Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: The bit where they do what they were picked for (Part 2)

Continuing on from where we left off. Here, it’s time to talk about something other than image songs.

Message: Part of the third election’s collection, this is a song that dares to play with long periods of gratuitous English and lives to tell the tale. It’s a decent enough song with plenty of cheer about it, but there are others around that do the same thing, better.

Kagayaku Sekai no Mahou: This is the second election’s bunch. Early days, I know, and it kind of shows. Still, I can’t fault the title; it’s definitely correct, given they say it plenty of times throughout. Struggling to care about it otherwise, though.

We’re the friends!: The other half of the third election’s collection. The instrumentation is OK for the most part, but this houses plenty of annoying ‘yay’s and ‘woo’s. Together. God help me. Also not sure about the singing of the chorus. Harsh, I know. But they got better with these election songs. Trust me.

Yuubae Present: Apparently, Cinderella Project sung this and it was the ending song for most of the anime’s episodes. I’m damned if I remember, though. I can’t remember a single thing about it. Give me a sec…

Ah yes, this one. It’s sweet enough I suppose, but…nothing too special. Another typical CinPro affair, really.

GOIN’!!!: This is a song I know more as an annoyance than anything else. This is because, until recently, I liked going to the pinya for Lives more often than not, and it gave me this song every…single…time. And I never FCd it. Ever. When I finally pulled it off, it was in a Live Groove. I was breathing metaphorical fire from my fingers in that particular groove, but it didn’t count. Amazing what you can achieve when you’re not under pressure. I did eventually go out and do it properly, and in all the time I’ve listened to it the song has grown on me to a certain extent. So, you know what, I’ll say it’s alright.

Memories: Is this the best thing to come out of Cinderella Project? Quite possibly. If you thought Minami’s song was 90s-ish, wait till you see this effort with her girlfriend Anya. What a magnificent beat and set of instruments this song is lucky to have. And what a beautiful chorus these two sing. Once I remembered just how great this song was the first time it jumped right into my high tiers. Well done to you, Love Laika.

ØωØver!!: Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya. Nya.  In between these constant outbreaks of Miku lies a decent enough theme together with Riina, in a theme about as chaotic as their unit. No infighting was made in the making of this song. None at all. No, siree.

LET’S GO HAPPY!!: If you thought none of IOSYS’ songs were quite insane enough before, listen to this. It’s bloody mental. And as well it should be because a unit like Decoration encourages nothing but hyperactivity. This is plenty of fun, especially if you like your stuff hectic. I personally can take that sort of thing done just right, which this is. Great stuff.

Dekitate Evo! Revo! Generation!: The other best thing to come out of the Cinderella Project, NewGen’s main theme is the best song which is on nodding terms with the most typical idol-ish tracks. A surprising turn of epicness courtesy of some magnificent instrumentation makes this song so much better than anything else like it in this franchise. The tone the song sets is just right – absolutely ideal, even. With that, I reckon EvoRevoGen is an unqualified success. Even if their first attempt at it very much wasn’t. Thanks, Mio.

Happy×2 Days: Here’s another quality song coming from the anime. This one is made better by an unlikely hero in Anzu, who brings out her rap game to make it that little bit more special. A bit like the associated episode they got, actually. Kanako and Chieri are fine as well, this song still suiting Kanako and her gorgeous voice supremely well. Plenty of other sweet moments throughout make this a superb song on the whole.

-Engel- Adanasu Tsurugi Hikari no Shirabe: When I first found this song in the anime I actually rather liked it. As my opinion on Ranko has deteriorated, it has done so likewise with this song, effectively a second image song for the occasionally unconvincing chuuni. She still makes no sense in it. Oh yeah, and this is known to plenty as LEGNE. Guess what that’s a reverse of… Spooky. It’s also apparently really bloody hard on the highest difficulties. Just as well I’m not playing it on them, then.

Kono Sora no Shita: This was actually in Episode 20? Oh, bloody hell, I must have missed that. Gimme a sec…

Oh, that’s why. Because it’s Love Laika feat. Rosenburg Engel. It’s a much more peaceful affair than either of their other songs. As slow songs go, it’s not too bad, and their combined vocals aren’t too bad. But it’s a good example of why some cool songs send people to sleep. Which is not too good.

