Category Archives: Idolmaster

IDOLM@STER 18th Stream, SideM Thoughts

This is just the thoughts from this particular Producer, so take it as you will. Just reacting to some other folks from this morning (evening JP time on July 25) when the 18th anniversary stream dropped its usual payload of news and inter-brand interactions.

I’m lurking in a couple community discord servers for IDOLM@STER. Some SideMs are gnashing teeth. Others are just putting them to perspective. You can see some of that in the Youtube comments. I think perspective is important, as it can highlight the way forward out of this hellish situation. But I think some empathy and compassion is good. More over, these emotions and momentary problems are probably something that will come and pass with time, without us doing a whole lot.

One thing I noticed is that many of these online communities are surrounding the core game product. This is Deresute, MLTD, the Enza Shiny game, and what have you. Players of the console 765Pro games kind of dissolves into the background as old(er) people who bring up obscure data points (see above about perspective) but it’s not tangibly linked to the community. The band of IDOLM@STER branding is not that strong.

I think this is invariably the case when all it takes is a smartphone or emulator, and Qooapp. All these free-to-play games have no doors, effectively, other than being in Japanese. And just like how anime culture in America is a rainbow regurgitation of the same thing in Japan, a lot is lost in the translation. Or more precisely, a lot is missing in the localization of a media mix IP, that wasn’t even localized to begin with. Localization outfits are just publishers, they are not marketing firms with a hand in the media mix pie who want to sell rights to merch or whatever it takes to do SideM Ice Cream.

I would feel way less secure as a SideM P if all I had was the game and not the concerts, the live streams, the music, the anime, the comics, and the fandom at large. I really think this is part of the answer to Bannam dropping the Growing Stars game, but not much of this has come. Anyways, it has been disconcerting for some Ps and things have remained uncomfortable.

I remember seeing the SideM announcement at MOIW 2014 intermission. I was there at my first IM@S concert and still feeling a bit overwhelmed. Yes, even back then, we, collectively (Japan?), know that joseimuke stuff was taking off. Women buying 2D dude merch was a bigger thing than it was ever before. It was a force to tap into, if you are an opportunist. So at some level, SideM joining the fray was already a bit, let’s just say, sus, fundamentally.

At any rate, SideM fits this scheme, and I bemused around then, even, that Bannam was a tad late. But the dice were cast, and we’re in it together. Will IDOLM@STER as a business translate well as joseimuke content and media mix strategy? Despite hindsight being mostly 20/20, I think the answer is still unclear. To some degree, we see where it was successful. We also see the missteps.

I think one clear thing we can say is that Bannam executed the SideM vision with some urgency. Vision 2.0 started with IDOLM@STER 2, which introduced us to Jupiter. These guys are the lynchpins for the SideM franchise and connects us from today back all the way to origin. SideM also provided a home Akizuki Ryo, which we cannot say enough to thank for. Maybe this is at SideM’s cost as a female-pandering franchise, but ultimately it was just one person in a group with 46 or 49 idols. These are, in the big picture of the 18 years of IDOLM@STER, large, franchise-altering moves. They’re on par with Shiny Colors dropping a new unit every year from 2019 to 2022. But I didn’t think Bannam and the SideM team played this up well. Maybe because they were urgently trying to solidify this brand?

I believe urgency was why SideM took the path of Million Live, almost carbon-copy from web game to app game. It was definitely why SideM had a TV anime first, well before Million. But did this urgency pay off? I’m not sure. I can say that the transition to the app game did more to harm it than any other decision for the series, because SideM LIVE ON ST@GE was not up to the quality and standards set by the other games in the series. If rushing was a big factor towards the cause of it, it was just a bad decision.

In 2021 we got SideM GROWING STARS, which is being shut down this month. The circumstances surrounding the shutdown is still a mystery. But we probably got here only because the mistake that was LOS. Still, we should properly credit who credit is due: Bannam needs to own the bad treatment for this franchise at the closing of the game. SideM now does not have a game platform to put all the character content on top of. I think that’s actually okay, but it invites envy and criticism.

