A small word on a couple more Idolmaster characters

A few of the unvoiced ones, this time.

Note: I would have put Tomoe Murakami here, but it turns out that she just got a voice. I’ve therefore edited her into the main article I posted before.


Rena Hyodo: Now she should not be a ‘cute’ idol. She’s a damn mature and flirty one, and a fine looker. She’s also drinking friends with some popular idols. Not too sure why she’s not more popular.

Koharu Koga: She’s holding a LIZARD IGUANA. This makes her massively more interesting than, like, most of the cast.

Misato Manaka: Oi, Misato, have you seen your LIPS mate? Hahahahaha…

Now, Idolmaster likes doing a character with proper lips. In fact, not only does it like doing ones with lips, the ones they come up with actually tend to be really, properly good. (Case in point: Kanade, Mika, Syuko, Frederica…ah shit, that’s just the unit, isn’t it?) But Misato takes hers way too far. Like, I don’t care about the rest of her, those lips are far too distracting.

Yuu Ohta: Actually seems rather a nice character, on the whole. Wonder why she isn’t as popular. Mind you, she isn’t even her own biggest sell. That accolade goes to her DOG, Akky.




Kozue Yusa: oh no is spooky

Still, credit her for bucking the trend by having a hobby of “What are hobbies?” They’re what half the cast tries to base themselves off in this series, Kozue.


Chinatsu Aikawa: Think I saw her in a French film once. Might just be the fashion talking though.

Nanami Asari: She’s holding a FISH. Not a real one, you understand. Just a plushie one. If she held an actual fish up it would just be dead. And she wouldn’t like that. Still, this is conclusive proof that holding up an animal automatically makes you a better idol. (Unless, of course, you’re an absolute lunatic.)

Honoka Ayase: She’s not down here for any sort of personality, as Honoka is yet another wholly unremarkable idol. I’ve only put her here for one reason only: she shares names with two Love Live idols. Now that is taking the piss.

Kate: She’s the resident Brit of the series. I can confirm that most Brits don’t look anything like she does. Also, most of us here tend to have last names. So where’s Kate’s?

Layla: LAYLA

Actually, she looks like she’s about to go on her knees any time soon. She looks almost lifeless. And weird with it. Presumably giving off the feeling of what it must be like to be in her hometown of Dubai.

Chizuru Matsuo: Low-key underrated idol. She’s acknowledged as an idol who doesn’t have many qualities but has that cool persona that makes her good. Mind you, I can’t agree with this from the wiki:

She may not the cutest girl in Cinderella Girls, nor the one with best body, but her constant attempts to be a cute idol while keeping her cool persona have charmed most of the fandom.

Chizuru has not yet been ranked in an election.

“Charmed most of the fandom.” Well, if she has, she hasn’t done it nearly as well as anyone with a voice. Or indeed most of the cast, evidently.

Seira Mizuki: She looks like she’s stepped off the set of every other anime ever. Like a cross between someone from Railgun and K-On. Maybe she’s the series’ tribute to the latter.


Cute for it as well. Which is why she’s a cool idol. Obviously.

Yume Narumiya: So shy it’s actually hilarious, cause it turns out her mama just signed her up for the hell of it. Actually a little bit sweet, even cute. Which is why she’s a cool idol. Obviously.

Rei Shinohara: That older idol who looks like she’s definitely in the wrong series. Mind you, that’s probably just cause she always shows her damn cleavage. You can’t get away with just that, you know.

Makino Yagami: You know how I joked a lot about, like, three idols looking like Maki out of Love Live last time? What if I told you this one looked more like her than any of them. By the way, that name’s not helping either. She’s supposed to be a secret agent and/or spy. Yeah, she is one, alright. One from a completely different series.

Hey, I’m allowed to have Idolmaster headcanons too.

Saki Yoshioka: Having just joked about an idol looking like Maki, here’s a change: this one looks like Rin. Well, a bit messier, but the whole tomboy-not-a-tomboy thing is going on here too. Seems decent enough. Should probably be more popular.

Haru Yuuki: Looks like she’s trying to make it big in the rap game. At the age of 12. Still, the whole football thing is decent. Just wish they’d done it a bit more. And that is literally the only hobby in this series I will say that about.


Mary Cochran: Some idols say some damn disturbing things in this series, but Mary is amongst the most discomforting. Seriously, just go and see what she’ll say to you. And remember that she is 11.

Cathy Graham: Creepy as fuck eyes. The weird need to totally disparage foreign characters’ eyes from the rest of the cast strikes again. This one’s American, which is why she keeps on banging on about hamburgers.

Reina Koseki: Looks like she wants to take over the world from time to time. Hasn’t achieved it yet. Apparently the closest to ‘evil’ you can get in the series, which says a lot. She should be friends with Ranko. They’d get on very well, I bet.


(Literally put her in just to say this)

Eve Santaclaus: From the wiki’s description of Eve:

Eve is a beautiful homeless woman the Producer found on Christmas Eve, partly nude in the trash of a street alley after someone took her presents and her Santa outfit. The Producer got her clothes, a place to stay, and employment as an idol. She claims to be the legendary Saint Nicholas, or at least one of them.

Lol, no.

Tokiko Zaizen: I know I’ve just used the wiki to describe a lot of these characters, but I feel I need to take most of it here to fully do justice to Tokiko:

Tokiko is a forcefully direct woman who believes men are inferior and require painful punishment to keep them useful.

She’s abusive to men and calls them pigs, which she uses as a stage gimmick she enjoys and performs most. Tokiko believes that men require corporal punishment, although she might give a safe word depending on how attractive her victim looks and depending on her mood. She also states that she thinks all women should be dominant towards men, though she doesn’t try to spread it among the other idols.

She firmly believes that men are perverts, and uses this as her justification for using the whip to punish them. Though slightly amused by the Producer being the target of many of her fellow idols’ advancements, she does not tolerate it and will severely punish him for being a pig. She often words how painful things should be pleasurable for men, and has a thing for whips.



Talking shit about Idolmaster’s characters – feat. a bunch of mentalists, some good people and one utterly, utterly lovable sex machine

I talked at some length about some of Idolmaster’s characters in my post about them. So, obviously, all that’s left to do is talk about even more of them. And go even further on the ones I already talked about before.

Sticking mostly with characters who have actual voices. Might even need another post just to go into some of the unvoiced ones. Also including the 765Pros, even if this is mostly about the Cinderella Girls.

‘Cute’ idols

Haruka ‘Emporio’ Amami: The face of the franchise. At least it’s a pretty cute one. Otherwise, apparently completely generic. Well, unless she’s as wack as what I’ve seen of the anime suggests. But I have my doubts.

Hibiki Ganaha: Apparently ‘cute’ despite looking a bit rougher than most. Also makes her misleading, and a sign of the occasional randomness of Idolmaster’s class selections. Otherwise, not notable.

Makoto Kikuchi: She was raised as a boy. A fucking boy. Whether that’s ‘cute’ or not, I’ll leave up to you. Still, all credit for trying to go against.

Yayoi Takatsuki: The one who tries too hard to be cute. And doesn’t really manage it. Therefore, should mostly be ignored.

Nana Abe: From the wiki’s description of Nana:

An eccentric part-timer maid of dubious age who claims to be an eternally 17 year old alien originating from Planet Usamin.

She will often communicate with Planet Usamin, while using the sound, “Piipii☆”.


Karin O*Domyoji: Ah, a miko, you say? And an unlucky one at that. Maybe you should try some detached sleeves? They seem to work wonders for two mikos on the other side.


…Oh. Blimey. You didn’t have to go that far, love.

*Fix your font, Cinderella Girls

Rina Fujimoto: Oh my god what the fuck are those EYES

No, seriously. Nothing else matters. Swear down. Why the fuck are her eyes like that. Who thought they were a good idea at any point. Ever.

Anzu Futaba: Lazy, whining, spoilt bitch and yet somehow one of the most popular idols in the series for this reason alone. Perhaps a lot of the fanbase identifies with her in some way.

Mirei Hayasaka: From the wiki’s description of Mirei:

Her attire is normally covered with fake blood splatters, buckles, chains, leather straps, and metal studs. Her catch phrase is, “I’ll claw you!”

Each to their own. But as for me? Nah.

Shiki Ichinose: One of the most utterly mental characters in the series. I’ll just leave the wiki’s description here.

Shiki is a curious girl who can be described only as “a mad scientist”. She loves experiments, and is motivated by finding new things to hold her attention; if it’s not interesting, she’s not interested. Rather than being scouted by Producer, she chose him as part of one of her experiments. She sniffed the Producer and his smell convinced her that he was the right one for the experiment. She became an idol for this reason.

It’s implied she uses pheromones to attract fans, and even in idol form, her hair looks messy and uncombed.

And we’re supposed to be convinced that she’s sexy enough to be in LiPPS. Jesus Christ. She doesn’t look sexy. She looks like a social loser who hasn’t washed in many months. Fuck that. Still, I suppose every band has that shit member that nobody likes…

4th Election Ranking: 5th


Kyoko Igarashi: From TVTropes’ description of Kyoko:

A gentle teen who makes a perfect housewife.

Because of course all perfect housewives are 15 years old. Think there’s been a mix-up here… Mind you, this is the anime world, so what do I know.

Sae Kobayakawa: Your basic, traditionally raised Japanese girl. I’m sure this appeals to some, but other than this, plain ordinary.

Miho Kohinata: Plain old shy girl. Literally not interesting.

Sachiko Koshimizu: From TVTropes’ description of Sachiko:

She’s kind of a sadist, getting a kick out of showing other people how superior she is to them.

I thought at first this would be related to the way everyone thinks of sadism these days. But actually it’s only describing how she acts towards everyone else. Therefore, the correct word they are looking for is ‘narcissist’. And nobody likes a narcissist. Also, there’s something about her face.

Miku Maekawa: Your resident cat girl. There’s a fine line to tread with being one of these, the difference between being an ordinary person with it as a notable feature (which is what Rin Hoshizora is) and being a person defined by it completely. Miku crosses it. Therefore, best left ignored.

Kanako Mimura: The best ‘cute’ girl. For all her regrets about her body image, I count myself as someone who doesn’t mind a bit of THICC. But credit to her for gaining more confidence as you go along with her. And at the end of the day, she’ll always be a little bit sweet. Well done, I say.

Frederica Miyamoto: There’s ways of defining a second nationality in some way, then there’s ways of screwing it right up. I don’t care how good she is, and how well she does flirty (second only to best girl), the way they did Frederica’s eyes is unacceptable. And they’re kind of important. Otherwise, bloody brilliant.

Yukari Miyamoto: THE FLUTE PLAYER. You can keep your other idols, they can’t play their own instrument. Mind you, she doesn’t use her FLUTE as an overt stage gimmick, a welcome change to the norm, but still. She’s THE FLUTE PLAYER.

Yuka Nakano: She does karate, and…that’s it. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Chieri Ogata: Nothing but a lot of shyness and a constant fear she’ll be abandoned by Producer-san. Somehow, this is enough to make her one of the most popular girls in the series. There is no logic.

Yuuki Otokura: Would be ordinary if not for her definitive height. I won’t bang on about it too much, but 164cm is pretty damn tall for a 13-year-old. She worries about it a lot; I say, nothing wrong with being a tall girl.

Mayu Sakuma: From TVTropes’ description of Mayu:

Former photography model who quit her career upon seeing the Producer at first sight. She strives to become his finest idol, so they can always be together… forever.

And from the same website’s description of her hobbies:

Hobbies: Cooking and knitting. Note: These are likely to be hobbies 346 Production wants the public to believe. In actuality all her free time is spent stalking or thinking about the Producer.

Like, no. Really no. No. Just…no. No.

Momoka Sakurai: Your basic mature for her age girl. Being mature beyond your years can be one very good quality. Just not when your actual age is 12. And especially when said maturity only applies to your personality, and not your looks.

Hiromi Seki: So generic it’s almost painful. Somehow didn’t stop her getting 9th in the last Election. Whatever.

Noriko Shiina: Most of Idolmaster’s gimmick girls have gimmicks too wild, but Noriko is a rare case of a gimmick that is too soft. I mean, lots of people like donuts. Having a character based around that is nothing special.

Uzuki Shimamura: Ugh, and we’re supposed to believe this is one of the faces of the franchise? Do me a favour. She’s ‘cute’, alright, but only in the most generic way possible. She’s so average and so boring it annoys me. Do something interesting with your main characters, for chrissake. Like the other two she’s alongside, for instance.

Mind you, her utter averageness did at least invite the most meta moment of all time:


Just wonderful.

Still doesn’t make her any good though.

Ai Hidaka: One of the series’ side chicks from another Idolmaster game, Dearly Stars. Hot-blooded, and also a sore loser, the kind of behaviour I would slam if I didn’t have a bit of it in myself. Otherwise, ordinary.

Haena Ryoo: I thought Haena was an actual K-pop star though? Whatever, this Haena looks alright. Though I can’t help but think she looks rather similar to an idol I’ve seen before. She’s not the only Korean to do this, either. Maybe she’s popular on that bit of the continent? Maybe it’s something in the water? Who knows.

‘Cool’ idols

Ritsuko Akizuki: Looks a bit like the resident geek of the series, but actually isn’t. She’s just someone who was an office intern who became an idol because they were short of numbers. Which makes her a player-manager. Except Producer-san is the manager. So she’s just a normal idol in the end. Whatever.

Chihaya Kisaragi: Despite being as plain as day, still one of the most popular idols in the series. Again, hard to see why. Mind you, that classical music love is interesting. Maybe some potential for an in-series musical mix there? How about some Ode to Joy? Or the good old O Fortuna? Or even my personal favourite, Dies Irae?

Ah, that’s not the sort she listens to?

Right. Okay. Forget it then.

Azusa Miura: I knew someone who quite liked Azusa, so it’s a shame she seems to be the least popular of her bunch. She’s not too bad really, and nothing wrong with being a bit older than the rest.

