Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: The bit where they do what they were picked for (Part 1)

You could argue that Idolmaster’s music is a more crucial part of the series than any other. Of course it is: it’s what they got all these characters together for, to make music. With such a large line-up comes large expectations, and Idolmaster meets them. And some.

The great thing, I’ve learned, about having 183 idols (well, OK, around 75) singing your songs is that the variety that comes with each is wonderful. That alone makes a difference more than anything else. Oh, sure, the idols all have more than one song to them. But what they do is appear with different idols at different times. Given the right combo, the results can be spectacular.

Of course, this variety doesn’t count for much if you don’t then do something special with it. This is where my concerns lied most of all. Now, I like a lot of music. But I couldn’t be asked to choose my favourite songs, most of the time. And that’s because I mostly like anything that sounds good, no matter what genre it is. Some genres more than others, yes, but I can take it or leave it with most. And yet the J-pop that Idolmaster aims to emulate is the genre that seems to get me least of all. There are songs from the genre I like, for sure, but mostly they get a helping from elements of other genres, too. Now, I knew Idolmaster mixed other genres in from time to time. And yet I was led to believe that it took it far enough for the songs to no longer be considered J-pop. Fine, but these, I reckoned, would be the exceptions to the norm.

I was wrong. Very wrong. Not only does iM@s get its mixtures of genres right, not only does it emulate J-pop very well, not only does it spin off to other genres, it can do all of these absolutely brilliantly.

As I mentioned in my C93 piece (which I will follow up on with three more in the coming days, now artists’ works have been scanned and Touhou is out on Steam), I finally reached the all-important Level 50 in Starlight Stage recently. And that means I’ve been able to listen to each and every one of the game’s songs. So now, I can give a proper review of each song considered important enough to feature in iM@s’ tapping game. Of course, that’s not every song in the franchise, so a couple of good ones will be missed out here. But most of the big hitters will be covered, so don’t you worry. Consider this the closest to a proper review I’ll ever give of its music, as to try and do a full-blown description would require adjusting to damn near every single new song that comes out. Which, as it turns out, is quite hard. No, not every song here is great, but then a lot of Idolmaster gets by with imperfections because its best stuff makes it all worth it in the end. And yes, I know I did a top 20 before, but even my opinion on that is still changing. Trust me, it’s worth it to talk about all of those again. So, with that, let’s go.

Onegai! Cinderella: Of course, as we observed recently, Onegai! Cinderella is the greatest song ever made in every single way according to every single Idolmaster CG fan in the world…apart from me. Look, it’s fine. Just fine. And it’s a worthy theme for the series. But it’s not the be all and end all. Then again, I doubt everyone else thinks it is really. As another person observed, people just went to Onegai in the survey when they weren’t sure how to answer some of the numerous questions about the songs – some of which were rather too vague. Hence why everybody ‘loves’ Onegai. All those solos can’t hurt, mind. None of which are better than Chihiro’s.

Todoke! Idol: NewGen but with AnKira. Another typical idol-ish song. Not anything special, though.

Star!!: Hey look, it’s the OP for the anime. It does well in that regard, and it’s a catchy enough theme. Not a bad effort for a 13-idol mash-up. And anyway, some songs manage to dwarf even that. One of the better ‘proper’ idol songs.

S(mile)ING!!: On the one hand, Uzuki’s voice does actually sound quite interesting in this at times. On the other hand, it’s Uzuki’s image song. And therefore associated with my least favourite bit of the whole anime. So I’m not willing to give it much sympathy. Nor am I willing to give any to the tear-jerkers who named this song the one that makes them cry the most. This is a cheerful song, for chrissake.

Never say never: A seriously good – and inspirational, at least as much as singing ‘Tsuyoku sou tsuyoku’ strongly can be – piece from Rin, marred only by the fact it seemed hellbent on not letting me FC it. Like, literally. In my most notable attempt, I had the whole thing in the bag, and then on the very last double note, the game inexplicably decided to give me a ‘bad’ despite me actually hitting it perfectly. Thanks for that. I did conquer it eventually*, and just as well because it’s a great listen. Rin’s powerful voice is something to behold. She’s well worthy of being Cinderella Girls’s most iconic character (the Kaede Takagaki’s of this world potentially not withstanding).

*Right now, it also happens to be the song I’m most likely to make my first Master FC. Which would be ironic, all things considered.

Mitsuboshi☆☆★: Woo, this is lots of fun as expected of Mio. As I’ve mentioned before though, the best part of this song is her dance, which is really bloody hectic and looks it in Mio’s more adventurous outfits. I’d happily take her CinFes at some point, just to see what it’s like on my phone. She looks bloody spectacular in that, you know.

Onedari Shall We~?: The good news is I now have a CinFes Miku to enjoy this song with. Obviously I’m no big fan of Miku, but this song is honestly fine. Just a little bit funny, something very different on a musical level and not what you’d expect from the walking gimmick that is Miku. They could have done something quite mad with her image song, but they ended up with something really rather lovely. Goes to show what high standards this series has with music.

Twilight Sky: I’ve seen people give this song a bit of stick, and perhaps there were better ways to sum up Riina than just making her go “Tsuranatte” over and over again. But then maybe they just wanted to highlight her being a poser. In an ideal world, she’d have something close to Natsuki’s song as an image song. But then I suppose it was still early days when they commissioned hers.

DOKIDOKI Rhythm: The kind of silly and fun-loving song you’d expect out of Rika. The lyrics are a bit all over the place, and in places even a little questionable. A reminder to everyone – which I wish more people would heed – that she is 12. But, again, this is Rika and I’m not sure what else to expect from her. But even if she might have misunderstood her favourite influence, it’s still a lovely enough song.

Kazeiro Melody: One of the slowest, most innocent songs the franchise has to behold, this could only be Chieri’s theme. It’s not gonna pull down any trees here, but it’s soft and sweet enough for me. Much like Chieri herself, actually. Which is kind of the point. In that regard, this song is an unqualified success.

Marshmallow☆Kiss: Vintage Kirari silliness here. Although the lyrics are very un-Kirari-like indeed – again, possibly a consequence of ye olde ‘early days’ of CG. Like, really, if you gave Kirari an image song tomorrow, no way would it come out like this. People have taken the piss out of this song because of that, but the music itself is perfectly fine. You can call this the ‘puni puni’ song or, failing that, the ‘Daisuki chu’ song as well. Although now I will only ever know it as ‘the marshmallow cheeks’ song after one especially hilarious comic based on it. Unless she means the balloons they’ve tied to the back of her CinFes model. Which, incidentally, are bloody hilarious.

Anzu no Uta: ‘Song’ is a pretty loose term in this case, but then this is Anzu and she doesn’t do music like anyone else. It’s more of a speech if anything, and to the tune of those who want their eight days off a week it bloody works. Of course, the main thing is, at the end of the day, this is really, really funny. Although for all we know, with her CinFes card, she could be getting into Eurobeat next. Someone’s got to make that joke with her unawakened art, surely.

Tsubomi Yumemiru Rapsodia ~Alma no Michibiki~: As dark, edgy and utterly nonsensical as you’d come to expect from Ranko-chan. This original image song of hers is darker than her other song as Rosenburg Engel, which we’ll be getting to in a moment. If that’s your sort of thing, great. It’s not mine, though.

Chocolat Tiara: A lovely demonstration of Kanako’s silky, smooth voice. And a lovely song too at that, one that’s easy on the ear as well. Maybe a little too fast than is ideal for her, but still, the music is great. I enjoy this one, one of my favourite Cute songs.

Venus Syndrome: “Do you know benis? Be your benis.” Curse the Japanese for forgetting to include the letter ‘v’ in their alphabet. Poor, poor Minami. This potential Freudian slip aside, I have to say this song is magnificent. I particularly like the fact it seems to sound a little bit retro. There’s a bit of the 90s about it, and Minami’s singing suits it down to the ground. Hard to know what’s making her so sad singing the song, though. Perhaps the realisation she has been made to tell everyone to ‘be your benis’. Maybe that’s why she’s so popular. That, and she is just a little bit attractive. Also, among the many guitar solos iM@s throws into its songs, Venus Syndrome’s is probably the best. It’s more seamless than most, it’s actually an incredibly epic section that doesn’t feel thrown in for the sake of it, and it’s not so long you just want the song to get on with it. Probably why they even went and threw it into the Starlight Stage version.

Romantic Now: Rika’s misunderstanding extends to Miria, who is meant to be everyone’s favourite little sister (or, as people weirdly insist on calling her, daughter). The poor little thing. I’m torn as to what to think about this, considering the music itself is rather ‘meh’. Here is the most innocent of cinnamon rolls seemingly handing in her innocence card. I really, really don’t know what to think. It’d be a little sweet coming from anyone else…but she’s 11. I want to like it. Miria is just too sweet. But…man. Why must they do this to her?

You’re stars shine on me: Here’s a slower song from everyone’s favourite mispronouncer, hence the incorrect name. Anastasia’s image song is lovely stuff, simple and effective. One for the relaxers, this one. Nothing too spectacular, but then Anya is the kind of idol that can swing both ways musically. She’s that kind of very, very good, and variable, idol.

TOKIMEKI Escalate: Here’s the first top-tier song, a world-class song from an idol who is now spending her time proving to me she’s even more amazing than I first thought. I’ll say it again; Mika Jougasaki is simply a-ma-zing. She’ll be even more amazing if she finally gets that perm soon (they have to give it to her this year, else they’ll run out of voiced idols), but she has a remarkable song on her side as well. A hype head-banger to the extreme, Tokimeki is a song that can be best described as an absolute rave. No song gets me dancing quite as hard. And the lyrics are quite magnificent as well. Firstly, because it is about the only song that uses cider as a metaphor. Which is both hilarious and delicious. And secondly, the lyrics are so Mika. Her hyper-sexuality is actually coated with a hint of reluctance and I think Tokimeki reflects that very well. Oh, and it helps that her singing is terrific as well, too. Makes up for that otherwise kinda odd voice she has. So forgive me for calling this a most fantastic song. All hail the ultimate gyaru.

Naked Romance: This song is the series’ biggest surprise for me; it doesn’t have the typical ingredients of music I’d like, and yet when I finally heard it for the first time I actually found something rather brilliant. I also found myself FCing it, which is faintly incredible. All credit to Miho, though. She’s a relatively ordinary idol with an extraordinary theme. It’s not like other Cute songs, that’s for sure. The instrumentation is near perfect. Just make sure you don’t actually type in ‘Naked Romance’ without the ‘Idolmaster’ qualifier. Else you’ll end up having your own ‘I’m sleeping with Producer-san’ moment. Maybe that’s the reason behind the name.

Angel Breeze: The first opinion I heard of this song, before I heard it, was that it was ‘too 80s’. That perked me up immensely because if there’s one era of music that rings best with me, it probably is the 80s. So I reckoned Mizuki would deliver. Alas, I was to be disappointed. It is a very 80s song…just not the sort of 80s I’m into. It’s fine by itself, just not my cup of tea. Shame, that.

Apple Pie Princess: This is a very silly song. The sort Airi probably deserves, but unlike others there isn’t enough else there to make it anything interesting. I suppose if anything it turns out as unintentionally hilarious more than anything to me, courtesy of a series of ‘yay’s which aren’t nearly as enthusiastic as the usual affair for this series, and which I consequently find really, really funny. Yes, I know. My sense of humour is inclined towards very meta stuff, so you’re probably not bothered about it. But this is the kind of ‘yay’ I can join in with, with my voice, which observers have called ‘half-dead’ in the past. Whoop de doo.

Everyday Dream: As an idol dominated to the point of ruination by the sort of character trait that could literally get her arrested in real life, we can only really judge Mayu’s song by her lyrics. And they’re about what you’d expect: stalkerish. I wasn’t going to comment further, but I must touch on one actual line they made her sing:

Anytime it constantly echoes in my bosom

…What…the…fuck? Like, no. Really no. Other than that, the rest of the song speaks for itself. Needless to say, I do not enjoy it.

Bright Blue: A song as humble as Fumika herself, but while it suits its singer very well its humbleness isn’t necessarily a great thing in this case. The song is fine, but because it’s in that halfway house between relaxation and all-action, it isn’t all that remarkable. Fumika’s voice is soft and sweet, but it’s the sort that would work most of all on either the softest (of which she has…none) or hardest (see: Saite Jewel, Illusionista) songs. This is sort of neither. Just a few little changes could do it a world of good.

Rockin’ Emotion: A song that is Natsuki through and through, and of course, famously, not a CM. Because apparently the series’ most handsome beast is not worthy of being in the elite. And considering the total lack of time at Bamco Towers for anything other than Starlight Stage, she won’t be joining them any time soon, one would suspect. Either way, this is actually a bit too generic in rock terms, I feel. Other songs do Natsukichi a great deal more justice, even though she has to share them with others. But with rock, that’s probably the way it’s meant to be, really.

Hanakanzashi HANAKANZASHI: So good they named it twice? Alternatively, they could’ve named it ‘Konchikichin’, which sounds lovely in song. Seriously though, this fits Sae properly well. It’s also vintage stuff from IOSYS, up to and including just about everyone liking it. I’d say I do now, too. Especially now that I’ve FCd it. On Pro, of course. I have been forced to play it on Master and it turns out that it’s really quite difficult. Although it probably didn’t help that my friend’s voices were getting in the way.

Hotel Moonside: Yup, still my favourite. But rather than bang on about how important it is to me again (did I mention it got me into iM@s?), I’m instead gonna focus on what a brilliant piece of music it is. Which I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually done yet.

Kanade’s theme is, of course, the series’ biggest example of out-and-out EDM and it serves to make it one of the consensus favourites across the series; it turns out lots and lots of people quite like the genre. I count myself amongst its fans. Indeed, while I listen to all sorts of genres, EDM shines out as my clear favourite among them all. So I know what I want from my dance tunes. And when I first touched upon it I knew I’d touched upon something a little bit special.