Wonder goes on!!: This was the supergroup that came to be out of Riina and Miku’s real partners. Half of the unit is good; the other half is not. The song, though? Well…

…It’s about as hectic as you’d expect. There’s all sorts going on, but it’s an awful lot to take in and it only adds up to about the sum total of the unit; average. Riina and Natsuki are lovely in my book; Miku and Nana are not. That, as they say, is the way it goes.

Watashi-iro Gift: The trade-off of one of the anime’s best episodes. Everyone from Episode 17 – still a source of inspiration to this writer at times – is in this one, and the highly charged voices of Decoration are compounded by a set of vocals from Mika that’re so good they’re almost distracting. Not so distracting, though, that I can’t nearly FC this song…on Master. Yes, you read that correctly. I made it through over 500 notes of about 550 and, with my tokimeki escalated heart beating hard and fast, niced a note in the final section of the song. I should have taken overload Yuko to save me, really… Oh wait, I did. And she didn’t. Thanks, Yuko.

But anyway. On the whole, this song is all kinds of cheerful. It’s calm compared to Let’s Go Happy but certainly not calm by any other standards. This is a loud and proud song.

Shine!!: This one’s alright, actually. Better than its direct cousin Star, the opening to the second season is a more inspired song than the first to this writer. Realistically there shouldn’t be much difference between them, not when they’re both aiming to achieve the exact same thing and have to make do with the same 13-idol mega-show. So it’s fine margins that make one song better than the other and Shine nails them better than most songs like it. So I’d say it’s got plenty of appeal about it.

Trancing Pulse: World-class. No song in the series is as dramatic as this. Everything about the song lends itself to the kind of drama you can’t possibly resist. There’s the incredibly chilling acapella intro, the action-packed opening, the stirring instrumentation, and then the slow-down as it all builds up all over again, courtesy of a magnificent trio in Rin, Karen and Nao. Rin’s absolutely epic voice is in full flow, Nao’s adds plenty of blaring and looks like she’s making an absolute rave of the whole thing. Karen’s silky smooth singing is the icing on the cake. And you wonder why this is everyone’s favourite unit. It’s bloody brilliant. And once it breaks out again you have a song that is near-flawless from start to finish. One of the most terrific tunes I’ve been lucky enough to hear. This stands as my second favourite, personally. If I could recommend a song to anyone getting into iM@s, this’d be a good candidate. But I’d keep them waiting till Episode 22 when it hits in the anime.

M@GIC☆: Plenty of pomp and circumstance about this one, I suppose, but it’s not necessarily a total success. Magic is fine for the most part, just not that good. So with that in mind, Star stands as probably my favourite CinPro song. Yes, I know I haven’t covered them all just yet. But their songs were never going to be the ones that caught my ear the most. Hence the J-pop statement I made previously. Their stuff sticks closest to it than anything else, but in spite of that personal thing I reckon they make a pretty good effort on the whole.

Susume☆Otome ~jewel parade~: And now we start on the Jewelries songs. And Jewel Parade stands alone among its direct peers as an unusual song because its ‘full’ version was actually done by the Cinderella Project. Perhaps they should have stuck to a similar plan with the other two. I mean, 13 isn’t much less than the 15-idol frenzies that came later, but it’s a group of 13 we know works. The other three versions were split between the other three jewelries, some of which very much were not in CinPro. (I’d take the passion version, personally.) In all cases though, this isn’t the most inspiring song the collection has brought. It’s not totally without merit, but it does sound a bit generic overall. Like the kind of thing you’d hear in a casino or something. OK for a first attempt, though.

Atashi Ponkotsu Android: The best of the first jewelries bunch by some distance. And this is a song with Uzuki, Nana and Miku in it. That sounds like it’d be a disaster for me, but actually, the composition of this song is pretty great. The instrumentation is mostly strong throughout as well, and ultimately the combination of voices does the song plenty of justice. It would be more of a surprise if I hadn’t been into it for so long. So perhaps I should consider it one of my earliest unexpected favourites.

Nation Blue: Word has it the full version of this song is actually fine. I haven’t heard that yet and am going off the Deresute version which is highly disappointing. I’d been led to believe by other sources, even before hearing it, that it was something else, but it just leaves me cold every time. It just never really kicks off, despite having a very solid collection of idols (and Ranko). And then, once the chorus is over, it just…stops. Almost as if there were an actual power failure, if the MV is anything to go by. The likes of Rin, Kaede and Minami deserve better.

