Girls Want to Be Yellow: Gakumas Prelude

As the new IDOLM@STER brand, Gakuen IDOLM@STER, slow-drips its hype juice leading up to the mobile game launch later this Quarter (or whenever Spring 2024 is), I have thoughts about not only Gakumas (the official abbrev) and the franchise in general. More specifically, context is important and also kind of amusing to think through, how one thing may lead to another or vice versa, and the joy of learning from the past.

Around 2020, we got Asobi Notes, which is kind of a new music brand from Bannam that included some of the up and coming track makers and DJs with a slant towards trending EDM and pop music. I only know this because they pulled a bunch of composers and DJs that worked on IM@S into their first online stream/concert (COVID era memories). Along side that was the launch of the Denonbu brand, which is uhh, character-based rave music I guess? Turns out Denonbu’s strategy and Asobi Notes form the music side of the Gakumas system. So far Gakumas has followed a similar plan between the idols and their music producers…I suppose around 2018-2019 the link between the music maker and the IM@S tracks has been more in the foreground in the marketing material, so this is the next step.

When IM@S hands off an idol to a music producer to make songs for, it reminded me when people like Inotac always wanted to produce Kaede songs, or when Jun Sasaki talked about Julia back when being asked about Airu. Now with 3 of the solo songs available, it seems a bit like that, but more so. I was rather taken by minami’s song for Temari, both that it is very minami, but also very good for an IM@S Blue solo, IYKWIM. Taken together with Giga’s and HoneyWork’s songs we can say that this is unlike any IM@S, and more like a group of good creators getting to create what they want based on the character concepts presented to them.

Which is just to say, based on the released commu, if Shiny Colors was a visual novel from the 00s, Gakumas is just OreImo (to no surprise–the PR material proudly boasts that the same scenario writer from OreImo is on staff). It is the same energy that warps around the same idol production story that has been grinded down like a raging river on smooth stones along the shore. Saki (Red), Temari (Blue) and Kotone (Yellow) may be signal lights, but I don’t see any Miki anywhere. The enigmatic and emblematic idol idea now lives between … Red and Yellow? It feels like the opposite-of-normal has happened with the cute but timid pink/red idol now being a confident and spicy brat who will tsun her way into your heart, while Yellow Is Just Trying To Make It with everything she got. And in traditional IM@S fashion, Blue didn’t change much in Gakumas. Is this what kids call “on brand?”

With the promo material slowly being released since the Gakumas announcement from KominoP (and his teammates…) the hype has been slowly building. Weekly release streams showing off the main cast along with their characters felt like both common-sense and uniquely new for the franchise. When a new IM@S seiyuu drops once a week it’s like getting a Christmas present once a week. The story of Shiny Colors playing off their yearly unit-add really shines through with this strat. The tech upgrade (thanks QualiArts) also are appreciated. IM@S official 4k videos are great and welcomed for something made in this decade. The hype continues to build.

I’m okay with my Aipura plus Oreimo plus Denonbu concept game so far. It’s got everything I want except the engaging gameplay part. I think as a raising game, the crown still belongs to Umamusume, being several furlongs ahead of the pack. It’s easy to forget the mess that was the first SideM app game which copied the gameplay loop from Hachinai, and only if they did more of it…

Which is all just to say, like the Ps who polled ML producers on Gakumas before even all the idol characters were unveiled, my prognostications are just that, premature. But what is clear as day is not just Giga dropping the name 15 seconds in Saki’s solo, but the direction of this franchise is going. It is thoroughly modern. It leans on famous and popular contractors. It is an ensemble work. It is aware (and its creators also are) of the past and hopefully, clear where it wants to go in the future.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the rivals becoming idols themselves, but what we’re looking forward to Gakumas cook is how it will happen. The wonderous but a bit underplayed story of Luka Ikaruga, will she get a nod in Gakumas? Only time will tell.

PS. I wrote this before Rinami’s solo dropped, but I think it just continues the trend. Watanabe Sho’s entry reminds me of Pinky Hook lol, but maybe that’s because I am Mocho-Pilled a bit.

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