THE IDOLM@STER M@STER SPARKLE Series Review

I’m writing hot takes for all the songs from THE IDOLM@STER (Million Live!) M@STER SPARKLE series! The 8-CD series ended last month when the 8th and final disc shipped. I bought all of them in some form or way, but what I can say is it’s nice to not have to tag the rips since Mora does that for you when you buy it there… I listened to them a lot over the past 8 months or so, via a variety of headphones, IEMs, speakers, car speakers, what have you. I’m writing this post while streaming hires flacs from my phone to my home theater system. Welcome to the 21st century I guess. It’s an incredibly easy way to control the music lol.

General takeaways:

Sparkle is the third solo go around for Million Live, not including the two new members. This time, the OG 13 idols are omitted. There are some themes as follows:

  • More of the same. Some are better polished than before, YMMV.
  • Musical ~DIVERSITY~ in that specific genres or themes are being aped for character reasons – Nao’s and Noriko’s are the obvious examples. But really, guys.
  • Produced by Lantis artist:  Some tracks are pretty much specific Lantis act’s thing. Aside from SasakiP of nano.RIPE, at least. Those who went to see Lisani this year would have an idea what I mean. But there’s also a very fhana track in there.
  • Introductions – Being the first series for Theater Days, some songs do a more obvious job explaining the characters.
  • Playing to live performances. Some songs feels like they can go straight to a live, plug-n-play. Star Trip in particular, when you consider the acoustic guitar part.

The CD series started back in August 23, 2017. We are about 4 months away from its anniversary. So the first couple discs already sound very nostalgic, where as the last couple are still too fresh. My mind is still working on them.

The covers reflects a seasonal or holiday theme correlated to the month of that CD’s release. Check out this youtuber lol. Meanwhile I linked to the CD sample playlist off Youtube in each of the sparkle titles for your easy access.

Master Sparkle 01

Rolling△Sankaku – It’s not remarkable at first but when I saw it performed live at Meg@ton I “got it.” This song turned out to be pretty catchy and I sometimes find myself humming it in my head. In the live I think you’re gonna see some orange triangles!

Chikyuugi ni Nai Kuni – It’s fhana x Million. Or Junichi Sato specifically. Or more like rejected fhana song maybe. To me it’s definitely an improvement over the average Yuriko track, but it leaves me a little unfulfilled I guess.

Inori no Hane – It feels like the other Fuka tracks for good reason. I guess if liked her other stuff then this fits right up your alley. Personally I think this is Fuka’s best song so far.

Ruriiro Kingyo to Hanashoubu – It showcases Minami-chan’s voice pretty well. Being the first in the entry I don’t know what to say besides this is a pretty cool song for solo.

Miraikei Dreamer – A solid Red Leader solo, and plays to calls better than the prior songs, mainly due to catchy guitar riffs. Still nothing much to write home about IMHO.

Master Sparkle 02

Princess a la Mode – I listened to this a lot, because coming as a MatsuriP this is way more her “style” than the prior two songs in my humble opinion. The song is also more fun than the prior entries, but I guess that level of cuteness has been evolving more “east” to “west.” Very good contrast with Emily’s solo. I also dig how they kept that reverb sound sample kind of as a signature. It feels out of place but also very at home now…

HOME RUN SONG♪ – It’s not some crazy thing that is Ittosho but this is also very solidly a baseball song. It feels more down to earth and carries by the main melody, which is better than average for these sort of things. Not as powerful as Day After Yesterday but a better character song.

Rocket Star☆ – All I can say about this song is “wake up pee” is actually “wake up wind.” It’s a hyper, high-pitched rock song, where the main distinguishing feature is really just Tsubati’s signature voice.

CAT CROSSING – Really cool song for a cool-kei bishoujo from a cool-kei bishoujo unit. We joke around that Shiho’s solo are more Tenchan than Tenchan’s solo stuff and this is the best example yet.

Hummingbird – Like Kingyo, this song is more to showcase Kory/Corey’s big-throated sweet seiyuu vocals. In a lot of ways her voice is what I think of when I think about good seiyuu vocals (as opposed to just good vocals in general).

Master Sparkle 03

Come on a Tea Party – My favorite part is the humming in the beginning when Serika is setting up the tea party. So cute. Also this is while not as awesome as Yumeiro Train, it’s really cute. It doesn’t do much for me however.

Manpuku Shigoku Full Course – We love Minako because she satisfies, or your money back, guaranteed. This is probably the most full-course-meal-solos out of all her solos. That said it doesn’t do much for me besides being energetic, cute, and not too saccharine, sort of like the ooh-haa’s in the transitions. Like good Chinese Food.

Only One Second – Since I tend to listen to these in track order, it’s a bit of a whiplash to tune in to this as-serious-as-Sayoko track after tea party and lots of Chinese food. I do feel this song does her vocals a good deal, but its one hook does nothing for me.

