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The IDOLM@STER 15th Anniversary Update: Happy IM@S Life

This video is pretty strong, so watch only if you are not a faithful hardcore fan I guess lol. I mean, you would know what it already is if you were.

As usual, just going to collect some thoughts here. Might not have an overarching point in this post.

The 15th Anniversary celebration for IDOLM@STER series happened this past weekend with basically two really long live streams. It started actually the days leading up with some promo art on Twitter, but more importantly there is a website refresh (the new domain is now idolmaster-official.jp) and the launch of a dedicated IDOLM@STER channel on YouTube (and another twitter account, @imas_ch). The new site is much more modern (more circa 2016 I guess, instead of the peak 2000s machine with a blog on the side) and has actual reference data built in, mostly in this idol list subsite. The main things we used the old site for: event subsites and scheduler, are now prominently displayed on the header and the schedule is easier to read with a franchise filter. And the news pages are also filterable. Anyways, poke around there and see how much better it is than the old home page.

Now it just needs the data from these sites: imas-db (for seiyuu data and setlists), CGSS Games DB, MLTD Games DB, and Project-imas (for translated content, song content)

Thanks Covid

The anniversary streams are really not a big deal–they streamed animas, moviemas, MOIW2014 second day on Saturday. On Sunday it was MOIW2015 both days, SideM 1st and Shiny 1st. To cap off the weekend there was also a 2-hour live stream (actually live) of the performers giving us the full wax-nostalgia of the last 15 years in IM@S world. We got 4 big-ish news item out of it, so there was still that. Surprisingly, there was no new news on Starlit Season.

The big news, aside from 1 free ten-pull in every IM@S game today onward, is that there will be a CGSS x MLTD collaboration this winter. Considering the commonly accepted start of winter of 2020 is December 21, we have a long, long ways to go for something that hype. Two “longs” because, well, 2020 is that kind of a year.

And 2020 is that kind of year, where in lieu of a guaranteed, tear-jerking Shiny Colors 2nd live (featuring Noctchill 1st and in some ways, also Straylight 1st); Million Live 7th live (featuring actual fireworks, and an anime announcement); and the first big solo 765AS live since January 2018 (to go with the new console game), we got like…32 hours of live streaming over a 40 hour period or so? It was a 4-day weekend in Japan so I guess it worked.

But yes, these substitutions for our unbearable outpouring of love and nostalgia is easier to kindle than ever. The tearjerker music video is good, even, and I suspect the desired effects could have been had for less.

And let’s be clear–the streaming stuff and the news are just the carrot on the stick. The real value is the donkey walking forward. You know, it really is the case where fans pull the series forward. It’s not just a commercial activity, but that Bannam hears us and what we want. Once the bargain between the seller and buyer, consumer and provider, patreon and artist, whatever, is set, it is a virtuous cycle of capitalism where we throw money at them and they provide us with goods and services. Both of us go home happy. That does not, however, speak to the competence. Yes, the tearjerker music video is good. The new 15th Anniversary song is pretty good. But so what? IDOLM@STER, as my hindsight have it, is successful despite of its numerous failures. It isn’t because mistakes weren’t made, but because what came through, what people focused on, what worked, the overall sum of that is greater than all the limitations and suffering people had to put up with. It is a bit of a heartless calculus for something arguably by definition fun and fluffy. And it is with this lens I see IDOLM@STER in 2020.

That is also just to say, the fandom on fire is way more rewarding than anything that came out of GamiP’s mouth last night on the anniversary livestream. Seeing my twitter TL full of outpouring for IDOLM@STER is therapeutic and moving. People recalled the better times with animas and moviemas. People saw for the first time how these cast members were 5-6 years back, or even for the first time. People told the stories of great memories lived as Producers. It needed to happen–just once a year or something is okay, but it needed to happen on the regular.

Maybe the Corona Era enhanced this kind of thing more, maybe not. But it is what makes fandom worthwhile.


Japan Sinks 2020 Is Not Good

I read this and I’m like, no. Some spoilers ahead for Japan Sinks 2020.

Ayumu left his tatamis home

I watched Japan Sinks 2020. The “dumpster fire” problem is because Japan Sinks 2020 is a story about the Japanese identity in light of pain and suffering on a national level, and maybe make some lemonade when life gives you a lot of lemons. I liked the lemonade ending when Ayumu and Go got their lives back while living in Russia, because Japan literally sank and there was nothing they can do about that.

