The racetrack of my streaming thoughts run like a loop not unlike Microsoft Visual Studio’s logo, or is that just an Eternal Harmony I’m hearing? In an ever-lasting marketing machine designed to milk 10000s of people, parting humans from monetary possession, what counts for success and failure? Is there meaning in capitalism when Art Needs Heart Beats is literally the product sold to me, an intellectual? Maybe I should just watch how Theater Days is made, where the hot dog factory operate on Unity on Android (and iOS). At least it’s not Union. Or Onion.
In this blog post of a story about my trip to Japan and attending Million Live 5th, I can talk about onions. I had to cut one to make some curry and put a few pieces of it in the sukiyaki we had one night. I also had a whole one left over, these beautifully carved marvels (from Hokkaido) that were individually wrapped at this Petit Maretsu where I did my shopping. They were also ridiculously expensive. This note about onion was only sensible since my seat mate at the live mentioned that at first he thought the song was called Onion. Is Union a downgrade? I don’t know, at least anymore. I mean, the Unity conference was called Unite, maybe that is a better term than Union which is suggestive of other things. Leave it to a major software company(?) to name the right things. I said to my seatmate as much–this reminded me of the whole nonsense about “resting Aqours” which I won’t go into, only to just say that voice actors are usually unionized, especially if they are a part of a reputed agency.
The long side bar about Union is just that–the new theme song for this year (to be released in Theater Generations 10) comes together pretty sensibly like other IM@S flagship tunes. Except unlike BNT, there isn’t anything new or significant attached to it. For crying out loud, Generation 10? Not even a new series? I guess we have 9 more Generations CDs to go until next year?
Million’s 5th Live is probably significant, in some way, as a new gateway. It’s the first big live in Million with a lot of new producers mixed in with a lot of old timers. In the immediate circles of folks I met, there were already a bunch of people going to their first IM@S live. Some of them might be around for a while already, but there are definitely new eventers in this year’s mix.
Our post-day-1 uchiage topped out at like 47 people. I had to cover the 3 missing despite telling my “party manager” otherwise… Well, the eternal racetrack of mental torrent thought-on-keyboard is no place to get passive-aggressive, it ruins the harmony. The important thing was everyone had a good time and I anticipated it. Same can be said of the mini-get-together I held inside an airbnb, which is probably one of those “illegal” ones under the new minpaku law, since we saw the listing being removed earlier this week. However a chill, laid-back house party is something I always wanted to throw in Japan, and this time it worked more or less. It would be much more difficult to do that in a hotel, right?
The lead-up to the weekend was fun, but in terms of things related to the live, it turned out hauling my laptop and portable hard disk around Japan became useful since I could give the files to the printers right on the spot, and they can check it immediately. The trip to the flower shop in Chiba was not as fun, because it threw a wrench in our plans of the day and I was more exhausted as a result, but I got to see how the flower sausage was made, too. The shop we used also did two other stands for Million 5th, so we got a glimpse of them.
The flower project this time was largely done thanks to Miri, who corralled a bunch of artists to fill out 39 chibi characters. Basu and I did most of the leg work, Mush helped with the shop, and Cucumber designed the name list. It was a job well-done by bunch of people who’s done it before, I guess. We came a long way from 2013/14. A big thanks to all the contributors.
I separately joined the big Tokugawa Matsuri flower stand, and that stand got even Suwa’s twitter attention. It’s a cool concept and the thing came out well. There were a lot of flower stands at SSA, as you’d expect. I didn’t even get to see them all, because I only saw them for day 1 when I walked the back half from 209 exit and up, after getting a tip on where mine were. I tried to browse the rest of them on my way out of SSA in a hurry, but that didn’t work very well. On day 2 I was in the 400 level so I didn’t even bother walking around inside. Well, a lot of the cool stuff is on twitter, including the dressing room flowers that nobody else gets to see.