You’ve got the buildup, executed magnificently, the beat, which is insanely good throughout, instrumentation which does its job absolutely perfectly, a progression that keeps you wanting more and more, and its iconic hook, the ‘1, 2, kiss, kiss’. Which brings me on to its singer. I’m not raving about how much I love her here; long before I knew a thing about her, I knew Kanade only as a damn good vocal to this song. If you’re going to put any singer in your EDM, you’d better make sure you get it right. Kanade pulls it off with aplomb. Her ever-lovely, ever-husky vocals make this song what it is. I have seen people accuse her singing of being ‘too synthesised’ in this instance. But that’s only in comparison to her other stuff. We’re not talking about ‘her other stuff’ here, though. In the context of Hotel Moonside, they’ve got it spot on. They set the tone just right. Here, she’s bloody brilliant.

The only possible nitpick I could have is with the lyrics, and even they are still pretty great. After all, who cares what they mean? She sounds bloody great just saying the damn words. The only thing I’ve noticed is that, her insistent use of handcuffs as a metaphor here appears to have given license for some people to insist that she is actually a kink extraordinaire. Not that I’m calling anyone out here, you understand… Although I now suppose I have to clarify that no, I did not get into Kanade on the basis that she’d make me feel what it’d be like to be arrested.*

*I’m sure there’s a ‘she’s only 17’ joke in there somewhere, as invoked by several people upon finding out how old she really is, but such a joke would be entirely lost on me, because no matter how old you think Kanade looks, she is legal where I am.

Seriously, though. In catering to my favourite genre of them all, what they’ve ended up with is a tune that will stand above all else, for all my time as an iM@s fan. Well done, I say. Thank you, even.

Osanpo Camera: The most interesting bit about this song to me is the little intro and ending jingle that also happens to be the theme of Aiko’s radio show. The rest is disappointingly nondescript, to me. I suppose that probably fits how I view Aiko, as well. Just a shame that in this case, it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Märchen Debut!: No way were they going to hold back on the gimmick master’s theme; Nana’s theme hits all the marks, and some. Of course, there was only one possible circle they could’ve called upon to make such a thing, and that was IOSYS. They have form with other usamins, after all. But despite this, and what is clearly a very fitting image song, you won’t be surprised to hear that I rarely give this song the time of day. Not that it stopped me FCing it immediately upon unlocking it, you understand. It must be a thing with IOSYS. Then again, if it was, I would have FCd the song I like from them most of all (of which, more later).

I will get on to describing all the other songs a bit later. Partly because this post is getting quite long as it is. But mostly because there’s a thing I’m doing with the next song I’m talking about and I haven’t finished it yet. Stay tuned.

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iM@s ages and why they’re wrong (or so a lot of the fanbase reckons)

A joke was made in the Starlight Stage Discord recently.

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Many people are surprised by different idol’s ages in this series. They’ve got good reason to be, looking at some of them. I’m not one of them myself, considering I found out everyone’s age when I researched them for the first time. But looking at it from an angle where I put their age aside, here are a few thoughts.

Most of the voiced idols only, as usual. Going in reverse order.

Bold – Older than they look.
Italic – Younger than they look.

THE 20 AND OVER’S

Sanae – An in-universe joke, in terms of age.
Shin – Really older than she looks. Until she puts her hair down, in which case she appears slightly less older than she looks.
Aki – Idolmaster’s director of shouting very loudly doesn’t quite look 21, I think. At least, not from the neck down.
Yuki – Only just about 20 and yet she doesn’t even look that. Wow.
Kaede – And that’s why everyone loves her so much.
Mizuki – Actually permanently worried about age. As she looks it.
Miyu – Yup. Not nearly as bothered about it as the others.

THE 19’S

Minami – Yeah, that’s about right. Looks it when she’s in one of her blazers/jackets. Actually, she might look a bit older in one of those. But I’ll be nice because she looks so beautiful.
Fumika – Also about right, I suppose. THE FOOM.
Frederica – I’m saying she’s younger than she looks because other people have said it too. But it’s kind of hard to tell because no one else has her eyes.

THE 18’S

Haruna – It’s close, but if they look older, I’m marking them down as such. Even if she looks 17 rather than 18.
Airi – I honestly can’t decide with Airi. Sticking her with Mizuki makes her look older. Sticking her with her own voice makes her seem younger. So I’ll ballpark it and say 18 is just right.
Yuka – Hard to tell because her nature means her looks tend to vary wildly. So again, 18 is probably fair.
Shiki – A bit like trying to work out how old a squirrel is. It’s not really possible. I suppose most of her shots make her look older than she is, but it’s hard to tell when she has the morals of a 6-year old. So I’ll leave the jury out on Sheeky.
Syuko – Syuko-chan’s a lot more set in stone than those above her. She’s 18, alright.
Yumi – Actually looks quite mature. Or, as I’ve recently observed, the polar opposite of Frederica. It’s the hair, I think. Also has a nice bum.
Takumi – Definitely.
Rina – Also a little hard to tell because she’s permanently made up. But then sticking her with her Midnight unit does make her look older, in my mind.
Natsuki – Natsukichi’s another tricky one, because her looks are so handsomely distracting. In that regard she looks more than 18. So I suppose I’d better put her there, then.

THE 17’S

Uzuki – On the basis that her two colleagues are younger than they look, Uzuki counters them by being older. Still, in looking young, she does her best.
Miho – Not much older, at least at times. But definitely a little bit, I think.
Anzu – Duh.
Riina – Hmm. Hard to tell with Darii at times. But I don’t really see her as 17.
AkaneAnother champion of shouting here, but this one looks about 17 on balance.
Kanako – Yeah, she’s about right, I’d say.
Nana – Well, obviously.
Nao – Of course, Nao is very, very cute indeed, but don’t let that skew things, because at the end of the day she does look 17. They can do cute too, you know.
Yui – A bit skewed by her playful tendencies, but at the end of the day she’s got the kind of actual look that does say 17.
Mika – I’ve seen people call her younger than she looks on the basis that she usually looks like she’s showing herself off. Which seems a fair assessment. She’s also pretty tall compared to her direct peers. If that matters.
Kanade – Literally mistaken for an office lady in-universe, despite being in an actual high-school uniform. Her 17-ness catches out a lot of people. Oh yeah, and she’s kinda tall as well.
Kirari – Quite awkward to calculate on account of being 700 foot tall. But, large size does a person look older make.

THE 16’S

Yoshino – Yeah, she definitely looks younger than 16. Two years off at least.
Chieri – Really looks younger than 16. Maybe three years off it.
Yuko – Yuko always looks so variable to me. Sometimes she looks older, sometimes younger. So on balance, 16 is probably right.
Mayu – Hmm. Let’s just say I’m not too keen to dwell on this as I don’t like the idea of being stalked by a 16-year old. Let’s say hers looks about right and move on.
Karen – Because she gets tagged with Nao a lot, and looks older than her too, Karen has to go down as looking more than her 16 years.
Aiko – She looks like a normal young adult. But is actually 16.
Shizuku – She’s got those tiddies. That says it all, really.

THE 15’S

Miku – I’d say Miku and her personality look like they belong in an age group two years under. For her to be on nodding terms with the likes of Rin is just plain ridiculous. Reflects even worse on her, if anything.
Syoko – No one looks even remotely like Syoko, but if you had to analyze her, 15 would seem about right.
Anastasia – Anya’s personality is much more sensible than the others around her, but she does look 15.
Yukari – Here’s one big discrepancy. Yukari looks 3 years older than she actually is in my mind. I know another Yukari who does something similar, actually.
Kyoko – They call her a perfect housewife when she’s 15. Probably says a lot.
Sae – Looks wise beyond her years. But that’s probably just the Yamato Nadeshiko talking.
Rin – That sharp-edged face looks more than 15.
Mio – Similar thing going on as with Nao – a really cute face does not necessarily mean a young-looking one. And she’s more stacked than most around her as well. Except Miku, apparently, and god knows how they managed to justify that one.

*(For the record, the only 15-year-old I’d ever take as anything approaching a housewife is Maki out of Love Live.)

THE YOUNG’UNS

Sachiko – The most punchable face in the series checks out about right for her age. Which means I want to punch an actual 14-year-old. Woe is me.
Asuka – Closer to the chuuni mark than Ranko. Her edginess isn’t fooling me.
Ranko – Bet you she tells people she’s actually 500. But, of course, a chuuni actually has to be 14.
Noriko – This one throws most for a loop. 16 would be more accurate with her looks.
Yuuki – Of course, we all know Yuuki’s tall in-universe for her age. So no surprises here.
Rika – Here’s the thing; Rika might not look 12, but she is. But no one seems to realise the latter in the doujinshi world. I wish they would pay more attention.
Momoka – Weird to think they’d undersell a 12-year old of all ages. But I’ll shut up now before people start commenting something beginning with ‘H’ and ending with ‘ello, police’.
Arisu – We all know Arisu acts more than her age. We also know she tends to be brought back down to earth by those that are her age. And she looks it, too.
Chie – Looks 11 and I really wish she bloody acted it. Instead, I’ve literally seen people jest that she acts like Kanade. Because of course the same personality that works perfectly on a 17 year old works just as well with an 11 year old. Not hers, though…
Miria – And you wonder why everyone wants her as their little sister.

So, yeah. I’d say the analogy we started with is about right here.

My 2017

This was originally meant for places elsewhere. But as it’s a huge wall of text I’ve decided it fits here as well.

This time last year I was here writing one huge wall of text talking about how I’d fallen in love with Love Live.

If you told me then that I’d be sitting here this year writing one huge wall of text talking about how I’d fallen in love with Idolmaster, I’d have called you a madman. Which is why I’m doing exactly that, obviously.

I honestly didn’t even fancy getting into iM@s at first. When I was looking at it, I was doing so with so much skepticism I wasn’t sure what I’d find going in. I only had limited knowledge of the series going in, which given the spectacle ahead of me might have seemed a little daunting. But having been a Touhou fan for five years, the sheer numbers iM@s had in characters didn’t phase me. No. This was a question of image and I wasn’t sure I liked Idolmaster’s. It was the connotations with the bad old idol industry in real life that irked me before, most of all. Would Idolmaster be too much like that for me to like it?

Well, as it turns out, no. Not even nearly. Such is the wonder that is the virtual idol. Such is their power that they can make something as eerie as the result of the industry seem utterly blissful.

Of course, there are an awful lot of idols to take in across the entire series: over 200 between the mega-franchise’s many and varied editions. And because of this, my focus has been almost exclusively on a small group of just 184 of its idols, the Cinderella Girls.

iM@s CG has plenty going for it on several fronts. Its big mobile game at the moment, Starlight Stage, is an excellent play, an unqualified success and a gacha game whose gacha is actually fine – it plays fair and leaves you to do whatever you will with it. Its makers, Bandai Namco, know how to make all sorts of hype for their series, no matter how many cries of ‘Scamco’ they get. Its anime is hardly perfect, but is bolstered by a great second season that will attract anyone who loves a bit of drama. And its music – the whole damn point of the thing – is made to an incredibly high standard, with some sensational hits across the board.

However, while the music might have played a small hand in pressing me to finally check out ‘the other side’, it was, as ever, going to be the characters that made me stay there. Characters are what I look for more than anything in any medium. And iM@s doesn’t disappoint.

The cast is a long, long way off perfect. A majority of it isn’t even what I’d call ‘good’. Heck, of the 184 idols Cinderella Girls can call upon, just 75 have a voice. Oh sure, there are some interesting unvoiced idols but given that voices are generally meant for the most popular idols (and Suzuho Ueda), it says an awful lot about those that don’t have a voice yet. And even among those who can actually sing, only about half of them are worth the time of day to me. Whether it be an idol far too gimmicky for my good, or an idol too average to give a shit about, not every Cinderella Girl fits my glass slipper.

But, for me, that’s really not the point with this series. With such a variation of people it’s only natural my views on characters would cover the full spectrum. That’s the way of the world. And between a cast filled with gimmicks up to the nines and other, nondescript types lie some of the most charming characters I’ve yet encountered. And some even better than charming.

Observe, for instance, some of the deeply impressive cool idols in the series that have turned me into what we call a ‘CoolP’. The Anastasias, the Minami Nittas, the Rin Shibuyas, the Kaede Takagakis of this world. These are the idols that have impressed me most and in various different ways. Anya is as lovely a person as you could imagine. Minami is the textbook definition of a girl next door. Rin is no-nonsense done right and with singing of astonishing power. And Kaede…well, everybody loves Kaede, don’t they?

There’s a whole host of idols that have impressed me in all sorts of little ways, and I could talk about them all I liked. But my time is best reserved for a small selection of these idols that have impressed me more than any other, those who I can say belong in my top tier.

And the great thing about them all is that they’ve each attracted me in very different ways. There’s Frederica Miyamoto, the only mad girl I actually like thanks to her hilarious demeanour and antics, as well as infinite meme potential. And she manages all that despite having eyes that look like they came off a deep sea creature. And yet she still manages to be utterly magnificent.

There’s Mika Jougasaki, who is absolutely everything an idol ought to be. She’s almost dream-like, just a lovely person capable of breaking out an absolute banger and with so much visual appeal it’s almost mind-blowing. If anything, she might look too damn good, as some of iM@s’ (failed) attempts to show her wonders off can testify to. Then there’s Syuko Shiomi, who is absolutely everything an idol usually isn’t and is the most interesting character in the series, to me, for that reason. It helps that her backstory is easily my favourite of anyone’s – it’s a bit like a literal Cinderella story – and her personality is so relaxed it’s almost funny, but what I like most of all is how she subverts so many expectations, I call her an ‘anti-idol’. And she’s also a genuinely beautiful person who looks quite unlike anyone else around. Maybe she’s an acquired taste, but she hits the spot for me.

