I probably left my AX2023 writeup in the trash somewhere, and between then and now was a very fun AWA2023, but let’s not let it get in the way. Million Live’s 10th tour part 3 in Fukuoka just commands my mind right now, so thus the needs to get it written down.
Yes, it’s Next Life O’Clock.
Some overall thoughts before I give in to indulgence. The show surprised everyone on day 1 with all these 765PRO ALL STARS covers. The strong hint? info? we got from before the concert was that Act-3 was about “anime.” What does that mean? Apparently it only means that all songs in the show both days appeared in some 765PRO anime before. This means we got Agent wo yoru wo iku and Next Life and READY and CHANGE and the list goes on. We have not just a cover medley, but 2 cover blocks each day.
The performers for both days were identical (super thanks for those who had to work Friday and jump on to a plane to Fukuoka), which is also a rarity for Million, but this many cover songs is unheard of for Million other than that one time we had Hotchpotch.
The eternal hand wringing for Million is that simply being part of 765PRO means they get songs with 765PRO ALLSTARS and they get to sing 765PROAS songs, yet they almost never do either of those things at their big annual shows. Part of it is because the performers don’t show up in each other’s events (aside from MOIWs and aforementioned Hotchpotch, and release events), and yet there is like dozens of these songs in limbo. Those songs are not in any anime (yet?), so maybe it’s okay so far. The covers were a necessity in the early years of Million when they didn’t have so many songs, but since year 4 or so, that hasn’t been an issue so covers were rare and far in between. In fact, with the way they billed Act-1, we thought we were going to get some covers, but there were literally zero covers. The first four shows were back when ML did more covers (that was the theme for Act-1), and I can probably count the number of covers from 5th to 9th on one hand (theme for Act-2).
Needless to say some Ps were shocked. Act-3 was actually the rojinkai we were wanting. I know some of these songs were reprised in the ongoing Million TV anime, but others weren’t…so we’ll take those where we can. I’m just irked that they decided to keep it a secret. For good effect, yes, but I know some people would have came if they knew. That’s a real bummer.
If you have been watching the Million Live anime (and if you’re reading this, you should!) you would know the ML idols are played off as quirky but earnest idols trying to do good by their agency’s senpais. There’s a precarious line in which the characterization for each of them blossom in the animation format, but they still need to stick with the same character concept that the canonical material lays out for us. There’s this inter-idol relationship aspect as well as senpai-kouhai line that gets colored a bit differently when ML was in its early days with the IDOLM@STER Movie versus this TV anime. Same but different is really the theme here.
The cover performances are also same…but different. Actually Next Life is probably the best example. In the prior renditions by Numakura, it’s Hibiki doing her character solos, this Okinawa-bred-and-born dance-kei idol who wants to be perfect. In fact Nu prided herself in doing the dances for Next Life in various level of difficulty over time. In Million, it’s as if they were Perfume/EScaped into dancing bots with a watered-down, formation-style sequence. By default, Next Life is not a vocal-forward song so much, versus the average seiyuu stage content, but the cover performance had more of an equal footing between the vocals versus the cool dance-music moves that the audience have come to expect. With 6 idols doing the song you can pass off lines, you can do equal-weighted formations, the clock of fate ticks on…
WE HAVE A DREAM and Agent are fun with who got to do them. READY and CHANGE are crowd pleasers and that put our fellow producer GenP, who plays the ML producer in the anime, to tears. I guess he is really into it. I mean, we got my song and Smoky Thrill, what the hell is going on? I get it.
I will also say that they didn’t do some songs from the TV anime that I would wanted to hear, that were not from 765PRO, and I am not sure how to feel about that. In fact, by me not able to watch all of the anime before the concert, I know I’m missing out on some of the anime references from Act-3. It’s okay, spoilers doesn’t hurt people who don’t know what are the spoilers, so in a way Act-3 was spoiler-free for the most part. It only gets funny when the cast members try to explain things. In retrospect, it’s an interesting experience, watching Act-3 without finishing the anime. It is however probably better if I took a day off earlier to watch it all as it’s still being screened at Toyosu.
For the new team songs, I actually like them. In general I like the new ML song directions. I really enjoyed my time at 9th largely because of the new Sparkle series. There were many songs that worked better live, like “I got it” after seeing it. A bit the same for the Anime Team songs. As an event song, Castanets is kind of a drag, but it was fun seeing it performed. Twiler is just strong AF and made me wish I had a djembe or something. Catch my Feeling and Baton Touch both were emotional and super enjoyable to vibe to.