Since you might have guessed by now, I won’t just walk the setlists, and I would rather talk about some big picture stuff. For one, Million 4th was still the giant mind-blowing experience that probably will not be replicated in its bitter-sweetness, or in terms of its level of awe. As someone who now walk hand-in-hand with Theater Days since, 5th was literally, as they say, a brand new performance. Reuniting the Burning Girls in possibly the first and last Jireha performance, 5th dotted the playlist with mixed-combo live performances of the other LTP and LTH songs. In a way this was very cool–finally that Tokugawa Matsuri Blue Symphony and Dream Traveler. Koro’s Standing Alive was powerful yet weird. Yunkon holding fort on this version of Hoshikuzu Symphonia was emoi as hell, coupled with our Million Crybaby Maple. Sentimental Venus and BluSym making their return to SSA was also really touching for first-wave Million Ps who came aboard from 2014 like myself.
Thank You was unsealed finally, which is appropriate I guess. In that 35-song setlist, each day, misses like having no Invincible Justice feels like an afterthought. This was a really “show-them-what-we’ve-got” set lined with crowd pleasers, tear jerkers, and whatever you call 咲くは浮世の君花火 since it’s… Engine v2? If Hanazakari Weekend is Chulips… LOL.
Oh by the way, all the theatrically themed Generations song are great live, partly because they have that theater-ness to them that translates well to a stage performance, but partly also they go beyond just a standard performance. Having all of them performed by their original unit also helps a ton. Kuratsuki and Hanazakari Weekend are my favorites, but only because We Are One kind of match Zettai Break in a way. Cleasky felt a tad forced, but it was very cute. The hand motion for Zettai Break also kind of cops the motion from Silent Joker (or vice versa). In a way the new Hanabi-dan song is almost a waste since we have no clue how that was suppose to be? I mean it was good and cool but they better do that song again next year, after us Producers get some context, as they say.
The Sparkle solos are what made Million 5th good. They are generally very frigging good, and kind of reaffirms the true strength behind this THE IDOLM@STER offshoot. I mean think about it for a minute–with Greemas six feet under, most new producers who went to 5th came from Theater Days. So if you are a P who got into this from Theater Days, you would have no idea about the Sparkle songs since they aren’t even in the game. In Greemas back in the days, at least the songs are previewed in the game, and they are usually part of the in-game events, even if as a few lines of textual reference. How will WakachikoP and company bridge this gap? The 38 Sparkle songs (Subaru’s Sparkle master made the opening video on day 2, so I guess 39?) made up more than half of the setlist both days combined, so if you didn’t dig that this live wouldn’t be nearly as good as it ought to be. On that note, it wouldn’t surprise me if some ML5th attendees were a bit miffed about it, since outside of being a fan of the series and picking up the music, how were we to engage the music? It isn’t a tie-in, it was the actual thing that defined this particular part of Million Live. But it would be songs you just did not know.
Anyways, as someone who did know all the songs, seeing the solos on a big stage was a treat, for the songs with a lot of pop. Well, going into 5th I kind of expected it, as well as how some songs that wasn’t so fun on the record would be way more fun live, and vice versa. Some songs benefited more from the presentation. We Are One and Silent Joker come to mind, although the former is more because of the audience. Oshiete Last Note, Cat Crossing, Star Trip, Hana Shirube, Princess ala mode, Hummingbird, Aikane?, and maybe even Oli Oli Disco and Sora ni Te ga Fureru Basho, all benefited from the stage show aspect of it. On that note, I found the stage actually hinders Kuratsuki a tad, but helped out Melty Fantasia a lot because of all the formations. Also, damn Tenchan’s hairflips in Cat Crossing. How do you do that naturally? This Million hair-fu is some serious stuff, not to mention all the wigs (hair shout outs to Miina, Pyon, Suzy [hawt], Inagawa-sensei, and the OG master Kokkochan and her
balanced audio cablebraided ponytail)
Is it okay if Million Live copies a bit from Cinderella Girls? I guess Theater Days is pretty much copying Deresute, so that can’t be helped, but I kind of want more outright musical-y things from Kuratsuki, and instead we got maybe a seiyuu character version of choreography. Not Ai Like Hamburger enough for me, but maybe that can’t be helped.