Orange Sapphire: This has the best unit on the basis that none of the idols are bad at all, and yet while this song is kinda sorta fun in places, it’s really not much more than an average ‘passion’ song. Whatever that constitutes. Probably far too many notes to be comfortable with. Why do they always do that with passion songs, anyway? It makes me coil in horror at the sight of them, sometimes. The exception that proves that rule is the next jewelries song coming up (Master difficulty notwithstanding).

Yumeiro Harmony: So this was apparently the ending song for chunks of season 2. Blimey, I’ll have to jog my memory on that one as well. Not good news when I loved S2 so dearly. Gimme a sec…

OK, yeah, I remember this one now, too. And I forgot it because it, too, was wholly unremarkable for the most part. Comfortably the most lukewarm of CinPro’s songs, I would vouch.

Nagareboshi Kiseki: NewGen’s second song. Not quite as good as their first, but then most other songs aren’t as good as their first either. And this one is actually fine. In fact, I’d even call the chorus tuneful. It also stands out, inexplicably, as being one of my first FCs on Deresute. I mean, I don’t find it that special, and I haven’t managed it since. I just nailed it once. And that’s fine by me. I haven’t managed that with plenty of other songs yet…

Snow Wings: This is what Bamco wants us to believe is the most important song in Deresute history. Or so it seems, sometimes. They aren’t fooling us. It’s not a bad song per se but it does get a bit too hyper at times. In particular, I’m not sure what to make of the chorus, from the moment the ‘Wings of snow’ hit. I’d prefer other sorts of wings, personally. Wings of buffalo? That’d sound much more attractive.

Gokigen Party Night: This was the first jewelries song to feature one of the 15-idol maelstroms that came to define these collections. That’s a little overbearing so I tend to stick to the Cute, Cool and Passion versions of each, or, if you’d like, the event version Deresute provided. Of course, at the end of the day they are all very similar. None of the units who’ve sung this song are without fault, which is a shame because this is a really rather enjoyable song otherwise. You know what it makes me want to do? Party through the night. I suppose that most days, I’d compromise and listen to the cool version.

Pastel Pink na Koi: This one’s pretty good. It’s lots of fun to listen to, actually – it’s a relatively harmless song in the grand scheme of things. And it does that in spite of a unit which is a long way off perfect. No one in it is that great except for Kanako, but it doesn’t matter because they actually make for a rather good tune. Well done, you (not particularly) cuties.

Orgel no Kobako: This one’s just plain weird to me. Everything, from the MV, to the instrumentation, to the tone it sets, is just like ‘Huh?’ Certainly, it’s one great way to waste an otherwise promising unit of Mizuki, Koume, Anastasia, Nao and Karen. I can think of a million better ways to use them than this. Heck, Gokigen Party Night probably does them the most justice of all. Probably better to just go and listen to that instead.

Zettai Tokken Shuchou Shimasuu!: This is another surprise favourite of mine, my favourite from this selection of jewelries, just beating out Pastel Pink. The unit isn’t exactly star-studded but it’s better on the whole than its cute counterpart. Where this song is at its best though is in Deresute. The map is as fun as it gets, anywhere. It’s a real workout, but not to such an extent it tears you apart. Which is to say, the notes are plentiful but ultimately about where you’d expect them to be. And that’s my kind of song. Certainly, it’s helped me appreciate it that much more. Mind you, it took me a while to FC it ‘properly’. The first time I managed it was a Live Party, which blew me away somewhat at the time; the second time was in the most recent Live Groove which put my fingers on a real hot streak. Then eventually I went out and got my due’s worth for those two FCs. It’s a great warm-up song actually – it really gets you going. Good job, pashunistas.

…Just remember, I’m talking about Pro FCs. Not Masters. The less said about this song’s Master…the better.

Tulip: If you asked me the question ‘What is the best song to come out of Cinderella Girls?’, this would be the answer. Above all, Tulip stands as Idolmaster’s biggest ear worm courtesy of an insane level of quality that has made quite literally everyone fall in love with it. There’s all sorts going on with its beat and instrumentation. There’s jazz, electro, and more. It’s all quite mad and all quite brilliant. The lyrics are some of my favourites, and make for one suggestive theme, even if most of them are of course just the song’s magnificent wordplay, “Kiss me, Chu chu chu chu chu chu♡lip”. And the vocals to those lyrics are amongst the very best any song can offer, so utterly tuneful. Behind those vocals are comfortably Tulip’s biggest legacy, and what ultimately elevates it into one of the most special, iconic songs in all of iM@s; the unit.

