Seeing the VOY@GER MMXXI trailer on this past Sunday morning was something, to say the least. Goripon is back to do another project with the IM@S content that he is still purportedly a fan of is definitely a sight for sore eyes. The studio Khara link is curious, and the most important “Animas team” tease is a seriously strong dose of hopium.
What is worth also noting is that on the 15th anniversary, July 27 2020, we were not only in the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we saw the Million Live anime teaser. That means in the gap of a year we saw 2 anime teasers, but the only anime since were some Cinderella Girls Gekijo stuff? I might have missed something but that is it, right? Oh, there was this.
We did get an update from WakachikoP last month with the annual Million Live Theater Days anniversary issue of Famitsu. So I can say that at least this is the minimum fans deserve–even an update that they need more time is needed for a fandom this engaged.
As an aside, even if a big project like Theater Days are run by a big team with a lot of people working on it, with planning that span years, having Hazama-san in charge feels like the product and franchise is just in a better place than KominoP as we had in the past when he took over the role during WakachikoP’s leave.
Back on topic: What is there to expect about VOY@GER MMXXI? I don’t think it’s anything more than just another extended trailer, similar to the one they released 5 years ago to celebrate the 4th year of Million Live. (By the way, I guess this is worth watching if you care about new folks doing research and not knowing about the team Anim@s connection.) If we’re lucky, it might stretch beyond the 10-minute mark, but since it has been referred to as a concept movie or promotional video, I won’t bet on it. It’s suppose to come out soon, so given the neck-breaking pace that Goripon had to deal with regarding the latest Eva movie, that only means there has been about half a year of actual production time when staff can actively create the animation, at the most. Depending on how many people are actually working on the project, of course, it could mean a variety of things, but there has been enough time past since the last time team Anim@s has done anything.
At the same time, we still don’t have a release date for the video, but the song will be out soon in mid-August. The cast has yet record for the work, if the announcement stream reactions were genuine, although they of course have already recorded the song. I don’t think it’s good to dwell too much on it, other than to celebrate the first animated anything for the 3 Shinymas characters, and the other characters who were left out of their respective anime previously.
If I were to actually speculate, VOY@GER was suppose to be a project launched along with the 15th anniversary festivities. On the music side, VOY@GER turned into the same release format as Nandodemo Waraou which seems like a logical thing they will want to do every year going forward. But IDOLM@STER Five Stars songs probably had 6-12 months of lead time, similar to a new mobile game event/content drop for MLTD or CGSS. If we take the cancelled Theater Days PSTour event as a measuring stick, it took them about 9 months to redo it as it’s scheduled for early October. There are other factors affecting these so we can only take that number with a healthy amount of salt, but +/-3 months seems reasonable.
Predicting anime production schedule during COVID seems like a foolish thing to do, so maybe guessing about staff is more productive. If you are good you can probably guess staff from the cast list, because, as MingosP mentioned on the livestream, of course Makoto is in this project because Goripon is a MakotoP. Maybe you can find the biggest Derem@s animator stans for Minami as the next one up.
In summary, it’s like what they say, it’s just more IM@S. MillionPs have been through this before, but this time we’ll have the newbies from Theater Days along for the ride. For CG folks, they know how Spin-Off is like. For the other old timers though, this is all gravy.
Since I only watched IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE 7thLive Q@MP FLYER!!! Reburn (that is a mouthful) online, I did not actually travel to Fuji-Q Highlands Conifer Forest to participate in the audience. There is a world of difference between going to a concert live in person, versus watching it in the comfort of home (although I enjoyed the comfort of someone else’s home, not mine). As a fan of the franchise, and especially the live concert part of this franchise, I think there is enough in the remote viewing experience to count for something.
Anyways, I will save the pontification later. First, on ML 7th.
(I had wondered by what “Conifer Forest” meant but it gets clearer if you see it.)
The theme song “GIRLS’ LEGEND U” from the game Umamusme Pretty Derby starts with this phrase: やっとみんな会えたね! It translates loosely to “We finally get to see everyone.” Mixed into that is the marching horns and battle cries of the cast in an anthem. It is the banner theme song of the core product in a media-mix property years in the making–partly due to a multi-year delay between the initial release date and the actual release date. It’s really cute that the song tips the hat to the delay. In fact, in a way this song tips a hat to the strange journey of the video game from conception to coming out on our phones, tablets and PCs: Don’t stop until you finish.