…Wait a minute. Wasn’t the Azusa I was thinking of…the other one? You know…the one from K-On?

Ah, right. Yes, it was.


Takane Shijou: The mystical girl among the lot, and with some pretty mystical features too. Still not that special in the context of the series, but a bit more interesting than some of the other 765Pros for her image.

Anastasia: A damn good idol. Does the whole half-nationality thing well, in her case, Russian.* And she shows it in quite a sweet way, speaking in broken Japanese and having to sprinkle in her native language to everyone’s slight confusion. Bless her.

*Note to all idol series: If you want a good part-national idol, make it a Russian. See also: Love Live

Hina Araki: She finished 4th in the last Election. On balance, it’s hard to see why. She’s got the otaku factor going for her, but if that’s the only thing she has, the fanbase would have noticed her more often, earlier on. Still, well done on your new voice.

Hajime Fujiwara: She finished 3rd in the last Election. On balance, it’s hard to see why. All she has going for her is a hobby so boring, it’s a wonder she’s been so popular for so long. Still, well done on your new voice… But seriously, how do they end up with results like these? Sometimes they really do just beggar belief. You know who needs more love?

Kanade Hayami: Woah, okay. Let’s just stop here for a second. I know I sung all of Kanade’s praises last time out, but I’ll be honest. Even there, I was only scratching the surface. It’s time to tell you why she’s in a different class to all the other idols I’m talking about. Why she’s an absolute all-timer. It’s time to go into the mind of the real Cinderella Girl.

Now, you see, Kanade’s like a lot of these idols in that she’s got a defining trait. With her, it’s the kissing. However, while she likes to bang on about it, she doesn’t do it so much it’s silly. And anyway, compared to most of these idols’ traits, Kanade’s is almost angelic. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a kiss? I know I do. That’s why I’m sold on this girl puckering up.

And with that attitude comes her tantalising personality. She acts as sexy as she really is. I mean, just look at some of her cards. My god, how could you resist? There’s a lot of elements to attraction in characters, but sexiness might just be the hardest to nail in this kind of series. And yet Kanade makes it looks so easy it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Them killer eyes are the best bit of one of the best lookers of all time. And her bod is the definition of just right. Near perfection.

But it’s the manner of her words that really sells it. She doesn’t just express herself in her photos. She leverages her sexiness on you, Producer-san, too. And if you get her to luuurve you as much as you can, well…

“Producer-san, someday, I’m going to make you happy for having met me. When that happens, I’ll give you more than a kiss!”

S H E  W A N T S  T H E  D

No wonder she always wants your gaze on her. Heck, even the girls can’t take their eyes off her… And, a reminder – she is 17. Doesn’t look it, does she? And that’s not a bad thing in this case. Not at all. Maturity only does her more favours here. In fact, as you’ll notice later, she’s an exception that proves a common rule in this series, as she is perhaps the only idol who looks older than she is. Not bad for a high schooler, eh?

And, as I’ve previously established, her voice lends itself so well to music. And even the music itself is damn good. So all credit to her seiyuu, Yuuko Iida, for that. The best singers deserve a lot of credit in these things, especially given how many idols have voices (as you can tell). So well done, I say.

I could still say even more about Kanade’s brilliance. But I think we can just leave it here and say she’s one of my favourite characters to come out of anything, ever. She’s a good, bad girl. And she’s the best girl.

Karen Hojo: Yes, she has nearly the same name as someone we’ve already talked about. Karen is the typical ‘ill girl’ for the series, which would be fine if I hadn’t seen this sort of thing before and been sold on one ‘ill’ character long before I got into this. You wanna give me an ill character, just give me Jun Misugi out of Captain Tsubasa.

Haruna Kamijo: So ordinary even the series itself seems to admit it. Still, her name’s the type a main character would have. Other than that, all she seems to do is worship the aforementioned Ritsuko out of 765Pro. Like I said. Ordinary.

Nao Kamiya: Somehow the only true tsundere so far. Unfortunately, this also makes her an instant turn-off in my eyes. I can’t be having tsunderes in my life. Unless they manage to fool everyone into thinking they’re a tsundere when they aren’t.*

*Read: Maki out of Love Live

Ranko Kanzaki: Sorry, Ranko, you’ve arrived in the wrong series. Were you looking for Touhou? …No? Oh. Ranko acts like she’s stepped out of a fantasy, but as one of the most prominent Cinderella Girls she is also really damn popular. And, distracting as her trait really is, at least it invites a lot of cosplayers to try and be her. Not the most inviting character of all for it, but still.

Mizuki Kawashima: She is 28. This is absolutely fine, except it isn’t because for some reason she refuses to shut up about it. It’s fine. Trust.

Ryo Matsunaga: From TVTropes’ description of Ryo:

Horror movie and death metal fanatic.

Nah, you’re alright.

Miyu Mifune: A bit plain, but has a little shyness and backstory to make up for it – and is indeed rather popular as a result. Also 26 years old, and yet amazingly not defined by this fact alone.

Nono Morikubo: From the wiki’s description of Nono:

Full of negativity and terrified of everything in the world

Being full of negativity is the biggest negative anyone could have. No positive vibes? No party. At least it goes some way to explaining her name. Also somehow rather popular despite this negativity.

Asuka Ninomiya: Ah, a rival? Mmm, good stuff. I do like a bit of rivalry in my series. But what’s she like as a person?

From the wiki’s description of Asuka:

Asuka is intense and brooding, and trying to find her identity like many other 14-year-olds.


Yeah, that kind of intense broodiness. Mind you, if it manifested in her songs like that, that would be absolutely brilliant and hilarious in equal measure.

Minami Nitta: I honestly can’t get a gauge on her popularity. She’s never ranked that well in the elections, but there is art of her coming out of every imageboard’s ears. Even though all she actually seems to do is play lacrosse. Presumably a favourite among Kanadean Canadian fans?

Fumika Sagisawa: Another noticeably shy girl (you can’t move for shy girls in this series) except this one is so shy she’s actually really quite popular. Also does something important in the anime but I haven’t watched that yet so I won’t touch on that until I do.

Chie Sasaki: You’re not gonna believe this, but she is, yes, another shy girl. This one, however, is 11. And therefore not really worth touching on. Especially when you see some of the stuff that comes out her mouth once she loosens up a bit… Put simply, it’s like Kanade gone wrong. Mature and flirty is fine at 17. Not at 11.

Rin Shibuya: The main ‘cool’ idol in the series, but also became the most popular idol, and indeed the poster girl, of Cinderella Girls. In fact, she might even be the defining idol for the whole series now. And she’s not too bad as the franchise centerpiece. She’s got a bit more edge about her than the two other idols she’s grouped with, and her personality is a nice contrast to a lot of what’s going on around her, for the most part. I also still fully maintain that in her main picture, she looks like she belongs on an epic album cover.


Someone edit this onto some mad album art. And let’s all have us check out her mixtapes. Fire, etc. etc.

Syuko Shiomi: The series’ lone example of a bad habit done right. When you see ‘donating blood’ amongst Syuko’s hobbies, you expect the worst. But when you consider her backstory – kicked out her house, left to wait tables and therefore simply donating blood to scrounge money – it isn’t quite so bad. So what you’re left with is an actually really rather good idol who also happens to be really surprisingly popular. You’d think her pale looks and black eyes would be an acquired taste, but she seems to strike a nerve. Can’t hurt that she’s got a little bit of sexy about her, too.

Koume Shirasaka: From TVTropes description of Koume:

An innocent, introverted girl fascinated by horrific death, violent gore, and the grim supernatural.

Hahaha, no.

Arisu Tachibana: Another ordinary girl, with the exception that she hates her first name. How?! Doesn’t she realise that ‘Alice’ – the name it’s derived from – is the best name in the world? How can you hate it? Come on. Also, she’s 12.

Riina Tada: Tada! Someone who almost certainly has something to her other than J-pop. I’m quite looking forward to discovering just what her rock music tastes do to her actual songs, but she hasn’t got much besides and she doesn’t seem as popular as she perhaps should be.

Kaede Takagaki: Here’s someone who’s definitely as popular as she should be. Kaede has been the most universally liked Cinderella Girl since it began and in the last election she finally, actually won the thing, which makes her the Cinderella Girl at the moment. It’s not hard to see why. She’s got all kinds of little factors that define her looks, her heterochromia and beauty mark tiny elements of what is a seriously good look. Just see a cosplay of her and you’ll know what I mean. But if anything her personality sells even more to me. Quiet and calm normally, as soon as she gets some drinks down her she goes mad. And she’s only too happy to let others join in. The kind of personality I can get behind, as can many others. By the way, she’s 25. Not only does she not bang on about this, she even looks a bit younger than that. Yet she’s still a most mature idol. Yeah, and you wonder why everyone loves her… She’s a damn good idol all round.

Tamami Wakayama: Defined only by the fact she does kendo. Bit like a few other idols here, then. And not important, either.

Aki Yamato: Hmm, military, eh? Well I’m not gonna shy away from it as such, but it’s not quite what I’d expect from my average idol. Certainly, I’m not sure the experience would help that much in the industry… If I wanted to focus on military stuff I’d do it in a more relevant context. I mean, when you try and mix in military stuff with a massive franchise full of characters, it doesn’t usually turn out well…

Eri Mizutani: Another side chick from Dearly Stars. Except this one actually looks rather sweet and has the good kind of shy personality, even if some of her back story is a bit…eh. Also: Kana Hanazawa.

Juney: The Korean idol who isn’t quite like the other Korean idols. Not least because her name comes from her hometown of Seattle and she looks nothing like the other two. Not too bad, though.

‘Pashun’ (passion) idols

Mami Futami: One of the bunch who leaps around. I’m not all for hyperactivity myself. Maybe in controlled doses, but not if it defines them to a point. Still, better than her sister alongside her.

Ami Futami: Like her sister except less mature and obedient. And looks it from time to time, too. Therefore, is the worse twin. But neither of them are much good anyway so, whatever.

Yukiho Hagiwara: Yet another shy one. And a too shy one, at that. And just plain…well, plain other than that. Not what you want in your main group of idols, surely…

Miki Hoshii: Perhaps the most popular character in the entire series, and probably justifiably so. Heck, even I know a good few fans of her. She’s the in-universe ‘perfect’ girl, in that she gets everything she wants without even trying. Just a shame that she doesn’t seem to try in much of anything as a result. You can see why she’s struck a chord with most fans. Because they wish they could get everything by doing nothing, too. Miki’s a sweet enough girl, though.

Iori Minase: Another one of the most popular idols, thanks to the type of personality that fans are a sucker for but which I don’t like. She’s got hints of a tsundere about her, but they aren’t what really define her. Rather, it’s the backstory of being such a spoiled sweet that kind of jars me. While she’s really polite and sweet to people she doesn’t know, she’s really sharp-tongued to those she does. No way could I live with a personality like that. People will say they’re sold by her looks too but I don’t buy them either.

Yumi Aiba: Defined only by her hobby and favourite thing, flowers. So not interesting, then. Even despite her real popularity in one election.

Miria Akagi: An energetic sort who can also be rather mature, calls the Producer ‘cute’ and asks to hang out with him on days off. She’s also 11. So that’s that one out the window, then.

Ayame Hamaguchi: Another girl defined solely by her hobby, though a lot of them don’t come quite as interesting as wanting to be a ninja. I dunno though, should I tell her? Most ninjas aren’t really real these days.

Yuki HimekawaC A T S
Yes, I too would give my support to cats. Although her support is for a baseball team. Eh, I suppose it’s alright for her. If she wants to watch 10,000 games a year where not much happens, that’s her lookout, I guess.

Akane Hino: The typical hot-blooded girl, which somehow equates to her loving…rugby? Well, OK, but I’ve got other words for a lot of rugby fans and/or players I know. Also loves tea, a drink that’s supposed to calm you down. With that in mind her personality makes less sense.

Mio Honda: The central ‘pashun’ idol in the series, and probably the best of the main three girls. In fact, she’s potentially one of the very best of the lot, in the running for second best. Yet somehow she’s never been amongst the most popular unlike her two peers, Uzuki and Rin…until now, where she’s risen to second after the last election. That’s about where she might belong. She looks an absolute cutie and has enough energy about her to actually be notable. Even her bod’s kinda rockin’. She seems like she might be something special, but I’m reserving judgement until I look at the series further. After all, she is quite prominent in it. I’ll find out more about her soon.

Yuko Hori: She thinks she’s an esper, a full on psychic with telepathy and telekinesis and all. She’s not, but she does know her fair share of magic tricks at least. Her gimmick is relatively harmless actually and causes a bit of humour in the Theater sketches, but otherwise she’s fairly unremarkable.

Syoko Hoshi: So here’s a girl who spends her time growing mushrooms… What sort, I wonder? Certainly, I reckon there’s a few characters who probably spend a bit of time on them. Actually, there’s plenty of characters who could be spiced up with some of those… In fact, put the whole series on ’em. Maybe I’ll even need them to take some of it in… Sadly, this hasn’t actually happened yet. In fact, only she seems to have taken any of them…which would explain her batshit mental idol persona. She just goes insane, basically. So, that’s a no from me, then.

Nina Ichihara: She’s 9, for fuck’s sake. 9. Nine. Mind you, if you just look at her as an ordinary person, she has her funny moments. And there’s nothing wrong with waddling round in animal costumes at her age. I mean, we all did it when we were 9, too. But, I’m sorry. Have you seen the stuff she says to you? I mean…no. Just…no.

Mika Jougasaki: A seriously good idol. Mika is an idol who rocks all kind of looks, and rocks them all very well. She puts on a real outward show of skin and sex appeal, which makes her an infinitely cosplayable character – and a good cosplayable character, too. With a personality that conveys her image well, and has plenty more to admire about it besides, Mika has a little something for everyone. On the whole, it’s her slightly wild image that I like most about her, even if the reality is she can be a bit shy about expressing herself outside of her outfits. But really, Mika has so many qualities that she can only be seen one of the series’ very best idols. Perhaps the second best. She’s got the best case for it at the moment. She’s a proper idol.