It is, quite simply, better than any other. I found about them very early on in my initial induction into this idol hell. And, while it didn’t happen straight away, they have ended up being my top 3 – Kanade, Mika and Syuko – another member of my top 5 in Frederica and, ironically, my least favourite idol in Shiki. But, as I often find myself saying, when was anything ever perfect? And no way in hell can she bring down a foursome of the magnitude of her colleagues. They’re the stuff my dreams are made of. Of course, now that unit comebacks are officially A Thing, many are clamouring for the return of LiPPS this year. I count myself as one of those people. If the recent survey is anything to go by, they’d ideally be next in line after Triad Primus’ second effort. They tried to better Trancing Pulse and failed. If they managed to better Tulip…you can forget the rest of iM@s. It would have to go down as one of the greatest pieces of music…ever. It ‘only’ stands as my third favourite on personal grounds (maybe fourth now behind Tokimeki; there’s only so many times I can listen to it and Kanade’s solo before it goes a bit stale), but it unquestionably stands as one of the series’ biggest successes. I hope they build on it some more.*

*And hope they bring Misato Manaka a voice as the sixth member of LiPPS. Unless everyone ends up shipping her with Kanade. Presumably she’d have a million and one orgasms over her lips, but we don’t need that situation to get more difficult now. We’ve had her with Fumika, Syuko and maybe even Mika at this point. Still, you never know. Maybe Shiki will get lost or something next time round. You never know.

Absolute NIne: The best song to come out of any election and it isn’t even close. This is what I call the definition of ‘an absolute rave’. Like, my goodness. There are few songs in the series quite as epic as this one. The intensity is immense, the instrumentation is a little bit special, I absolutely love some of the dance moves on show in the MV and the vocals on show are just magical, even if only half the unit is actually any good. It’s no coincidence that my favourite election winner takes centre stage in this one; Syuko is really a very lovely idol indeed. Again, if I were recommending songs to a newcomer, this would be one of them. It’s J-pop, but not as we know it. It’s a normal iM@s song, unplugged. And it’s really bloody good.

Hi-Fi☆Days: So this is the unit we all know as LMBG, but more notable is the fact the song actually made it to number 1 in Japan’s singles chart, and got awarded a Gold disc as well. Like, wow. I just wish it’d been spent on a better song. There’s plenty to commend here, though. You can just about get up and dance to it, but that’s to be expected with its insanely high pace. Chie’s vocals are even quite interesting in places. But while this is actually a half-decent tune, it’s not the be all and end all of iM@s. From this, therefore, we can only conclude that Japan is a nation that likes 9-12 year old idols. Hello, police…

Tsubomi: The complete and utter opposite of its election’s other side. This is as soft and innocent as you can imagine in iM@s and it turns out perfectly alright. And again, it manages this in spite of only having half a good unit. I really wish they’d kept some of the better parts of Absolute Nine’s bunch, but alas the people of 2015 were wrong. One suspects we won’t get a better pair of election songs than this, considering most of the top 10 is likely to be filled with girls the hivemind have decreed they want voiced. Twas ever thus with the Cinderella Girls.

Seizon Honnou Valkyria: It took me a while to take in this song properly. Even them getting proper costumes (unlike LiPPS, whom Bamco copped out on with their dresses) didn’t draw my attention to a unit that is actually perfectly fine. Actually, it seemed to give off an aura of sadness outwardly. Even the art on its cards is really bloody edgy. Minami and Arisu have form with sadness, I suppose. But Aiko and Yumi? Really? Bloody hell. However, despite the song seeming rather bleak at times, thanks to some decent instrumentation, it isn’t all gloom and doom actually. Unfortunately, the cheerful bits aren’t really notable enough for me. Can’t help but think they left a lot on the table with this one, to be honest.

Ashita Mata Aeru yo ne: Having somehow contrived to make two very good songs from two bad units, it was probably natural the Cute jewelries would drop the ball with its best unit’s song. Even putting aside the Shiki in the room, Frederica is as good as cute idols get and the other three are largely inoffensive. And yet this is what they get. A song with a catchy intro and outro, and…that’s about it. Unbelievable.