But we can farm a lot more out of GIRLS’ LEGEND U than all that. Much more. Woven into the instrumentals are these thematic strings that you can also get a good glimpse in the bridge, as well as different parts of the game as background music. Having the theme song of a thing synchronize musically with the other background pieces of the thing isn’t unusual–it’s rather expected, especially in video games. But also the song itself tells us more up front–really, what I want to write about isn’t the song, but horses.
Umamusme is about horses…girls, of course, but it’s really about horses. Specifically, the legends of horses IRT to horse racing. I would call Umamusme a game about HORSE GIRLS’ LEGEND but the titular song is, instead of HORSE it’s… U for Uma? Umapyoi Densetsu (うまぴょい伝説) is the first theme song for the franchise from 2016 and the title really says more or less the same thing, just more horse than girl.
On paper, the conceit of these alternative character-based franchises (ships, guns, katanas, cities, appliances, etc.) are as database as it gets. You put these things (and animals in our case) in the otaku database machine and create a character story out of it. Bundle a bunch of these and tie it together with a setting and a few themes, and out comes a media franchise.
In that sense, Umamusume is no different. But the big difference that I can see between Umamusume and the garden variety ones out and about, is that Umamusume has been imbued, at least from what I can tell, a spirit that is horse-like. Horses are large, majestic, temperamental and sensitive land mammals. Horses are social, in that they exhibit social behaviors such as pact mentality, dominance, individuality, competitiveness, and others (such as being able to be domesticated). They play and court. It’s easy to translate a particular natural aspect of horses into anime characters, and I see that being a very strong underlying pattern in the Umamusme franchise.
It’s easy to see this in the characterizations of all the horsegirls. It also helps that the “good girl” trope resonate well with the audience–our racing horses all are good horses (and presumably their rights owners wouldn’t allow otherwise). I mean there are so many of them (even just in Japan alone) and the ones that people commemorate enough to put in a video game are already legends themselves. Of course they are good girls. Even if you run into problems like making El Condor Pasa into a she… Doesn’t that break grammar LOL.
Contrast this with, say, things that are based on WWII heroes or weapons of destruction. How do you channel “the military” except only superficially? You can do a lot more when you’re channeling legends about racing horses, it turns out, maybe because it’s not problematic.
And I think this is where Cygames really flexed their muscles. You can directly take what is lovely and endearing about these horses and put them right in the game, down to the way their tails wag or the way their ears twitch. It’s beyond the whole sexual aspect of furry appeal–we are talking about making fiction where you combine the best of what racing horses have to offer with typical otaku tropes. (And including the sex appeal as appropriate, as it never was gone, just not in the fore.)
This to me comes across like all the strings in the instruments throughout the game BGM. Cygames was tasked to make Umamusume a game that conservative Japanese businessmen would gladly sign over their legendary horse brands over to, so I think a certain level of restraint was needed throughout the entire Umamusume experience. The characters (and the cast, FWIW) are still going to do the same rigmarole, the same toe taps and dance routines. Tracen Academy is extremely generic but it does adhere to a classy all-girls school vibe. Symboli Rudolf and Meijiro McQueen can walk down the school yard gracefully, while Vtuber Gold Ship can jump kick the trainer while it happens.
That is the framework that allows things to happen, but what endears us is the individual stories themselves, and how it’s executed. For me, the game taught me the one behind Rice Shower, who was put down during her final race due to injury. It’s sad, sure, but the story in the anime and game makes it a lot more approachable due to the execution and details. The most famous of them all–Haru Urara–only got as popular as she did because of marketing/promotion and production, after all. In a way, Umamusume is the same pitch, but for a lot more horses besides Haru Urara. When these horsegirls channel their named legends, it’s where the magic happens. Even if it’s extremely normal/boring like Special Week, it is still endearing that our mother-loving, Hokkaido born glutton became one of Japan’s best.
