IDOLM@STER vα-liv, Launch, Famitsu Interview

Simps know where to find the “goods” so instead I’ll dive right in to the meta. For starters, despite all the funny things they may have mentioned in the launch stream, the project is relatively orthodox (can anything vtuber be “orthodox”?) as far as vtuber agencies go. That is, if you’re a corpo and not some mushroom-after-the-rain start-up. Who knew how all the vtuber research for Kurocon would come in handy?

So officially, the IDOLM@STER 3rd Vision Vtuber project has launched. From now (or April 13th) until the first stream on May 2 (Japan time), it’s going to just be a trickle of content from the initial three vtuber trainees (as they refer to themselves as kenkyuusei or kouhousei anyways). A much more nuts-and-bolts Q&A session can be found here. Well, first watch the launch stream if you haven’t yet. And just to note, the va-live content lives on its on YT channel (which you can’t use the beautified link because it’s broken lmao)! I guess the main IM@S YT channel is already very busy…?

The person in charge of the brand is Haruki Katsumata, who has worked on IM@S for over 10 years (seems to be relegated to live content side such as IM@S MR and Million Live concerts). To summarize the Famitsu article:

  • Superchat may or may not be available? I’m guessing because Bannam has their own platform already and they don’t wanna pay the 30% Google tax, so they need to figure out how to square this with having to exist on YouTube.
    • You cannot be a big time Vtuber and not have a Youtube presence, and frankly anything less is too jank for Bandai Namco in my opinion. Sorry, Twitch, you wouldn’t want this corpo nonsense on your platform anyway.
    • The 3 vtubers’ respective YT channels here: Red, Blue, Yellow
  • The va-liv project was born out of the ‘rona (of course) disruption, especially after the successful Miki Hoshii showroom stunt. Very “wakaru” moment for me.
  • Of course, va-liv will likely “add” although for the first year it’s just these 3.
  • I had worried about the “moat” effect of va-liv, but fundamentally this is just yet another vtuber agency so IM@S and these talents will (continue to) collaborate with other vtubers outside of the brand. Well, I guess this wasn’t the aspect I was worried about–more like from a “revenue loss” POV.
  • I had discussed with others, and of course the interview basically confirms our assumption that eventually voting will be more complicated in the future and involve the fans to “produce stuff.” This is the core business of IM@S after all, and where the revenue is.
  • On monetization, the spiel from Katsumata is that as with other brands in Vision 3.0, it will become a “360” media mix strategy where different modes of monetization is enabled. With streamers and vtubers, there are new revenues being unlocked through va-liv. Of course, there will be more tie-ins and the like to be announced in the future, such as music and the like.
  • The loudest and biggest hand wringing from fans in reaction to va-liv announcement is that this is an elimination system, or audition where elimination is possible at the end of the year. The answer from Katsumata is that they want to set a clear goal post or standard to what the content is? It’s not an open-ended engagement. They also want to incorporate this particular element from the various games (arcade, console, Shiny Colors).

The interview also talked to the 3 talents. Now, stuff for the simps:

  • Senpai they admire:
    • Red: Kyoko Igarashi
    • Blue: l’Antica
    • Yellow: YuNi
  • Impressions of the other two. They only met the day before (the interview was taken right after the launch stream).
    • Red: She was nervous but the other two seem calm and reliable.
    • Blue: Manaka seems like a nervous hamster; Letora has a sunny vibe.
    • Yellow: Both are so cute, Manaka is like cotton candy. Asked if she needed a ride home because I can’t leave her by herself. Cosmo is a cool beauty that I gawk at from top to bottom.
  • Why do you want to become an idol? What kind of idol do you want to be?
    • Yellow: I had to choose between getting a job or continue to pursuit music. This is my one last try so I will give it my best. I want to deliver my song to all of Japan and share my heart with them.
    • Blue: I wanted to be a magical girl and sparkle. Even though I had been working as an entertainer for the longest time among us, it was not going well. I couldn’t give it up, and this project is my last chance. I want to be an idol who sparkles and shines brighter than anyone else.
    • Red: Once I was a volunteer to read to children. I was so happy that I can do things for them and make them happy. Maybe I have the ability to make other smile, and I would like to make people smile with me. Since as a child I was not forward and timid. I wanted to change, I had to change, and I join in this project in order to have the courage to take the first step forward.
  • The interviewer then goes “You said “last chance” so why this project, real or virtual?” (Sort of abridged TL):
    • Yellow: It’s hard to put it into words.
    • Katsumata: It’s hard to put it into words, but to me that’s how it feels to participate in this project?
    • Yellow: Feeling…?
    • Katsumata: I guess it’s hard.
    • Blue: As said earlier, it’s almost 10 years since I have been in show business. Whether I continue or quit performing as an idol comes down to this project. But that’s just as being an idol, I am not sure what will happen in the future for my career afterwards.
    • Red: I am as old as Cosmo but we have the opposite situation. I just finished my second year in Tokyo and also 2 years since I started training to be an idol. I am 16 years old now which is a bit late to start becoming an idol, so I have a complex about it. My shyness was a barrier to becoming an idol, so I said to myself “This is my last chance, I’m going to do my best” as a way to push myself. I think I need to push myself to the limit or else I will never be able to do it.

That’s more or less it. My take is basically that this is going to be your average business vtuber content mill, with curve balls thrown in for idol producers now playing in this space. For the first year, at least, we will continue to see these three vtubers trying to justify this project to BN brass. If people accept and come to adopt these three, I think we will see this project grow in various ways. As it stands, we don’t know what elimination really means, but as with the axing of Saisute in the background, we know nothing lasts forever, and even good(?) things can come to an end. Shiny Color builds this eventuality as part of its vibe, so it is easy to see where this comes from for va-liv.

At the same time I think they deserve a lot of the criticism, both in terms of how to communicate better to the fans and from a business point of view, not put in place where they can assuage our concerns. But I think this is likely a standard operating procedure for any company stepping their toes in this pool, and having to “imas” it may be one layer too thick on top. At the same time, they are asking Ps to be the test or incubating audience, so to speak, so I guess we’ll see if it works or not.

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