Rika Jougasaki: Rika doesn’t have quite the appeal of her older sister – she’s rather more playful, can act a bit odd and doesn’t have nearly as striking a demeanor – but at heart she’s still alright. Seems like she might be a decent person, at the end of the day. But overall Mika is the better of the sisters, definitely overshadowing Rika.

Sanae Katagiri: The Idolmaster Five-O is here. And it’s also a bit ridiculous. Sanae is another one of the flirty sorts, but hers is played for laughs much more, mostly in the style of her former job. However, at the end of the day, she gives the feel off of someone who is merely a lot of tits and who also happens to be short. Which is what she is, actually. Other than that she’s just a drunk. She’s also 28, and bangs on about this at least some of the time.

Natsuki Kimura: Another rocker, which again should be good news for her actual songs. Naturally, very closely attached to the other ‘rockstar’, Riina. Together, they seem like they might be decent enough.

Kirari Moroboshi: She’s 6 foot. That positive alone is enough to make me sit up and take notice, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with her. Her personality is very much justified (trying to counter her height), but I can’t get behind it to be honest. Also she has this habit of looking either real damn good or real kinda bad, with no real inbetween. Still, a pretty sweet idol regardless.

Takumi Mukai: This one was a gang leader once, and acts it. Real rough and real rude, but also shy about performing. Some elements of a tsundere in this one. More interesting than most, but not necessarily what I’d call ‘good’.

Tomoe Murakami: Actually rather a good girl, who earned a voice courtesy of a 7th place in the latest election. Her yakuza attitude is all very interesting, but I’m sorry, when I see her, I just can’t get a certain idol out of my head. Also, from the Wikia…

Tomoe seems to enjoy punishment for men. In fact, one of her philosophies in life is that if a man is good for nothing, he deserves “harsh discipline and a bare butt spanking” from his superior wife.

Now that’s what I call fetishy.

Emi Namba: And we’re back to the average idols again. This one wants to be a comedian, though. She uses the good old Boke and Tsukkomi routine. Well sorry but, if I want some of that, I’ll just put on some Touhou M-1, thanks.

Yui Ohtsuki: She looks like she’s trying to make it big in the hip hop industry. That’s what happens when you wear so many caps. Laid back type, which is alright I guess. What’s actually quite interesting is she managed to shake off a boring trait – her primary quirk being a love of candy – to actually develop into something rather more. Which is something, I guess. Certainly more than most of her fellow idols have managed.

Shizuku Oikawa: Just about my favourite looking idol nearly wasted on a dumb personality. I beat on about her quite a bit in my first Idolmaster piece so I won’t retread too much old ground here, but the gist of Shizuku is; she’s got all the perks I love in someone’s looks, and a pair of tiddies that could probably take over the world if she wanted. But this is dampened by a character so utterly dominated by her gimmick as a cow-loving farmer that honestly, you’re so much better off just ignoring the person inside and just focusing on what’s on the outside. On that basis, Shizuku is damn great.

Kaoru Ryuzaki: Her story as to how she became an idol seems interesting enough, but that interest isn’t matched by her character and I’m afraid she’s another 9-year old. Fairly harmless in the grand scheme of things, though.

Shin Sato: In a series with plenty of idols looking younger than they are, Shin is top of the lot; what you see here is the looks of a teen on a 26-year old. She adopts a cute personality, but actually might be quite bitter deep down due to doubts about, yes, you guessed it, her age. Well, maybe not her age as such. But rather what she’s done in those 26 years. There’s actually quite a dark backstory behind this one, but still Shin is rather unremarkable.

Aiko Takamori: Another one of the painfully average idols, except this one has photography for a hobby. Most people would be OK with this. I am not one of those people. It’s a personal thing, you see.

Airi Totoki: Airi the airhead. I doubt they intended the name to work quite that way, but that’s what she is. Long, long ago, Airi won the very first election. She didn’t even rank in the top 50 in the last one, though. Hers wasn’t a surprise rise like Syuko, though, this is more of a slow decline. Maybe it’s because she only seems to be known for taking her clothes off a lot. As it turns out, this isn’t always a good thing.

Suzuho Ueda: Looks like she ought to be a lot more interesting than she actually is. In reality, she’s just yet another average Joe, another plain Jane. It’s damn surprising to see just how many of this lot have voices… They’d better be good voices if they deserve them.

Yoshino Yorita: Actually quite popular for a little while despite having another lukewarm personality. She’s not all plain though, she’s got an interesting image about her, as if she were out of another series. Probably explains why, deep down, she wants to become a god. Best be careful if I were you. Next thing you know Idolmaster will turn into an action-filled epic or something.

Ryo Akizuki: The third and final of the Dearly Stars side girl… Wait. That’s a boy?

Well, fuck me sideways. You had me fooled. And pretty much everyone else. Err…there was some interesting stuff I would have mentioned otherwise, like how that name might seem familiar because of the family connection to 765Pro’s Ritsuko, and being a sweet enough looker, but… Nah, I’m way too put off by the fact that’s a male I’m talking about here. The only one here, and right at the end. But…wow. I was expecting a side girl. Not a SideM.

Yujin Im: If you thought fellow Korean colleague Haena looked like Maki, wait till you see Yujin. Couldn’t look more like her if she’d been genetically engineered for the purpose. Don’t worry, though. It’s not just Koreans that look like her. There’s another idol or two more…but they’re unvoiced, so I’ll leave that for a post about some of them.

So I’ve been looking a lot at Idolmaster lately…

Idols, in real life, are no good. They’re singers who aren’t picked on how well they can sing, they have to sacrifice a lot of freedom or else lose their career, and if they don’t choose to go out on their own terms, they are cast off as soon as they hit the wrong age. An idol is named so because they are idolised by the type of people they set out to inspire. But they’re also idolised by the sort who can’t touch them. The sort who fantasise about them in a different way. It’s a pretty nasty industry.

And that’s a shame because the idols themselves are usually nice enough people by themselves. They’re in the business for a reason…but its reality always bites in the end. That’s why someone, someday, came up with the idea of taking the reality out of it. The result was the ‘virtual idol’. And there are few things more desirable.

Vocaloid was already a pretty great idea to begin with; a synthesizer that lets you make a character sing. But you know why it’s amongst the most successful franchises conceived? Because it could make those characters whatever they wanted to be. And they struck gold with their creations. And above all of them lies the first character of their most important version, Vocaloid 2. That was Hatsune Miku. And you know why she’s the most successful character we’ve ever seen? Because she’s an idol that will never get old. And a really, really good one. [1]

It also helps if you take idols further out of the reality of the industry and put them in a different situation entirely. That’s how I came to love Love Live.

Love Live isn’t about idols being manufactured into desirable characters. Love Live is just about nine girls coming together and becoming idols to save their school. And in doing so they became timeless classics.

For all her numerous faults, Honoka deserves infinite respect as the face of mu’s – the idol group the series centred around – and indeed the face of the franchise as a whole. Kotori doesn’t knock my socks off either, but she certainly knocked a lot of Eastern fans for six. And the rest of the cast is just brilliant. Umi exudes coolness from every pore. Nozomi appeals in all sorts of ways. Nico works harder than anyone to be cute, and manages it brilliantly. Hanayo is as naturally cute as they come. Rin makes her catty behaviour work well.

But special mention has to go to the two best idols in the series. After all, what more could you desire from an idol than what Eli Ayase gives you? She’s beautiful perfection. And as for Maki Nishikino… Well, if you look away from the popularity of the Vocaloids – an entirely reasonable idea, given that they are a completely different kettle of fish to anything around them – you could call her the most successful idol of all time. She’s the one everyone loves. She’s the tsundere that isn’t, and she’s more attractive than you could possibly imagine. Still think this isn’t any good?

And doing Love Live the way it was done opened the door for another approach; gathering the seiyuus together to perform live. Of course, what Vocaloid did for live performances – their characters having their own inbuilt voices – was to make holograms of them and project them on stage. A mildly insane concept, but such was the success of the franchise it didn’t matter. Love Live, though, had the real voice actors, singing and dancing in the flesh, doing what their characters did, bu in real life. And it didn’t matter nearly as much because, at the end of their day, they were being their characters. Not themselves. That’s how it ought to be with idols…

…Except for one small thing. Because, in 2016, what happened? Love Live’s creators decided to move on from mu’s. Because the real seiyuu’s were getting too old, and they wanted to get some fresh blood. And this, in a franchise based in fiction, supposedly well away from the reality of the idol industry. And they went out and did that to mu’s. They took those nine legends and decided enough was enough. Unbelievable.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if they’d taken it as a chance to move in a different direction. You know, try a group that’s a little bit different. That’d be a good way to keep things fresh. Instead, they made Aquors, a group of nine girls, three first-years, three second-years and three third-years. Which is exactly the same as mu’s was. And they will go out in exactly the same way some day, too. Which doesn’t make them special. It just makes them a replacement. And until Love Live changes its formula in some way (they’ve made another group in the exact same mold for one of their video games, too), it will ultimately end up as a franchise making fictional works to become a real idol production company.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make mu’s any less magical. But the idea that its makers thought they were expendable in favour of an identical formula is just rotten. They were supposed to be a group far, far away from the reality of the idol industry. Instead, they became swallowed up by it. They deserved so much better. Luckily, such was their impact that they remain key figures in doujinshi today. But the real mu’s is no more. And that’s sad.

And so, with Love Live doomed into an existence of eating itself, I am having to look elsewhere to get my idol fix. Unfortunately, whilst the idea of virtual idols is a seriously tantalising prospect, there are very few franchises who have managed to make a series so successful that they have become part of the fabric of doujinshi itself. Luckily, there is one series that fits the description, one that is not only more popular than Love Live, but is even more popular than Vocaloid. The most popular idol series in the world. The problem is, that series is…Idolmaster.

I have talked about Idolmaster before on this blog, when going through the most popular series in the world of doujinshi. Four months ago I said that Idolmaster was a series utterly overshadowed by the cut of its jib, which was, to all intents and purposes…the real idol industry. And you played the part of the producer who made it all happen. That wasn’t fooling me. When you say ‘producer’, you mean ‘the type of idol fan who lusts after them, in a bad way’. For all the credit I was willing to give it for the immense success it enjoys, the premise of the whole franchise gave me a very dirty feeling about it. I mean, virtual idols are good…but not when they’re in a situation mimicking reality.

Thing is, with my increasing curiosity to try and see just what all the fuss was about with this immensely popular series, I’ve been further investigating the most important parts of ‘iM@s’ (I’ll stick to its full, unsullied-by-stylization name throughout, if you’ll excuse me), in the name of trying to evaluate just where I stand with the series beyond the rather off-putting image. I’ve been at it for a week and a half now. And, while I knew bits and pieces about the series to some degree, what I’ve found of late has been… Well, why don’t I talk about it all right here, right now? Strap yourself in – there’s plenty to take in here…

Firstly, I need to talk about the series’ premise. Again. See, whilst it’s centred around the evil idol industry, it’s not the idol industry as we know it. What this is, is the idol industry taken to its logical extreme. In Idolmaster, the characters are not idols so much as goddesses. And you’re the one in charge of making them that way…

There’s one thing about actually getting the idols right to the top, though. Doing so sees them gain myriad male fans, as is the case in reality. However, the difference here is, when you get an idol to the top, the only male she has eyes for is…you. You, the producer, are the Idolmaster.

In exaggerating the sheer importance of the idol industry, they do at least soften the reality of its theme. But in making the idols in question fall for you, they cater right to the industry’s fans. Those ones. So that’s not really fixed its image. It’s just changed it a bit.

Mind you, if the idols in question were the sorts you’d actually be fine having all over you, that would at least make it more desirable. The good news is, there are plenty of idols to choose from. Over 200 of them, in fact. The bad news is, I’m not sure the vast majority of them are much good.

Characters are the most make-or-break deal in anything like this for me. I don’t care how many other positives there are on hand; for me, a series MUST have more good characters than bad. I mean, look at my favourite, and the most successful of all, Touhou. That now has over 130 girls and of them, I’d say about a quarter of them are top-notch. Idolmaster is well past 200 now. And, whilst I’ve not given all of them a fair look – how could I, with so many around? – I think that, of those 200 or so, only about 10 of them are pretty good. So only about 5% of the series’ characters are quality ones. Which isn’t really enough.

But eh, you know what? As much as Idolmaster is a fantasy, the roots of the series are based in reality. And its characters are just people. It’s not like Touhou, which is as much of a fantasy as you could imagine. There, you expect everything to be as perfect as can be. And it is. But Idolmaster’s not really like that. I mean, most people in real life aren’t perfect. So why should you expect 200 different characters to be perfect in one series? It would be stranger most of them weren’t imperfect in some way. So, in that respect, I don’t mind that the series doesn’t have superb characters coming out its ears.

And you know what? That might be how they want it anyway. Because that’s really the whole idea with Idolmaster. You pick and choose who you really like and then you use them in the game. And then they get the hots for you and you can then imagine you and her riding off into the sunset and all that jazz. Perhaps this would explain well just how my experience with the characters has gone…

Of course, it wasn’t anything like this to start with. Way back when Idolmaster was still making it big, there weren’t 200 idols to choose from; just 13. The ‘765 Production’ girls (for each production team in the game is as generically named as the generalness of the corporations that come out with generic idols [2]) remain the series’ most iconic, but I’ll be honest, none of them blow my frock off. They’re all either largely generic or just annoying. I’ll admit Haruka Amami – who I first thought was called Haruka Armani, which would make her a type of fragrance – is kinda cute. I know a few people who quite fancy Miki Hoshii. But the rest of them? Nah.