Which is all to say, GIRLS’ LEGEND U is a great piece of music, and you can tell by hearing someone playing it on the piano. This is some great composition fit for a sweeping orchestra. Instead we have a bunch of seiyuu grunting calls about winning races. No matter how you cloak it, a good story will shine through–and that’s what Umamusume really is about, putting into character-stories of racing horses, their lives, and their struggles.
PS. There are other finer points to Umamsume Pretty Derby. So far it has largely inherited many of the QOL stuff that I love about Princess Connect! Re:Dive. It being a raising game doesn’t quite translate into how not to make it into the same kind of “menu hell” that JRPGs can be, but I see some small glimpses of hope here as is. It is also kind of time consuming given each raising run takes a good half hour, at least. There are many little touches in the game and in the IP generally that I wish I can highlight but it will make several post at least. Anyways, I’ll end with this video.
As of this writing, we are about 12 days since the launch of the Umamusme Pretty Derby video game service. I probably won’t make many updates to this guide to keep up with changes, but I will fix any errors that I am made aware after the fact.
The raising scenario URA Finals puts you as the trainer and your Umamusume (horse henceforth) through a scenario of about 72 turns. Each turn you can do one action. For every horse, there are a set of goals you need to clear to first complete the raising goals, then three URA races. If you win them all, you have cleared the URA Finals scenario (congrats you’ve beaten the game…not really).
Beating the scenario is just one desirable outcome. Currently this is also the only way to breed and create horses with more powerful or desirable traits that can be used to raise new horses. If you are going after breeding, completing the scenario is not necessary, but more traits will be passed down the higher rank your horse is at the time the scenario ends (which is just to say, it’s possible to have zero traits passed down if you end the scenario by the first year).
When you begin the scenario, you will need to pick two horses that you have already raised (or the 2 the game prepped you for from the start), or one of horses from trainers that you follow. I will cover breeding more extensively at the end of this post. For newbies, the “osusume” or auto-select button (green button underneath the rectangle in the middle) is fine.
You will also need to select up to 6 support cards to begin the scenario. First, get some and level them up. Needless to say the higher the level the better they are, but that’s in very general terms. Once you get the hang of it, you can figure out what levels and which cards to use better, since there is a lot of nuance and during early game, money is scarce without massive whaling. You can also use auto select here, but generally it doesn’t quite do it.
Being a basic trainer
Without going deep into which training to do with your horse every turn, the key things to know are:
Supporters Tazuna and Kiyruin: If you play their support cards, they will appear as characters that you can power up. At high enough levels (3 bubbles), random events with them will appear in which you can then go out on a date with them, up to 5 times. In general these dates replaces the “rest” action since it recovers a large amount of stamina and give a variety of other benefits such as condition up and adding stats. More over it eliminates the risk of the negative side effect of regular rest action.
The supporters also affects your training action normally when they appear under one. Specifically, Tazuna reduces the stamina cost of the action she appears for, in addition to the random proc bonus she gives. The 2 aforementioned supporter cards, reporter, and the principal all will have extra event(s) at the end of the URA Finals after you beat it, as a bonus, if you level them up to the final bubble.
There are always 2 summer camps that happens on the second and third July/August turns. While they may be interrupted with checkpoint races for a particular horse, during camp, all training are at level 5 (and conversely, you can’t level up the training during camp). When you rest during camp, it is guaranteed 35 energy back with a condition up.
On the first new years turn (first half Jan.), you get to pick between 20 energy, 20 skill points, or randomly some stats. On the second new years turn (Christmas, second half december), you also get the same option but the stats may be improved to 5 points per stat type. There is also a kanshasai event for all the horses, with different benefits (usually 5 stamina loss for 25 skill points). In addition, there is a street raffle event on the second half of January on the second year. You either get some energy back, some energy and some stats, and more energy, stats, and onsen trip tickets. The trip tickets unlock a special ending for your horse if you also beat URA Finals.
Every start of the year (year 2 and year 3, and I suppose also year 1 as that’s the start of the scenario), your horse inherit some traits from her parents and grandparents. The second and third year inheritance is random, but it will always pick from the stats side with 0-3 skills and attributes also passed down. Stats are based on each procced inheritance from 1 star to 3 stars.
