Here is another topic that I have a million takes and I have to time box to get this out. And I did it in only three hours. Anything is possible.

Kotoha chasing after Chupa with large knife (ML ep7)

In the overall context of 21st century Japanese media-mix content mills, we have to judge things on a sliding scale. By that I mean here is a media property (the Million Live anime, or Miriani henceforce) that is probably best described as a way to on-ramp new players into one sub-brand of the IDOLM@STER family. By players I mean there’s an ongoing (F2P) mobile game which is I think best described as a way to engage with content that is regularly updated. That in its own is a major context with its own baggage, many long-winded blog posts, et cetera. You can find some of them on this very blog, for links to a thin slice of these here.

Yes, gacha games fund all these extravagances. As a Umamusume player (and fan) there’s another blog post-to-be (or a draft to be discarded) about the interaction between Uma and IM@S content and fandom, because with Million Live I see the parallels right there. There is also the oft-unspoken backdrop of children’s entertainment and just how much Aikatsu I see from Miriani, and why there was a big exclamation on top of some folk’s heads (like mine) when they said it was “nichiasa” or “Sunday morning cartoons” when they first announced it.

It is a long journey from the smokey Japanese arcades of the 00s to Sunday Morning TV Tokyo 10am time slot in 2023, but that’s not what this post is about. That said, being a Sunday Morning Cartoon means more than just the time slot, but also that the show fits that time slot. This is to the detriment of many English-language internet viewers that you can find, like this reviewer. These are the (cloth in which you cut a ChihayaP from, but I digress) type of people you’ll most commonly see. To them idol anime is not just Love Live and IM@S, but things like Selection Project or (I shudder to think) Chance Triangle Session. Those are fine shows, but on this “sliding scale” those are all the way at the other end of the scale, the irrelevant otaku bait end of things. Where are all the Precure, Pripara, and Aikatsu people? Do the average proto-ChihayaP understand there’s more to IM@S than emo-emo vibes?

Which is to say, unfortunately you can, and should, still square Million Live with the original IDOLM@STER TV anime and the subsequent Movie, both which are celebrated and officially marketing material used to promote the Million Live anime before it started the theatrical run (what). And as someone who was able to enjoy that “golden era” e? tempore… I don’t think it is the best decision, but it still made all the sense in the world.

Which is just to say, a Million Live anime in the nichiasa form with its 3D anime style (lovingly crafted I might add) completes the rehabilitation of the property from Mami singing Agent Yoru o Yuku on NicoNico Douga to, uhm, Asterism singing dear… It may still be performed by someone U149, but it’s actually rehabilitated? All I am trying to say is, the more things change, the more it stays the same. It’s like the IDOLM@STER stuff, but in a different packaging, probably one that’s less suitable for the average adult anime viewers from the west.

Over the years since Million Live Theater Days has gotten from this weird “baton-passing” game where the 765PROAS team getting to chill off from their 10 years worth of hard work to the 37+2 kouhai members, it has gotten more, I think anyways, female-player friendly, more trendy, and more mainstream-sensible. Maybe that also alienated more players who liked the older stuff, and players who might find one of the other IM@S franchises more to their liking, but that carved out the niche for Million. I think this will come to the fore even more when Shiny Colors anime come out very soon… But comparing that with the U149 (as in the unit) anime which stuck closer to the original animas formula (because there are few enough of them) it’s pretty obvious Million Live anime is going somewhere else.

Unfortunately, this means unless you are already on the bandwagon for awhile, Miriani might be surprisingly not-your-taste. And that’s fine.

Again, to zoom out a bit, IDOLM@STER as a franchise is going to be 20 years old in about 2 more years, which by any reasonable measuring stick, is way too long for an otaku property given that it is active this entire time. Do you consider Gundam an otaku property? Or Macross? We are getting to those franchises’ level. Million Live is its marquee “glue” that connects 765Pro to, uh, Profit, I guess, so it really has to walk a high wire act that is the high road.


I cannot have watched Miriani as anything close to being an impartial observer. But I didn’t watch it like a hardcore fan either, in that I didn’t see it in theaters. I only saw episodes 1-4 in theaters. My luck was that those were the best Matsuri episodes, I guess, so as a Matsuri P I got what I needed. As an event-going P, though, I really needed episode 9-12, because it turns out Million Live 10th Tour Act3, which I attended, pins a bunch of content on those episodes. Well, I think you can figure out what happened if you went to Act 3 without seeing the last couple episodes by now, so I won’t belabor the point.

Which is just to say, as a background note, Million Live started 2023 in Nippon Budokan, which just means they booked the venue at least 1 year in advance and couldn’t reschedule to accommodate the anime delays. The script writer for Million Live started working 5 years ago on the project. Yeah. It is rough times. I mean why would not they cap off 10th tour in Budokan right?

