Category Archives: Idolmaster

Million Live 10th Tour Act-4 Recap

The feeling seeing Machico randomly confessing to Ueshama. The chill of the Tokyo Bay wind hitting your face as you’re teeing up GenP for a friend behind you doing English. The exhilaration of hearing Todakun telling us to “get down.” Nansu wiggling her butt because of the button tail on her outfit. Mocho and Koroazu crying. And countless other moments this past weekend. This is the “hyakuman power” that was sleeping under the sheets with a JUNGO face printed on it, and woke up for a weekend. This is Million Live.

The story of Million Live isn’t just that they are the sub-brand of IDOLM@STER that carries the torch of 765PRO ALLSTARS, but that it is a refreshing of the IDOLM@STER franchise with some of the top seiyuu performers of that generation. That generation is now 11+ years into its existence. Everyone has been through a lot. If I had time maybe I can dig into each one of them, including the two new ones that joined the team half way. Long story short, their success as individuals, or lack there of, speaks volumes to the “refresh rate” or how hard it is to make it as a seiyuu idol in this day and age.

The result of 10 years of hard work is this extremely emotional but also extremely fun, awesome, and fulfilling two-day concert. Unlike what happened during 4th Live, which is the accumulation of promises and wishes, Act-4 of 10th Tour is the result after fulfilling those things. Or at least partly.

  • We now have an anime
  • We have had more concerts where 765AS sang with the Million (Hotchpotch…and Hotchpotch 2 on the horizon)

I literally left 4th with big-time brain fog, but I left act4 with clarity of mind and purpose. So much have changed. Kokkochan’s chant to summon Hoshii Miki may have summoned something else, perhaps more delicious. Anyways, Act-4 was the true real Million Live anniversary decennial! Or rather, Acts 1-4 all together? But this was the one.

I have more thoughts than time to write them down cohesively, so this is more a recap than a review post… I think Kasshi did a great job with GenP on the second day so please watch that, and day1’s recap.

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The IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE! Anime!

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.

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Takes: THE IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE! 10thLIVE TOUR Act-3 R@ISE THE DREAM!!!

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.

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IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE Anime and the Meaning of Spoilers

The real qtpie in ep1

I have a lot to say about the Million Live TV anime, as you could imagine. I think the thoughts will not make it as blog entries unless there’s some way to get that angle and tackle just a part of this iceberg piece-wise. And yeah 90% of this opinion is underwater, and all of it is not-so-hot-takes. Maybe part of it is wet, I don’t know, but there ain’t any large boats to ram into.

The main thing I want to address that has more of an expiry-time nature to is the vastly asymmetric distribution of the media content. As you may know, the Million Live TV anime, all 12 episodes, was screened publicly in Japanese movie theaters about 8 weeks before episode 1 aired properly. Some countries also got screenings of the first 4 episodes, before episode 1 aired. Some fans could, and did, watch all of it before other fans watched even 1 of it, just due to regional availability. It has been a hot minute since an anime like this existed for a property that is contemporary, current, and I’m into. In fact since the dawn of speed subbing and simulcasting, it only really happens for theatrical works. But you know, Miyazaki Hayao’s latest film screened in Japan only about 2 months before it screened in the USA, so we’re working with about the same time lag I guess.

What’s bad is not just that now talking to fans in Japan means wading into spoiler territory, but they fundamentally see the series in a different light than those who haven’t seen the anime see the series. Granted, I am more like, I don’t know, waist deep, in spoilers myself as not only I’ve seen eps 1-4 already (I guess it’s a perk of going to Japan multiple times a year), I also am not particularly mindful of reading spoilers.

The worst, however, is that the main point behind screening ML anime in theaters is that they can make some additional revenue from selling theatrical merch tie-ins, aside from actual theatrical run revenue. It’s also market validation. It’s in-game tie-ins for the hardcore players and fans. I get it. I know why they want to do this. But as an oversea fan it sucks because there are entire swaths of my twitter that I can’t really access, LOL–not because I want to dodge spoilers, but because they talk about things I won’t get until I see the show.

Apple Watch?

Anyways, it’s time to put that aside for the next 11 or so weeks and figure out if I can travel to Fukuoka for Million Live 10th Tour Act-3 and still enjoy the show. I will have all the new songs (another thing forced on us while we are info-asymmetric, CD releases) by then, but if my math is right we will only be on episode 4 or 5 at the time. I’ll need to find a local theater showing the rest, like how they’re doing it at Toyosu, showing all 12 episodes right now. (Did I mention the tie-in with ML anime at Toyosu all this time? Another way to part money from the locals I guess.) Isn’t it nice to watch an episodic series and decided you had enough of waiting and just binge the rest in a theater? I digress.

The new units and units songs seems pretty swell as the second batch of them are now previewed on Youtube. I can’t wait to see the rest of this. First batch at this link.

No straps with binocs, a nub mistake

PS. As someone who occasionally have a pair of binocs at concerts, I know how this feels.

PPS. Just some related thoughts on concerts. We all know that formally, ML anime actually was delayed. It probably meant that we are a year late or so, that the end of the series translate into the start of 10th tour. Putting aside that 9th was in January and 10th Act-1 was in April, this would be a natural lead-in. At this point, the ML anime Blu-rays are too late (Volume 1 comes out Jan. 10) for the lottery for Act-4 in late February. I guess they can always put something special in there (I fully am expecting it) but I guess we’ll see.


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.