What could be helped, is the fact that Keyaki Hiroba was empty. If you’ve been to SSA for CG you would know how that is different. Well, maybe that’s fine, the venue was full of people outside both days, partly because there is no shade on the Hiroba grounds so people sought to congregate in the shadows of trees and nearby buildings. The weather was actually rather nice all three days, goods presale day included, which meant a lot of people were out milling about in the public square, despite the door to SSA opening at 1:50pm or so.
Well, maybe it is fine. I think both old and new Million Producers are well-informed on what to do at an IM@S live. This includes expecting old Million group songs sang by a mish-mash collective of idols who were present on the same day. This includes the fairly well-policed crowd. No kujaku. The nendos, the dolfies, the bicycles, cosplayers, etc., all made appearances as per the natural order of things. The call book this time is pretty artful, as much of the page count is dedicated to Million and Producer culture. The guide calls out notable calls song-by-song, and for the more complicated ones we have the lyrics. There is also an illustration of We Are One furi. I like how there’s a fundamental understanding about Producer culture so the call book can gear down and target the brand new newcomers by explain what those things are…
To just dwell on producer culture a bit more, the whole one-penlight-per-idol thing is getting out of hand. There were a tiny hubub about people complaining about the use of tanto lights for the three attribute-based songs. There was the “burning blue” nonsense after the live when people UO excessively. And in ML5th Bamco introduced the leg-based holster, which holds 14 lights if you layer them. It’s crazy. It’s also a good idea if you want to field all 18 or 19 tanto lights for the live. I went with the Million 3rd bando and the leg light for day 2, and it was perfect if you organize the lights with a system (such as breaking them into groups for P/F/A). If not for the fact that the seats are still a tad small in SSA it would be a perfect way to go about this.
Million 5th is also a good lens to re-examine changes to Million Live. At first, the whole franchise felt a bit directionless, right after 4th, as early days of Theater Days felt more or less just an empty husk of a thing that poses as an IDOLM@STER game. It looked a bit like console-mas in terms of the graphical style during the live scenes. It had Greemas’s DNA in terms of what happens inside the game. But the way players engaged it was straight up Deresute. It was a rough time for GreemasPs I think, once the initial excitement wore off.
Fast forward to when Kotoha and Tanechan returned to the game, I feel Theater Days was finally going somewhere. Million 5th is basically a summary of where we were, and where we are headed. Which is to say, it does still look like Deresute a lot, just much tighter, since there are only 39 idols to deal with, and we are already going to slice and dice them on a rotation. Is that a good thing? I don’t know.
There are a lot of changes from Greemas to Mirishita beyond the game itself. The cards are a lot less fanservice-y, for start–not for lack of skin showing, but definitely one devoid of that male gaze. It’s a somewhat more dignified treatment of our idols in a way, but it is also a lot less fun compared to the whacky stuff Greemas had. And to be super clear, these are not contrary or opposite elements–in fact we really ought to have both dignity and whacky fun (as in, it’s okay to put Shiho in a tub with lemons, but not so much with legs spread besides the pool), but it doesn’t seem like Theater Days have quite picked up all the good stuff from Greemas. Maybe it will eventually.
I believe it will, as much as I believe Million Live will eventually get that anime, LOL. But the cause for hope comes in the form of our lovely and dear performers themselves. They know what we are going through. This is why, I want to believe, Yukiyo gave us that nice fanservice moment in Thank You day 2, to play out that vampire love story on an encore with Kokkochan. As much as Kuraki Hoshii, Tooi Tsuki was the first sign of something actually “Million-ish” it was not enough for me, but seeing this extra push in terms of its physical manifestation as a theatrical act was really sweet.