To… – I already made peace that KOH is while GOD, KOH can’t top Dear… So this is more just throwback early 00s hiphop, seiyuu style. It doesn’t add much but it is perhaps at least more musically interesting than the other offerings.

SING MY SONG – Kind of like CAT CROSSING, this is a cool song for a cool lady. I like this song almost as much as Catch My Dream and I think this is one of the best songs out of this series. Like, it is a brilliant choice to give Koro the rock ballads because she has that power to carry it and make it her own.

Master Sparkle 04

AIKANE? – It’s a spazzy song for the crazy meme idol in Million Live. Having seen Chaki perform live…I can see it in my head already how this is gonna work. Chaki, by the way, is really awesome in that she can carry a character like this in a live performance. It’s not to say the others (like those crazy CG idols) don’t do a good job, but Chaki owns it…and I can’t wait to see her owning this equally crazy song. UZAKAWAAAA

Sports! Sports! Sports! – It’s not quite like Kohaku Ouen Victory but this is along the same idea. It’s not quite throwback like, say, Walkure Won’t Betray, but ultimately it rides on that standard Lantis Million Character song thing. Should be fun in a live.

ART NEEDS HEART BEATS – I like this more than Roco’s other songs, but it’s just a pretty standard fare. I think it’s because I like the way the vocal trails. It’s also the kind of song that really explains Roco. That girl does need more of an explainer, beyond the Roconization.

ENTER→PLEASURE – The jokes to this song know no end. That aside, while it’s not as catchy as Vivid Imagination or Happyda, it strikes a good balance between the two. Nansu sounds cute in that balanced kind of the way that’s pretty close to her normal voice. Maybe the corny name helps this song remain memorable besides the fun chorus.

Ame ni Utaou♪ – It’s extremely Kana and extremely spot on. It covers that niche in which the LTP and LTH series did when the 765pro girls got solos, which are missing in the Sparkle series. It has a certain balance.

Master Sparkle 05

Border LINE→→→♡ – Finally a more mature-sounding song for Rio that actually sounds mature? But it’s one of the “diversity” entries which pitches her to something jazzy, something IM@S has done pretty well in the past via Columbia.

Fuwarhythm – It’s pretty much as the song title describes. It isn’t the most memorable song because it kind of just slides in and out, without leaving much of an impression. It is a pleasant song while it’s in, I guess.

Tanken Bouken☆Haiho Tai – I don’t know how the calls for this song will go. It’s another action-y piece not unlike Jungle Party, so maybe the calls will be like that? I think if you’ve seen Jungle Party you can see how Inarin can own this song, but Haiho Tai doesn’t quite have the same impact.

Silent Joker – Another cool song for a cool-kei bishoujo from a cool-kei bishoujo unit! I am really excited about this song because it brings out a different side of Mizuki, and Aberika owns it. It also makes me want to house tiger, but that’s besides the point. It’s definitely one of the best songs in the series.

Hana Shirabe – Ahh this sound, the sound of my weeb seiyuu spirit animal awakening. It’s also one of my favorites in the Sparkle series, and by far Emily’s best song. Hana Shirabe reminds me of old school seiyuu tie-ins where the music is interesting thematically, showing that ~wa fu~ and masking the vocals to bring out only those delightful high notes. Anyways, in this case, I can see how Ms. Kneeler will pull it off, and it will be a wonderful time. As an aside, despite loving all the songs on Sparkle 02 and 06, Sparkle 05 is my “objective” best recommended disc.

Master Sparkle 06

WE ARE ONE!! – Wrassling idol is obviously going to have an arena rock track right? I think after the cool tricks that was her LTP solo, this is the natural evolution. She actually screams in this, which is pretty impressive for a high pitch seiyuu doing a wrestling character. That said, arena rock like this is a palette cleanser.

Home is a coming now! – After Come on a Tea Party I guess this is not the worst violation of the song title capitalization rules. Having the Osaka character sing a country/folk inspired song (banjo and fiddle?) is kind of getting ADV back for dubbing kansaiben as Texan accent? I don’t know, but I guess localization can go both ways! Song itself is also a bit of a palette cleaner because of the arrangement with the fiddle. The song is really high tension though, to fit Yuiton’s portrayal.

Oli Oli DISCO – Speaking of western stereotypes, nothing disco-y matches a returnee who went to school in America. Unless this was the 1970s. I don’t know. It’s definitely an unique song (not in a bad way) in the series, and it should be fun to see in a live with all these Adrenaline-like hooks.

Moon Gold – Another gear shift, Moon Gold is a tough task as it is very simple, and Nomura has to carry the tune mostly by herself. I guess that is where I uh, take pause and admire how hard it is, and that she can pull through by opening it up during the chorus. The song is beautiful enough, so that helps.

