Year In Review: Lonely in a Sea of a Million Stars

If all I’m going to talk about THE IDOLM@STER this December, there are just two takeaways I want you to get even if you care nothing about them:

1. The mustard seed parable

2. The future, or how I started playing the mobile games.

I already explained the mustard seed thing. So.

Tokugawa Matsuri (Prologue Rouge)

Part of the otaku identity is a sense of self-inflicted loneliness. A lot of people–geek culture stuff–talk about it. This is particularly an amusing thing when I was reading on the GG/game culture stuff and how people found solace and identity through video games. At its extremes, that sort of identity politics can seem cultish, perhaps, but that is nowhere close to idol otaku who’s fell in the deep end, that I can see almost first hand.

But what I have to describe is not like this at all. It’s more like, because I started on the path of THE IDOLM@STER: MILLION LIVE, I begin to walk away from established IM@S fandom, at least in a way. It’s really ironic in a way because back in 2005 or whenever First Vision era started, that’s how people feel about Producers. Before it was cool thanks to Nicom@sPs, Producers meant you sat in dinky, smoky arcades and poured money while sitting down in front of a touch screen. I mean, like, how is that different than those of us who were grinding away at a Stamina Event in ML and had nobody to talk to, because nobody (who speaks English) plays ML? And yet for the past 3 years looking for Ps was what I wanted to do deeply. It was weird, familiar, and almost Ouroboros-ish.

Part of the problem is that the English-language IM@S community…is inadequate to say the least, if not outright a textbook example of the problems with online gamer communities. I mean, much of it is just 4chan, and I just didn’t have the time for that. It’s time I can spent playing the various games. ML was kind of an after thought because oversea scenster kids online are all chasing CG, if they were chasing IM@S at all (well, they all got shipdaughters now).

At any rate, let’s fast forward to today, where at least Derem@s Ps are getting a reprieve from loneliness through the growing player base for the mobage oversea, as well as from the upcoming TV anime. The Milim@s Ps are still a group missing in action in English. Newly engineered away from the tobacco smoke of the dying arcades, forged in the foundries of SNS and the 2.5D media mix school, Million Live is a wholly unique creature even by Japanese standards. But I fear the fandom for IM@S overseas is not ready for this pivot. I’m not even sure if they are ready for Derem@s, the poster child of gambling-like gasha schemes with an impossible-to-collect-them-all roster. After all, these games are no longer games of yore, where things like gameplay and concept can be understood without the meta, without the bizdev concept, where Da-Vo-Vi meant something other than gameplay concepts. There is no incentive for people to take the (possibly expensive) dive into a game where the rewards is just the same as any other gamer group identity–you are a P. Produce an idol (or three or however many). Except the rest of that support infrastructure–starting with the IM@S movie to the player base to the LTP and LTH to the numerous events to the region-locked radio show–is not available for oversea Ps. It is fully turned towards the Japanese 2.5D otaku.

It’s not like you can take these girls and run with them in a doujinshi. There aren’t that many ML doujinshi even, and those who traffic in the categorically pornographic, unauthorized doujinshi scan scenes can attest. This past month was the first Milifest, which is a ML-specific doujinshi event. It was the first doujinshi event I actively wanted to attend, ever.

Where am I going with this? Basically it becomes impossible to be really alone unless you go out of your way to be. Over the course of this year, since I started ML, I met people who play and now we have a small group of people who play the game both casually or seriously, and everything in between. I even started CG. Perhaps I am fortunate. If I am someone who latches onto new trends, then this is the one I did for 2014. If the people planning the IM@S franchise wanted people to play the game because of Moviem@s, well, it worked, at least with me.

But it just means for every whine about how ML were shameless tie-in characters or are underdeveloped fillers that dragged out an otherwise already draggy movie, they have a point and I can only nod and agree to an extent. What posed itself as a negative for some is just an opportunity and eye-opener for me. I’m not going to defend the shameless money-gathering scheme they’ve set it up, because in exchange I had a blast in 2014, in a big part thanks to those profit-driven enterprises!

It’s was a spectacle.  That’s the thing I enjoyed the most about 2014 x IM@S, at least looking back. The spectacle. The advertisement in Japan. The seiyuu lives. The oversea news. The new games and anime. Meeting new people. It’s exciting and fun.

Year in Review 2014:

Wake Up, Girls! (The real intro)
The Idolm@ster: Overview
Eventer in 2014
Lonely in a sea of a million Stars
Twelve by Twelve

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