The leading up to it is the suffering in which paints the turning point of the varying amount of overcometh that Go and Ayumu had to, well, overcome. Her bionic leg is literally trivial when the circle of nearly everyone who she knew died in the tragedy. I think bateszi makes the point that by “foddering” them characters that perished along the way make the psychological points for Ayumu and Go, but unlike fictional characters, human beings behave in very unpredictable ways in light of tragedy. It’s not unexpected to hear very negative takes from actual human beings who had to suffer through Japan Sinks 2020. Empathy is the organ we experience this kind of fiction, characters may or may not be Gods but humans have emotional ties to them. So that much is expected going into this series.

Here is where Japan Sinks 2020 gets the dumpster fire complaint. If you are a homeless person seeking warmth in the winter, a dumpster fire is not the worst place to be. But most people watching Japan Sinks 2020 are not homeless, or emotionally in need of cheap death porn, to find the mere fact that the Yuasa anime kills them off for effects as a per se positive. This is the kind of “benefit of doubt” we give to a genius filmmaker, perhaps, but for people who won’t even give 2c about that, it plainly did not work. It never works when Dad gets offed like that–and the moment it turns into comedy is the moment the emotional tethering to the not-very-humorous Ayumu loses its dramatic pull. When viewers care enough about your characters to entrust you with our emotions, it is a double-edge sword to pull a stunt like this, because it shows us you don’t actually care about our emotions, and it’s only used for effects.

In other words, unless Ayumu and Go suit up and dive into the tectonic fault akimbo with laser blasters, trying to fight the bad guys, the comedy take just isn’t going to work as criticism for Japan Sinks.

This is pretty much the opposite recipe to masterpieces like Graves and This Corner. This is why Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 didn’t work either. You want magical realism? Graves and This Corners are like 100 times better at it. The realism complaint also made sense given how it tries so hard to incorporate IT in it, how the climax has to deal with fetching a SSD from some bunker? Or that the way Senpai took a dive? LMAO. It’s only entertainment if you are emotionally detached, but then it fails at the main job of the story. If we want this sort of thing, there is the entirety of Korean TV drama for your picking. Or the B-rated horror genre. Japan Sinks 2020 is limp, lukewarm all considered.

Sure, you can roast marshmallows (Sup KITE) with a dumpster fire too, and maybe have a fresh lemonade to go with, but it doesn’t make Japan Sinks less of a dumpster fire. Pretty much everything after the lost-at-sea arc was detached from any sense of realism. If anything that has been the trend of the series as it went on. It became less and less realistic–which makes you think about the ending. Each story arc is increasingly unlikely to happen. Maybe that is the secret to Japan Sinks 2020. Everyone basically will die, but they decided to not give you that ending. That would be an improvement too.

One real criticism for bateszi: “That doesn’t make it [bad]. It’s trying to make you laugh!” He said, in the year 2020. Basically, this is why we can’t have nice things in the past 7 years.

Oh, the animation isn’t even good. This is easily the least impressive looking Science Saru work even including all the pre-Science Saru stuff. So there’s also that. I mean, maybe this is on par with Yuasa’s episodes of Photo Kano, if not worse.


IDOLM@STER Radio Revivals

For one night only, on August 1st, the three dead IDOLM@STER 765Pro AS radio shows will make a comeback. It’ll be streamed on Nico, and the first actual IDOLM@STER official youtube channel (about…time?) will also host it. Nico gets an omake as usual I guess.

Not that there’s anything wrong with MOR–it’s a perfectly great weekly internet show, it showcases content that direly needs more exposure and covers all the branches of the franchise, even .KR and 876Pro. In the big picture, we lost 3 to get 3 more? There’s now a Shiny radio, there is another CG weekly(?) and there is MOR. I sort of lost track really. But yes, Aimachu and IM@S Studio are also back with Aisute for one night only.

There is just a bit over a day left to send in some fan mail–all the usual corners are available. The info for Aisute is here. There is also a form to send in general letters for the August 2nd live stream, which features the full cast. Again all the info is on this page, include the other corners from the other shows. The deadline to submit a letter is 7/21 midnight JP time, so you have about a day and change to do so!

It’s hard to explain, but the IM@S radio shows played a big part of P culture from back in the days, and that culture carried into the first Deremas and Million weekly shows. At some point those shows became one of the pillars of the series, even if it was kind of its own thing. It’s easy to get attached to them back when it was a big outlet for the series for people looking at the 2.5D content. In retrospect the three shows didn’t even go away for that long, but it’s nice to say the least.


Still Thinking about Hellshake Kanno

My first Japan eventing trip was when I flew to Japan in 2009 and attended the Super-Dimensional Supersonic Tanabata concert, taking place around 7pm on July 7th, also a Tuesday.

Unlike that show, today’s online tribute is a 77-long video which I didn’t get to watch due to not buying a ticket early and having it sell out on me. I also woke up a bit late so I would have had missed the first part of the event, which is the set up.