Star Trip – To complete Sparkle 6, which is 5 genre selected songs that don’t quite jive, Star Trip is simply my favorite out of the whole Sparkle series. It’s another nano.RIPE work, and even the guitar riffs are patented nano. I think they simplified some of it so you can see Aimin playing it through at her level. My favorite part of the song is how it rides the flow from baseline, up and down, and smooth like country butter. It’s got texture yet it feels as comfy as a worn pair of leather gloves. A lot of it has to do with keeping it simple for the first 80 seconds I think.

Master Sparkle 07

Take! 3. 2. 1. → S-P-A-C-E↑↑ – Rather than change gears, Arisa’s 3rd solo song doubles down. It’s in a way the most obnoxious one out of the three, but it also feels the most complete as an image song. Maybe it has a musical-ness that helps to build up the song.

Tokidoki Seesaw – Something like this feels like it would fit in Popochan’s wheelhouse. Musically it is also a bit easier to engage than the other Iku songs, so I’d say it is an overall improvement. As an aside, I definitely need to listen to Sparkle 7 more because I didn’t have that much time to think about this song. This and 08.

Snow Letter – The hook in this song is amazing. Some low key indie band got the job to write this song and you can really hear it through the music. That said, it doesn’t quite punch me in the inaka like Ringo March, but I like this a lot.

Oshiete last note… – Karen is the true Burning Girl because she’s all about 420 blaze it? I don’t know, yeah it’s a character song and they play up her aromatherapy angle, because her character and personality plays well into that stereotype. Truthfully, Karen is so much more as this song kind of breaks out into, partly restrained by the aroma stuff. I’m not sure I buy the way Yunkon approached this but it’s a hip song that plays into Karen’s confidence problems.

Hearty!! – Going back to Afterschool Party Time more so than Frozen Word, Hearty is a song with a very solid chorus and it carries the song. I guess that’s what is needed for the ultimate Chad in the group? LOL. I can see how Yukiyo would play this out too, basically like a more forward acting performance that doesn’t have to play as much into that high schooler aspect.

Master Sparkle 08

Shakunetsu no Parade – It’s very Elena, but also kind of a genre switch? The way it’s delivered muffles those aspects somewhat I feel, but Ashu made it sound very fun in exchange.

Sora ni Te ga Fureru Basho – In a way I think out of the character songs in Sparkle, this is the most clever one of them all. It also incorporates the other Reika solo trademarks with the nonsense refrains. The tension is tuned up a tad in this, which makes it the most fun out of her three. It’s probably not as “different” than her other tracks, which is unfortunate, but the diversity is nice to have.

Sister – Well, the seiyuu composed the song she performs in character. You know this is actually not the first time it has happened, but it sure is super rare. What I can say is, Kokochan owns the character and she’s able to bring her own musical influences into this. For one, it gives another injection of new blood into that Lantis character train, so that is always welcomed.

Silhouette – Taneda Risa returns to Million and this is her long-awaited character single. I’m okay with this because that wear light shed light thing is catchy as hell. I’m not sure how to make the rest of it, besides it being pretty average. The arrangement is where it shines I think. Makes the iincho character more gorgeous and awesome than she really is, but deservedly so.

Brand New Theater (Project 39 version) – It honestly sounds just like the full 52-man version but you can still tell there are some differences, however minor. It’s more a feels factor thing, as we are 10 months into Theater Days and this song is not only starting to wear a tad thing for me, but incredibly evocative of my memories from Million 4th. Your mileage will vary of course.

Takeaways:

As said earlier, I dig Sparkle 2 and 6 the most, but 5 is overall best? Notable tracks to hear begins with Silhouette, Star Trip, We Are One, Hana Shirabe, Silent Joker, Haiho Tai, Sports Sports Sports, Aikane, Sing My Song, Hummingbird, Princess a la Mode, Cat Crossing, Kingyo, Rolling Sankaku, and more? Some of these are good to get familiar with for call reasons, others are just because they’re so remarkable. Other highlights include Star Trip being full nano.RIPE, Sister being written (music/lyrics) by Tomoka’s seiyuu, Chikyuugi ni Nai Kuni for fhana/satojun1, and there are others… depends on how deep you dig.

One thing that never fails to impress me is how many damn songs Lantis puts out for Million Live. Now they have also SideM and Shiny Colors. It makes Columbia’s snail pace even..more snail-y. To be fair, there is a production quality difference between the two, but it doesn’t explain away the rate of release. I re-bought a bunch of hires re-masters on Mora for LTP because the original Lantis CD mastering was crap. Also to be fair, Columbia has been much better as of late if you count 765Pro stuff, but it’s not like this neck-breaking pace. I guess this might be why Sparkle doesn’t have any songs for those idols? I can always use more. I think there is definitely room, at least, in the Generations line of releases.


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