And if we judge idols by one common factor – cuteness – nobody does it better than an idol the series doesn’t call ‘cute’, even though she is; Mio Honda. She’s really, really sweet. Like, really sweet. Not universally liked, thanks to an occasional bad attitude, but that really is all it is; occasional. The rest of the time her personality is lovingly infectious. Happiness all round, and much more all-action than her two direct peers. She’s brilliant.

None of them can compare, nay, hold a candle, to my favourite of them all, though. An idol so good, so perfect, that for me, she’s redefined what’s possible from any character in any work, ever.

Long before I’d actually gotten into Idolmaster, there were times I’d seen it and wondered what it’d be like if I went and got into it. But I was never serious about it, at all. But come this April, I found something that actually made me think about getting into it properly. It wasn’t a character. But it was a character’s image song. And while it didn’t really mean anything for a good four months or so, Hotel Moonside – or, more accurately, a remix of it – is what I will credit with moving me into this idol hell. Its singer, Kanade Hayami, is who I’ve moved in with. So to speak.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Kanade. Is. Perfect. In many ways, it’s hard to see how I went four months between finding out her name and finding out literally anything else about her, but that’s how it ended up. And when I finally did take the plunge into this idol hell, I knew that no matter who else iM@s threw at me, it’d be hard to find anyone better than Kanade. Because what I found with her was a face from heaven, her wonderful wave of short, blue hair and her sharp, golden eyes almost always matched with a soft, seductive expression from her joint-favourite thing, her lovely lips. Her body is magnificently sculpted; almost the dictionary definition of ‘just right’. And it helps that she knows it, too. She permanently demands you to gaze at her and, every time, I’m only too happy to oblige. And as for her personality…well, blimey. It’s the sort of personality I didn’t know I needed. When you’re as flirty as Kanade, with all the assets she has, something as simple as one of her many, many requests for a kiss, with that husky, but soothing tone in her voice, whether she’s speaking or singing, becomes almost mindblowing. That’s exactly the idea with her, and all the sweet nothings she says to you. Usually followed by her distinct, sweet laugh and a “Nante ne.” And it makes you realise just what a remarkable person you have on your hands. She is utterly irresistible.

Of course, none of this is the reason she ultimately stands now as my favourite character of all time, surpassing even Touhou’s very own Sanae (sorry). That was down to one utterly insane month, one that I still can’t quite believe actually happened in places, when I recall it.

I won’t bore you with the full details of exactly how lucky I got with Starlight Stage, but the gist of it is; Kanade has an SSR exclusive to the game’s ‘CinFes’ events, which come around only every few months and for a very short time. Not only do you have to wait for your chance to get one of these cards, getting one is a challenge in itself. Trying to get a specific one is just plain ill-advised. I wasn’t trying to get Kanade. I would have been fine with any CinFes card. And yet somehow, against remarkable odds, she showed up on my very first roll. I hadn’t experienced something so utterly shocking in a long, long time. That Tuesday morning, it took a long, long time to take in just what had happened. And it was then I realised I had come across a character more extraordinary than any other. This was escapism, escaping into a very beautiful reality.

Of course, if that had been that, I would already have been happy enough. Surely, I’m thinking, Kanade couldn’t be more perfect? I mean, she could always receive her very own ‘limited’ SSR in, say, the next round of the gacha. But surely that wasn’t gonna happen…right?

Thursday morning. I woke up, and went to check who was in the latest gacha. In there was a new, limited card for Kanade. I did not hesitate. With my heart rushing like crazy, I had to have this third, and final, SSR of hers.

I didn’t get her on my first roll. But I did get her on my sixth roll. Which, considering the chances, was still well above average. And so, within 5 zany, impossible dreams of days, I found myself at peace with Starlight Stage’s gacha. I had all three of the cards I wanted more than any other. And no more reason to spend a penny on it, ever. In fact, no more reason to spend a penny on anything even like it, ever. And I say that as a man who likes a flutter and a gamble from time to time. But there is no way in hell I will come close to anything like this lucky on a gacha-esque game again.

And my new, true waifu wasn’t finished there. Oh boy, not even nearly. Because, if getting her rarest cards wasn’t enough, the powers that be gave her not one, but two new songs later that month, both on CDs to be released in December. So she’d even make my Christmas merrier, as well. Turns out her seiyuu, the outstanding Yuuko Iida, is pretty much on-call 24/7. And good on her. So much came out for her in November I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t missed the part where Bamco had come out and said “We’ve made Kanade the main character now.” She isn’t quite that – she is fairly popular on the whole, but not on nearly as grand a scale as some – but she pretty much was for that month. And it made me realise how very, very happy I was to be a KanadeP. Lucky, yes. But my god, what feelings she brought to me.

I know this might all mean nothing to you. You might be thinking I’m talking a load of embarrassing twaddle, writing me off as mental, even. But honestly, when you’re a man who embraces escapism as I do, finding so many different ways to let the imagination run wild, when something comes along in a manner as dramatic and as impactful as this, to me, it feels truly, truly special. That’s why I love Kanade. And that’s why I love Idolmaster, too.


Right. Now I’ve taken my chance to embarrass myself, let’s move away from fantasy and into reality. Because, despite all the ways I just found to praise my new favourite way to escape the real world, it turns out that actually, this has been the best year of my life in damn near every other way, too.

Nowhere has this been more true than in the wild and wonderful sporting experiences I’ve taken in this year. Thanks to attaining a permanent job and something called ‘a disposable income’, I’ve decided, with some inspiration from a colleague of mine, to spend it, by and large, on trips abroad. And whereabouts have I been abroad? Well, usually where my devotion lies more than anywhere else; with Manchester United.

I’ll be honest, they’re a long way off perfect. They were nowhere near last season and even with them sitting in 2nd place now, they’re miles off 1st and still very capable of irritating the living shit out of me in various ways. I went up to Manchester to see them on Boxing Day – 5 days ago – and they were 2-0 down to Burnley at half-time…at home. And they needed Jesse Lingard, our only footballer on anything even approaching form as of this writing, to get them out of trouble with two goals, including a last-minute equaliser. It’s not easy being a United fan, sometimes. And yet, I wouldn’t have them any other way. I wouldn’t support anyone else. Because they are still capable of brightening up any damn day. This year, they’ve done a bit more than that. They’ve given me experiences bordering on the surreal, and experiences I could easily place amongst my greatest.

Would you like to know, for instance, how I went all the way out to Stockholm in the name of watching them win a European trophy? Not by flying, either. I took a whole damn week off, so I could instead work my way there by train (featuring two coaches) and took in some of Germany as well in the meantime. Hannover is my new favourite part of the country – it’s bloody brilliant. And I did all that for 90 minutes of football, and a place in the stadium among tens of thousands of United fans to celebrate it at the end. That was an emotional victory, too, make no mistake. Coming in the wake of the Manchester attack, that game mattered. In many years to come, I might find a more myself witnessing an even more exhilarating experience with my team, but that trip to Stockholm will go down as my first big one. What a rush it was…

In the meantime, I’ve continued to follow my team and visit their games from times to time. I’ve been doing a select few home games, some of their London games – their win at Arsenal became the best game I’ve ever been to (David de Gea is the best person in the world, end of) – and, most notably, their latest European campaign. That has meant a trip to Lisbon in October, which was absolutely excellent, and one to Basel in November, which was regrettably less so. Next up on the agenda is Seville in February. After that, who knows? We’ll find out once I’m here next year after Jose’s won us the Champions League. Definitely.

Theirs hasn’t been the only sporting experience I’ve taken in this year, of course. Indeed, I, a Formula 1 fan of 14 years and counting, finally took in my first grand prix this year. And not only that, I took in my second, as well. First was, of course, the British GP, and then over the August bank holiday I went to the Belgian GP as well, featuring a stay in Brussels. So they were both great to be at as well. There’ll be some more racing on the agenda, although on a more domestic scale, I suspect. Maybe there’ll be some room for another European excursion, though? Who knows. And I should say, I’m sticking to Europe for the time being. Yes, Japan is at the top of my bucket list – and there’s other far eastern destinations just behind it – but I’m not made of money (yet), so that can wait for now. A 2019/2020 trip is a more realistic target there. Perhaps either of the Rugby World Cup or Olympics would be a good excuse to visit, when they come around… Maybe both?!

The US of A is also largely out of the question for now, even if I’m into some of its sports. But the NFL comes to London often enough, anyway… Plus, I think I’m falling out of love with it now, anyway. I mean, every other bugger in this country is loving it now, but I can see the whole shitstorm around it at the moment and I don’t like it. The quality of play has not been great, and I’ve been less inclined to give a damn about it. Although I am speaking as a fan of the Broncos, who have been fairly terrible this year. Whatever happened to my SB champions? Where my real American sports love is now is with the NBA, where I stand as a proud neutral enjoying what a lovely state it is now in. It’s always just so glorious to watch. And the star power is so much greater there. It’s deeply attractive to me, and if there’s anything I’d head to America to watch, it’d be that.

Video games have been damn good too, this year. You’ll all have your favourites, but as a racing game fan I’ve had mine, too; Forza 7 and GT Sport have both floated my boat, as has F1 2017 this time. There’s been the usual round of sports games to enjoy, and of course, a pair of new Touhou games, both of which are on the lovely platform we know as Steam. HSiFS is another fine addition to the series, and one which I somehow cleared on my first real attempt. And AoCF, the latest fighter, has a lovely pair of new characters and is another strong fighter. Make no mistake, this has been a watershed moment of a year for all Touhou.

And yet at the end of the day, despite all of that, my favourite game of the year is a gacha game which actually started in 2015 and which is basically idol hell on my mobile, and an excuse for me to rage about not knowing songs well enough. But then who could have predicted this time last year I’d be playing Starlight Stage on the daily? Seriously, it’s bloody brilliant.

Most importantly, though, real life has been great to me, too. I’m happy with my lot, I’m happy most weeks, I’m happy if I make others happy. My workplace is fine, with plenty of great people I can talk to every day. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in it for over a year and a half now, and above all this, I can point to it as my biggest life-changer. It seems relatively ordinary now, I’m used to everything at this point, but looking back it’s taught me some big realities. There’s only one truly awful bit about it, but it doesn’t matter every day (or even most days, ultimately) and it’s failed to dampen all the other great things about it, or anything else I’ve done this year. So I’m cool with where I’m at with it right now. Long may that continue…or indeed, get even better. That’s a possibility, too, I’m sure.

As for next year? Well, I hope for more of the same. Much, much more, that is. There’s a whole lot I wanna be doing next year, whether it be travelling, improving my life further, writing – which I’ve already gotten something of a headstart on – honestly, there’s all sorts of stuff. If I have a real life target, it would be to get a driving and/or motorbike license. But god knows where I’ll find the time for something like that. And who knows, maybe I’ll even discover something new. With a bit of luck, said something won’t take over my life. Although if that happened next year, it’d probably be so brilliant I wouldn’t give a shit. Love Live managed that in 2016. Idolmaster managed it 2017. I suppose the ultimate question here is… Which idol hell will I fall into in 2018? But yeah, something could very easily come in and shake up my best laid intentions. If it does, I sure hope that it’s worth it.

Have a happy new year. My new year’s resolution is to post less walls of text everywhere. Because we are all supposed to fail our resolutions within days of making them. Although if I did a proper resolution, it would be to do what’s on my mind much more often, so I could be happier at any given moment. See you in a (hopefully great) 2018…

C93 hype!!!

C93 starts Friday – beginning the second of my two favourite times of the year in this hobby of mine. The Winter Comiket is where allcomers in the doujinshi industry gather and show off their best work to us. And there’s many, many reasons to be cheerful about it. I’m gonna tell you why this will be a momentous three days for me.

First of all, though, the big numbers. And the #1 franchise this year should come as no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with this corner of the media world. Fate has enjoyed a huge resurgence thanks to the outrageously successful Fate Grand/Order and artists have fallen in love with it. Given how much it gets talked about in my most frequented Discord, they aren’t alone in this love. And it sure as hell deserves it. I doubt there’s any way I get into the series full-time – as far as I can tell, its timeline is a highly complex one and as a general rule, the theme of the series is not quite my cup of tea. Also, I already have one gacha game to worry about, which is quite enough for me, personally. But I harbour immense respect for what it has achieved in these times, with so many other popular series around it. Even more impressive is the fact it has actually been popular for a great deal of time, and how it has now taken it up to 11 with F/GO. It didn’t come out of nowhere, it just hit the spot dead on with its latest instalment. So, well done them.

Its place at the top has been helped by Kantai Collection’s demise, though. It lies in second place for now, and will likely remain a top series purely off historical merit alone, but its star is falling fast. There are several reasons for this, including, but not limited to; artists running out of (smutty) ideas with it, artists moving on to other series, its creators spoiling the game with updates, and its creators being utter arseholes (Kemono Friends).

There’s also the fact a new shipbutt series has come along to steal more of its thunder in the form of Azur Lane. Mercifully, that doesn’t quite look like enjoying the success KanColle did at its peak: although it might’ve looked that way at first, there’s altogether too many series to fight against. Instead, I suspect it will settle down to something around Granblue Fantasy’s level of popularity. And that’s fine. Well, as fine as something like this can be, anyway. I can’t believe the very idea of ship girls (with fanservice) is now an actual thing, but I digress. As long as it does me no harm, I’m fine with it.