Saite Jewel: The best jewelries song by a long, long way. After two very nondescript cool efforts, they loosened the shackles for their third effort and ended up with something special. The tempo and drama of the song is palpable. The instrumentation is particularly epic, and the vocals are just fantastic, thanks to probably the best unit any jewelries song can lay claim to – even if their solo moments can be few and far between at times. Obviously Kanade and Syuko are very excellent, but no one’s noticing them together because everyone’s busy paying attention to Kanade and Fumika instead. Tachibana-desu does a fine job too and I’m more than willing to give Asuka a pass here. This is one highly enjoyable song.

Kimi ni Ippai☆: Considering the Passion jewelries used up all its best idols on the very first pass, this is actually a pretty good combined unit. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t get a song to do them much justice. I mean, it’s all a bit wild and silly, which is fine in Passion terms I suppose, but rather uninspiring on a musical level. I can see why people might like it, but I wouldn’t count myself as one of them, sadly.

Junjou Midnight Densetsu: Now that‘s what I call a unit. I don’t care if some of them aren’t quite so good by themselves, combining Takumi, Rina, Ryo, Aki and Natsuki is an inspired decision, and some. And it doesn’t matter what you do with them, you’re gonna end up with something highly charged with all of them in that mind. With that in mind, Midnight – while not an entirely perfect song – stands out as a very good song to listen to, the chorus probably the highlight. But my god, that unit is good.

Love∞Destiny: My opinion on this blows very hot and cold. Probably because literally every element of the song itself is the definition of ‘a mixed bag’. Well, the unit’s mostly alright. Karen, Miho, Riina and Chieri are fine; Mayu is not. The start of the song features a rare and inexplicable moment of good, but weird sounding yet strangely satisfying English, coming from no one in particular, but the rest of the song isn’t that memorable until the decent chorus. It’s strange to think I used to think this song wouldn’t be that great, probably largely on account of Mayu’s presence, but it’s not too bad. And yet there’s just something unerring about it, to me. Probably the tone it strikes. I don’t think it suits some of the other idols very well. Chieri most of all, probably.

Summer Carnival!!: Tears for the much-unloved Suzuho and Emi here. This is about the only thing most fans remember them for and they were stuck in one real hotchpotch of a unit. I mean, maybe if I squint I can justify it, but on paper having them with Mizuki, Akane and Yuko just does not seem that appealing. Still, you can’t deny the song they made has some gusto to it. There’s plenty of effort thrown behind it, but alas it’s not the greatest song in the world. But at least they tried.

BEYOND THE STARLIGHT: Starlight! If you’re a fan of mid-high tier idols which consensus agrees are no more, no less than ‘pretty good’, you needn’t look beyond…Beyond the Starlight. Rika, Chieri, Karen, Mizuki and Yui is the largely inoffensive, if a little odd, mix for a song that is another which I FC’d surprisingly early, in spite of it being fairly generic on the whole. Like really, it’s not even that memorable. A bit like the unit itself, really. Not good. Not bad. Just fine. But it’s a great song if you suddenly find yourself with a random urge to shout “Starlight”. Starlight!

Near to You: This is the best of the three jewelries’ combined songs, and yet I still wouldn’t take the 15-idol madness here. Even though I only dislike one of them. I mean, if you’re gonna throw that many idols on, you might as well turn the whole thing into a dancefloor for the audience. Although on second thoughts I don’t think 346 wants its idols stolen away. Anyway, you’d think, going off my statements earlier, that the Cool version would be my preferred choice. You’d be right, but one tiny aspect of their song always gets me: right at the start, the idols all drop a ‘yay’ at the start. The passions make a particularly impressive showing with their effort, and the cutes are fine too. But the cool’s attempt, hilariously, results in what has to be the single deadest example of the soundbyte in the series. When you look at the idols in it again, it’s not hard to see why. I suspect Kanade and Fumika did theirs with a gun to their head. (The former’s recent effort in Ding Dong Dang suggests I might be right.) It’s just bloody hysterical. Otherwise, real good song.