Objectively speaking, what SideM is doing is becoming more lean and agile. New character media mix franchises often start this way: announcements, casts, recorded songs and drama. But this is sort of the opposite business strategy for IDOLM@STER, one that hasn’t really happened until the launch of Shiny Colors. It is still a really weird way to see an IDOLM@STER brand exist. How can players be players without an ongoing game? Until this existential issue is resolved, it stands to reason that SideM players and producers are going to have their undies in a knot.

Given this blog and I am very silver-lining oriented, this is the best spin I can put on it. Bannam did what they could, they pushed the franchise and hit all the high notes until the Covid years. There is not much left to execute for SideM in the Vision 2.0 game plan.

So, because I have nothing to lose if I am wrong, you should take the following prediction as far or as close as you want. I suggest that the 6th franchise in IDOLM@STER canon might be also joseimuke. KominoP said it started 5 years ago. What started 5 years ago? So again, I have nothing to lose if I’m wrong, it’s going to be joseimuke, and 2.5D oriented. I mean it makes sense. It’s the one arrow missing in the quiver of the IDOLM@STER franchise. I want real life Haruka tripping on stage, just like how I really enjoyed my time at the Umamusume stage performance. SideM did rodokugeki. Is this why IDOLM@STER was so slow to this punch?

Because, on paper, the only threat to IDOLM@STER is Umamusume. Bang Dream is for kids! D4DJ is … also for kids. IDOLM@STER is for boomers! Love Live is actually just not-iM@S and belongs to Bandai Namco anyways. That’s why the franchise want to expand and add, it needs to grow to replace the warm bodies that will graduate from the series because invariably, as long as SideM or Million or 765Pro continues to exist, Bannam will make mistakes along the way. Rightfully so, it’s okay to quit when these entertainment IPs stop being entertaining.

Except Cinderella Girls–it continues to grow, and Cygames seemed to have hit the winning formula. Doomposting, unvoiced Producers continue to cause chaos and rub people the wrong way as entitled pricks. One person’s bug is another person’s feature, I guess.

Framing IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls U149

As I was watching the final episode of U149, I thought back to how a lot of the core concepts of Cinderella Girls come down to pretty silly, bare-bones ideas but taken to the extremely-real. To use a metaphor, when the fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a horse carriage in the Disney rendition of Cinderella, it was literally a pumpkin that morphed magically and gained the functions of a carriage. When you think of the tomboy 5th grader, maybe you can conjure up Haru. When you think of a gal 5th grader, maybe you can conjure up Risa. These acts of speaking into reality through the power of imagination is underneath all of that.

Much of this show is about fleshing out not just these character ideas, but depicting the unreal origins of these ideas with the reality of what the IDOLM@STER brand is about: idol production and all that jazz. It both sells that fantasy but it still have to tip the hat to all of the rest underneath, to use the madly-peddling swan metaphor. What’s also unreal, in the sense that this is an anime about the following topic, is that children signed under a major idol agency are child laborers. Granted, this is probably the kind people don’t look down upon in general (although many still do), but playing heavily on the “child vs adult” themes (Arisu is the child idol who wants to be an adult but is too childish to do so, in a nutshell.) all of those comes into play. It is a weird feeling to think of U149 in those terms, yet every time these kids bump into those types of workplace problems, it’s hard to not think of it.

So many scenes in the series, we see the U149 Producer working hard, putting his money towards his charges, not to mention spending all his time working for their projects. The U149 Producer displays plenty of childishness as depicted by societal norms, but is overall quite a normal adult dealing with the usual adult problems (in a work setting). He is the foil for the U149 idols.

It gets amusing and a bit confusing because the children themselves also take care of each other. One of them produces costumes, another cooks well. Some of them demonstrate emotional maturity and others have leadership skills. Some are stronger than others. In as much as U149 is a team or a unit, in demonstrating a satisfactory level of respect, or attractiveness, the kids also loses some of what makes kids kids I think.

Maybe that is why I really enjoy this aspect when Miria brings that standard kid-energy and that shadow of fear underneath her steel-woman-child visage during the live stream. Miria episodes are all so good because there’s this obvious internal conflict in which she out-matures it.

But as it were, why do people dote over Arisu…? Rhetorically, yes, I get it, I’m just saying every bratty snot in the 3rd Division has a surprising amount of inner qualities that makes them admirable as people. Maybe those qualities also make (at least some of) them attractive as idols, but it would be safe to say it is quite too early for that for the majority of them.