But what of Touhou, king of the doujinshi world for so long? Well, that has fallen all the way to fourth, causing an inevitable breakout of ‘dead series’ to come out. It’s not a dead series, merely one not at its peak anymore. Yes, I know I haven’t written about HSiFS yet. No, it isn’t Touhou’s fault I got into another huge series at the exact moment it came out. But I have an excuse to write about it now – because the game ‘before’ it, the much delayed AoCF, is coming this Comiket. It’s another fighter, with some old favourites to match, and writing about it first gives me a chance to stick to the ‘chronological’ order I’ve followed in writing about each of the games – remember, I wrote about IaMP before IN. Shortly after the event has blown over, the game will also come out on Steam. If you love the series, please buy it. Hopefully this game will be a success even greater than ULiL was last time out for Tasofro.

Then there’s the series above it. The numbers got it real close to Touhou last time out, probably giving me a justifiable reason to take it up full time. I haven’t looked back since, but the question was – would it surpass the GOAT this time round? The answer is “Yes, it has.” God, am I glad I got into Idolmaster when I did.

Idolmaster’s trajectory has been unlike anything else around it. It hasn’t been exposed to sudden peaks and troughs, or even slow declines, like everything else: this is a series which, slowly but surely, has kept rising, and rising, and rising. The initial credit for getting it here obviously has to go to the original 765 legends, but since then we’ve had the Cinderella Girls to give it a boost, then Starlight Stage to give it another boost, then Theater Days to give it another boost, then SideM to give it another boost. The most vital cog in its continued rise is Starlight Stage: the game is truly excellent. It didn’t earn $200 million this year by accident – it is a game so good, it is now the only game I genuinely flock to on the daily. I’m getting better all the time, I’ve transcended the gacha so have no need to spend on it, and, of course, the idols, music and MVs are always as magnificent as can be. I urge you to give it a try, seriously. It might just invite you into idol hell, too. Oh, and there’s a CinFes starting on the Sunday.* I have at least four 10-rolls on hand – maybe more depending on what we get for New Year’s.** I expect some big SSRs…

*Better than them having the last two performances of 5th Live on Comiket 92’s Saturday and Sunday, which caused me to not realise they were a thing until after they were finished. Which was a shame. Yuuko Iida – aka Kanade Hayami – sung Venus Syndrome there…which is an almost unbelievably tantalising combination.
**Ideally, more rolls would come from a new SSR ticket (which I would use on a perm Mika SSR if only they’d bloody give her one) and the possibility of free rolls being given to us.

As you can probably imagine, a lot of my hype is aimed towards iM@s doujins, which brings me neatly on to the artists I’m most hyped for. Of which, predictably, there are many.

Among the big Idolmaster names, there’s the likes of my two favourite KanadePs, Hagane Soushi and Mairo, who should have new artbooks of her to match. And there’s the likes of Romi, the resident Kanade x Fumika expert, coming with more of the same, while Oimo too has another Kanade doujin for this. And I dare say there’ll be plenty more doujins to find with my new favourite person in the world in them. I’ve spotted some others already, and I look forward to them, too. Away from ‘mai waifu’, Pija, known for probably the best two Mio doujins anyone has ever done, is working his magic on Fumika this time, having tackled Miyu last time. Alpha, an artist I found pretty recently, has another iM@s book; having previously done doujins of Shiki, Mika, Kaede, Kanade, Fumika, Minami and Mayu, this time, it’s Karen’s turn. And the ever-present ReDrop, producer of some legendary doujins and one of the most ever-present iM@s doujin makers, are doing a book with Mayu, Yuuki and Sae this time.

Then there’s Yang-do. Now, for someone who clearly loves Mika very, very much, and can draw her better than anyone on his day, he doesn’t half seem determined to make her look permanently worried.

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Mercifully, this doujin looks like it should be his best yet; while last time out he did the irksome prospect of Mika with Rika*, this time we at least have Frederica and Shiki with her. Obviously, that’s still far from perfect – it’s fucking Shiki. But when you want to like his doujins so much, with all the effort, and full colour, put into them, and the spectacle that results from that, anything ‘good’ is good enough for me. If you wanna know what I mean, I would guide you towards his C90 and C91 Mika doujins, but… They’re really quite sad, to be honest. So I won’t.

*The one bad thing about Mika is her giving everybody an excuse to stick her and Rika in doujins together. Rika is 12.

…No, seriously, don’t go looking for them. They’re not what Mika deserves.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, what did I tell you?! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Next time I’m going to tell you not to give me £20. Reckon I could be quids in. But yes, check this artist out if all three of his C93 doujin’s lot float your boat. Also, I know that, by getting the lesser two of LiPPS in this doujin, he’s opened the door for a doujin with Kanade and Syuko, plus Mika, in the future. That’d be a doujin with my top three in it. And that’d be the kind of doujin dreams are made of. Let’s see if I’m buzzing for it in eight months time…if it even comes.

Elsewhere, Paishen was doing some good things with Kanade x Syuko last time out, but this time has turned turtle and done a Dia x Kanan doujin instead. Whatever. Also moving on from iM@s is Puyocha. He’s coming off three seriously good doujins in a row. His last two had Mika in, and he threw Mio in at C92 as well. He also remains, somehow, the only genius to have conceived an Eli Ayase x Anastasia crossover. Now, he’s gone the way of the Fate storm, and keeping things as fluffy as ever. Make no mistake though, any good iM@s doujin will do me right now.

Additionally, there’s the usual, old but gold Touhou suspects, such as Shironeko Yuuki, Y2, Rukitsura, and Kirero, doing his speciality of Remilia x Sakuya. Chin’s got a trio of comics coming, of Kasen, Iku and Aya. Tajima Yuuki is back with yet more Sakuya – no surprise there. Meanwhile, the ever impressive Ke-ta is back with another art book, although if his Pixiv preview is anything to go by, he’s had trouble getting his copies shipped to him. You can’t legislate for stuff like that, but when his preview also has stuff like Sanae x Kogasa, the mind still boggles.

And then there’s my favourite artist of all, Windart. He’s doing another double whammy and it should go much smoother than his last. If you’re wondering; he had a Hatate doujin planned for the Reitaisai early this year. It didn’t get finished in time for that. So he prepared it for C92 instead…along with the Ruby doujin he had planned for it too. The former was finished; the latter was rushed, and it showed. The latter didn’t sell, and he was left wanting to reminisce on where he’d gone wrong. That was a great shame because, while I’m no fan of Sunshine, the VR concept behind it had immense potential. But he’s looking well back on track now, especially given one of his productions this time is a remastering of his entire magnum opus – his five Maki doujins. They’re all bloody brilliant and having them all together, and better, should be an absolute dream. Oh, and he’s giving us all a sketch book so we can draw her just as thicc as him. His other work sees him going down the Azur Lane, and drawing a doujin of someone called HMS Belfast, which is a tourist attraction in London.

There’s other artists going all OC on us, such as Tomohiro Kai, never one to do a series more than once. Well, not without an extended period of time, anyway. Hence why he finally did an iM@s one last Comiket, which ended up being the best doujin I’d ever seen, even above my favourite Sanae doujin, courtesy of – yes, you guessed it – Kanade Hayami. Seriously, go and check it out. It’s bloody brilliant. (No, it has absolutely nothing to do with why I love her so much. Nothing at all. Honest. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.) This time though, he’s elected to have another crack at some OC. Which is fine. Some of his originals have been pretty special, as well. If you’re not looking for smutty originals, Cierra is doing some OC too, this time.

Meanwhile there’s artists like 6U doing work on stuff like Saekano, Minakata Sunao is on Akuma no Riddle duty, as is typical for her, Suito has yet more Eli x Umi for us to enjoy, and Nanase Meruchi is back with another round of Tawawa brilliance. Its actual creator, Himura Kiseki, has been busy on Just Because!, but not so busy he couldn’t do another Tawawa doujin. That’s amongst the most hypeworthy doujins here, for sure. There’s more new stuff for Just Because! coming here, by the way. Mogudan has another book of Rei coming along, albeit a rough one. And there’s probably plenty of artists I’ve missed who will have good, fresh new stuff coming out of all sorts. All I know is, I’m damn excited for this Comiket. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, indeed.

Idolmaster did a survey thing and now I’m going to talk about it

EDIT: More actual people have translated all the questions properly since I published this. Sadly, it has also rendered a couple of my previous responses to the questions and results utterly pointless. Sorry.

It was the Cinderella Girls’ 6th anniversary recently. Well, I say recently. It seems to have been their 6th anniversary for the past month now. But we’ll gloss over their rather loose grasp of the concept of time and look at something interesting they did for it: a fan survey. They asked everyone a bunch of questions and the results are now in. Let’s look at them.

Note: Some of these translations are real dodgy, as I’m having to use that paragon of correctness, Google Translate. Fortunately, actual human beings have done it properly and I will be correcting the images where necessary. And using Google proper for the idols that are translated (sometimes hilariously) wrong.

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Here’s some proof (among other faintly incredible statistics elsewhere) that this series has done really, really well. The number of long runners, who’ve been in this from the start, is more than double any other numbers. And that’s fantastic. Speaking of ‘the other numbers’, aren’t they all close together, or what? Which goes to show how it’s kept on pulling people in over time, constantly. This series is not done. Not even nearly.

Of course, I come under the latter-most camp of less than a year, having now been into iM@s for…ooh, 4 months now? Blimey, hard to believe it’s been that long. And yet I found myself pondering recently what it might have been like to be around the series in the days when all the great stuff I had to enjoy was only just coming out. And honestly, it’s hard to imagine. Hard to imagine the hype of what all the greatest stuff must have felt like when it first came out. Hell, even the hype of what comes around now is enough to captivate me. I mean, this November was so utterly insane it turned me into an iM@s fan for life and turned an iM@s character into my all-time favourite. So honestly, I’m happy with my lot. And long may it continue.

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No surprises here. Female idols will always bring about female fans, but for the most part, this is a franchise for manly men. Because there is nothing more manly than leading an army of wonderful idols on stage and falling head over heels in love with them, and them in love with you.

Why are you laughing?

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This seems about right; I personally am just about in the 20s camp, sitting as I am at the age of 20. Mind you, that 30s number is a little disconcerting…I daren’t ask what some of them are doing here. (Save that quote for when I’m back here in ten years time, talking about the 16th anniversary results.) Shoutouts to the old people chilling round with this series, too. And shoutouts too to the 1%, the under-10s, who are probably into this quite innocently despite all sorts of CG being quite uninnocent indeed.

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Note that by ‘where you are from’, they mean ‘where you were born’, as opposed to what I thought it meant, ‘where do you live’. Regardless, the biggest region here is Kanto, which contains a little-known city called ‘Tokyo’. Apparently, it’s quite big. Serious shoutouts to the rest of the 1% from overseas.

OK, now it’s time for the good stuff.

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A proper popularity contest, as opposed to the voice auditions they call ‘the Cinderella Girl elections’. Plenty of the usual suspects are here. ‘Everybody Loves’ Kaede is, of course, the creme de la creme, as well as the Ganbarimess and Shiburin. There’s also plenty of idols you wouldn’t quite expect. Chief among those is the flavour of the moment in 4th place, Shin Sato, aka the youngest-looking 26-year-old in history. So well done to her. A massive shoutout to Fumika for breaking in at #5 as well. Hopefully some of the names lower down make sense, especially the likes of ‘Hydrophone’ at #17. We’ll be talking about her in a while.

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That’d be “the way” you found out about this idol hell. You will be amazed to find out that, yes, the original Cinderella Girls game got people into Cinderella Girls. Starlight Stage and the anime have put in a very good shift, though. As for me, erm… What would you class me as? I got into this through a CM track, but it wasn’t because of the CM itself. I suppose I can only credit YouTube for leading me to my gateway to iM@s on a binge listen. Let us not forget, I found Touhou in much the same way, too…

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I’m not sure whether something is skewing this or not, but every iM@s fan I know only seems to play Starlight Stage these days. The original mobage is still going, yes, but it has been left largely behind now. Well, unless everyone’s counting the time they go back to it for the elections. All credit to the brave 3% who have Viewing Revolution, too.

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Get used to seeing Onegai! Cinderella in the next set of lists. It turns out that making people ‘feel good’ equates to making people feel just about everything about it. Of course, it is CG’s main theme and the answers to the song questions reflect its position in the franchise as a result.

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Not this question, though. And it’s just as well because Tsubomi – for that is the song at number 1 – is a song that defines the word ‘relaxing’ as well as any other in CG. It’s also a pretty good one too, with a couple of bad idols made up for by a couple of good ones. (The best of whom’s birthday it is as I write this. Happy birthday, Syuko.)

Of course, you’re more likely to find me listening to its election’s A-side, Absolute Nine. Which is the complete opposite of relaxing. Sadly there is no question asking “please tell me which song you would headbang to.” If there was such a question I’m sure it’d have a good chance at coming number 2. Behind Onegai! Cinderella, probably.

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Now I’m not a man who ever cries over a song, but I’m sorry…S(mile)ING? Really? That’s supposed to be a happy, cheerful song. You can talk about the anime all you like, but as I’ve already established in the past, I harbour no sympathy for Uzuki there. Personally, if you asked me which song would make the most people cry, I’d have gone for Koi Kaze. That’s on the basis of it being the kind of ‘moving’ song that can inexplicably bring normal human beings to tears with the right kind of voice. And voices don’t come better in this series than Kaede’s. Its place at number 5 suggests I might be right.

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Tough wording on this one, but basically, it’s asking what song you’d like most done live. And with that somewhat vague qualifier, there was only gonna be one winner. To be honest, none of the top ten are my kind of thing. Though Junjou Midnight Densetsu might be interesting. Of course, the real answer to this question is Hotel Moonside, a song worthy of its own extended live version on CD. Although TOKIMEKI Escalate runs it close.