Luckily, they didn’t end up stopping there. Successful as their lucky thirteen had been, Namco knew their series had room to grow, and so they decided to turn it up a notch. And so, in 2011, they went out and made Cinderella Girls, a mobile card game with over 100 new idols. Now, the game makes up the bulk of the series’ 200+ characters. And so that’s where most of the focus will lie. Not just because it’s where the best characters in the series lie, but because its own overwhelming success is something to be admired. I mean, it’s not easy to try and come up with so many different characters and make it work quite like Idolmaster does. Obviously not all of them have met with success, but the number that have is impressive. It’s like Leeds United in the early-2000s, only this didn’t end up with the total capitulation of the franchise as we know it.

Now I didn’t particularly fancy interrupting this prose with a comparison, but I feel it must be done. And I’m doing it with Love Live, not just because it’s the most direct rival to Idolmaster but because, as I said, I love the goddamn thing. So it’s important that Idolmaster can manage something equally impressive with its characters.

Now, of course, Love Live started in much the same way with its characters, except there were just less of them; mu’s had 9 to 765Pro’s 13. [3] And Love Live, like Idolmaster, ended up with a highly successful mobile card and rhythm game instalment, in its case, School Idol Festival. (Idolmaster, too, got a rhythm game spin-off of its spin-off in response, Starlight Stage. Yes, most of the Cinderella Girls are in it too. The difference is, the dancing is in 3D. And it’s rather good, for what it is.) LLSIF, too, had new idols in it when the game came out. The difference is, the game was barely about those minor idols: the game was still all about the nine superstars they made. Completely the opposite approach to Cinderella Girls, where they started by putting all the idols on ‘equal’ footing (with a few in-game exceptions) and let popularity take its course.

And with two markedly different styles came two markedly different results. Love Live’s noble nine all became mega-stars in their own right, but Idolmaster has ended up being a series where nearly 60 characters have met with success. So which is more impressive? The status of each of LL’s characters is pretty phenomenal, but Idolmaster’s numbers are pretty great, no matter how many characters it took to get them.

However, the thing with Idolmaster is, whilst the Cinderella Girls made for plenty of successful characters, they could only be made because of 765Pro’s original 13 icons. And they didn’t need any help from something like LLSIF. Also, while a number of the Cinderella Girls haven’t amounted to much, Idolmaster’s approach to getting fresh blood has been much better than Love Live’s latest idea, which was to discard mu’s and replace them with something identical. Which isn’t really changing things up. Just keeping things the same but with different people. And even though Aquors are meeting with success, at the end of the day Love Live will have had 18 successful idols, half of which aren’t around any more. Idolmaster has had about 60 odd, all of whom are still kicking around. Which is why the whole series has been popular.

And that’s why I respect Idolmaster to the degree I do. If you see the formula for the most successful series around, you’ll see one thing in common – a number of characters into triple digits. But making a series with that many characters doesn’t guarantee success. The huge success it can bring is a result of making so many characters work. That’s why Idolmaster is one of the most iconic series of all time. The thing is, though, while I’ll always respect the series for its characters…can I like the series for its characters? Well, let’s take a look at them…

Since, as we’ve established, there are quite a few characters in the series, Cinderella Girls splits them up into three distinct types – ‘Cute’, ‘Cool’ and…’Passion’. Now the first two are bleeding obvious, but what the hell does ‘Passion’ mean? It’s like the sort of thing that you give someone credit for because they can’t do anything else. “Nah, she can’t sing, isn’t cool enough, isn’t cute enough, but…pashun!!!1” Yeah, being passionate about something doesn’t equal being good at it. I mean, I’m passionate about writing – I know, you couldn’t tell – but I hardly fancy myself as the next J.R.R. Tolkien or anything.

Whatever, let’s break down these tags separately. Unfortunately, at the first hurdle, Idolmaster stumbles. Because I can’t help but thinking that most of its ‘cute’ characters aren’t actually…you know, cute.

Now, cuteness is subjective. Some prefer their characters to force their cuteness upon everyone (Love Live’s Nico comes to mind). Others prefer characters who are more naturally cute without trying (someone like Hanayo out of mu’s). I’m in the latter camp, but the problem is Idolmaster’s ‘cute’ idols don’t have much of this going on. In fact, I’d question whether ‘cute’ is even the best fit for some or even most of the idols. Indeed, in a few cases here it seems like they’ve just spun a wheel of fortune to decide where some characters will go. The character I’d say fits the description most is actually 765Pro’s own Emporio Amami…and you can’t play as her in CG (mostly). Even the ‘cookie cutter’ cute idol, Uzuki Shimamura, just isn’t desirable. Personally, I think she looks so plain it’s painful. She’s just so average and boring I wanna knock some interestingness into her. The only notable ‘cute’ idol I’d really give credit is Kanako Mimura – who I knew about long before most of the other characters, incidentally – because there’s nothing wrong with being THICC. (Honourable mention to Yukari Mizumoto, THE FLUTE PLAYER.)

However, despite one group of idols being largely lacklustre, it makes up for that with another group. Because, whilst Idolmaster isn’t much cop at making a ‘cute’ idol, it is really damn good at making a ‘cool’ one.

Cinderella Girls is blessed with several quality cool idols. They aren’t all the most perfect, but they still stand out from the crowd. There’s the likes of Ranko Kanzaki, who looks like she’s stepped out of the new Touhou game more than anything – and acts like it, too – but who happens to be insanely cosplayable. There’s Minami Nitta, amongst the most popular characters even though all she seems to do is play lacrosse. And we can’t go by without mentioning the prototypical ‘cool’ idol, Rin Shibuya. She’s the most popular idol in Cinderella Girls, maybe even the whole series. Mind you, even as one of the poster girls of the game it’s a little hard to see why. I dunno. There’s just something about her face. Looks a bit…edgy. Although it also makes her look, on her normal card, like she’s about to drop the biggest mixtape of 2017. So maybe her edgy look does do her favours after all.

And there’s more. There’s Syuko Shiomi, who has just enough about her to counteract her flaws, and who also happened to be the most popular girl in the game, according to one of Cinderella Girls’ annual elections…then she immediately fell out of the top 50, but we’ll gloss over that. There’s the actual most popular girl as of this year, and one of the most universally, consistently popular, Kaede Takagaki. A lovely, cool girl in every sense with a real mischievous side. Maybe she’s secretly Finnish deep down? Her personality is just like theirs. And talking of that bit of Europe, there’s Anastasia, the second best Russian idol of all time. Sorry, but, no idol in any series ever is gonna come close to matching Eli Ayase.

Mind you, Idolmaster has one that gets close. In a sea of 200 idols, there is one real (blue) diamond in the rough. A character so good she leaves everyone else in the franchise in the dust. She might end up being one of my favourite characters…ever. And her name is Kanade Hayami.

Kanade has the sort of qualities most of her fellow idols can only dream of. She’s a flirty sort, and she doesn’t hang about waiting to get affected to you – she asks for kisses more than she doesn’t. Yet behind her openness lies a distant, mysterious mind. That’s a cool idol right there. However, being a flirty sort opens the door to a habit that rarely works as intended; being ‘sexy and I know it’.

Except it actually works with Kanade because, you know what? She is sexy. And how. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my kind of hair is the short, dark type Kanade rocks. Add to that those captivating, golden eyes, those lips – the ones she wants all over you – looks and demeanour that defy her 17 years, the kind of voice I relish in an idol, and a body that’s just right, and you end up with an absolute stunner.

My favourite characters always brought me to a dead stop when I first got into them. Kanade is one of them; she can bring out some real excitement. She’s mind-blowingly brilliant. It’s just a shame no one in the series has a personality that comes close to hers. More on that later…

As for the last bunch of idols, the vaguely named ‘pashun’ group, they aren’t quite as strong as their ‘cool’ counterparts, but there’s still some strong characters within. There’s a handful fighting to be the best of the bunch, one of whom is the default ‘passion’ idol, Mio Honda. I haven’t given her a full look-in yet, but I can tell she has a lot of potential. In fact, I’d call her the cutest idol I’ve seen in Idolmaster, despite not being an actual ‘cute’ idol. Like I said, cuteness is subjective. But Mio hits the spot for me. Then there’s Mika Jougasaki, probably the most idolish of all the idols. And in a good way, too. She’s got something for everyone. With her ‘gal’ image, she has a wide variety of looks, all pretty good. She shows plenty of skin, has all manner of outfits, and the result is another seriously cosplayable character. Despite this, her personality is actually comparatively ordinary – not necessarily a bad thing in this case. Put simply, Mika is like a normal idol gone wild. I think she’s very likable. The last really good ‘passion’ idol, to me, is Shizuku Oikawa. If you made a cocktail of what I thought my perfect girl would look like, Shizuku would come pretty close. Short, brunette hair? Check. Soft, brown eyes? Check. Them tiddies? Check, check and double check. She would potentially be my favourite, were it not for one seriously crucial flaw. I’ll get to it in a second…

However, after this lot, the ‘passion’ group is relatively nondescript. I suppose I ought to give an honourable mention to Kirari Moroboshi, because 6 foot girls >>>>>>, but then she manages to be one of those characters who can look rather sweet one minute and then just plain silly the next. Again, though, the tag she and the other ‘passion’ idols come under doesn’t help them much. Some of them might well be cuter than the actual ‘cute’ idols, and some might be cooler than the ‘cool’ idols. But they’re all under this tag that implies they’re neither. Which seems a bit mean.

And speaking of being mean, I have to get mean now. Because, while Idolmaster has its fair share of good characters, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. And amongst the rest of the characters, the problem with a lot of them boils down to one crucial factor – personality.

The ways in which several characters’ personalities are flawed are many and varied. There’s the non-descript ‘cookie cutter’ types, for a start. However, more worrying are the number of idols whose personalities are centered around either a disturbing trait of theirs, or a trait of theirs which has been taken to such an extreme that it almost turns them into a joke.

There are several examples I could give of this, so many in fact it would probably be worthy of another post entirely (and I will do one, to show what I’m on about). However, in this case, I’m going to give just one: the character I just went out and praised, Shizuku.

Obviously, Shizuku’s defining trait is DEM TIDDIES. Naturally, you’d think much of her personality would centre around them, and you’d be right. In this modern world, it would be weirder if they didn’t take the piss out of them somehow. However, the approach they went with her was the ‘cow’ approach. Which is fine, by itself. Some people probably get a chuckle out of it. Except the lengths to which they took it with Shizuku are appalling. Not only did they make her like cows, they made her love them so much she won’t ever shut up about them. And they based her whole background around them. And they gave her an outfit like one. And they made her act like one from time to time. And that’s terrible. As a result, she is very nearly ruined by her personality, simply because they took her defining trait way, way too far.

Regrettably, she is not alone. There are plenty of others in Idolmaster who are defined by their traits so completely that they reach the point of being damaged irreversibly. And that’s without mentioning just how unerring some of the characters’ habits are and how it makes them look absolutely mental. About the only one who gets away with one of these ‘hobbies’ is the aforementioned Syuko. Normally, her ‘hobby’ of donating blood would be just plain creepy, but because it’s a part of her backstory (she did it for money) it softens the blow of it a bit. Again though, she is merely the exception that proves the rule.

There’s another issue that dogs quite a few of the characters, too. The average age of most of these characters is usually in the 15-18 (maybe 19) year old range. But there are plenty in the series who go both above and below it. Those well past their teens, obviously, don’t fit in particularly well amongst the rest. However, remembering what the whole appeal of the series is, this is a virtual idol world. So older idols are actually fair game here. Except they spoil the illusion quite a bit by constantly banging on about how old they are and how they don’t think they fit either. So that defines them a little too much, as well. As for those younger than the average age…well, lemme put it this way, they go quite a bit younger. The youngest that any idols get in this series? 9 years old. I’ll leave you to judge what you think of that.

So Idolmaster is left in a bit of a quandary. A lot of its 200+ idols are flawed beyond any real redemption, but what that does is make those who are good look even better than they are. The question is, are they good enough to outweigh the bad? Let’s not forget, whilst there’s good idols here, I only really have eyes for one of them. Honestly, right now, I’m stuck in the middle with it all. Which is where the rest of the series’ elements comes in. Don’t you worry, this isn’t just a referendum on Idolmaster’s idols. I’m bringing what the series…brings to the table…er…to the table.

The only problem is, I haven’t given it much of a look myself. Which means that what I’ve got to do now is check out three things Idolmaster has going on outside its most important factor; its music (duh), its games, and its anime.

I’ll be honest – I’m not entirely sold on J-pop. I love all sorts of music from several different genres, but for some reason there just hasn’t been an awful lot of J-pop that has captured me. However, whilst Idolmaster is obviously quite happy to stick with what it knows best, there are times it ventures out of its comfort zone. And it’s not too bad when it comes to genres further afield. Mostly, it reserves alternative genres exclusively for certain characters. For instance, among the many genres I enjoy, I like electronic and dance music most of all. But, even though it’s not its usual thing, Idolmaster can still make something like Hotel Moonside and have it come out really good. Better than its usual thing, actually, in my mind. Oh, and guess who’s singing my kind of song? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I told you Kanade was a cut above the rest. [4]

Of course, Idolmaster started out as a game. Not like the sort you’d find today, though. It’s been through a fair few games now, including, of course, Cinderella Girls, the mobile game that took the series up another notch. The current big game in the series is still based around said Cinderella Girls, but it’s not the original game. Instead, it’s the series’ latest wheeze, Starlight Stage, the answer to Love Live: School Idol Festival. There’s one difference between the two though, at least here. LLSIF is available in English, translated and all. Starlight Stage is not. In fact, it isn’t even available here on the Play Store. Which is why I’ve had to get it on my S6 through the rest of the internet. This might go some way to explaining how Love Live can actually compete with Idolmaster on this side of the world. Closer to home, it’s a different story. As yet, I haven’t touched Starlight Stage. But that’ll change soon.