Blasted COVID problems aside, the only thing to mention about Million Live anime, I think, is just the matter of expectations. For some people who only know a part of it, they wouldn’t think of Million Live like how I do it, which makes me a bit of an emotional mess. Indeed, when it was airing, I did try to watch it streaming real time and then again when Crunchyroll silently licensed it. Every Saturday 9:45pm Eastern time (DST change made it 1h45m late instead of just 45 minutes late) I would try to watch it again, with subs. It didn’t always work out due to traveling and what have you, but it’s a show I watch at least twice a week, every week. Some episodes many more than twice.

In that sense, I really want to give props to the team who made the show, the folks at Shirogumi, and all the key staffers, as it really stood up to repeated scrutiny. I don’t want to spend the time to get into how the sausage is made, so check out these two threads. To me, it looked good, it looked to be crafted lovingly. The animation went the extra mile, and I don’t mean the homage or references. Funnily enough though, none of those things really mattered to me, but good animation is always a sight for my sore eyes.

What really mattered to me the most was seeing everyone as actual anime characters…as they should. What is IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE? Did it not first become real in the shadow of Anim@s and Moviem@s? What was Greemas character designs based on? What about Theater Day’s animation? This is the root of the brand to me personally. Seeing it coming to life is by far and away the best thing about Miriani. I also watched the early episodes so many times… Which is why I actually didn’t care so much about the big finale, even if it is in no way bad–all of Miriani animation-wise was based and blessed.

This is also why the ultimate direction of Miriani was disappointing to me personally, despite all the other wins it may have had. Granted, it didn’t matter that much as what it is now is something I still enjoy and cherish–we all have the freedom to take it or leave it.


And if you do take it up, the rehabilitated Million Live sings a song about the legendary girls who goated their way from newbies to idols worthy of the 765Pro mantle. It tells stories, based on the lore 765Pro built over the years. And that’s at the heart of the anime. Like I said in this piece, Million Live anime is about Million Live, which is the brand of IDOLM@STER about feelings and emotions.

The homages and stuff is a constant struggle. There were a ton of references, most of them are okay as references, but some crossed a line for me. One reason is I don’t think people realize or even agree what each of those historic things meant. For example, Koroazu getting sick and couldn’t make it to the show would have been a much better reference than the Sentimental Venus reference, because the former is a very personal thing that can be told from the idols’ perspective. The whole SV thing in ep12 was fine, in my book, but when they tried it in Act3 I thought that was one bridge too far to cross. It is kind of messed up to celebrate it in real life in a concert, the goof-up or mishappening of another. Maybe it was a really nice moment, but let’s leave it as such and not try to recreate it (even if by coincidence).

I think this is also kind of my other main criticism. Million Live is the kind of anime that does all kind of cool feats, but it does so with disregard of individuality to an extent. It is a story about togetherness, but also it cannot afford too much individual characterization due to time constraints. It doesn’t mean Miriani doesn’t have any character development, character development is just not the focus of the story or the theme. It’s fair to say that Mirai didn’t really grow as a person in the show, but that is ignoring the fact that from ep1 to ep12 we have transformed a helpful neighborhood girl into a full blown idol, because she is being produced–this is literally the full essence of IDOLM@STER and there hasn’t been a better example of this in animation outside of U149.

The character development that we did have served to drive some emotional investment forward with the Theater opening and the signal-light-based subplots. It helped us connect the Father-issue girls. It helped us connect Tsubasa with Miki. It’s just not much and is definitely more along the sides of a safety rail rather than the engine that moved the story forward. In a way this is almost “fair,” but Matsuri and her ministers almost had as much glory-time as Tsubasa just strikes me as humorously…equal-treatment? Is this a democratic or a communistic move, I don’t know, but I am not complaining. I’m just pointing out the silliness that the anime contained.

This is also why I reject the advice some give about Miriani that you need to watch some older IDOLM@STER works. I don’t think it’s necessary–it’s thoroughly made for the present and there’s no reason to have to watch a 10-year-old movie (damn it’s been that long) to get it. If you want to, it’s great to do so, but it’s entirely optional. The point of Million Live anime is watch animated idols do idol things and being produced, the expectations about stories are just baggage that may or may not help your experience.


But, with all that said, besides having to juggle all those idols against all these constraints, Miriani achieved one incredible feat, which is to be able to create and turn characters from f2p content-milling-game to anime, after 10 years of existence, without turning the characters into mushy-turdy things. I credit the, again, lovingly crafted animation leaning hard on what aspects of the characters they could safely lean on (Akanechang for example). It’s not like there is a central canon in which we can build a Million Live universe–it’s definitely a confluence of many different game events, stories, comics, songs, and producer neta that fused together into this work. To respect all of this, is hard.

Seeing my idols turn alive is just amazing, and from that I too received the “thank you” from the cast and staff for being a P all these years. If it takes my “thank you” to get a “welcome” from you back, well, I know what I have to do.

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