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This is a difficult one to translate for Google. However, what it effectively amounts to is which song hypes you up the most. It’s the closest to the theoretical “headbang” question I raised earlier, but I’m not sure it’s quite along the same lines. Otherwise something other than Yes! Party Time would probably have come top; I don’t find it particularly exciting myself. Still, if you look through the whole lot, you do see a clutch of my favourites in there. Saite Jewel (that’s at number 6) stands out as the highest of those favourites, but if we go solely off my “headbang” criteria, I’d rate it as something like a four-way tie between Absolute Nine, Hotel Moonside, Nocturne and TOKIMEKI Escalate. Sadly, I couldn’t separate them, because when I tested them out, I was too busy headbanging.

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Fun fact; I recently put a clutch of Idolmaster songs on my phone for the purpose of, you guessed it, listening to them on my commute (when my Spotify playlists aren’t cutting it, anyway). Amazingly, despite this conclusive analysis, Onegai! Cinderella was not one of them. The actual songs I put on were more like a selection from this article, from which a grand total of six songs rank in this survey. Perhaps commutes are a little different in Japan from England. Also a huge, huge mention to the number 2 song on this song, which is Anzu no Uta. You know, the image song of the one idol who doesn’t want to work. You think the voters are trying to tell us something here? #EightDaysOffAWeek

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Another rather meh question. And with it comes an obvious answer. I prefer to get encouragement from other sources personally; I don’t really associate music with it.

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About as close as it gets to asking us the most popular song in the series. Except the answer is still pretty clear. But Onegai! Cinderella probably deserves this one, given that it’s the first theme most people will probably be hearing anyway. Honestly, it’d be harder for a newcomer to miss it.

That leaves us with the rest of the list. And I was convinced Koi Kaze was the popular favourite with just about everyone. So much for that. Tulip beats it thanks to a lovable tune, magnificent lyrics and an absolutely godly unit. Coincidentally, it was the second song I heard in iM@s, too. My first, as I might have mentioned about a million times, was Hotel Moonside. It turns out that EDM is really, really popular and, as a man who has found all sorts of music to love from the genre, Hotel Moonside is one of the greatest examples of the breed I’ve ever heard. And lots of people agree with me. So I’d recommend it to everyone, too.

Further down, it’s understandably more of a mixed bag. Stuff like Radio Happy and Trancing Pulse and Saite Jewel are songs I’d recommend to a wider audience too. Others like EVERMORE (issues with idols, composition, and its MV) and Vnswer (serious issues with idols and instrumentation) are songs I really wouldn’t.

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“Be lazy with”? Can’t help but think there’s been a misunderstanding here. Presumably, if the question were accurate, the number 1 would be Anzu’s image song, surely? On a more serious basis, though, it is another rather hazy criteria. Which is probably why Onegai! Cinderella was number 1. Again.

EDIT: Actually, it turns out the question is asking ‘what songs do you like to hum out of nowhere’. Still fairly iffy, to be honest. Especially when my answer is “literally whatever is on my mind”.

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I think I know what the question is asking; which song would you sing back to its singer? Of course, the problem with Onegai! Cinderella is that not only was it originally a song from nine of the biggest fan favourites in the series, just about everyone else has done it as a solo since then. So it has more idols under its bracket than any other. Of course, this isn’t just a matter of the idol singing it; it’s also a question of what the lyrics themselves are. Unfortunately, the highest rated of my favourites is Aikurushii, down in 17th. Mind you, I did give Near to You an honourable mention… Wonder if that checks out?

…OK, no. It really doesn’t. Not with those lyrics. And I’m not sure I want to sing it to all 15 of its singers. They might end up fighting over me.

EDIT: Forget everything I said. The question’s actually the other way round; which song would you like your best girl to sing? If anything, that justifies Onegai! Cinderella’s place at #1 even more. And my answer is “She can sing whatever she wants, because she’s perfect.”

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This one would be easier to talk about if I could properly translate this all. I think the actual question is “what’s your favourite thing to do in Cinderella Girls?” Which explains why the top answer, by a million miles, is ‘produce idols’. That’s kind of what you’re supposed to do, after all.

EDIT: OK, it’s actually asking what your favourite event type in the mobage is. Having never touched the mobage, I can’t comment on this. Not at all.

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Here’s an interesting one. Sadly, I have not yet watched every single one of Starlight Stage’s many and varied MVs yet. (I mostly play in 2D, because the prospect of the wrong idol singing a song is too distracting for me.) Indeed, of the top ten, I’ve only watched half of them. In fact, it might as well be four, because I can’t remember a thing about Souyoku no Aria’s MV (#10). I don’t think Yes! Party Time’s would be that inspiring – not with all its young’uns kicking around. Perhaps the original might be a bit better. At least the outfits everyone got from it look nice. I reckon those right sleeves would be really fluffy. Actually, I might buy them when the next good gacha comes around. (What do you mean, it’s just for the 10-roll?)

Anyway. MVs I’ve watched. Onegai! Cinderella ranks, of course, but while it’s not that interesting it is at least spiced up by its 700 million different solo versions. Illusionista! is up there among my favourites. Nowhere else can you find the five idols appear to break out into a dance-off mid-performance, an inexplicable stand carrying an idol on it across the crowd and, best of all, Mio being really, really cute. Habbagudnite.

Koi Kaze isn’t anything special, but then it’s hardly about the MV anyway. Tulip is an interesting case. Obviously the dance moves are still sexy as all hell, but compared to Deresute’s now lofty standards it does look comparatively plain now, no matter how many versions get posted by the grandmaster of MVs, PerfumeTripper. Also, I’m not sure about the cinematography. In fact, I’d say the Viewing Revolution version does the song more justice – and that’s only got one viewpoint.

Things do get better throughout, though. Mouretsu★Yonaoshi Guilty! really should be higher. Little Riddle is a lot of fun. Radio Happy is really well done. Saite Jewel has a dramatic star flying across the entire stage for no readily apparent reason. There’s plenty of excellent MVs around. And with the high standards the game has set for itself, it’s only set to get better from here on out. Praise be to 3D idols.

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The usual suspects are present in the unit rankings. Triad Primus, of course, were so good they actually got a second song. So this ranking gives them all the reason in the world to give my favourite unit, LiPPS, a second song, too. But I know in my heart of hearts that it’s so unlikely that if it actually happens I’d have a hypegasm of such scale I’d probably explode. Especially if they accidentally forgot to put Shiki in. (And if her replacement was anyone other than a newly-voiced Misato Manaka, there is no justice in the world.) Other fan favourites include Positive Passion and Pink Check School, the two worse type equivalents of Triad Primus, Individuals, which is literally my least favourite unit, and the holy trinity that is NewGen. But congratulations are in order for Frilled Square, a unit which is actually unvoiced, sans Yuzu. It seems like a decent enough unit, what with it having the average Azuki, the decent-enough Shinobu and someone called Honoka Ayase, who was formed by the merger of two Love Live idols. Maybe they’ll all have voices due some day…?

And now is where things get really interesting; the idol questions.

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This is a term that is quite open to interpretation, but when I first saw the answer it was under the banner of the literal term ‘reliable’. Somehow, I don’t see Mizuki fitting that term particularly well, what with her constant ‘er-hem’ing in reply to endless worries about her age. That doesn’t sound very reliable to me. But then if you take it to mean the act of ‘relying on’ someone, Mizuki makes more sense. Probably on account of her being 28, ironically.

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The translation is so misleading it caught more than me out at first. Especially because the apparent question ‘who is the most natural idol’ could arguably be Uzuki (though I’m much more inclined to say Mika). Then someone tried to put that it was asking who was the most ‘cool-headed’, which…well, no. Putting Uzuki in that bracket is laughable. However, she fits into the bracket the question is actually asking about, which is ‘who is the most natural airhead?’ Uzuki was always gonna rank highly there. After all, who knew that answering “Ganbarimasu” to everything is not the most logical thing to do? It’s not necessarily a good thing, of course. The only character who gains anything out of this character trait, in any way, shape or form, is Frederica.

For the record, Google Translate struggles with this translation so bad it calls Airi – who literally has ‘air’ in her name, and fittingly so – ‘African pear’. Nailed it.

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That’d be little sister. And Miria is the correct answer. As harmless as a pile of fluffy kittens.

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Also bang on the money. Though I personally struggle to see Minami as an older sister. Because she is, after all, younger than me. But who the hell would I be left with? Tokiko Zaizen?

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I mean, OK. Personally I would be bored to tears if I had to walk through the park with Aiko, but I can see the logic. I look for more in my idols than this quality, if I’m brutally honest.

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Another very good call. Karaoke with Yui is quite likely to end up as an absolute rave.

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Well, I mean, I like a live rock performance as much as the next man, but do I have to go with Riina? I suspect if she went to the kind of gigs I like she’d break within seconds. Unless she likes UK rock so much she actually loves the kind of festivals I’d go to. In which case, yes, I would like go to a live with her, thank you very much.

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That’s a really complicated way of asking “who’s your favourite dancer?” And it’s hard to argue against an idol who is literally depicted in-universe as a god-tier dancer. So well done, Helen. Consider yourself earmarked for a surprise voice. Presumably.

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That’s “who is the sportiest idol?” to you and me. (Or, more accurately, the most dominant at sports.) And I can think of no better sport to sum up an idol than rugby.

Or perhaps, in this case, swimming.

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Well, if they consider an onsen a body of water, at least. But in that regard, Akane’s competition is fierce.

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No surprise here. Especially given Mizuki appears to be the actual MC for about half of Idolmaster anyway.

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Another wrong translation. This question is actually asking us, effectively, who the most unexpectedly ‘down-to-earth’, aka normal, idol is. In that regard, Kaede seems about right. Because we too all like a drink and loosen our inhibitions upon having a few. It also explains Nana and Miku’s presence, as the anime told us that behind their gimmicky masquerades lied notably more ordinary people. Not that that’s helped them in the long run for this writer.

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The only time I’ve ever seen the word ‘hydroponic’ used anywhere is in Apollo 440’s song, Cold Rock the Mic. And not only is it just for rhyming’s sake, they don’t actually say it.

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From this, I think we can deduce Idolmaster is not talking about the method of growing plants in the nutrients that they need instead of soil. Fortunately, by untranslating the translation – or, more simply, by looking at the actual picture – we can see that they are actually talking about…yes, it’s that girl again: Kanade Hayami. (At least this, and all the other miserable attempts to translate her name, finally justify why she won’t stop banging on about the fucking sea.) And everybody thinks she can act.

This isn’t what I expected, to be honest. I mean, what acting is everyone going off? That one samurai movie trailer in the OVA? The most exciting thing she did there was get bodied by Kirari. So we have to assume that the kind of actress the general Idolmaster fan likes, is one who can’t talk for a long time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…without taking a pause.

Seriously, Kanade takes hours to say her lines. It’s at its most annoying when you think she’s finished, then at the exact moment you decide to proceed to the next line, she starts talking at the precise instant you actually press the screen. Like, really? Who the hell do you think you are? Jeremy Clarkson? I know who’d I’d rather talk to if you’re gonna do that to me every other sentence.*

Except of course it’s not a bad thing at all, because it means you get to look at her that little bit longer. And that’s a very, very good thing. And it’s exactly what she wants. Because it’s all the better for her to tease you with sweet nothings and capture you with that soft, soothing voice that makes you wanna drop to your knees and lure you in like some kind of succubus and you can’t resist and is she telling me she really loves me or will she try and break my heart this time and OK she wants a kiss or is she “nante ne” again and oh my god it’s almost blowing my mind. Kanade isn’t just a good actress, she is the act. She lives for mysteriousness. And my god, does she pull it off or what.

…Hold on, I’ve just remembered some good acting of hers now. It was in the Aikurushii event. Never mind that she didn’t nearly fit in with her fellow idols, the whole gist of the commus was that they were recording a movie. And there’s a scene with Kanade and Kanako, whereby Kanade seems to be talking quite legitimately about the perils of love, with Kanako questioning how she lost it, and as you think she’s about to tell her the story…the director cuts. That was pretty funny the first time I watched it because it was convincing enough to be largely unexpected. So, there you go.

Yeah, alright. Kanade can act. So I can see why the iM@s fanbase has given her the in-house Academy Award. She’s bloody brilliant at it.

*Actually, I would quite like to talk to Jeremy Clarkson. I like him a bloody lot too, you know.

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The translation’s nearly right; this question is actually asking us who the most handsome idol is. And, well…

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Enough said.

(Just don’t look too hard for the awakened version of that card.)

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And last but not least, a chance for the fanbase to tell us what units they want to see. And one last chance for Google Translate to butcher their names so badly I’m not even gonna let it try and translate them.

Let’s go through these one by one. The perks of taking out Google Translate’s efforts is that the names of the punnier units are retained. With that in mind, it’s probably a lot easier to work out the name of a unit featuring Yoshino, Shino, Nono, Makino and Yukino. Takumi and Nina is an altogether more difficult unit to fathom, appearing to blend the combination of a walking fanservice billboard and a walking comedy act for…some reason. I can only assume there’s one crucial thing between the pair of them I’ve missed, and will promptly look like an idiot upon having it pointed out to me, at which point I will declare Takumi and Nina a magnificent unit worthy of iM@s’ finest.

Yuzu and Yumi is just a pairing devised by the hivemind. Nothing wrong with it, I suppose. The fourth unit is the one I’d get behind the most; it’s all about motorbikes and cars with that unit. Ai is in the unit on the basis of being pictured once in a nice car, and since she’s unvoiced, if they didn’t go and give her some vocals, Natsuki and either Ryo or Riina would be fine substitutes. Takumi and Rina are fairly obvious candidates, but no way could they let resident vehicle maniac Miyo Harada go unvoiced for this. In fact, this unit might be the best way to get her into Starlight Stage.