Lastly, Idolmaster’s popularity means it has animes for both the 765Pro girls and the Cinderella Girls. In fact, this autumn, even the SideM series is getting an anime. [5] However, I’m not convinced the former is much good. I have actually seen some clips of the original Idolmaster anime, and I have to say…they all make the characters look ridiculous. Like they’re on some particularly strong drugs throughout or something. Maybe if I watched it on drugs, I’d enjoy it plenty. But I don’t want to try those just for the sake of making 765Pro look sane. Cinderella Girls looks more interesting, and I’ll probably end up watching it, but with what I’ve heard about it, it’s hard to say just how good it’ll be. It could be a masterpiece for all I know. But it could be nothing more than a lame duck. Mind you, I don’t think Love Live’s anime was much good either. The second season was real good, but the first season took time to get good and then went bad again at the end. And as for the movie? God knows what that was about. The first half of that was fine, but the second half was straight up awful. And yet despite that, as we’ve already established, I love Love Live. But my point is, right now, to me, the Cinderella Girls anime is a bag of Revels…I don’t know what I’m gonna get. Much like a lot of Idolmaster, really.

The thing with Idolmaster is, it has some gaping flaws that, ordinarily, would serve as big black marks on most series. I’m not sure about its image, a lot of its characters aren’t any good and it panders to exactly the kind of fanbase you’d expect…which is not a good thing in this case. At all. And yet within the series are some seriously tantalising positives that are keeping me reeled in. Because its image is countered by the genuine fact that it is one of the most successful series of all time – and one that is still running at peak power. For all the bad eggs amongst the series’ idols, there are a couple of real gems – one of whom is absolutely sublime. And, at the end of the day, I don’t have to go hand-in-hand with the rest of the fanbase. I mean, I did that with Love Live. A lot of its fanbase is filled with nutjobs who just make a mockery of the whole thing. So I do my own thing with it. NicoMaki? Pah, what’s that? Just let me take Maki and leave it at that. I enjoy Love Live how I want to, even if I’m not enjoying it so much now. And I can enjoy Idolmaster however I want, too. And I am right now. But I need to go deeper. For all the respect I’ve given here to Idolmaster – respect that continues to grow day by day – I’m still on the fence as to whether I can love it. But my relationship with Idolmaster is still in its early days. What I do next with it will hold all the answers.

[1] For the record, I think Meiko did it first, and better. But that’s just me.
[2] Yes, I know they all mean something literally in Japanese. But they still don’t look interestingly named.
[3] As an aside, LL’s lower number is better, not just because they need less characters to end up better on the whole, but because 13 is simply too many for an idol group. But that’s just my opinion.
[4] I knew about Kanade before all this because of this Hotel Moonside remix. Listen to it. Now. It’s the most lit thing you’ll hear all day.
[5] I haven’t touched on SideM. That’s what male idols does for you. And having a name of ‘side’ implies where that bit of Idolmaster is for the most part.

Because I missed Touhou’s 20th anniversary…

Highly Responsive to Prayers and Story of Eastern Wonderland were both released to the public on 15th August, 1997. It’s been 20 years since then. And I missed the date. Damn. Since I can’t go without giving some kind of tribute to such a great series, let me re-post here a Reddit post I made upon reaching my fifth year as a Touhou fan, where I paid tribute to its brilliance. (Bear in mind this was in May prior to HSiFS’ release.)

I don’t remember exactly when I found the one thing that ultimately got me here. But judging by how long ago I put the first picture into my vast Touhou folder it was probably a little over 5 years ago now.

When people get asked how they got into Touhou, there’s a lot of different ways that come up. There’s the usual suspects. U.N. Owen. Bad Apple. Maybe something from IOSYS. There’s the great elements that come together to make Touhou what it is. The music, the games themselves and of course its lovely, lovely characters. My gateway to Touhou wasn’t quite as conventional as that.

My way into Touhou was a video on YouTube of a fangame, Touhou Soccer. You know, that game I won’t shut up about. The one I wrote a guide about last Redditaisai. I was just binging YouTube, as we all do, when my deep, deep search eventually led me to a video titled ‘An unfriendly game of Touhou Soccer’. Being a football fan, I clicked it on through curiosity. And I fell in love with it almost instantly. Not because of the girls, though their presence certainly helped. But because I knew exactly what the game was based on. From there, I slowly but surely got to know the girls in it and, well, I haven’t looked back.

Now, I had heard about Touhou before I properly got to know it. In fact, you hear that non-Touhou music playing in that video? Yeah, I’d heard all of that a long time ago, remixes of the Captain Tsubasa series’ music. (Although due to a similarly named team in that series, Toho, I had mixed that up with Touhou.) But mostly this I’d only heard of Touhou before because I’d seen it mentioned a lot on TVTropes – specifically the fact it seemed to be the hardest game ever devised in the history of history. Of course, I now know that not to be the case. But I’m glad I did know it before I went out and actually played the games. Not that it’s made me any good at them, of course. For all my five years of playing Touhou, all I really have to show for it is a grand total of one 1cc. And that was with MarisaB in MoF. Which is the single easiest way to get one. (Well, apart from Stage 4.) Mind you, I have at least cleared some of the games with continues. I’ve done MS, PCB – which was my first game, and should be yours too – and…erm…oh, actually, that’s it. I came within one spell of doing EoSD once, though. And I can’t actually remember if I’ve really cleared IN. The way the endings work there are just way too weird. And I could probably do DDC one day. I’d count PoDD and PoFV, but that seems like cheating. So, no, I am really not very good at Touhou itself.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the games themselves. If I just sit back and watch someone who can actually beat them, I can take in just how brilliant some of it is. Heck, even when playing it myself, it can sometimes give me just such a rush. I mean, recently, I’ve been as hooked as I’ve ever been on some of the PC-98 games, and even they, despite being some 20 years old, can still thrill so much. I mean, have you played PoDD recently? That’s just an awesome game to play first hand, and also, have you noticed the soundtrack to it? It’s almost…perfect. Some of its songs are incredible. There’s some gems in PC-98’s locker, that’s for sure. Listen to its songs. Some are really damn good.

But, of course, it’s the Windows games that it’s all about, really. Sure, EoSD looks very dated now, and it doesn’t seem to work on my laptop any more. But some of the stuff in the game is timelessly classic. It’s unforgettable. PCB is a magical game, too. There’s a reason I tell everyone to start with it (and it’s not because I did too). It’s because it’s the most original, defining game of Touhou. And it’s still capable of raising chills for me, even today. And, if you can look past all the complexities of IN, there’s a properly epic feel behind that too. I have my qualms with the game, but there’s no doubt that Stages 4 and 5 are thrillers in that game.

But surely the best period of the series’ history was 2007 to 2009. That new engine made all the difference. Everything feels fuller, more action-packed from MoF onwards. MoF just feels like an awesome game to play, more frantic, more lively. It’s terrific, but not as much as SA is. I can safely say Subterranean Animism is one of the best games I’ve had the joy of playing. Every single bit of it is perfect. Nearly every single part of the game, taken individually, is the best in the series, and it makes for the series’ crown jewel. While my personal favourite stage in Touhou is SA’s Extra Stage and its boss, Koishi, I reckon the greatest fight in the series has to be Reiuji Utsuho’s. You can’t believe that it comes from a game that’s nearly 9 years old now. Because it’s still jaw-dropping even today. In fact, SA is, on the whole. And UFO is another wonderful game, and even its gimmicks can’t bring it down. So all in all, three successive games which are among the series’ best. If you’re new to the series, get to them when you can. Because they are all terrific.

Then there’s TD. But let’s pretend it’s not there because I don’t want to lower the tone or anything.

DDC was the first shmup to come out once I’d become a fan, and while it’s never fully won me over, I now see it as a pretty terrific game on the whole. It feels pretty cool to play and it certainly has its epic moments, even if it’s not exactly the hardest game in the series. But with ZUN releasing games less often than in the past, I was wondering if perhaps I’d never quite see a truly, truly great new Touhou game in my time as a fan. I thought I might have come a bit too late, but in 2015 I got shut right up by the incredible Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, an astonishing game. For all its many and varied flaws, the game itself just feels utterly incredible to play through. It’s as lively as any Touhou game has ever been, as mad, and as difficult as any game. ZUN went mad for this one and he made something special. A game that really encapsulated what Touhou was all about. Not only that, getting to play as all of Reimu, Marisa, Sanae and Reisen is as good a roster as we might ever see. And, whilst it took me a long time to warm to the music – no surprise there – once I did, I realised some of it was just phenomenal. LoLK has proven a divisive game, but I firmly believe it is amongst the very best in the series. However, it seems ZUN might have gone a little too mad with the game. HSiFS looks like it should be another strong game, but it’s clearly a lot calmer than the last game. Certainly, ZUN seems to have reined it back for this instalment. Hopefully it should still be pretty great though!

And let’s not forget some of the side games. My favourite of all is Soku, which is a great game to just sit back and play when I feel. But ULiL is another good side game too, and I even have that on PS4 now. AoCF looks like it should be a nice evolution on that, and will presumably bring closure to the aerial fighters, so hopefully that should be nice too.

But, as we all know, Touhou is so much more than just the games which provide the crux of the series. There’s the music, which obviously, is mostly very excellent. Except just about the only bit of Touhou I’ve never gotten into is the massive collection of remixes, weirdly. Obviously, there are several terrific remixes of different songs all around, and I’ve found some which I really love. But I’ve never found myself going all round searching and finding countless remixes from countless different musicians. Rather, my preferred way to listen to Touhou music is simply to sit back and listen to the original songs. Much as I’m doing right now, actually. (Reincarnation‘s on at the moment.) Of course, I can’t do justice to every single excellent song in the series, but I can at least point out some of my favourites. My favourite from the PC-98 era is a lot closer to call than it used to be, but I’d give it to Doll of Misery. It remains one of the most chilling songs in the series, and sounds epic as well. Honorable mention to Illusion of a Maid ~ Icemilk Magic, Vanishing Dream ~ Lost Dream, Maniacal Princess and Strawberry Crisis. From the ‘first trilogy’, as I like to call it (that’d be EoSD to IN), my favourite is Lunatic Eyes ~ Invisible Full Moon. It’s one of the only songs where every single remix I’ve heard of it seems to be absolutely brilliant. That speaks volumes about the song itself, which is clearly very excellent. By the way, my second favourite song of that era is…Cinderella Cage ~ Kagome-Kagome, from the exact same stage. Yeah, IN Stage 5 got a damn good draw on music, in my mind.

The ‘second trilogy’ (MoF-UFO) has my four favourite songs, and three of them come from SA. My favourite from MoF is Cemetery of Onbashira ~ Grave of Being, a song so epic I didn’t get tired of it even while having to hear it so often when playing the game in my attempts to clear it. But SA’s last three songs are my favourites from that game. Solar Sect of Mystic Wisdom ~ Nuclear Fusion is the perfect accompaniment to the stunning final battle. Hartmann’s Youkai Girl encapsulates Koishi’s astonishing fight to a T. But my favourite song in the series is Last Remote. It’s not just the fact it works well as a stage song, it’s the fact that musically it is just perfect. It’s perhaps the best song I’ve heard in any game, ever. And my favourite Touhou song of modern times is Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner. An absolute epic of a song that defines Clownpiece and her fight so, so well. Honourable mention to The Lake Reflects the Cleansed Moonlight, The Mysterious Shrine Maiden Flying Through Space and DDC’s Magical Storm.

And there’s all the little things with Touhou, too, such as the print works. Most of the comics are pretty great, but my favourite of all is Wild and Horned Hermit. All its stories are most interesting and it has that most lovely of art styles by Aya Azuma. And there’s other small things about Touhou that make it just that little more lovable. Gensokyo as a whole, an absolute fantasy of a world. The spell cards, some of which can astonish you in all manner of ways. Even the dialogue from the characters, which might be a dying art today, but which is a real source of amusement from EoSD to around UFO.

But if there’s one thing above all that I love most of all about Touhou, it is its numerous, wildly-dressed, and beautiful characters. After all, they’re what sold me on this series first and foremost. And since I first found them I’ve realised just what a difference they’ve made to me. Some of the characters are so good, they’ve redefined my standards of what’s possible from a character in any form of fiction, period. There’s something to like in a majority of the series’ characters, and in the case of the very best, there are several things to like about them. Make no mistake, some of Touhou’s cast really is truly, truly special.

Of course, not all of them are great. But when was anything in life ever perfect? What’s important is that there are far, far more characters I like than I don’t. And, of course, I happen to like plenty of the series’ characters. So I’ll give a small mention to the ones I think are the very best of the best. And beforehand I’ll give an honourable mention to this seriously good lot: Sakuya, Alice, Reisen, Aya, Satori, Koishi, Byakuren, and most of all, to Maribel and Renko. All seriously, seriously good characters, but not quite as good as this lot.

When I first got into Touhou, as I was getting into more and more characters, a few initial favourites came up. I was keen on Yukari, Remilia and Flandre, I took a good liking to Yuyuko especially and I really rather admired Sakuya as well, as indeed I still do. But the first character I really fell for was Yuuka Kazami. She’s just such so agonisingly pretty and yet also had a damn cool feel about her deep down. She remains one of my very favourite characters and my first year or so as a Touhou fan was all about her.

But there was one small problem. Due to the relative age of the game with which I got into Touhou, I never really got into any characters past PoFV (Touhou Soccer came out in 2006). So for well over a year, I didn’t know about nearly half of the series. Eventually, I went and took the plunge, and after finding out how terrific SA was in particular, one character stood out as a particularly outstanding person, and that was Reiuji Utsuho. Quite apart from also being another damn pretty character, there was more to her than her appearance. As I’ve already said, when I saw her fight in SA I was utterly smitten by that too and it made me wonder why the hell I’d missed out on this for over a year. And so ‘Okuu’ stands out to me as one of the most important characters in the series, the one who really made me a Touhou fan. Her brilliance inspired me to go on to further things with Touhou, rather than simply admiring it from afar. That’s how I found, for instance, this subreddit.