When you take a rest action, 3 outcomes can occur: 30 energy recovery, 50 energy recovery, or 70 energy recovery. In the case when you get 30, there is also a random chance of getting a bad effect, which can be cured using the heal feature (it will be greyed out normally until you have an ailment). Generally you want to heal negative effects ASAP as they negatively affect you every turn.
That said I don’t know how big the energy bar is at the start–some events (support cards, doctor event) can increase your max energy bar.
Healing action procs a commu choice and you have a chance of removing the negative effect. You also gain 20 energy. On that note, when you fail a training action, there’s also a chance of getting a negative effect, although the odds of that is much lower than getting it from rest. Also, when you fail a study action, you typically only don’t gain any wiz points.
Yes, you can fail anything that has a fail rate of greater than zero percent. Just because it says 1% or 4% and it fails don’t be mad, it’s just how RNG works.
Here is the rare doctor event explained (similar to Shinymas’s reporter)–you have 5 choices, every choice has something like 50-60% fail rate. 5th choice has 100% success rate.
First choice: +20 all stats. If you fail, -15 to all stats, motivation down, and an illness (which can proc same turn).
Second choice: 2 energy recovery skills for free. If you fail, motivation down and -20 energy.
Third choice: Max energy increased by 12, and gain 40 energy. If you fail, motivation down and -10 energy. [not sure what the negative effect is here]
Fourth choice: One time 20 energy recovery, gain “adorable” trait. If you fail, -10 energy, motivation down.
Fifth choice: Tell the doctor to bugger off. Gain 10 energy.
Goal: Get to the URA Finals
The below chart, sourced here, is what you need to get to the URA Finals. I tested it a bunch of times with half a dozen horses, and it looks pretty spot on. Just don’t take the numbers too literally–RNG is always ever-present to mess you up, so buffer is always good. That said you can also fly in under these but that’ll make the URA Finals harder. Lastly, this chart is not gospel–there are other ways to beat the scenario while not adhering to this. High power breeding is a big way you can get a leg up against your competing horses. Some set of skills also will give a great advantage, especially when paired with a specific strategy–although often that requires specific race horse or support SSRs.
Long course: Arima Kinen (2500m)
Long course: >3000m
I’m not going to explain in detail how the stats work, but that table will work for a majority of horses. Why not? Because nobody really knows the full picture. In a nutshell, think stamina as an energy tank that depletes as the horse run the full course, the more stressful and faster the horse runs, the more it depletes. If the horse is in front the whole time, they will need to keep up the chase. Being crowded by horses, having to run through a crowd, and being chased all deplete stamina faster.
If the horse is chasing at the end, the horse needs a lot of power to make up the difference. If the horse is in front, it needs to have a high speed to avoid being taken over at the end. That’s really the two stats with a clear interplay between strategy and application. Smarter horses have more skill procs and don’t get flustered when crowded by other horses, so it affects stamina. Horses give up chasing if their guts is too low.
Again, these are just broad strokes since I don’t know (does anyone know?) all the details. These are basic info that you can apply to the skills that you pick up over time–as far as skills go, whatever reads good, go for it. More skills, more skills procs. Some are synergetic, some directly increase proc rates of others, some are upgrades of others. Some depends on other procs.
Lastly, note this section deals with just getting to the URA Finals. If you want a ballpark stat hint, look at the other horses in your races to know about what you should be at in terms of your core stats. To be safe you should get another 50 points more in speed, power and/or stamina to be truly successful in URA Finals.
Basic trainer tips and tricks
It doesn’t hurt to be conservative, but it also doesn’t hurt to try being aggressive–ultimately you want to raise many horses for the purpose of passing down good traits. However you should have objectives planned out every run. This way, if RNG screws you up, you know when to stop (and not waste any alarm clocks), or how to make up for the key stats you need to continue raising.
This means, you should check out the raising goals for every horse at the start, knowing which races and what each one is, before she has to run them. That will let you figure out which cell in the above table to aim for. Obviously you won’t get all the stats from the get go, but do try to get through them without neglecting any one stat too much, it will make losing races in the intermediate much less likely.