The next two are more punny ones. The pairing of Nana Abe and Umi Sugisaka comes together to provide a unit named Usamin with Umi-san. Ha ha ha, funny. The second one is harder to guess. You’ll have to think about what’s in Shiki, Asuka and Sana’s full names. If you know Japanese numbers, you might just spot something…

The last of these units is Uzuki and Syoko, which, believe it or not, does have previous in iM@s. In fact, very recent previous; their pairing was conceived in a CinGeki episode this season. And even though their get-together ended, unsurprisingly, with little more than a ‘Ganbarimasu’, the pairing seems to have struck a chord. From this, we can conclude that the general iM@s fanbase wants to see Uzuki on mushrooms. Which is just a little bit hilarious. Honestly, if they really had the balls to go out and do that, Uzuki would probably shoot, like, halfway up my rankings, instantly.

On the other hand, she really wouldn’t.

 

So, there you go. Over 4,000 words on what everyone else thinks about iM@s. Because my thoughts, if they’re anything to go by here, are pretty much all wrong.

My iM@s top 20 chart

Don’t worry; I have a more complete summary of iM@s music in the works. The problem is, it’s a bit hard to keep up when they keep making new songs to write about. Especially when most of them have Kanade in them, going by last month. So instead, have my own personal top 20 up to this point, to make up for me not having finished it yet. So, sit back and enjoy. (Sorry, Led Zeppelin has not yet featured in Idolmaster. Though I’d love it if they had the balls to make anything like them.)

P.S. As usual with me, rankings might not necessarily be entirely accurate 100% of the time and are probably based on how I felt when writing this up. The top 4 is definitely right though. So there’s that.

Honourable mentions to: Evo! Revo! Generation!, Mouretsu★Yonaoshi Guilty!, Near to You, Akimeite Ding Dong Dang!, Jet to the Future

20. Never say never: Rin’s image song was the first of many and still one of the best. It really does have some very good moments in it. Having a voice as powerful as hers helps a lot, too.

19. Ankira!? Kyousoukyoku: As wild as songs get in this series. But there’s so much right with this song it’s hard to slag any of it off. Such a perfect fit for the combo of Anzu and Kirari it’s magnificent.

18. Venus Syndrome: Let’s just ignore any unfortunate lyrical mispronunciations and admire what a lovely song this is. It’s got plenty of tones to it that hit my spots. Bit like its singer, really. Sounds like it would fit in really well somewhere else…I can’t quite put my finger on where, though.

17. Illusionista: This is a super fun song with one mad MV. Particularly of note is the five idols having a dance-off in the middle of the stage and them bringing in an idol on a fucking couch across the audience. Marks up for Mio, Minami and Fumika. Marks down, regrettably, for having Sachiko and Mayu as well. On the whole though, the song is plenty good enough.

16. Trinity Field: It’s not even Triad Primus’ best song, but criticising it for that would be like criticising a footballer for not being as good as Pele. And Trinity Field is more than good enough to stand up on its own, anyway. I await its inevitable CD with great anticipation.

15. Little Riddle: Because not enough songs are centred around Anzu’s rapping. It’s just so cool and unlike anything else around it makes the song almost by itself, even though I only like exactly half of its idols – the good Anzu and Rika, the not-so-good Koume and Mirei and the perpetual double-edged sword that is Asuka.

14. Absolute Nine: What a exhilarating song this is. An absolute epic, even. A couple of gems among the nine idols in this song. Sure, there’s a couple of clangers as well, but such is the way with election songs. And the important thing is Syuko was at the front of this one.

13. 2nd Side: When I first heard Nao’s image song, I couldn’t help but think “Ridge Racer”. I’ve heard plenty of songs from it and couldn’t help but hear instruments from that in this. So I ended up really liking 2nd Side. Of course, it wasn’t until my second listen that I remembered Ridge Racer is literally a Bamco franchise. Well done, me. Still doesn’t take away the charm of this song from the cutest pair of eyebrows in known history.

12. Mitsuboshi: Mio through and through here. Just a really fun song bolstered no end by its singer. And her dancing is so energetic it actually looks really damn impressive in some of her wilder outfits (CinFes SSR).

11. Ao no Ichibanboshi: Starlight Stage does not do this song justice. Nice as it is to have Syuko dancing round with her fan, you have to take it in in full to appreciate the greatness of IOSYS’ work on Syuko’s image song. It fluctuates so much throughout and it all comes together brilliantly. Its singer helps out a lot, but this is all about the song itself. Chaotic goodness.

10. Aikurushii: Fun fact; this is the first (and, as of this writing, only) song I’ve FC’ed on my preferred Starlight Stage difficulty of Pro. Yes, I am still a bonafide scrub at the game. No, I don’t have time to get much better. But this is one smooth song, a Sae and Mayu original boosted by two more top-drawer cute idols…and Kanade. That would be more of a positive if she didn’t stick out like a sore thumb here. I don’t really see her blending in to the sugary sweetness of this song, to be honest. But really…the song is fine.

9. Onedari Shall We?: Another one that needs a full listen to take its brilliance properly. “But EonLeader,” I hear you cry, “I thought you couldn’t stand Miku?” No, I can’t, but that doesn’t mean she can’t provide a really very funny image song. Of course, it helps that it’s also really, really well done, too. They thought about this one. And it paid off.

8. Radio Happy: This one is an real rave. It’s also as close to pop as I know it as the series gets. It also happens to fit Yui incredibly well…though secretly, I wish they’d given this to an idol I like more than her. But I shouldn’t take this great song away from her.

7. Ki-ma-gu-re☆Cafe au lait!: No image song does its job better, in the literal sense of the term; a song that captures the image of its singer. They nailed Frederica’s song so perfectly I can’t help but love it. No prizes for guessing the main influence behind this one. Stupidly good fun. And, once again; listen to the whole thing. There’s a real good change-up in the second half.

6. Saite Jewel: I couldn’t help but notice a Touhou-like quality to this one the first time I listened. Obviously, for me, that is a very, very good thing – and I’m not the only one who’s noticed it. A top-class selection of idols only helps its case.

5. Nocturne: Sometimes there are songs where the composers just go insane and throw all the pomp and circumstance in the world at you. The results on these kinds of songs are mixed, but Nocturne is the best of the lot. The well-rounded, and perfectly fitting, selection of idols doesn’t hurt it. In the full five-idol showcase, of course. Kaede and Mizuki are boosted by having Kanade, Minami and Ryo with them.

4. TOKIMEKI Escalate: An absolute headbanger of a song from an absolutely amazing idol. No frills, no spills, just lose yourself in the beat and lose your mind. Idolism unplugged…just like its singer. Who is brilliant in this song, if you pay attention. Even the lyrics are kinda funny. Just don’t go too mad if you play this on Starlight Stage. There are a lot of notes.

3. Tulip: You can’t miss this one. Everyone loves Tulip and for all sorts of reasons; the catchiness of the song, the flirtiness of the lyrics, or, in this writer’s case, the magnificence of the unit. It’s only half a coincidence that four of my top five are in this song. And the fifth of my top five has now covered it anyway. We’ll gloss over the fact my two least favourites have also now sung it as well and bask in the magnificence of the exceedingly popular LiPPS. Honestly, Tulip might be the best thing to come out of Starlight Stage.

2. Trancing Pulse: Staggering. A song with emotion of all manner, all over it. From that beautifully chilling acapella at the start right to the headbanging chorus, this is one of the most thrilling songs the series has conceived. And everyone pretty much agrees with me.

1. Hotel Moonside: This will remain untouched as number 1 no matter what comes along. And no, it’s not because of Kanade. It’s not because of her, because I found this song long before I gave a shit about her. Yes, this is what I credit with getting me into iM@s – everything to do with its singer came later. I’ll take any good song no matter how it comes, but above all else, EDM wins me over. That’s just how it is. But even by iM@s standards, Hotel Moonside is special. So much so they actually gave it a separate CD for an extended live version – and a live version you actually want to listen to at that. And its unique place in the soundtrack earns it a spot as one of the most universally loved songs in the series. Everything about this song is simply ridiculously, utterly, insanely good. And it’s why I’m here bothering to write about everything else.

There are lots of cards in Starlight Stage. Here are some of my favourites.

Miria but everything is fluffy

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All together now: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaawwww. Voice clip that goes with this unawakened pic is cute too. (Your reminder that Miria is considered a passion idol. And Idolmaster is wrong.)

The girl next door

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Sex on wheels.

Perm Mika SSR when?

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Because they won’t give her an SSR I think looks good. CinFes Mika is not very Mika and lim Mika has a broken back. Maybe they’ll do her some justice eventually.

That Shizuku card you can’t get any more

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Jesus H Christ. It’s probably a good job they cocked up the legals on this one, cause putting Shizuku in an onsen is overkill. Consider my mind well and truly blown to smithereens.

Mika has the finest ass in idoldom

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They tried to worship her ass too hard in her lim, but this is more spine-tingling than spine-shattering. I mean, look at it, man! Curves for daaaaaays. (Also Rika be tryna sneak a look at it too prolly)

Kanade!

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Duh.

The ship I put my best girl in

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Don’t ever try and tell me this isn’t a thing. These girls have been together in so many things they’re almost joined at the hip. And that, as they say, is why I ship them. (Honourable mention to Frederica’s SR from the same event, which has the bonus of Kanade and Mika’s fantastic, proper Tulip outfits when awakened. Sadly, the only good thing about awakened Syuko is her back.)

The ship everyone else puts my best girl in

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What I reckon Kanade is thinking: o shit that’s a nice hat
What everyone else reckons Kanade is thinking: oh god I’m so wet please everybody let me get with this girl please please please

Sorry, I’ve just cut myself on Asuka’s edge

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Nothing silly about this, this is actually a genuinely good-looking SSR in my eyes. The best thing about Asuka, honest to god.

Las Vegas but it’s really cute

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That’s Mio reaching out to what can only be Producer-san and wanting to give her a hug and my god doesn’t she just look wonderful. Her awakened art doesn’t do her costume justice, as her 3D model shows in full just how phenomenal it is. All the better to habbagudnite with.

The girl next door moves in

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Sex. On. Wheels.

😡

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I wish I could be here talking about an utterly adorable Nao card instead (and her latest SR comes real close), but all her cards are overshadowed by this absolutely, unbelievably hilarious expression of hers. That is the dictionary definition of ‘a face like thunder’. And not just because it’s raining. Look at the anger in her. Look at it. Feel the rage.

Somebody made Freddy look good!

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Thanks to being blessed with simply comical eyes, almost no art really makes Fred look properly good. This is the one exception. This is what Frederica should look like all the time. Because what you have here is a beautiful Freddy. And such a thing could conquer whole galaxies.

CinFes Kanade (feat. A Good Lunatic, A Bad Lunatic, 🤔 and some spooked gyaru)

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>mrw get her with my first 10-roll at CinFes

mrw

Touhou has a crossover with everything (and gets married)

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Yeah, you’re not fooling me, Karin. I see who you’re trying to cosplay there. But I’m sorry. This miko is not my waifu. Try dying your hair green and switching to blue next time.

Rin is made beautiful (and gets married)

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On the one hand, they made that wavy bit of hair stick in place in her 3D model so it just ends up looking really silly. On the other hand, I literally don’t care because oh my god is that awakened art just gorgeous or what. Still isn’t my waifu, though.

Syuko. Fucking. Shiomi.

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If the game let me have any SSR I wanted* tomorrow, I’d pick this one. To put it simply, Syuko looks fucking amazing. That body is hot spice. So is her outfit. And nowhere does it show more than her glorious 3D model. Stunning. And you wonder why I show so much love to this girl.

*that I didn’t have. I’ve already completed my Kanade collection, of course.

THE…Foom???

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…Hold the line here. You’re telling me those are her…boobs? Like, Fumika’s? Her boobs? Wow. Well…fuck me dead. OK, then. And she’s got that ass, too? Right. I see.

Oh, and Minami looks nice.

Zipper Leg Boot Pants

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Only Kanade could successfully rock such an insane outfit. Like, how do you even describe it? Well, there’s not much at the front, and even less at the back…aside from one massive left-hand side. And her legs…well, it’s about what it looks like. She really is wearing pants which double up as one huge boot on one side and a short short on the other. And there’s an inexplicable belt on it too. Oh, and a zipper. Asymmetrical is too small a word for it. And yet it fits Kanade almost perfectly. The absolute goddess.

Oh, and Minami looks nice. Again. But neither of these two can do an onsen as well as…

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THE ONSEN QUEEN

Question of the day: Will Akane still be in that onsen the next time someone goes in it? And who will that someone be?

I did an idol sorter! Now let me talk shit about all 81 characters in it (Part 1, #1-17)

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Please note: I’ll only mention this in this first part, but since I did this sorter, one Idolmaster idol, Haru Yuuki, has earnt a voice – all the iM@s idols in this are the voiced Cinderella Girls. She’s not in these rankings so I won’t mention her, but given she’s the series’ resident footballer, I’d say she’d be pretty good.

This is the result of my latest idol sorter, featuring Idolmaster (but only the voiced Cinderella Girls, because they’re all I care about) and Love Live (but only mu’s, because anything else is an affront to their legacy), as done 2-ish weeks ago as of this post. This is actually pretty accurate, or at least the top section and the very bottom is. Everything else is a bit of a mess, but with the relative plainness of so many idols it’s only natural the most average idols would be so variable. But that’s not gonna stop me talking about all 81 characters in order. Let’s go.

Kanade Hayami: Yes, I’m gonna bang on about her again. But I’m doing it properly this time. Partly because I’m already a little embarrassed at the way I was talking about her just a couple of months ago. But mostly because she has spent the last three or four weeks making me utterly lose my mind at just how a character could come into my life so much and make me feel so utterly, utterly besotted by them.