Over that time I’ve come to like all sorts of different characters more and more for all sorts of different reasons, but one I don’t think I’d have come to like quite as much was one who was there right from the start. As time has marched on, I’ve come to admire none other than the series’ very own protagonist, Reimu Hakurei, for her obviously pivotal role in Touhou. Yet it’s not just the fact you see her left, right and centre in Touhou itself, or the fact she is therefore its defining character. Because I’ve realised she is truly a magnificent character in her own right. She’s obviously a clearly flawed individual, but that gives her a genuinely human quality as a character – and not just because she actually is a human, within a sea of youkai. I mean as in someone who actually feels real. She’s a top-class character, and it helps that I am permanently amused by her snarky antics. Oh, and it also helps that she is, of course, really cute. Like, I don’t care what you say. She just is.

But even she’s not my favourite miko in the series. That accolade lies with my favourite character in Touhou, and probably in anything ever made ever. That’d be Sanae Kochiya. And the thing is, I’m still not quite sure how she became so. I actually found out about Sanae long before I cared to look into who she actually was, thanks to her sheer popularity. Five years ago I was a far naiver person than previously, and I thought going too lewd on something as simple as Touhou was just wrong. However, Sanae seemed to bring it in spades. Not knowing who she was, 2012 me promptly said “Is she just a fan-serviced version of Reimu, or something?”, and promptly wrote her off as a character. Oh how wrong I was. By the time I’d actually got round to finding out about all the characters, my views on Touhou had changed markedly and so my view on Sanae gradually softened to a point where I thought she was fine. And then…I dunno. Something musta just clicked because suddenly I realised that actually Sanae was really rather brilliant and I couldn’t stop looking for art of her and oh my god what is this feeling I don’t even. Since then, I’ve been smitten. Sanae is my favourite character in the series, and most of all I’ve put this down to her being about as attractive as a character can get. But it also helps that she is a genuinely very amusing person and a little bit silly all at the same time. She’s a great person, I think. And it helps that her shots in UFO and LoLK are really damn good! But yeah, Sanae is basically perfect.

But wait…how do we get to love all these characters most of all? If we just took them for what they were in canon we wouldn’t get to see enough of them all. But that’s where the true most important factor in all Touhou comes in. The reason it’s so great, is because its characters are so popular, that so many artists have come along, and given their take on what they think they should look like. And the answer is: mostly, they all look absolutely brilliant. The characters are the heart of Touhou that makes it tick, but all the fan art of them is the bloodstream that makes them work.

I’d gotten to know a good few artists from previous looks at art from anime I liked. But Touhou took my love of fan art to another level. I’ve discovered several artists so utterly brilliant, that it is their representations of each of these characters that I look at, and think “That’s what she looks like in my mind.” They take all these lovely girls and make them beautiful in so, so many ways. The magic of fan art has let me discover the likes of An2a, whose art you’ve doubtless seen before. There’s more genuinely artsy types such as Kirero, plain cute artists like Cierra and Shironeko Yuuki. There’s my personal favourite artist, Minakata Sunao, an artist capable of mixing coolness and beauty to the point of absolute perfection. And there’s all the fan favourites we know and love, too; the likes of Banpai Akira, Hammer and Ke-ta. All of these artists, and more, are, to me, the single most important contributor to the fabric of Touhou itself.

And all those artists are, of course, just like us, fans of this series. I’m proud to be a part of this fanbase, one which has plenty of wonderful people to go around. The loveliness of a great many Touhou fans would be more than enough to make me proud to be a fan too, but it’s not just about those who love this series like I do. Just as admirable, if not more so, are those whom are capable of creating absolute wonders in tribute to this magnificent series. And not just art – there’s musicians all around, game makers, writers…and more. I hope to be one with them soon, too. I’ve already written my fair share about all manner of things Touhou. And now I’m planning on going to the next step: writing some Touhou fiction itself. I’ve tried it before, but it proved too soon. It isn’t now. I’ve loved this series for five years now. I say, it’s time I tried to create a story of my own now. Redditaisai is two months away. Hopefully, my endeavours will be there for you all to see.

Before I got into Touhou, I saw myself very much as a general anime fan first. Of course, Touhou is not an anime. But as it’s clustered into much the same culture, it was always likely to attract me when I found it. Five years on, I could never have imagined how much I’d love it. Or how much it has changed me over those five years. Now, I am a Touhou fan first, and an anime fan second. Nothing else will be as good as this. Ever.

Touhou is a most valuable thing in my life. I will forever be a fan. And I hope you will be, too.

Touhou music: Lotus Land Story

The first golden shoot-up in Touhou’s history got some suitably golden hits to match.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Oh, my, God. Just hear the opening notes hit and drink it in. The rest isn’t as good, but I literally don’t care.

Witching Dream: Reimu gets a solemn opener, but the song itself doesn’t pick up until that lengthy opening is finished. Then the drama comes in, but the second half of the song is merely a repeat with a different tune, and a tune not quite as good as the first half. Still, it’s plenty long enough for the stage.

Selene’s Light: Marisa’s opener is more upbeat and a much better song, but cruelly a lot shorter as well. The melody to this is a better one, and has a degree of variance to it as well, but even this isn’t long enough for Stage 1, I’m afraid.

Decoration Battle: Not the most terrific of boss songs, but there’s a few good notes within. I doubt you’ll hear all of it, though. It’s actually nearly 2 minutes long, but don’t worry, it mostly just repeats itself.

Break the Sabbath: Hmm, I like the tone of this song a lot. Plenty of atmosphere about it in the first half, fitting for the level it takes place. A Touhou song with a difference, this one, it doesn’t come screaming at you, not until it builds up a little towards the end, at least.

Scarlet Symphony ~ Scarlet Phoneme: The boss themes repeat themselves a lot in this game, and this is no exception, but this one is just about good enough to justify its constant repetition. Changing up the instruments throughout the little bits doesn’t hurt either.

Bad Apple!!: Ah yes, you’ve heard this one before. But have you heard it like this? It’s a good job it’s so popular because the original which that video is based off is a very good one, the best stage theme in the game. It’s short and sweet, and hectic too, but plenty of fun, even if it’s not nearly long enough for its stage, again.

Spirit Battle ~ Perdition Crisis: I like the opening notes to this a lot, and the melody afterwards isn’t half bad either. And this one has quite a bit of melody to it too, with not nearly as much repetition as the songs before it.

Alice Maestra: One of the PC-98 epics, this is a perfectly built song. The instruments for the song’s first section are perfect, and it’s a great melody as well. The mid-section continues that perfectly, the song changing tone and tune effortlessly. This is a top-class song.

Maiden’s Capriccio: This song might be composed alright in places, but it didn’t really get its best version until it came back for Imperishable Night. The instruments aren’t nearly as well chosen as its stage song, and it’s not the longest of songs either.

Vessel of Stars ~ Casket of Star: Now this is a much better boss theme. One of the game’s better ones, it’s uptempo from the start and has a great melody across the entirety of the song, both at the start, middle and end. A very well-done song, again the only shame about the song is its short length.

Lotus Love: A song with a bit of chaos about it, with some wild instruments around and a lovely little opening. The tone of the opening section is calmer, but then it suddenly becomes a more dramatic second section. It’s all a bit mad, but it’s not too bad.

Sleeping Terror: Just wait for the song to drop…wait for it…wait… Ooh, this one’s a bit manic too. However, the melody could be a little better, I think. There’s plenty too it but it doesn’t particularly stand out. Don’t worry though, not every opening and resultant drop is as anticlimactic. Plenty fitting for a Stage 5 boss, though.

Dream Land: Longer than most final stage themes, and with an alright melody to match at the start. The drama picks up for the second half of the song, but the melody isn’t as good. Obviously not too long a song by Touhou standards, but then no Stage 6 song is. This is merely average as they go, though.

Faint Dream ~ Inanimate Dream: Plenty of intensity throughout this final boss theme, with another solid opening, but the instrumentation isn’t all that perfect and second half of the song isn’t anything more than a repetition with a tone change. Not too great a final boss theme if I’m honest, but don’t worry. There’s more to come from this game yet.

The Inevitably Forbidden Game: This Extra stage theme isn’t too bad, it has its moments and some nice notes within. The melody for the second part of the song is pretty decent, and there’s some strong instrumentation here too. The second half, with its change of tone, isn’t quite as strong in that regard, but does ramp up the drama a fair bit. Again though, really short for an Extra stage theme. Mind you, if ZUN had stuck with the Extra stage theme he’d first planned

Illusion of a Maid ~ Icemilk Magic: And suddenly with a drop of the most dramatic opening notes of any Touhou song comes the game’s most epic song. The repetition within this song is fine, especially since there’s actually some variation within, and it also helps that the tune itself is really, really good. And it’s non-stop once that opening drops. In the running for perhaps the finest song in PC-98, this one is a seriously underrated tune.

Cute Devil ~ Innocence: Mugetsu’s theme had one hell of an opening, but immediately after her sister matches her for sheer epicness. Then when her opening drops comes another very strong tune, although it’s at its best at the tune it starts in. The changes in tone are less effective with this song, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive. The melody for the final part of the song makes it all even better. This theme is plenty long too, perfectly fine for a boss of Gengetsu’s stature and making up for the relative shortness of Mugetsu’s magnificent theme.


Touhou music: Mystic Square

The best of the PC-98 era got some suitably besty music all over the place.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Ooh, it’s nice. Melodic at first, epic later on.

Dream Express: This is a fast start of a song, something no other PC-98 opener was, so this is already quite unique. And in a good way, too, as this is a rhythmic song that sets the tone very well. And it’s a damn sight longer than most Stage 1 themes, either from this era or the modern one.

Magic Circle ~ Magic Square: Nothing too special, but the main melody is alright at least. Sadly, by the time you get to hear the second half, Sara is usually dead. Which means no one ever notices quite how it builds up and the tone change that results.

Dimension of Reverie: A seriously hectic song, and a song that’s much better off for it. The tempo of this is right up to 11, and the melody is all very good. It’s just a shame it isn’t that long a song.

Spiritual Heaven: Like the last boss song, nothing too special, but the melody is fine. However, it never really changes up, which works fine for some of this era’s songs, just not this one.

Romantic Children: A song that builds up well, as an intro to the main setting of the game. Those PC-98 drums do a good bit here, and the second section of the song is quite enjoyable too. Then it just loops in a different tone, but that’s fine.

Plastic Mind: Like the boss themes before it, this is a song that’s merely OK when the main melody kicks in. It builds up to its climatic final section very well, though.

Maple Wise: A real barnstormer of a theme, short but sweet, this one has a superb rise up towards its wonderful chorus, whereupon the theme breaks into a wondrous tune. This is another theme that deserves to be much longer than it is.

Forbidden Magic: Finally, a properly good boss song in all aspects. A strong opening section, with dramatic instrumentation all around, leads nicely into the song’s melody in the second half, with the drums going mad throughout, before it lowers the tone. It’s a class theme, all told.

Crimson Maiden ~ Crimson Dead!!: A hectic theme for a sometimes hectic boss, this one is uptempo to the maximum, and keeps its melody going throughout, a style oft used throughout PC-98. This one’s good enough to make it work, though.

Treacherous Maiden ~ Judas Kiss: A calmer theme for Mai, and a noticeably more melodic one right from the start. Then the drama is pitched up after that opening section and it’s all very lovely, but sadly the song’s all over after a change of tone in the dramatic twist. Should be a bit longer.

The Last Judgement: Cracking theme, this. Perhaps it’s a bit more inclined to a Stage 6 than a Stage 5, but then most Stage 6 songs aren’t even this epic. A dramatic atmosphere throughout lends itself very well to this late stage of the game, and builds up well to the real star of the stage.

Doll of Misery: The opening notes aren’t like anything in any other PC-98 song, and they are utterly bewitching. And they lead into a quite magnificent battle symphony. The song is composed superbly, the instrumentation is utterly faultless, and the song fits the fight so, so well. This might just be as good as PC-98 music gets…

End of the World ~ World’s End: A typical Stage 6 affair, a short song with an ominous overtone to begin with but a decent enough, albeit very short, melody to go with. This is alright.

Legendary Illusion ~ Infinite Being: A final boss theme as it should be, this has all the elements that songs of its like capture. Only most final boss themes today aren’t only 2 and a half minutes. This is an impressive tune, with a cracking chorus to it and a suitably sweet build-up. And the final section of the song is composed well too. Top-class stuff.

Alice in Wonderland: A much beloved theme, and with good reason. An epic befitting any Extra stage, after a rather prolonged opening comes a lovely melody. However, I reckon that for once the instruments don’t quite do it justice. It’s well composed but this is a song that is begging for a remix. The original could do with a bit more variation to define it, though I do enjoy the change of tone for the final part of the song.

The Grimoire of Alice: Dramatic openings to Extra boss songs are a feature of PC-98’s collection and this is no exception. The melody that defines the song is a nice one as well, but again, this is just a bit too short for what it is. Again, a bit more variation needed, but luckily ZUN would find it as he went into the next era of Touhou.

Touhou music: Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom

Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom was a return to Touhou at its best. So was its music.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

It’s pretty strong. It’s also a long epic by menu theme standards.

Unforgettable, the Nostalgic Greenery: Whoa, what a frantic opener this is. After a few games of calm the return of manic Stage 1 themes sets the scene for this game wonderfully. And the second part of the song is a sweet one, too.

The Rabbit Has Landed: A classic, uptempo Stage 1 boss song, a theme that’s a lot of fun. Although I reckon the song isn’t at its most epic until it loops back round to the start, at which point you get to hear better versions of the opening notes.

