My mind is in the speed of light and the layers are peeling off, the curvature of space-time is smoothing my brain out. Please send help.
The exaggeration aside, I think VOY@GER delivers. Background can be read when I talked about the announcement here, but in short this is team ANIM@S returning again (I guess for the third time if you count the Million Live 4th PV but that’s not Goripon) to make some IDOLM@STER anime, this time a concept video/music video.
I also bought all 5 versions of this single (and a high res flac…so I bought the same song 6 times), going for the Animate tokuten. Now I just need to figure out how to frame this nugget, this vibrating string in a point in space and time in the shape of a poster. Or maybe it’ll just sit inside the same plastic wrapping the other 5 JIS B-4 plastic posters will, until eternity.
Perhaps more important than flaunting minor purchases, it is flaunting my satisfaction while indulging in consumerism, realizing that those dollars did go towards an effort that is worth every penny. The video is just really good. Going to just dump my thoughts as thus.
Besides when Minami throwing down her hand as the camera zooms in on it, there were many spots in VOY@GER that reminded me of Evangelion. Specifically, Evangelion 3.0+1.0 shares the same Visual Director as VOY@GER, and some Studio Khara staff jumped on to this project when work wrapped up for the epic film quadrilogy. But I mean, it’s that iconic hand shot, you know, when the Eva pilot hits the button on his plugsuit on the wrist and it sucks the air out? That hand.
To me what is more creepy is the use of coordinated CG moving pieces composited over the foreground, using shades of red. I won’t spoil it here but just go watch 3.0+1.0 and you’ll know what I mean. When the panels in VOY@GER change shape as the song reaches the bridge portion, it was seriously Eva vibe until we got into the warp tunnel.
That said, the warp tunnel reminds me of Straylight, which is also just to say, Fuyuko knows. The AR visors are a very nice touch, which also just makes it a bit more Straylight-like, as the only unit in Shiny Colors to really go with masks. As a SF piece, the idol from the cyberpunk unit should feel more at home in VOY@GER than others!
Science fiction, but not really
Speaking of that, fundamentally, VOY@GER presents a sense of tension built on some actual technology in place in 2021. If you watched the CG HNY event, or the free streams they had in the past 12 months, you might have seen, say, Tig Tug AR or Fascinate AR. VOY@GER is just the anime version of that, if you think about it. Bandai Namco built this studio just to do all this AR stuff for its media franchises like IM@S and Tales, so making a video with that as the starting point is almost quaint. I mean, in case you didn’t know, the AR glasses shown at the start is something that is probably real.
As a concept video, we see that the idols gets lasered into the video/stage…maybe it’s like 3D printing? But the cool (and, again, Eva-creepy-ness) effect seems to be less “awe” and more “shiver down my spine” and it’s interesting how they even show the cross-section of Haruka in some detail as she was being written in by red laser. It’s just a little bit unsettling.
The moving stage, the aforementioned floating panels and warp tunnel, and later on we see a weird, alien-like crowd with glowing things moving around. That’s all contributing to the SF vibe well. And there’s also a tinge of retro all over it, such as the way the opening laid out that AR headset, the credit roll in, the warp tunnel… I think that takes some edge off of it and makes the whole thing just a bit easier to watch.
If you watched the credit you’ll see that MoCap staff has their section, and indeed the non-stop dance sequence that makes up almost all of the interesting part of VOY@GER has some CG-based mocap animation. I think trying to spot it is a game onto itself. Experienced hand-drawn animation viewers can make a drinking game out of it, but I think most folks won’t get tipsy just after ~6 minutes of the thing. I mean, I can only spot like 6-7 places where it’s obvious some dancing is not hand-drawn on the screen, and this is kind of what I do all the time, as much as people still make dancing animation by hand anyways.
It’s both brand and a point of pride at this point, but team ANIM@S does this like Michael Bay does exploding cars. It’s really fun to watch the animation, no matter what excuse you use to make yourself replay the VOY@GER video over and over and over again.
There are some scenes and cuts that are particularly nice. I really enjoyed all the Fuyuko cuts, it felt like she got extra love and care somehow, even if by cold, pure on-screen timer math, everybody gets about as much, with a tad more for the folks in the warp tunnel and a tad less for the SideM lads. In terms of the amount of shine though, I think Fuyuko is number one, except for Haruka of course. The three CG and ML cast members got about the same, but I felt Umimi and Syuko both got a bit shafted. The few Anna scenes were actually really good and precious, much like Hayate’s, who has more of a co-star role after Haruka…even if Minami gets the more choice cuts.
Personally though, Takane and Makoto both steal a lot of highlights whenever they are on screen. The way Makoto interacted with Umi is also pretty neat. Toru had one of the most striking cuts but not much else, while Natsuha kind of blended in with the other long-haired princesses a bit too much. While not as bad, Tsumugi was also a blending in given the color schemes of everyone’s outfit and the overall color tone of the video–at least she can vocally kick it out a bit.
I really like this hand movement and how it cuts from Chris to Fuyuko. Also, Kyoji with that hair lol.
The futurescape scene with Toru, Hayate, and Tsumugi is one of the scenes that probably should have more weight but there is so much that has already happened up to that point for the careful viewer, that, well, my brain has already smoothed out to appreciate it.
Then the eyes, they draw you in, because what the hell are they doing?
So what now?
I think fundamentally, as a media-mix franchise IDOLM@STER has to continue to churn out content people like. This year Cinderella Girls will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Love Live is 10 years old this year, too. It has been a very long time coming but there are 5 different, significant brands in IDOLM@STER right now and they’re dropping a 6-minute music video now? Popm@s is not even 6 months old yet, being the only other 5-branches thing out there. There wasn’t a thing that came with Nandodemo Waraou, but that’s scrapping the bottom during COVID so I’m willing to give it a pass. Oh, ANIM@S is 10 years old this year.
All I am saying is, it’s been a long while. It’s long past time due that we get some 5-brand stuff like this. It’s long past time due that Shiny Colors get a good anime (and no bias, I’m fine waiting for them to nail that in a traditional narrative form, unencumbered by gacha and janky raising game gameplay). Let’s not even talk about IDOLM@STER Million Live. Or that Cinderella Girls is still a hugely popular mobile game franchise deserving more. At least Starlit Seasons is on the horizon, and maybe that will be the next step to being unlocking some of the actual potential IDOLM@STER has stored up over the last 16 years. Which is to say, VOY@GER is one of the first steps. After all, VOY@GER is a concept, an inspiration for the future, as Goripon said.