PS. Ever since COVID, Cinderella Girls shows all use smart/digital tickets. It means for oversea Producers, getting tickets require jumping a different set of hoops than before. It also means it’s harder than ever to proxy. Yet we see them draw in these paper tickets into the show and it just make me shake my head in disbelief. Go on, magical anime about little kids who tries to sing, dance, and behave like amusing little things. This is also amusing (in a not-so-great way).

We’re Going to Master of Idol World 2023

For long time readers of this blog, you might recall back in 2013-2014 I did some stuff to prepare for Master of Idol World 2014. After that I wrote something like, 13 thousand words to try to sum up the experience. I am doing nowhere nearly as much this time. Why? Because I don’t have to. Flower stands are not allowed, and instead we have these Bandai Namco-sanctioned flags that you can fund, and there are at least several oversea Producer ones. I joined probably the most popular one of those, which looks great by the way.

I don’t have to plan a big meet up after the show, because charitable Japanese and Oversea Producers are doing it, so I am just going to theirs. It is definitely a different world in 2023 versus 2014. I might even have multiple things that I could go do, I don’t know, just not too focused on it.

The difference to me, I think, is mostly on me–I just don’t have that much time and attention span lately to spend on this stuff. I play some mobile games…and it’s already too much. I guess I only seriously play Theater Days, and even then that is a very light load. I sorta-serious play JP Priconne and semi-casually play Global Priconne, but those combined is still a light load. JP literally runs 5-10 minutes a day and up to 30 for CB, while Global is not much more. I’m so behind on those games too in terms of commu and what have you. I have a love-hate relationship with Blue Archive still, but I think I have to shed this game despite it being occasionally fun and frustrating. And it’s a light-weight game as these things go, being largely a Priconne clone.

All this is to say I still watch a bunch of anime, but even then that’s always kind of the struggle, since as long as I have been watching seasonal anime. I guess we are in February, where I don’t have any Baseball to watch and there’s just 1 game left in the NFL schedule. Speaking of which, is there a bar or somewhere in Tokyo where I can crew up to watch the Superb Owl and all the dumb ads? I guess I can do it in a hotel room (or, more likely, at the airport) thanks to unplugged television services, but it isn’t the same (at 8am).

When the NFL is the only main thing on my mind during MOIW weekend, is a good thing. There are other logistical items to note, at least some out of many:

  • The buppan (goods sale) area spans 3 separate locations this time–Tokyo Dome, The Science Museum (near Budokan), and Kanda Square (about 10-15 minutes walk from the Museum). Looks like Tokyo Dome won’t have all of the stuff, and the heavy lifting is going to be at Kanda Square. The music CD stuff will be at the Science Museum. Along with the lottery on ticket time, this could be tricky for folks wanting to pick up stuff. I haven’t had much time to look through the goods list, but there are a few things I want.
  • I’m going to an Asaka concert on Friday, just to get the juices going. Also Asaka with a live band is always a fun time.
  • I’m going to Lonesome_Blue’s first show on Saturday, so this is going to be tricky trying to get tickets out before MOIW lol. I hope I can make it from Shibuya timely and meet everyone. Ideally the day before.
  • Tokyo Dome has an amusement complex attached to it. There’s a MLB cafe. There’s the JP Baseball Hall of Fame museum. There’s a Ferris wheel…? A lot of stuff there. There is a collab with IM@S that weekend at the various shops there. This means I can literally line up for Shake Shack and get, I don’t know, an imas sticker or something. The details are all online.
  • After MOIW weekend I am going to have a proper vacation while shepherding my folks around town in Japan. That’s also on my mind.
  • And on a similar note I have to go to l-tike and buy tickets to Ghibli Park on the 10th, for May. Sigh.
  • For fandom extra-curriculars, besides the meetings after the show, there are some producers doing a display at a rental office/meeting space, and the usual call guide handouts at several locations.
  • At some point I should at least learn all the group songs, especially the SideM ones. Pretty sure I got 765Pro All Stars and Million down pat. For Cinderella Girls, I watched their show from November on live stream, so that’s something. I don’t know any Deremas calls for anything 2019 and onward, though. Now that calls are unbanned, Ps are gonna yell out loud. Do Shiny Colors even have calls besides Urya-Oi LOL. I’m pretty much up to date on Shiny except maybe just the latest series.