And then there’s Sentimental Venus, which was not how I’d like to have it in Act-3, but it was what it was. I understand what they tried to do. Without going into it, I’ll just say that I understand why some people think this ruins the song and memories they had, but also that was not the intent by the staff or cast, and rather they want to honor that by paying homage. It doesn’t matter if it was a thing in the anime. I just didn’t think they could so casually do it without ruffing some feathers. The stage is Church for all practical purposes, so if Team JUNGO can afford to not do Welcome, or Legend Girls, Team JUNGO can also afford to not do Sentimental Venus in Act-3 (really should have been Act-1, right?).
Of individual performers, there were the usual silly or brain-dumb moments. When Yamazaki Haruka gets into character as Mirai, does she also not filter her thoughts? Something to think about. There was also the “mushi” moment which I sympathize, as they are still out and about in the Kyushu November as it hasn’t really gotten too cool. I had a hard time taking my eyes off Komagata Yuri. I think she wears this outfit really well. The others, well, they look great too, but the outfit was wearing some of them instead.
To talk about Next Life some more, I thought Nakamura Atsuki really owned it, and it’s quite fresh to see the MillionStars perform something that’s outside of their usual repertoire. You could say Tsumugi or Minami Saki fits, but this classic AJURIKA hit feels a generation too old with its wild, industrial beats that feels alien almost when these seiyuu performers try their hands at it. Maybe having Agent right before helped to set the palate. But unlike Tsumugi in ALRIGHT*, Momoko is the idol that adds the color to the song, and Keishama at least has long enough of limbs to really swing them around to show off the moves.
Maybe in a raw sense, this rendition of Next Life isn’t as powerful as the original. But this one is two layers too deep to compare in that simple way. For one, Nu really became whatever she and Hibiki are called when they perform together on stage; the MillionStars are, rather, in character but out of their elements, and it’s those characters that are performing this hit from their senpai. So as you can see it already is pretty messed up that we even get something that resembles entertainment. Of course, the performers may or may not see it or act in this way exactly in the heat of the moment, which makes this kind of music-theater production just that much more interesting. The music really also have to do its job in this performance, and I think this is why being a 765PRO boomer really pays off. Like Kasshi said in his brief review stream, I really want to know the story behind this pick.
Maybe this is also why I am thrilled to see Next Life performed by these idols–it’s just something you’ll never be able to see with 765PROAS and there is some really interesting spices in this mix. It’s like a familiar dish you love because it’s a banger, but now with a fusion twist. [Just like having blue bucket ramen with curry kaedama, right?] This is just all goes to say, how does this even work with the theme of the concert, Jungo?
Well, there are more normal parts of the show. There was a very emotional Brand New Theater at the end of Day 2 which everyone got very into it. This is really what the essence of ML concerts are now in 2023. I feel not as into it than the rest, but I like how emotions behind the music is really the key to all this, and to build that is to live through the franchise as a fan while carrying that torch. Maybe I’ve just had it for a tad too long than many at the venue. But with picks like my song or Agent I am not sure if I am a fish out of water or in the water. I guess I am still in, because I still like the new songs LOL.
I think it’s a great time, for new and old Ps alike. Check out the streams, they go on until Monday at Noon Japan time. Stagecrowd and Asobi both take your dirty oversea credit cards now, and Stagecrowd even has the tokuten ticket that Asobi has.
PS I flew to Fukuoka by the way of Taipei, by the way, so I didn’t have any time or ways to stop by Tokyo (to watch the rest of the TV anime). I was also delayed by about 8 hours due to the volcanic ash expelled by an eruption a couple days earlier, so that was not fun. The concert is in Kitakyushu, but I stayed around Hakata for shopping and errands (and better nightlife). It’s a 16-minute shinkansen ride away, about 2160 JPY one way, and I considered that reasonable. I guess I could have slummed out in Kitakyushu and just ate my way at those collab udon places. On that note, while I didn’t get any Mojiko Beer Curry collab (yet), I did have some Mojiko Beer IPA. It was tasty.
Anyways, I took a day trip to Karato Market in Shimonoseki, which is about 45 minutes away from Kokura by train and ferry. You can get a nice view of the Kanmon Bridge and Kanmon Straights, and the sites along the coast between Kyushu and Honshu. The sushi eats there are also wonderful and of great cost-performance.
PPS. Pirami, thank you for selfie stick? Only pointing this one out because, it’s just like AkaneChannel! Lots of other SNS from the cast members if you dig around!
I really like that one group selfie from Pirami’s tweet. It’s great photography.
PPPS. Take that, Daylight Savings Time.