Would you like to know how it felt when, at the most recent CinFes, I wasn’t even trying to get her, and she showed up on my first bloody 10-roll? How do you reckon it felt when straight afterwards, she got her third, limited SSR? What about when I got that SSR two days later, meaning all I said about Starlight Stage’s gacha became a non-factor to me and I’d never have to spend another penny on it again because I had the holy trinity of all three Kanade SSRs? And how about the fact she’s gotten a place in not one, but two new songs for the Christmas period, one by my favourite iM@s composer, the other the central seasons song for winter? And how I’m still discovering new, amazing stuff about her, such as the fact that in her Starlight Stage story, after banging on about kissing for so, so, so, so long, she actually goes and bloody does one? Heck, she’s even featuring in other people’s commus now. Like, seriously, when I clocked she’d shown up in the latest Triad Primus event commu, I did damn near the biggest double take of my life. How can one character be doing this, right here, right now? Are Bamco now designing this series with me in mind?

Let’s not kid ourselves here, some of this is a little down to luck. Most of it is probably down to an incredible stroke of timing. But I say this right here, right now; I could not have picked a better time to be a KanadeP. I’ve never seen anything like this from a character, ever. God knows what it’ll feel like if I see anything like it again. And for all I know, she’ll have more in store. I’m not even scratching my eyes any more to believe it; she keeps getting better, and better, and better. What happens next with her? Is she gonna get a second image song in the next Starlight Master? Now they’ve brought Triad Primus back, might they do the same with someone like…LiPPS? I’m not sure how I could even take something like that. But then I couldn’t take me actually getting CinFes Kanade on my first 10-roll. I couldn’t take her getting that limited straight after. I didn’t think any of those could possibly happen, but they did. Right now, nothing feels impossible for Kanade. This girl has no limit. None at all. And, right now, I am absolutely in love with this stunning, irresistible, sweet-talking, melodic, enticing, magical, mind-blowing idol.

Behold, my favourite character ever.

Eli Ayase: Ah, the blissful times of last year when Eli was the character I thought might be able to take the mantle of ‘my favourite character ever’ that an idol from a series I couldn’t have imagined getting into last year now holds. To be honest, it would have taken something quite special from Eli to get her there, game-changing as she was at the time, but it never quite happened for her. To be honest, it’s hard to see what she could have done. (Quite apart from me not ever properly playing LLSIF, getting any one of her 90 cards in that game probably wouldn’t be as special as getting one of Kanade’s 6, never mind whatever her rarest variant is.) But let’s not dwell on the here and now with Eli because she stands as the first idol – actually, make that the first of two – I really, properly fell for. If you ask me, she remains the most ‘beautiful’ character I know, if not the very ‘best’. But it is a quality she possesses more than any other, and she really did genuinely bring me to a halt almost constantly at the peak of my love, out of sheer admiration. In fact, she was so beautiful she damn near changed my perception of how I look at girls in real life, too. If that had led to anything more special, she might be sitting here as my all-time number 1 (not because even Kanade wouldn’t be good enough to beat her, but because I probably wouldn’t have found out about Kanade at all had such a thing happened). Nothing came of it, though. Such is life. But Eli still holds a place in my all-time top, top tier. Top 3 calibre, I’d say. I wrote plenty about her last year – that still stands, by and large. The love doesn’t flow as easily now, but that’s just how good she was at her peak. If only she hadn’t been killed off by her own makers…though that hasn’t stopped seven high ranking mu’s members from living high up in my rankings. Like I’ve said before, they were really, really, really good.

Maki Nishikino: Eli goes down as the GOAT in Love Live, but Maki goes down as the idol that got me into idols. I thought she might end up as my favourite in the series as a result; she didn’t in the end, but she eventually went down as one of my favourite characters ever. A lot of my love for her has to be credited to the simply remarkable Windart, an artist who gave Maki more love than I ever could (albeit in much less safe ways than the one I’m demonstrating). I mean, he made her look like an absolute angel. As attractive an idol as you could conceive…and so I ended up seeing her normal self the same, too. In many ways, an angel is what she is, thanks to the kind of personality that fooled the world all over. And to such a degree that, if you take away the only semi-real Vocaloids, Maki might stand as the most popular idol ever conceived. And she did it by making the whole world think she was a tsundere. But there’s a catch. Tsundere-ness is generally applied directly towards other people. Yes, Maki riffed on it hilariously in the anime, but that was more of a skit. In serious conversation, what her personality consists of is saying something, and then immediately changing her mind when confronted about it. That ain’t a tsundere. Not in the true sense of the concept. That’s just a hilariously contrary person. And that makes her a lot more likeable to me. It also helps that she has a voice that is almost heaven-sent. If there’s one idol we all could have kept from mu’s, I bet we’d all agree on Maki. Eventually. No idol is more appealing to so, so many people.

Mika Jougasaki: Here’s a idol I loved for the sake of my love of idols. I cherish Mika’s style so, so much. She’s just got an aura that screams appeal of the most wonderful sort. Hers is another voice that wins my heart, albeit only when she’s actually singing with it, but given her job isn’t just to speak normally with it, that’s fine. No idol is as idolish as Mika, I think. Of course, it also helps that she’s been a hilarious bait for the sort of idol fans you don’t wanna know about (and also why she’s ended up with the most ‘doujins’ of the lot), but while her sexual appeal is clear and great up to a point, there’s so, so much more to like about Mika, honest. Then again, even Bamco can shoot themselves in the foot trying to emphasise this with Jougasaki senior. I mean, if you look closely at her limited SSR, you can see the exact point where her spine has snapped. Maybe that’s why she hasn’t got a perm SSR yet. Because she’s still recovering in the hospital. Actually, maybe what her perm SSR will be – when it comes in about…ooh, 400 years time – just her getting out of it. But that’s the price you have to pay to be a godly idol, I guess. Let’s not kid ourselves here, though – Mika is really, really fucking good.

Mio Honda: A lot of people judge idols on that most subjective of things – cuteness. If I were judging them solely on this one and only factor, Mio would be the best of them all. She’s sweet beyond belief. And this without being one of the typically ludicrous maniacs Idolmaster calls a ‘cute’ idol. Like I said, it’s subjective. But Mio has wonderful natural charm that makes her so, so adorable to me. She’s cute in the kind of way like, most of all. It’s a case of ‘my kind of look’ with Mio, really. But she’s also got the best kind of energetic personality on her side, and the kind of perma-smile that could probably cause actual nosebleeds. And she’s got one of the more interesting voices in the series as well. And a chuckle that makes my heart melt ten times over. When I saw Mio for the first time, I sort of knew she’d be really damn good to me, and she did not disappoint. Not even nearly. She deserves to be so much more popular than she really is, especially as a main character among the Cinderella Girls. What an idol.

Syuko Shiomi: Fun fact; you know that entire thing I wrote about Syuko? This piece is where I wrote it all up first. With that in mind, I refer you to that article for my insight on the most interesting idol I know.

Frederica Miyamoto: Let’s just get this out of the way – I still don’t like her eyes. I mean, I work at a French company and I have yet to see anybody with anything like Frederica’s greens. (Though I would wholly support anyone willing to rock her gorgeous hairstyle.) And yet, at the end of the day, I always end up looking past them. They’re the Cindy Crawford’s mole of Idolmaster, in that they’re her defining feature and yet ultimately inconsequential. But still, I do sometimes wonder what they’d be like if they looked even better. Actually, given her personality and hobbies, it’s entirely possible it’s just her own make-up that isn’t flattering her eyes. Because, if some fanart is anything to go by, she might be alright without it. And if they looked like they did in some fanart, what you’d be left with is…my goodness…

Freddy stands tall as the sole example of Idolmaster’s idea of a ‘cute’ personality done right. Of course, what Idolmaster defines as a ‘cute’ personality is deranged to such a degree I’ve seen it hilariously tagged under the terrifyingly accurate tag of ‘brain problems’. However, while Fre exhibits behaviour that some would file under the tag, I would say she doesn’t do it to the kind of level she becomes straight up annoying. In fact, she gets it just right. Let’s be clear, it’s not cute. But it is really, really funny. And therefore utterly, utterly lovable. I mean, she’s like the kind of girl who would seem absolutely banterous in real life. And the kind who goes at her own pace, which in Frederica’s case seems to be full speed ahead. Every day is a good day for this girl who screams positive vibes like no other. She walks a tight line, but crucially all her good cheer is entirely harmless. And that is what makes her so much more appealing than so many of her fellow ‘cute’ colleagues.

And that’s really the essence of what the fun, fun Frederica is all about. Just watch her personality and drink it in. And admire the rest of her looks because, make no mistake, she can rock an outfit, eyes be damned. I mean, I idolised her perm SSR recently (an SSR which made two of my first three rolled SSRs) and boy does it suit her well. Sometimes she can even go the extra mile and look genuinely stunning no matter what. Go look at her unidolised limited SSR and tell me she isn’t elegant as all hell. Oh, and Ki-ma-gu-re☆Cafe au lait! is the most fitting image song of any idol. I didn’t think Fred had it in her at first to really impress me, but by god has she proved me wrong. She’s iM@s’ best cute idol by a mile.

Umi Sonoda: Ah, a blue-haired, yellow-eyed idol I really liked before it was cool. Weirdly, despite her general aversion to appearing so, if there was one word I’d tag Umi under, it’d be ‘sexy’. Maybe the immensely powerful, and really very good, voice of Suzuko Mimori has something to do with it. Of course, the other blue-haired, yellow-eyed idol gets put under the ‘sexy’ tag more often, mostly because she acts it, but nowadays I don’t think the term is what I’d call her most of all – in the past, yes, but now, no. (Hell, ‘sexy’ is probably too small a word for her. Hence why I prefer more flattering terms.) Oh yeah, and Umi is not averse to blowing kisses, which, well…you know. I probably should have seen the omens, on reflection. Though with all this in mind it’s harder to explain just how Umi didn’t end up as my favourite idol. But I was a very different man in January 2016 so, eh.

Anastasia: You need a foreign idol? Get a Russian. Anastasia says ‘Khorosho’ once, but she gets away with it by being really damn good. She stands out as one of the anime’s finest characters by far and she’s really rather innocent deep down, I think. Perhaps a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none idol, but deep down it is very hard to dislike her. She’s gotten plenty of respect and boy has she earned it.

Minami Nitta: I questioned where her popularity came from at first. I know why now. Minami is, I think, the ultimate girl next door of an idol. She’s not as flashy as the others above her, but what she is, by nature, a real sexy girl – kind of in the same vein as Umi before, come to think of it. There’s not much I can do to describe it other than to just say, she’s got it – the unfathomable factor that makes her seem so much better than a lot of her peers. That’s the way it is, sometimes. The intangibles, at their finest, are unbeatable.

Shizuku Oikawa: My guilty pleasure of an idol. And it really is a guilty one – I really don’t want to be associated with an idol with any kind of personality like this. But I must be because Shizuku is as ideal a looker as I can really imagine in Idolmaster. I love brunette hair. I love short hair. I love brown eyes. I even love a strong girl. And, hard as this might be to admit in public, I like big tiddies. If I were statting everybody in Idolmaster, I’d put Shizuku at a visual of about 7 million and just leave her at that. Because that’s the only charm she needs. Everything else is immaterial. Or at least it should be. Sadly, it isn’t quite… Oh, what I’d give for Idolmaster to fix up some of its bloody personalities.

Hanayo Koizumi: And now we come back to an idol whose prime quality is, in my eyes, her natural cuteness. My god, does Kayo-chin have it in spades or what. A high voice of her calibre can be absolutely headache-inducing when done wrong. Pana’s is what you get when you do it right. She’s so sweeeeeet. Mind you, I don’t think her singing voice is up to much. But I tell you, she deserves to be so much more than the least popular member of mu’s. She’s so lovely. Oh, and her seiyuu is amazingly cute, just as much so as her character. That’s another big positive.

Nozomi Toujou: In the world of idols, you get shamed if you like them solely based on their bust…unless they’re this one. Nozomi has plenty of positives about her, but none more so than her glorious thiccness. She has no regrets about it at all. And she stands as the first of all these idols I actually, vaguely knew about. Thank the wild and varied world of fanart for that.

Nico Yazawa: What you get when you try really, really hard to be cute. And make it work, just about. What you also end up when you do that is really, really popular. Nico isn’t all positive, but by god is she iconic or what.

Rin Shibuya: Possibly the least talkative idol in history is also arguably Idolmaster’s biggest (though Miki and Haruka might want a word), and certainly the most popular of the Cinderella Girls. But it’s OK that she doesn’t speak a lot because she can instead let her utterly incredible voice do the talking. There isn’t a more powerful voice in the idol world. Hear it during Never say never and it hits you hard. Hear it during Trancing Pulse and it gives you genuine goosebumps. Hear it during the new Trinity Field and it remains seriously impressive. And fierce as Rin can look, she can also do properly beautiful – I raise you her limited SSR as evidence. She’s not this popular by mistake – there’s a genuinely likeable idol in her.

Rin Hoshizora: Love Live’s Rin is also pretty strong. Most impressive about her is how she manages to be a catty girl, but not a full-on cat girl. You only need see Idolmaster’s effort at the same thing to see the difference between getting it right and wrong on this score. But Rin also has the positive of being a good tomboy character, and pulling off a strong attempt at subverting her trend. Also potentially the only known idol with the capability of playing that most evocative of instruments – the maracas. Move aside, any instrument idols, you can’t beat the samba beat.

Kaede Takagaki: If they gave Kaede a show, it could only be named ‘Everybody Loves Kaede’, because it’s true; everybody does love Kaede. Or certainly a bit of her, at least. Whether it be her soft, calm personality hiding a drunken beast, her puns, her youthful, utterly unique beauty or her world-class voice – courtesy of the other Hayami, Saori – there’s something for everyone with Kaede. Hell, even knew about her long before going into this whole thing. She is really, really popular. And deservedly so.

The rest of this sorter will be in further pieces soon when I can raise some actual words to describe all the idols I still have left (and also to save you from what would otherwise be another one of my 500-story high walls of text). Please stay tuned.