Did you know that same weekend has a ton of other events? It’s the weekend before Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t really matter to the Ps out there I guess. Worse comes to worse, there’s a stream and an archive viewing.

I think going to see all the IM@S happening in Tokyo is exactly the kind of escape and relief I need. I hope to see some of you there? This is like a very perverse victory lap.

THE IDOLM@STER Million Live! 9th Live Impressions, Thoughts

After the missing years of COVID, I was able to return and attend a Million Live solo show. Before 9th, I attended stops of 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 2 stops of 6th.

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So, You Want to Go See Masters Of Idol World 2023?

Back around 2013/2014 we knew IDOLM@STER series will do a splashy show for the 10th anniversary year. We sort of got together to get something organized, and for the most part it went as well as things could have gone. With MOIW 2023 now in the horizon, maybe it’s time to review a few things.

For starters, the ticketing situation in Japan has gotten much harder than just “walk in and apply.” There are a bunch of factors to understand. For one, after COVID, many anisong shows have a big drop in attendance. Most concerts in Japan are still on their way to recovery in terms of attendance in 2022, but to put it into perspective, the summer big show, Anisama 2022, only really had packed seats on Saturday. Day tickets could have been had at the door on all three days, and those days don’t even have 100% seating utilization. The stands were at 50% on Sunday and both stands and arena were 50% on Friday.

Anyways, this is the biggest factor because fundamentally, some things have changed. Thankfully, it’s not that much.

Because of COVID, ticketing has largely moved to digital. There are still physical tickets for many shows, but some companies have completely moved to digital. For our purposes Bandai Namco has, anyways. Specifically, between eplus and OnlineTicket/Smart Ticket, it means ticket holders needs to map to account holders, for the most part.

No thanks to scalping laws pre-COVID, many ticket sites require verified JP phone numbers to even open an account now. This is probably the biggest barrier for oversea Producers trying to get tickets. The upside about this restriction is that you can get a sim card or perhaps even a rental phone, even as a tourist, in Japan, that can be used for this purpose. The downside is that there are few ways to obtain a permanent number that works oversea for this purposes, and no real way at all for most people outside of the country (or at least non-Japan residents).

The second barrier to going to see MOIW is the actual obtaining the ticket part. Besides having tickets within your ownership, you will need the same account if you want to apply to buy tickets, which means having a JP phone number at some point and having to register it with the account. In other words, to apply for the lottery, you need to rely on people who are already in Japan, or people who have already figured this out from overseas (due to being grandfathered in or something). Thankfully, the MOIW 2023 Asobi Store round ticket lottery allows each account to apply up to 4 tickets, both days (or up to 4 per day and there are also “through” tickets that include both days). Well, all the aforementioned barriers plus the smaller problem of that currently, there are no easy way to pay for it using oversea credit cards.

Enterprising Ps should be able to find someone who has an eplus account and have that person apply and get tickets for your fam for now, during the lottery rounds. Then worry about sending out the extra tickets to each person once you land in Japan.

These ticketing barriers are not exactly new, as some of these things were already pretty hard in 2018-2019 trying to get tickets via eplus. Either you had to figure out a payment system (like what used to work such as Mixi M), or had help from someone local. What is definitely harder is trying to get a phone number, as Japan really locked down the prepaid sim process and requiring residency proof.

So first thing everyone should do is flag themselves as interested for those who want and can go next Feb. Then people can organize lottery pools to at least get the right number of tickets.

If that falls through for you, the next step is to plan the next (and future) rounds of lottery. There will likely be direct ticket sales for this, as there were for MOIW 2015. And if things are as “bad” as they are, odds are good there will be even at-door ticket sales. It should not be too hard to get tickets to this show, much like how it wasn’t hard to get tickets for MOIW 2015.

I realize a Japan trip is hard to plan on these vague chances, but that’s the reality today. I hope at least the fan groups can get together and communicate and at least lower that uncertainty a bit. It could be a good thing or it could be just getting the bad news sooner so you have a chance to do something about it.