Here’s the microsite for 2020’s Tanabata online event. Oversea viewers can still watch the last timeshift, which starts at 10pm Eastern time.

The traces for the 2009 show was removed deliberately after it was over. All the promo went down. It was meant to be a thing that had a short shelf life. Maybe that’s just how art works with Kanno. Maybe that will happen for the 2020 version?

In a lot of ways, the 2009 Tanabata event is literally that once-in-a-lifetime event that you may never forget, as fans of the composer and producer, and her output generally. It was art AF. So art that my post about it got eaten by the void when my site went down and lost about 1.5 years worth of posts back last decade. Just stubs left.

The experience of that show carved its shape into my psyche and I still remember rolling out of SSA with Wah and AlexD like it was some wild and crazy thing, even if at the end it was just Kanno marching around the stage with the musicians tooting a rubber duck.

I woke up at like 6am today Eastern time trying to watch the Japan stream. I ended up staying up watched the 9am Asian stream. Man, that stood with me. Without spoilering, I wish I watched the Europe timeshift too. I will catch the Americas one, so maybe I’ll write more about it then.

It seems that the Asian TS is shorter and doesn’t include additional stuff in the Japanese one, which is also 1000 yen more expensive. Oh well.

I’ve been thinking about this show for over 10 years, and it took the Coronavirus being a global pandemic to bring it back. I think that’s two once-in-a-lifetime events happening at the same time. Please take advantage of this online delivery and watch something really, really special.


My Shinography

My sleep-addled brain cried buckets of figurative tears last weekend listening to Sato Takafumi’s DJ set during the online EDM music event Asobinotes. Why? [Hit play below to hear the relevant part. Full set here]

That question “why” is literally the description of words on the canvas of the deep blue sky described in the song Shinography. It is the reason why I do the things I do. I quote the lyrics from the Shiny Colors 3rd year theme (TL):

精一杯の先へ
目一杯の未完成で
まだ上昇中の Gradation days
世界の彩りにハート開いて
透明から鮮明に
不可能から可能性に
この空をキャンバスにして
誰のでもない 瞬間を
新しく記してこう
光空記録(My shinography)

The IDOLM@STER is a series that lives and dies in the hands of a, to put it nicely, turbulent company during a time when the future is uncertain. I’ve made the analogy of that tree in the past as a personal metaphor, but it’s a metaphor that is shared between not just other fans, but the series itself as well as its creators.

Million Live’s theme songs since the start had been as follows: Thank You, Welcome, Dreaming, Brand New Theater, Union, Flyers, and Glow Map. Do you see where we are going? We will go into the space over the future. We’re looking for the place under the shining star. And I guess Jam Project is also Lantis, right. Shiny starts at the glowing part already. To paint the visual metaphor of the tree, the OG is the seed, CG and ML are the trunk and branches, and Shiny is some fruit. Maybe also, CG is also all of these.

But this “growing” vibe, this repeating theme from OG, CG, ML and Shiny literally is the type of music fans consumed and loved year to year. It describes the attitude of the content, the attitude of the producers–those who know where they are but they dream big. Shiny Colors especially is that daring fruit hanging from the IM@S tree, bucking core trends and practices for popular mobile games and franchises, eschewing easy and quick play for deep characterization and VN-style rewards.

The lead in to Sato’s set, going back to what I was saying, is the summary of where he is. Sato happens to be the music director for the IDOLM@STER series, so he has a hand in all of this after taking over the role from his seniors. It seems almost like biographic when RE@DY was the start for this portion.

In a lot of ways when you are creating media works for a series like this, you are creating some kind of future that you are building towards, and it’s always somewhat risky how things will play out or not. Granted the risk is pretty low sometimes, but with these big franchises the room for mistake is pretty small, or so it can seem.

This is Manabi-ism. We exist as fans inside the space the work’s creators made, but the difference isn’t building a world, but building a the mechanism that moves the world forward. The difference is similar to having a lot of money versus a machine that makes money. In the year of our Lord 2020, only the latter exists, and it is one derivative higher, more difficult, more uncertain.

It’s about our perception of where this world will go. It is about the perception of the creators, and the fans’, the cast, the execs, the committees, and everyone pushing forward our next software update, our next gacha banner, our next new song. This is the idol festival that never ends, and is never exactly the same year to year.

Because if it was, it probably will end soon.

Now imagine that, all the ideas and emotions I tried to describe, play through in your mind in the span of about 138 seconds, and then add the pandemic-induced issue about having missed ML7th and Shiny 2nd, where for one weekend each you can actually touch, smell, feel and see this world materialize in the physical festivals that marks the typical IM@S anniversary lives.

Buckets of tears. My life is carved into the lights of the sea and sky beyond your water bottle. Want a sip?