There’s a character that’s been intriguing me…

I’ve had this as an idea for a while now, but only actually conceived the writing as part of another article. However, that might not be ready for a long while yet. So while it’s still fresh out my mind, I thought I’d stick it in the place I originally meant it for. (It’ll also save a lot of words on that article, of which there will be many.)

So, who the hell could I be so interested in I’ve gone and written an entire thing about her? Take a wild guess…I bet you won’t get it. Not even nearly. Read More

Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: The bit where they steal your money by not showing up on your screen

I’d never really taken on a game the like of Starlight Stage before, to be honest. I mean, I never properly dabbled with its most obvious competitor, Love Live School Idol Festival, despite being a proper Love Live fan. You can thank mu’s ending for that. And not even stealing an actual Idolmaster term (of which, more later) has changed my mind. But Starlight Stage is the big thing doing the rounds for iM@s around the world at the moment. So, of course, I had to check it out.

Not the easiest of tasks, all told. Unlike Love Live, which went fully worldwide with its rhythm game, Namco has stuck resolutely to its home turf with its spin-off of a spin-off, released in 2015 as the obvious counter to LLSIF’s resounding success. The difference: ‘Deresute’ – a portmanteau of its Japanese syllables – comes at you in 3D. Which is terrific.

And it looks it too. Relatively speaking, of course. On the whole it’s not gonna be pulling up trees but for a mobile game it looks sweet enough. And so do its idols. Finally, they are right there in front of you and glorious. Aren’t some of them just lovely or what?

But before you can get to them, there’s a whole damn game in front of you. And boy is there a lot of it to take in. When I saw just how many factors you had to take in with all this I thought I would be really up against it, especially with a whole language barrier in front of me. I’d learnt games in Japanese before but not only did I have the backing of English versions in those cases, they weren’t nearly as complex as Starlight Stage. Luckily, the game has the English community around it to provide several translations for everything. But even then I still haven’t got my head round it all. Let me try and put it all to you.

So the aim of the game is to get EXP from songs, and to level up to unlock more songs and items. But to play songs, you need to have stamina, which refills over time or with items. You also get presents through various methods, each of which have to be picked up through the present box. As for what there is to play, well, there’s daily and weekly mission which give you small rewards upon completion. There’s also rewards for reaching milestones – achievements, or trophies, if you will. And there’s also rewards from big events that come around often in the game.

You set up units of 5 idols at a time, the centre idol applying their skill to the entire team as well as the skills each idol comes with. You can make 18 different teams, the centre of your main team being the one who shows up on your profile and home screen. There’s an auto-picker to trivialise a lot of it, sorting by Cute, Cool, Passion or all types and by appeal, Vocal, Dance, Visual and Life, the core stats for all the idols. The game’s songs are split into those four types, and ‘appeal’ is the total of an idol’s Vocal, Dance and Visual. To raise these stats, and the idols’ levels, you give them lessons by consuming other cards, or using trainer tickets. Also, playing songs with an idol increases their affection. Once you max this out, you can ‘awaken’ them, but you have to have the right jewellery to do it. This gives them a new graphic, another stat boost, a raised level cap and a raised affection cap, to give them yet another stat boost. They also have a star rank to be raised through star lessons, whereby you take two identical cards and combine them into one, which allows you to get rarer items when they’re in the centre. There’s also potential breaks that let you power up your idols further. And you can sell idols as well, although that’s only really useful for normals.

That make sense to you all? Thought not. Still, at least that’s the most complex bit out of the way.

Of course, after all that it’s only right and proper that the actual gameplay would be simple as can be. You just tap circle notes, hold on to notes with trails and slide your finger on notes with arrows. Of course, you can make it very unsimple by going right to the highest difficulties, the creme de la creme being Master. However, some songs go even higher and have Master+ difficulties, the toughest of all. Naturally, the higher the difficulty, the greater the rewards – and beating a song on Master difficulty gives you its MV, letting you watch the songs in their full glory. However, I’m still a relative newb to this all, so I haven’t had thoughts on going past Regular difficulty yet. Once I can do some songs properly, I’ll make the step up to Pro. I’m a long way off trying Master yet. Incidentally, a lot of the game’s many songs are always available (once you unlock them, anyway), but some are limited to certain days of the week or are only available for a limited time. And there’s also songs that go round during events, too. Even before it all, there’s still some complexity – a ‘guest’ idol giving you their centre skill, the 10 strongest idols not in your chosen unit giving you half their combined appeal, and so on. But what’s important is that at the end of it, you get EXP, money, fans, some normal cards, some jewellery and affection for your idols. So, there you go.

But to get a lot of the songs, you have to go through the main story. All you have to do to get the songs themselves is read through their dialogues, but then you have to go out and complete the songs in Live mode to actually proceed to the next one. And you have to level up plenty to go on to most of the songs, and you have to do so more and more as you go further on. This takes some time. Time I do not have. Hence why I haven’t been able to go through most of the story. It wouldn’t be so bad if they just let you unlock songs at your own pace, but Starlight Stage is a game that demands your attention, and lots of it. I can’t give it anything like enough. And so, I sit here with a game with plenty of content largely untouchable to me. You can buy a lot of stuff in Starlight Stage. Perhaps they would have been wise to let you buy levels as well. As it turns out, once you get to Level 50, you can do just about everything. But getting there is a real drag and yet a necessity as well. So come on, Namco. Give a busy man a hand here.

I suppose I should also touch on the many, many side stories on hand for each idol – all 184 of them. They have two kinds of them; memories, and episodes. Memories get unlocked as idols get more fans, which you also get by using them in Lives. Episodes are unlocked once you awaken an idol, with a different story for each card. And reading through all these stories gives you friend points and star jewels to use yourself. There’s also the event stories, only accessible if you unlocked them through the event yourself or using memory keys to buy them. And there’s special stories as well that don’t fit in with the rest otherwise.

Hey, I only said the most complex bit was out of the way. But yes, there really are more currencies in this game than the world itself, or so it seems.

Also available is the Room. This is a gloriously cute, and also gloriously pointless, feature, that simply lets you watch 5 idols traipse around your own customised office. Many find these chibi-fied idols sweet, and I can see why. But there’s better places to see them all. Such as, for instance, when you put the game in 2D mode, whereupon the 3D models are replaced by the cuted-up 2D chibis. That’s what you wanna see them in, really. Alternatively, you could be like me, a guy who just prefers to see them in the flesh and in their full glory. Which is exactly what Starlight Stage lets you do. Maybe if my phone weren’t up for it I wouldn’t have a choice, but my phone does let me use 3D. So I do. And it’s damn great. Therefore, cute as they are in 2D, I’m not as sold on them as much as on their actual looks. Therefore, I almost never go into the Room. Especially as the money is better spent elsewhere. Still, the free items (more jewellery and trainer tickets) are nice…

So, with all this complexity around the game, just what the hell is there to sell a new player on it? What is there to encourage a newbie to walk in and give this a shot, when they might not stand a hope in hell of reaching the top from the start? Well, there’s one thing that can make it all happen. One thing that can step forward and give you a leg up, and also break your heart at the same time. It’s the make-or-break of this game… Step forward, the gacha.

This is what gives me hope with this game. But, of course, it doesn’t always work. Not even most of the time. Indeed, things of this sort – in the form of the ‘lootbox’ – are currently a big thing in the gaming world right now, due to their capacity to define games to the point where you need them, except they usually end up giving you crap all. This does not please people. A game I’ve played plenty of recently, Forza Motorsport 7, has been reviled for this sort of thing, and others encourage microtransactions to the point of idiocy. And I’d share a lot more sympathy with these if I didn’t know the way to really make these sorts of things work. And that’s with a system like this, a system I’ve known not just from Starlight Stage, but for well over five years now. As a FIFA player, I know exactly what Ultimate Team demands, and how tempting its packs are. I’ve seen the good side of those before, and the bad side…so I know exactly what’s up with the gacha. And with the rewards on offer, I can’t help but go to it over, and over, again.

The heart of the game is the Platinum Gacha. This is where you spend the one currency in the game that really matters, Star Jewels. This is the one you can buy with your own money, at a rate far greater than the game’s slothful offering. While sometimes they get given out in decent amounts, for special occasions, getting Star Jewels otherwise is a thankless task. However, what the Platinum Gacha does is let you take a free card, of a Rare or higher nature, for less than £1, once a day. Given the potential that you could get something special from it, this is well worth it. Of course, whether it works out is another thing entirely. 85% of the time, it’s nothing more than a Rare, but around 1/8th of the time, it’s a good SR, with a proper picture and all.

And then there’s the 3% chance of getting the game’s most prized possessions – SSRs. These are what everyone aspires towards in this game. And several characters have more than one. However, every character’s second SSR is the ‘limited’ sort – the type that comes out at the start of the month and is available initially for only a ‘limited’ period, as the name suggests. However, there comes a point when they’ll be thrown in the gacha again for another limited period, and during this time they’ll have a higher chance of showing up. So if there’s an idol you like, best go mad for them when they get a limited card, or when it pops up. Because the chance to get them again might not come around for a long, long time…

Lastly, there’s the SSRs afforded to the in-universe gods – the ones available during the ‘Cinderella Festival’, which comes round for 2-3 days, once every four months. The cards available during this come with the best stats in the game, and the chance of getting an SSR during this time is doubled to 6%. However, only the newest ‘CinFes’ idol is easy to get – the ones from previous CinFests, while available, are still hard to get. But if you get one, hoo boy…

Aside from the Platinum Gacha, there’s also the local gacha, which is mostly meant as a place to get cards and tickets to train up your idols. You get one of these free a day, and using it otherwise costs 200 friend points a roll. You can actually get SRs from this, but consider yourself damn lucky if you do – the chance of that happening is less than 1%. Still, it’s a useful thing to have.

All this might make you think Starlight Stage is very much a pay-to-win game. It isn’t. But to get by playing F2P, you have to be real dedicated and have plenty of time on your hands. Which, as I’ve said, I do not. Fortunately, I do have money to use the gacha with. The free £1 rolls are a given every day for me, but it’s the big 10-rolls that are the most tempting. However, doing two of those would cost me some £40. Which is why I’m only doing them every payday, i.e. every other week. A bit like I did this Friday. After getting shafted by the game for a long time on SSRs, having waited for ages, two came along in one 10-roll; Nina and Frederica. One good idol and one great one. See what I mean by these being worth it? The reason I like the 10-rolls most of all is that you’re guaranteed an SR in it, and usually more. You’re only meant to get an SSR in around 1 in 3 of them, but hey, who am I to complain about luck? I’m the type that aims for 1% Pokemon every time I play the game. Heck, I’m running through Silver right now with a Dunsparce and Azumarill around. And they’re both damn rare to find. I like a bit of a lottery every now and again.

However, this was all before I realised what one of the gacha options was – you can pay for a 10-pull, plus two tickets for an SR and any card of your choice, up to and including permanent SSRs. So on Saturday, I went and threw another £20 at the game, to get the one card I’d take above all. Sure, it’d be a lot more special if I got her through the gacha itself, but what if she never came? Best to take the chance while it was there, otherwise it might never come again. So I did what had to be done…

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If I’m gonna be tapping through so many stories, I want at least one idol whose stories I’ll sit up and pay attention to. Kanade, meet my phone.

Now go get yourself a limited SSR or show up during CinFes. (Hah, as if either of those would ever happen)

So yes. That’s what £60 gets you in this game. 3 SSRs and a good clutch of SRs as well. Yes, that’s a decent return I think. No, I won’t be spending that much again for a long time. Not until my next pay day, that’s for sure. But as it turns out, I might not need to. Because tonight, with my £1 gacha roll, I went and got another SSR. Guess who?

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Someone’s after my heart.

Yes, I did genuinely get two Frederica SSRs this weekend. Which is madder than even she is. I’m OK with this, actually. When you get two of your favourite Cute idol in the series, you take her alright. I’m supposed to keep her for my support team, it seems. So I shall.

You know what I call her now? Half-meme, half-amazing.

But this is exactly what I’m getting at. The gacha is great because it gives you the chance of something this glorious, for so little. Never mind that I got the same card literally two days ago, an SSR is an SSR. That’s the appeal of the gacha. That’s why I’m still coming to this game. Of course, finding time to do anything with my earnings is another matter entirely…

But the thing is, having toiled at this game for a while, and having made mistakes aplenty with it already, as it turns out, I’ve just about got the hang of it all. Whether it actually means anything given how little I play the thing is a worry, but at least I know what the bloody hell I’m doing now. If this complexity might have turned you off in any way, though, I completely understand. I just wanted to get in and dance with the idols I could too but I found myself with ten thousand features thrown in my face. It’s fine once you know it all, but it takes time. And when you just want the gacha to play ball, there’s not a lot of time when there’s so much else more you wanna do. But I can start to give Starlight Stage a proper go, finally.

And at the end of the day, the result of it is just wonderful. The Cinderella Girls, all 184 of them, at their very finest, dancing to the best songs in the series. And there’s a lot of them. Behind the complexity of the menus lies a simple game at its centre. Just tap and let the rhythm flow. And you wonder why so many are playing this right now. It’s tantalising at its best.

It’s just a shame I’m not the kind of person that can really get stuck in to it. No matter how good my situation looks now, at the end of the day, this is a game that requires a lot of playing to get the best out of. I am not capable of making time for that playing. And yet even I can see there’s a good game within. No matter how little I actually play Lives, that gacha is always so, so inviting. And, at the end of the day, I can always remind myself just what this game has given us, on YouTube. The all important MVs are all here to behold. A lot of the stories are translated and on YT, too. So I might not even have to play the game to see its most appealing bits. But that doesn’t stop me. I want these idols for myself. I want them all… And Starlight Stage can give you them all. It’s fantastic. Flawed, for sure, but fantastic.