What sort of eases me on that front is, say, seeing Rietion’s solo stage and and seeing our Space Adventure Idol do her song about a Space Adventure. This is Million Live, I thought to myself, when I called Arisa the Elon Musk of idols. Joke aside, that is what I want out of Greemas–it doesn’t have to be a major or important aspect, but it needs to be there. I want my Harley-riding Noriko, wrestling Shiho, Tokugawa the Shogun, Azusa with the snowball Gatling gun, or Reika being the mad monster doctor. Maybe our new stories from Theater Boost will continue on this tradition, as 5th shown us the teaser for the first event, featuring beach volleyball burst appeal in Rival Schools fashion. That’s what I want…or rather, that is what is missing from Million Live since the end of Greemas content.
Speaking of which, it’s still quite fanservice-y! Umimi might be all Sports! Sports! Sports! (which was great at the live by the way) but Ueshama unionizes that athletic girl aspect with unlimited charm, and the video shows.
I am not sure if this was on purpose or just something that happens with the overall series direction of Million Live, and we are just along for the ride, but Fifth gave me a lot of confidence in terms of “it’s all according to plan” without a lot of confidence that this plan is the one I really want to sign on to. But I have ranted for long enough, so incoming some miscellaneous thoughts I couldn’t work into the greater post:
- I want to do the pumping gun furicope to Hanazakari Weekend but the timing always eludes me, but I was able to once. Also I still love that lingering Pirami vocal AAAH bit on the second chorus aaah so good.
- Rolling Triangle with taped UOs is the way to go. Next time I’ll also do a square, or somehow make one end of the triangle open-ended. I love how you can literally roll your wrist and arm to move to the music here.
- How do you furicope Angelic Parade’s closing bird pose… without hitting anyone…
- Speaking of dignity, what is up with Popochan’s gravure in the pamphlet???? Oh my god bless this woman.
- I thought a tea set is too much for Come on a tea party, but I felt it. I felt the need for it. This song is chill enough for it.
- Others have mentioned it but the raised main stage platform was somehow saved for the third block on day 1, when Fairytail came on at the start. What’s with that… it’s like a surprise!
- On stage design, Million 5th actually uses a simpler stage than 4th, with 3 levels. LED screens for texture on the sides of the main background, and on the light rig on top (it worked really well for Moon Gold). There is a 2-tier raised platform on the bottom level, but it only goes up and down (similar to center stage in SSA2014). No center stage and no hananomichi is very Million. There’s some lasers mainly for the handful of songs that required it. Mirror balls for a handful of songs (Moon Gold again). In general the main stage area is pretty similar to SSA2014, not very complicated.
- Stage design p2: By having a lower light rig, they were able to better utilize color-based spotlights during the musical segments and some of the group songs. More importantly they were able to manipulate darkness really well to set up song-to-song. One of the first moments of anticipation on day 1 was seeing how the songs will transfer from one to the next, so this was an interesting detail to work around as a fan.
- The kankeisha seating, as far as I can tell both days, are full.
- The L-shape hand motion is up for Zettai Break and down for Silent Joker. It’s a checkmark under your chin if you are taking a selfie and next to your face if you are an idol. It’s pointing up if you are doing the pump for Hanazakari Weekend and forward if you are at the end of Utamas. Such a versatile hand gesture!
- To me, one of the main attraction of seiyuu live shows such as Million is the gap between the performer and her character. In Million, that’s kind of the side dish to enhance the overall experience–Million Live is all about the strength of our stage performer cum voice actresses to give our idols what they don’t always have–life. In a way as our performers age and get more experience, this gap has narrowed some. It also has its tenor changed. Maybe it’s a matter of more dignity, from sophomores to seniors. Maybe it’s still just, say, Inagawa Eri being Tamaki and she knows what the Oyabuns want. But there’s a change between even 4th and 5th. And to me it’s not just appreciating this change, but seeing it develop like how an idol otaku would.
- In conjunction with 5th, Saitama Shintoshin’s coupled mall area also had some IM@S promo. The Yodobashi posted a bunch of Million idols to sell audio equipment, plus some official IM@S shop goods. The cocoon building across has an exhibition space for Million Live, featuring 4th sign boards and 4 outfits, one from each of the anniversary lives. There were also a bunch of goods and 1kuji stuff (including CG and SideM).
- Lastly, my tweets.
PS. Others have also written it up: