansu has a major role in which she plays a character with a disposition that equals to the average of the two Annas.

Nao is great–I love how Yuiton is literally her character. It’s like a teenage version of the real Yuiton. Mocho, on the other hand, plays the idol ideal version of her seiyuu idol persona. It’s a bit like how Takane is not like Harami, but Takane is a Harami ideal. It’s a hard analogy to get I guess, because Takane is not the sort of character that dotes over something easily. Serika, on the other hand, is all sorts of cute, much like Mocho is all sorts of cute–to the degree that not just fans like me, but even other IM@S casts, call Serika Mocho. They are however still quite different, in a way that Serika supports Mocho and vice versa. There’s a strange but uncanny combination going on between those two.

I sort of blanked on the others, and it’s sort of amazing that I even remember Nansu because she had a very ordinary but memorable introduction. Zekki was cute but it was a struggle for me to remember. Mikku…well, still to me is a Stylips first, Million Stars second. I don’t even remember her character (Yuriko) unless she talks in some way.

[In a way, which ML character stands out to me is probably not unlike which idol stands out in AKB for any one otaku. This is pretty amusing in retrospect.]

At any rate, that is part of the context that is missing from a normal consumption of Moviem@s. You guys didn’t go to a live show where M@sterpiece was the musical climax of a 5-hour-long 2.5D lovefest. There’s no fan events surrounding that stuff. I tip my hat to whatever promoted the IM@S event at AFASG, because that’s really the beginning.

Well, no, where I live, anime is the beginning. But anime can also be the end. Moviem@s happens to be both. It is entirely fair to judge this book by the cover, or go into the movie expecting what you typically expect from an idol anime. It’s also entirely a shallow read. If you liken a wickedly epic concert to a religious experience, then Moviem@s is the New Testament of that religion that’s called WE ARE M@STERPIECE and M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD. Does that make the criticisms on its superficial construction less valid? Not at all. It doesn’t engage the work completely, but that’s okay.

And maybe I’m 25% done with talking about Moviem@s? It has been a long time coming. This memo is never going to end.


2 Responses to “The Memo That I Forgot to Write: The IDOLM@STER Movie: Beyond the Brilliant Future”

  • DiGiKerot

    I had a bunch of comments regarding this last night, none of which I can remember this morning…

    I will say, though, that I do wonder if those of us who have some degree of franchise investment who weren’t in Japan in February kinda have the worst of it. Lessened impact of watching it on a TV or computer monitor aside, the effect of M@STERPIECE at the end of the movie is rather diminished when you’ve had the single for six months, and five months of playing OfA has rendered it old hat. That scene was never going to have the impact for those watching on BD as it did for those seeing it for the first time when the movie was new in theaters, but it’s doubly-worse for those keeping track.

    Sometimes the franchises multi-faceted nature can be it’s own worst enemy I guess.

    • omo

      I can’t say how bad it was for you, but what you’ve said is a big reason why I pulled the trigger. Once I saw the stars were going to align, it was go time.

      Which is why I’ll see you in Japan for 10th, right?

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