The Lake Reflects the Cleansed Moonlight: Holy mother of God, this is an edgy theme. And in a good way. This is a superb track, right from those dramatic opening notes. And it builds up to a real crescendo as well. Who’d think a theme like this belonged in a Stage 2?!

September Pumpkin: Ringo’s theme keeps it nice and simple, but the instruments used here are particularly lovely. The classic piano that opens it, prototypical ZUNpets abound in the second half of the song, it’s all very nice, and if only the rest of the soundtrack weren’t so good, this might be a better song in another game.

The Mysterious Shrine Maiden Flying Through Space: Oh blimey, what an astonishing theme this is. The opening notes are great, the first part of the song is absolutely terrific, and it builds up to something even better than terrific. It took a while to get hooked on this theme, but when I did, it became something special. Magnificent.

Eternal Spring Dream: A more hectic theme for the boss, this song has all sorts going on in it, but it all combines to make something rather good. There’s a few dramatic moments within, and the tension only builds throughout as more and more. The only real criticism I have of it is that apart from the two central bits, there’s not much change within sans some changes of tone at the end.

The Frozen Eternal Capital: Suddenly everything goes calm for this very new-style Touhou theme. It starts off well, but it doesn’t really turn into anything too special, despite the best efforts of the ZUNpets at the end. Still, the atmosphere it sets is lovely.

The Reversed Wheel of Fortune: Another song put through newer instruments, within all the different sections of the song is a pretty cool tune. The changes throughout the song are very well played as well. A solid tune from beginning to end.

Faraway 380,000-Kilometer Voyage: And now the drama is turned up to 11 for the wild Stage 5. This one is magnificent, a lovely tune emerging within the chaos, the ZUNpets playing a great part again, and with the dramatic crescendo reaching the peak of the stage’s insanity. This one was well played. Atmospheric too, with its spacier parts possibly the song’s best bits.

Pierrot of the Star-Spangled Banner: The game’s crown jewel, an utterly wonderful theme that hits the spot in so many ways. No battle is better matched by its music than this is to Clownpiece’s. The bewitching instruments are a joy to behold, the dramatic sections inbetween verses add further to the drama, and the song reaches its peak once the ZUNpets come in. And it all goes perfectly with Clownpiece’s brand of sheer danmaku lunacy. An all-timer of a theme.

The Sea Where the Home Planet is Reflected: Wow, what an intense Stage 6 theme. The game’s most atmospheric song, and simple as it is, the way it’s done is most magnificent. It’s one of the longer Stage 6 themes, too. A song quite unlike any other Touhou theme.

Pure Furies ~ Whereabouts of the Heart: A suitably epic final boss theme, and one that encapsulates Junko’s terror superbly as well. Quite a bit more manic than most recent final boss themes, mostly thanks to the drums, and that dramatic, low guitar. A superbly well-thought-out theme.

A Never-Before-Seen World of Nightmares: This one has its moments, but on the whole it’s one of the game’s weaker tracks. It’s a little too…reined in compared to the relative mania of the other stage themes around it. Sure, Stage 4 was calm but that was meant to be. This one isn’t quite hyped up enough, I don’t think, despite the best efforts of the song’s second half.

Pandemonic Planet: This one, on the other hand, definitely isn’t short of intensity. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily what I’d call a good song. The main melody isn’t much to write home about, and all there is to try and spice it up for most of it is tone changes. But when the second half drops, it doesn’t really make much of an impact either. This one’s a rare miss from ZUN, I’m afraid.

Touhou music: Mountain of Faith

A new engine called for a new sound. A really, really good new sound. Like, really good.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Absolutely. It’s as atmospheric as any menu theme there’s ever been.

A God that Loves People ~ Romantic Fall: What a start! Those opening couple of notes get you right into the song and then it breaks into the lovely style that would come to define Touhou for the next three games. Really very solemn for a Stage 1 theme, too, which is surprising and sets quite a tone for MoF. Watch out for the ending though, usually the stage is over before you can catch a note of it.

Because the Princess Inada is Scolding Me: A short theme for a short fight, but it’s action-packed while it lasts. Some fantastic use of the legendary ZUNpets here, too.

The Road of the Apotropaic God ~ Dark Road: Another darker tune that keeps up the tempo. Again, the ZUNpets are magnificent here, and the whole tune of the song is marvellous.

Dark Side of Fate: Even more intense, upping the tempo even further – damn, those instruments are playing fast – and maintaining that ominous theme. This is another belter.

The Gensokyo the Gods Loved: Suddenly the music cheers up for what has been called ‘Gensokyo’s theme’ (I wouldn’t call it that myself, but eh). It’s got a lot of build-up, but takes a while to get properly epic. Still, it’s a sweet tune for the most part.

Akutakawa Ryuunosuke’s Kappa ~ Candid Friend: Up goes the tempo again for Nitori and her fight. It’s all relatively calm until the ZUNpets kick in, at which point all hell breaks loose. This is another strong song.

Fall of Fall ~ Autumnal Waterfall: You’d think hell would sound more ominous than this, but I’ll credit MoF Stage 4 for having one heck of a theme. It’s the most atmospheric in the game with that instrument whistling away, and it’s a class song all around. Watch out for the tense ending as well – as with the first stage, the stage ends before it kicks in, so it is oft underrated.

The Youkai Mountain ~ Mysterious Mountain: Here comes the drama again for a hellish fight with Aya, and the change in tone after the first section of the song is my favourite part of this tune, the ZUNpets again doing a world of good to the song. This was slightly edited for DS, and while this version is still great, the subtle edits to the later edition make it a bit cooler.

The Primal Scene of Japan the Girl Watched: Here’s the game’s first real epic song, an intense rush all the way through. A song to sum up all the songs in MoF, combining all the elements from this game’s themes. Now this is a theme you could call Gensokyo’s…

Faith is for the Transient People: Sanae’s theme is about as well-balanced a Touhou song as you can get. It’s got a little bit of everything about it, from build-ups to atmosphere to changes in tone to the general excitement all Touhou themes have about them. All in all, very solid.

Cemetery of Onbashira ~ Grave of Being: The tempo is turned up to the max for the quick, wild Stage 6, and once again it’s the ZUNpets that make this theme when the main section drops, and it’s a fantastic one. Even the build-up immediately before that section sounds as epic as you can imagine. It’s a short theme, but it’s a superb one. My favourite in the game, in fact.

The Venerable Ancient Battlefield ~ Suwa Foughten Field: The final battle has music with real tension, but while it’s all in all a fine piece, it’s not the strongest final boss theme there’s ever been. The song never really seems to go anywhere for a long while, and you have to wait for the very end of it to build-up to a true crescendo. The bits before that aren’t quite remarkable enough to stand out though.

Tomorrow will be Special; Yesterday was not: Call me mad if you will, but I’ve never been too sold on this theme. While the game’s other songs are all cool at a high tempo, I’ve heard a remix of this at a slower tempo before and thought it was better off. The tune itself isn’t all that bad, but I think the original sounds a little too soft by this game’s standards. The second half doesn’t really improve matters, either. The change of tone isn’t particularly necessary, I think.

Native Faith: Now this is a real theme. A mad theme for the Extra boss, it’s full of action throughout, and it only builds throughout. A rise in tune didn’t do much good for the stage theme, but by god does it turn the boss theme into something special. Superb.

Touhou music: Phantasmagoria of Dim. Dream

Most Touhou soundtracks are pretty great. And one of the best of all also happens to be one of the oldest.

First things first; is the menu theme any good?

Yes. Definitely. It’s quite epic. Just like most of the game’s songs.

Mystic Oriental Love Consultation: Your basic epic theme, setting a nice benchmark for the rest of the songs in the game. This one’s more rhythmic than most, and cheery, too.

Reincarnation: One of the game’s longer epics, and one of its most epic in the true sense of the word. The chorus is particularly dramatic, but the bits before it are just as lovely to savour.

Dim. Dream: A crazy, high-tempoed song and also really rather brilliant for it. There’s a reason it’s got the same name as the game; it defines the sheer action of the game like no other song.

Tabula rasa ~ The Empty Girl: Not one of the game’s strongest themes, and yet still pretty solid. The chorus is especially strong, although the song does kind of lose life in its second half.

Maniacal Princess: A proper epic of a song. One long build-up to a seriously dramatic chorus and the whole damn song is just brilliant. A seriously underrated theme, and one of the game’s best of all.

Vanishing Dream ~ Lost Dream: There’s no frills or spills to this song; this is just an A-grade, top-class song all the way from start to finish. One of the era’s finest songs, and the best in this particular game.

Visionary Game ~ Dream War: Even most of the long Touhou epics of today don’t stretch beyond 4 minutes: this one lasts for 5 and it was only the third game. It’s not perfect, but the first section of the song does more than enough to get you involved in the song, even if you’ll likely never hear the whole thing in game.

Decisive Magic Battle! ~ Fight it out!: A song that screams of absolutely intense action. As it should do, given that it’s the round 7 song. This is one of the game’s coolest songs of all.

Sailor of Time: The only real weakness in the soundtrack, in my opinion. The start seems interesting enough but it doesn’t end up leading anywhere. Also the shortest battle theme in the game.

Strawberry Crisis: A suitably epic final boss theme, featuring some unbelievably intense guitars right from the start. No theme is better suited to Yumemi firing crosses at you and phasing onto your screen in the most PC-98 way ever.

Other good songs

Selection: We haven’t even started playing yet and already big music is hitting our ears. This music is dedicated solely to one screen only and yet it’s still absolutely brilliant. It’s also quite spacey, to go with the background. I could sit on this screen quite happily.

Maple Dream…: First time players might end up knowing this as the IN credits theme. Except it isn’t, because this came first. The IN credits theme is this theme, re-done in a modern engine. This is just as good, though.

Victory: Yes, the victory theme. No, I’m not joking. It really does sound that epic. As I’ve said before, I’d quite like this to play every time I successfully manage to get away with something. Or indeed for any victory in my life, big or small.

Outside World: The top of the doujinshi world

If you ever go anywhere looking for fan art, these series I’m listing here will almost inevitably be among them. Here’s a general rambling about the top 15 of them.

Of course, the top 15 might be a little difficult to define. Pixiv seems like a good indicator, but that takes in an Eastern audience most of all. There’s websites catering for my Western side as well, and the most frequently uploaded on those seems like a good bet. So that’s what I’m going off. Still, this top list is relatively subjective, so take it however you will. I’m just talking about 15 undoubtedly popular series, either way.

1. Touhou

Obviously. Touhou might not be at its peak any more, but even so it still remains well amongst the most prominent series for doujinshi. And at its peak, it was so unbelievably popular that it will almost certainly remain the all-time most popular. Indeed, thanks to its peak from 2009 onwards, it still has well over double its nearest contender. The next series down has close to seven times less fanart.

Of course, I shouldn’t have to go too far to explain why Touhou is so brilliant. This is a blog where I write about it, after all. The games, the bread-and-butter of Touhou, are terrific. The music is undeniably outstanding and has resulted in quite the most extraordinary arrange scene. But the utter abundance of fan art is all down to the many and varied characters, all of whom have been drawn in every way you can think of. Of the 20 most drawn characters ever, Touhou has 16 of them. That is how brilliant they are. I don’t think all of them are perfect, but they have all struck a chord in many, many, many fans’ minds. And they’re the ultimate reason why Touhou is about as fantastic as any other piece of fictional media ever conceived.

2. Kantai Collection

I don’t know whether to be amazed that Kantai Collection has been in vogue for nearly four years now, or be amazed that it was nearly four years ago it got in vogue. But I do know this. Like Touhou, it is a series that benefits from a bucketload of characters. But whereas Touhou introduced a group of them with every passing game, Kantai Collection started with its characters in triple figures. And the characters kept on coming all the time. They still do today. This would already have been enough to give it a strong degree of popularity, but there was one thing that did for it above all else. And, regrettably, it was its fanservice.

With so many characters selling themselves to artists, a massive chunk of the doujinshi scene went to KanColle and worshipped it and several of its many characters. The result was something that was able to challenge Touhou’s position as top of the pile for doujinshi. And, in the here and now, it has succeeded in that. It’s not going to topple Touhou’s historic all-time mark, but right now, if there’s an artist you’ve seen, they’re probably doing KanColle.

I hate it.

The reasons for it are many and varied. But I don’t want all my reasons why to swallow up this entire piece. So I’ll just go ahead and say I’ve blacklisted Kantai Collection in every way I reasonably can. Mostly, it has worked. And I am happy with that.

3. Idolmaster

I have absolutely no idea what to make of Idolmaster at this point in time. There are just so many conflicting opinions I have of it that it’s all just a load of mush. However, I am sitting up and paying some notice to it as I’ve found a couple of the numerous Cinderella Girls from their eponymous game, and I think I quite like them. Not many, you understand. But enough now to make my head turn.

But countering this, I’ve seen some clips of the Idolmaster anime that makes its characters look utterly mad. Like, I swear there’s nothing to say that they aren’t on drugs or something. I have no idea what is going on with any of them. And it’s not like any of the girls from the romantically-named 765 Productions are really notable. So I’m not sold on that side at all.

However, there is one opinion I have on Idolmaster that overshadows the rest of them by far. And it’s on the whole theme of the series. In short, it’s based on the real life idol industry, which by all accounts is pretty dreadful. An industry which takes talent to stardom, and then one day decides they’ve had enough and just throws them away. Why would you want to play a part in any of that? Well, here’s why. Because the girls are always attractive and that’s all that matters to you. Idolmaster is just bait for those sorts of people. And nowhere is this made more clear than the fact you play the role of a ‘producer’. I’ll leave to make your own judgements on playing such a shady (and shadily-named) role, but I have a general comment in terms of being made to play as the producer. In doing this, Idolmaster is effectively forcing you to believe you are someone else. Kantai Collection does this too, with its even more suspicious ‘Admiral’. (He’s the most popular character from the series, by the way. Gee, I wonder why…) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve never taken a liking to any series that forces you to do this. By contrast, I absolutely love the two most direct rivals to those series, which just ask you to watch other characters doing their thing. Maybe that’s the reason author avatar OCs never work in Touhou fanfiction. Because their world is designed for them. Not you.