After trying out training a horse for the first time, come up with a plan. First start with your supports, then breeding (optional at first). Know which stat your horse has a bonus to (usually every horse has a 10% bonus in one stat and 20% in another) and plan accordingly. If it helps, set intermediate goals for key stats so you can pass every race easily. I keep a spreadsheet for some of the trickier ones like El Condor Pasa.
Use the int/wiz training/studying to your advantage–since a set amount of wiz is needed anyway, you will have to train in studying. Training the horse’s brains/wiz also has the side benefit of gaining energy instead of using energy. Early in the scenario and during summer camp 1, use this to your advantage and increase your level with your supports while preserving energy. The more you have to rest the less you can train. On the other hand, once you are close to maxing out your supports, use that energy to get the maximum amount of stats, especially the stats you need immediately (sometimes over the training that might be more efficient).
Early on, the stats tips Tazuna gives you in the main screen is helpful, but at the end she will complain about your low brains and guts even if you don’t really need much more than 300.
I typically pick up skills on the turn of the race, after checking out the weather. This way I can pick up the skill most relevant to my horse’s immediate passing chances. Some skills depend on weather and track condition, as well as which specific track. If you know what you’re doing, you can pick whatever in advance if you would like.
At the end of every raising scenario, the horse that finished may get some traits that she can pass on. These are like tags that have 1, 2 or 3 stars. If it is a stats tag, it will be blue. If it is a skill tag, it will be green. If it is a attribute tag, it will be red. Lastly if it is a hint tag, it will be grey/white.
Stats tags are the most straightforward. 3* tags adds 21 points. 2* tags adds 12. 1* tag adds 5. Add all the tags the parent and grandparents have, and your scenario will begin with that bonus.
Also straightforward, the number of stars in a skill trait provides a default level when it becomes available for the horse during the raising scenario. Just to mention it in case it’s not clear, every level a skill has reduces the skill point cost to obtain it by 10%.
I don’t know how hint tags work besides it might make some skills available to the horse.
Attribute tags are a mystery, but it does improve the baseline stat of the horse up one grade for every * up to grade A. You can’t start beyond grade A.
Some horses, when paired with other horses, increases the amount of traits inherited by the raised horse. This compatibility is still being documented, and it involves grandparents–generally speaking we’re talking about inbreeding.
Finally, the pain-in-the-butt parts. The traits and things that gets assigned to the horse is entirely random. If you got far enough, you’ll at least get one of each type. But it could be a 1* stat that you don’t care about. Which is most of the time. It could be your F rank dirt ability or C rank mile course ability when you are A in everything else.
The other pain in the butt is that when the parents and grandparents pass their tags down to the child horse, it’s all random after the start of the scenario, during the two goddess events in April. Even if you have a bunch of 3* speed tags, it might skip that more than you’d like. Or that one grass or long course 3* never get passed down. Again, completely RNG other than categorical bias towards stats, and if there is double-circle compatibility, more tags get passed down.
Learning individuality, skills worthiness
While each Umamusme has similar set of stats and capabilities from any other, which can be changed by inheritance, as well as support cards and the guidance of the trainer, each horse still has her own eccentricities. Play around and learn about each horse to be a proper trainer. Of course, the starting kit and the list of racing checkpoints to clear will guide your play largely for each horse, but do take care to learn about their other eccentricities.
In a similar way, this applies to the process of learning which skills are worth buying and for who.
Some horses are easy to train and beat URA, like Special Week, Sakura Bakushin O (spam stam/power at nige short/mile courses), or Silence Suzuka. Others are varying amount of from easy to hard. The current banner, TM Opera O is also a strong, easy-to-train horse girl. I think El Condor Pasa is somewhat difficult. Harder would be, maybe, Grass Wonder. By far the hardest, though, is Rice Shower.
Dealing with RNG
There is a lot of RNG. Don’t be surprised. There are a lot of negative traits and bad things that could happen outside the racetrack, and inside. There are also good things that could happen. You can choose to ride the RNG or reduce its impact by using some strategies. You can play it loose or play it safe. Each have their pros and cons. At the end of the day we all are likely going to sleep in the bed we made, so there’s that.
That’s it! Feedback and corrections are welcome in the comments, or ping me at @omonomono.