Anyway. My point is, I respect Idolmaster for what it is and its success. I even like some of it. I don’t dislike it, despite what it has its roots set in. But I suspect it is not for me.

4. Vocaloid

Now these are some singers I can get behind. And not just because Vocaloid might even be more popular than this. It’s notable more mainstream than the three series above it here, and mostly that is the result of one character. Remember how I said Touhou had 16 of the 20 most drawn characters? Well, despite being the all-time #1 series, what it doesn’t have is the all-time #1 character. That honour lies with Hatsune Miku, who, it has to be said, is evidently very excellent, despite only actually being a voice program. She has gotten entire venues full to see a hologram of herself. She has won races with cars with her on the side. She has appeared on David Letterman. She is, frankly, quite unlike anything else we’ve seen, but she’s not this popular by accident. She’s a most popular character because, at the heart of her, is all a character needs to appeal to doujinshi makers. Nothing more, nothing less. So I’m fine with her, frankly.

There are other Vocaloids who have managed great success, however. Kagamines Rin and Len are next best after Miku, as well as Megurine Luka. There’s other notable Vocaloids within too, such as Gumi, but Meiko stands as my personal favourite. The thing is, though, I’ve known about Vocaloid for plenty of time. Longer even than Touhou, to be honest. And there’s nothing wrong with it, really. I think it’s rather nice, on the whole. And it’s hard to see anything of its like coming around again.

5. Fate

I know a fair few people who know and love Fate very much, but I’m not really one of them. I know a little about it though, so I can kind of sum it up. The primary source of work from the series comes from its original anime adaptation, Fate/stay night, with the following anime and prequel, Fate/zero, and free-to-play video game Fate/Grand Order also popular works. Fate’s most popular character, by some distance, is its main heroine, Saber, whilst twin-tailed, tsundere-incarnate and thigh-highed Rin Tohsaka also makes a strong showing. It helps that the series just so happens to be really damn good as an original, away from its numerous fan works. Certainly, it sold well in its initial life as a visual novel, way back in 2004 now. Most of all, it sells itself as one of the best bishojo games there has ever been, too. That’s a combination that has seen it build up one hell of a fanbase. And all credit to it for doing so. It’s got a mixture of action, romance and urban fantasy that has attracted all sorts. Make no mistake, this is an impressive series.

6. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

An anime-first series which I still somehow haven’t seen in its entirety, yet I know plenty about Puella Magi Madoka Magica, to give it its English title. And chiefly what I know is that it is an absolute masterpiece. Even though there’s over two and a half years of it still left to go, Madoka will likely be the best anime of this decade (though I would personally give it to Shaft’s other masterpiece of the decade, the Monogatari series). You probably know the form with Madoka, too, although it’s difficult to say what it is without really spoiling the whole premise. And I won’t because it’s brilliant. But the appeal of the whole series is so undeniably excellent that it’s worth noting the characters behind its popularity. Whereas some of the series above needed a plethora of characters to get into the big time, Madoka needed only six main characters: Madoka, Homura, Sayaka, Kyouko, Mami and Kyubey. All six are much beloved. This series is the only other aside from Touhou with more than one character in the top 20. Weirdly though, the titular character Madoka is not the most popular. That accolade rests with Homura, because emotional coldness is a big selling point amongst most of the world’s anime fans, evidently. Oh, and a considerable role in the plot of the series, but like I’ve said, I’m not spoiling anything here if you haven’t actually seen it. I’d like to explain its brilliance in more detail, but it has to be seen to be believed. Then I’ll explain it to you. The result was wild popularity in the time it was running, and a place as the most defining anime for a long, long time. I wonder what the next anime to make as big a splash as this one will look like.

7. Pokemon

Of course. I’ve already talked about my nearly life-long relationship with Pokemon on this blog already, so I won’t recite any of my very lengthy piece on it. But I suppose I will touch on the anime, seeing as it’s more relevant here. Well, I’ve certainly watched my fair share of it, but was hardly obsessed with it to begin with and certainly am not now. I’ve not been much into it since R/S, and haven’t paid much attention to it at all since D/P. Still, I suppose that’s fine. The original will forever be the best in the anime’s case, of that I’m confident. The games got better and better (until X/Y, and then S/M), but with the anime the first remains the best. It’s nostalgia, you see. That’s Pokemon through and through. And it’s why it’s really damn popular. Just remember when you look for art of it – this is the Internet. If you’re the type who doesn’t want their ‘childhood ruined’, tread carefully.

8. Precure

Of the series here, Precure was the one I knew the least about, for sure. In fact, I don’t think I’d heard of it at all. So I’ve researched on what is a notably popular series. And it’s a long running magical girl series. It’s been going since 2004, for 600 episodes, and 14 anime series. It’s filled to the gunwales with characters, which probably explains how it’s managed to get so popular for a cash cow of a franchise. Anime girls are in constant demand in doujinshi, after all. Basically, it’s the leading magical girl series in all anime, and that’s all that it needs going for it.

9. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Now we come to something I meant to get into quite a while ago, but never did. But it didn’t matter anyway because I’ve seen plenty of little snippets of it and I now know, as we all do, that it’s just about the coolest manga the world has ever seen. It’s now into its 30th year of existence, although it didn’t even get an anime until its 25th, in 2012. Its famous art style complements the immense flamboyancy the series exudes. An intricate plot, creative battles and the never-ending conflicts with the supernatural are the definitive points of action in the series. And, in the West, the general badassery of the whole series has resulted in plenty of memes throughout. Basically, going through JoJo and its madness is a bizarre adventure in itself. But it’s also really rather brilliant. This isn’t like the other series ahead of it by any stretch of the imagination. By and large, with JoJo, you just see badasses doing badass things because they are badass. Badass. And artists have only been too happy to oblige. An icon of all anime, and long may it continue.

10. Love Live!

A magnificent series, one so magnificent that it was the first properly new thing I got into for 3 years. That speaks volumes.

I’ve said in many places elsewhere just why Love Live is so utterly brilliant, so I’ll try not to go too deep into it here and now. Instead, I’ll sum up the most relevant reason to this article, and the biggest reason I love it. The characters. I’ve already mentioned some series that get by with a few terrific characters but I feel it’s really worth noting with Love Live. Idolmaster, its most direct rival, needed 13 characters to start with, and that was before Cinderella Girls. God knows how many that’s added. A million, probably. Further up, Touhou is creeping towards the 200 character mark. Kantai Collection has passed that. All Love Live needed was nine characters, who each made up mu’s. And the best of the bunch are simply magnificent. Eli is the best example. There might come a time when I say that she is my favourite character from anything, ever. Honest. Maki, the consensus fan favourite (she’s really attractive, but also mistaken for a tsundere), is another seriously good character. She’s probably in my all-time top 5. After them, the rest are similarly damn superb in their own, special way. Then there’s Honoka and Kotori…but that’s my opinion, not yours. They have their own fans for their own reasons, too.

I shan’t go on much longer about my experience with Love Live much longer, but I’ll just raise my last thoughts on the comparison between it and Idolmaster. I said Idolmaster’s theme was buried in some very shady, and offputting roots. Love Live looks like it might be the same thing, but it really is not. Idolmaster is about the professional idol industry. Love Live is just some girls becoming idols to save their school. And that’s absolutely fine.

Certainly, it hasn’t stopped the series getting a mass of popularity. Sadly, I only got into it a few months before mu’s Final Live. They’ve since been succeeded by Aquors, who are basically nothing more than pretenders to them. They’re just another nine girls, but the formula behind them is exactly the same as before. If they’d changed  it up a little (i.e. less girls) I probably would have been cool with them. But, sadly, I’m not nearly as sold on Aquors as mu’s. They are still notably popular now, mind. And yet even today they can’t hold a candle to the original greats of mu’s. They will live forever in my mind. They’re just unbelievable.

11. K-On!

Another manga that made it big when it came out as an anime in 2009, K-On is about a five-girl band making music to save a high school club. Somewhere within it, cuteness happened and the world’s anime fans were sold. The two seasons of anime were, of course, done by Kyoto Animation, probably the go-to studio for making a slice of life like K-On was (of which, more later). This was, quite simply, an ordinary anime done absolutely right, something to aspire to. Obviously, its peak has long passed, but the fact it made it so big is testament to its greatness, and its place as a historic trend-setter of an anime. I’ve never gotten too involved in it myself, but the five main characters are all notable enough for me to know them. So I’d say Yui and Ritsu are my two favourites on the basis that they’re the cutest to me. Which was probably the point of it all. K-On benefitted a lot from the all-powerful need for moe, and K-On gave it in spades. That’s why it made it big.

12. Final Fantasy

I would have been able to talk a fair bit about Final Fantasy this time last year, but not as much as I could now, having not long ago gotten further than ever into the series thanks firstly to an explorative look into the brilliant FF8, and then a play-around with the also excellent FF15, the latest instalment in this legendary game series. Naturally, such great popularity breeds great amounts of art, and so it has proven. Mind you, this is one series where it isn’t the characters that is the biggest sell for me, though they certainly help. I mean, I loved FF8’s lot and that’s my favourite in the series. Plus, the four mains in FF15 were great to play as, and there are plenty of other greats throughout the series. FF6 had a great bunch, my favourite being Terra. FF7, the most popular game of them all, has the most popular characters with it, Cloud and Tifa among them. Both are amongst my favourites from the series. And let’s not forget about FF9’s bunch. There’s also the likes of Yuna from FF10, too. Final Fantasy is a series with positives beyond just these characters, but not only are they obviously vital to the whole series, they’re all much loved too. And as well they might be. The series is coming up to its 30th year of existence, and even if it doesn’t ever get back to its previous brilliance, the series will live forever.

13. Lyrical Nanoha

I’ve known about Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha for a while, but I’ve only really known it as something I used to confuse with other anime series with similar words and numbers of words, such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica (perhaps an easy mistake to make when you’re a total noob like I was) and Mahou Sensei Negima (which makes a lot less sense and just makes me look ridiculous). But now I know it to be a really rather popular magical girl series. But this isn’t quite a magical girl series as you know it. Not in the same sense as Madoka, but merely the details of the series itself. Now we know that magical girl series appeal most of all to two demographics: kodomomuke, and seinen. Precure, as mentioned previously, aims to please both demographics. Lyrical Nanoha is meant entirely for the latter. And it shows in all the art that’s been made of it.

But Nanoha also has quite a ridiculous production history. Nanoha was originally a girl in an H-game. No word of a lie. But whilst she was only very minor in it, she was so popular she got a whole new spin-off game, where she became a magical girl. Then an anime on that game was made, except elements of mecha were thrown in, simply because of Nanoha’s costume design. The result was an anime with fight scenes so far beyond the norm for a magical girl anime that it brought fans in who otherwise had no interest in the genre. The result was something really very popular indeed. There isn’t anything quite this popular quite like this, which probably makes sense. It’s hard to see something as mad as this working quite so well again, but the series has proved an exercise in how to take multiple interests and combine them into one, and attract an even greater audience than would otherwise be the case. So I respect it for earning success that way.

14. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Way back when I started to get into anime, Haruhi was the third proper anime I actually watched. I rather enjoyed it, even though it didn’t exactly seem the best thing since sliced bread. But it certainly looked like it seemed that way when Haruhi’s anime first hit the scene. What we have here is an anime with no clear genre – there’s all sorts on hand here, from comedy to sci-fi to fantasy to mystery to romance to slice of life and all in the typical high school setting. But the prominent theme is that of the supernatural, as seen in its main characters. And none more so than the titular character, who, unaware to herself, is a reality warper. The jokes of her being an actual god were probably fitting at the time; her anime was a domestic and international smash hit. It was much loved, and later much despised, but the result was a seriously popular anime. It also marked the point where Kyoto Animation made it big. Again, it’s the characters that sold the whole thing. Quite apart from Haruhi, who I think is pretty damn great despite also being very annoying, there’s a very good protagonist in Kyon, there’s Mikuru, who is basically moe personified, whilst Yuki gets the most love of anyone (she’s the emotionless one, again), and Itsuki is a nice man, too. This famous five were the big names behind the series’ popularity, and their doujinshi from so long ago remains here for all to see today.

The series’ greatest moment has long since gone, though. For some reason they tried to make a new animation as late as 2015, but no one watched it. At least, not anyone I know. The anime world had long since left it behind. It could get away with three years between its first and second seasons, but not six. There is still one very good reason to watch Haruhi now, though. The anime isn’t perfect, but you should still watch it anyway, solely so you can watch Disappearance, the 2010 movie. I waited a long, long, long time to watch it after finishing the second season. Like, a really long time. I actually kept on saying for years that I’ll watch Disappearance ‘soon’, without doing it. Then I went and did it eventually and it was fantastic. So make sure you go out and find a reason to go and see the outstanding movie.

15. Gundam

Lastly, here’s another series where I know plenty of people who love it, but I’m not as into it myself. But, obviously, I know exactly what Gundam is. Everyone does, because it’s been around since 1979. It’s a mecha series that needs little introduction, with a common plot that has stood the test of time. The theme of war encompasses the series mostly, and the hell and mental trauma that comes with it. The series has gone from many animes to mangas, OVAs, games, and a mass merchandising empire. There’s been theme park rides of it, racing team sponsorships, and more spin-offs than you could possibly think of. Yeah, and you need much more explanation why it’s popular? Why it’s been drawn so much? Thought not. About as timeless a classic as any anime will ever be.


So, that’s what I think on the most popular series in the world. I’ll end up covering my favourites further in due time, as well as looking at more series in brief eventually. And I have more Touhou stuff to write about at some point, too. Oh yes.