Kimi to Boku no Mirai: Ah, yes. This was their collab with Granblue Fantasy. It was alright, I suppose. Nothing worth blowing my frock up over, though. Granblue’s side of the coin, on the other hand…

Love Letter: The Cute type’s attempt at rivalling Triad Primus. They miss by about a million miles. Even though their song is not completely terrible.

STORY: When you think of a collab between NewGen and Triad Primus, you expect fireworks. What we got given instead was a song I’m pretty sure I heard at a wedding once. By itself, the song is probably fine. But considering the potential of what they had here, did it have to be this way?

Jet to the Future: The Riina-Natsuki love-in duet the world wanted. The resulting tune, as you might expect, is highly impressive, and yet I suspect they could have gone even further with it. I suppose they didn’t want to make Riina look too much like a proper rocker. But really, this is fine.

Treasure: This is an interesting concept, and with Mika and Riina alongside NewGen it had the star power factor to be special, but I suspect that, at the time, Bamco didn’t really have the means to make it work. The music plays out more like a drama than a full-time song, but that sort of thing needs quality visuals to go with and Treasure doesn’t have much more to it than a kind of awkward MV. If they made something like it tomorrow, they’d probably make it work like a charm. The game’s MVs have evolved immensely since this point in its history, but this stands out as a case of a song that came too soon.

Aikurushii: This started the trend of taking a song from the Idol Collections and topping them up with extra idols to give them the magic five Deresute needed. First up was Aikurushii, a Sae and Mayu original given an extra boost of quality cute idols in Yukari and Kanako…and Kanade, for some reason. We’ll gloss over the song doing the equivalent of putting a white shirt in the red wash and instead focus on the fact it is really very good indeed. It’s as calming and relaxing as you could you possibly ask for, one of CG’s slowest songs. It’s all very sweet and innocent, and the vocals reflect that wonderfully. Even Mayu’s solos make me take some notice here, and then there’s Sae and Yukari’s silky voices. Kanako’s warm voice, meanwhile, is at its very best here. She is the standout performer here for me, even ahead of Kanade, whose low tones actually lend herself to this song just fine. This is a great effort all round, and it also stands as the first Pro song I ever FCd. You can call it the song I’m best at on Deresute, and I’m happy I can say that about such a good song.

Flip Flop: This was the second time a song got new idols, this one an Aiko and Akane affair added to by Shizuku, Tamami and Karin. From this, you’d expect an all types song – after all, Kanade’s presence alone was enough to make the otherwise all-Cute Aikurushii an all-type. And yet Flip Flop remained a passion song…even though it had literally every type in it. All we’re asking for is a bit of consistency… And this wasn’t the last time they’d drop this particular ball, either. The song itself is as fast-paced as you could possibly imagine, enough to get anyone jiving, but the actual music itself isn’t much more than ‘fairly good’. Also the whole thing seems to take place on a field, if the MV is anything to go by. Justifies Shizuku’s inclusion, at least.

EVERMORE: I have to get a bit mean now. Because Evermore stands out as one of those songs everyone likes…apart from me. I have numerous problems with it. First of all, there’s the unit. Yes, Mika is in it. No, even she can’t make up for the presence of Shiki, Miku and Chuunibyou United. Second, there’s the MV, which is incredibly overblown to me. When you see them rising up onto a stage with what must be about a million people surrounding it, you’re thinking “Well, blimey. They’re not being shy about this one.” And yet all I seem to hear is some relatively underwhelming trumpets, which gives off the weird double act of pomp and circumstance and relative indifference at the same time. If anything though, after all that hype, it’s the chorus that disappoints the most. It’s just so…lukewarm. You’d think they’d properly go for it for their fifth anniversary, and yet… There is just nothing there. So I’m sorry, but Evermore has to go down as one of the few songs in iM@s I don’t like. Like I said previously, though…they don’t need to get every single thing right to be good.

Ankira!? Kyousoukyoku: Anzu and Kirari’s crowning triumph, this is a song that’s about as insane as you’d expect from the pair of them. You will not be surprised to hear that this song is really, really popular. And as well it might be because Anzu and Kirari’s antics here are pretty great.

Inochi Moyashite Koiseyo Otome: Since the title is a bit of a mouthful, I tend to refer to this as ‘the old hags song’. Harsh, I know, but consider it a legacy from Touhou’s use of the term. As you might have guessed, this features all of the oldest idols (well, apart from Mizuki). They work well enough together, unless you have all their SSRs on hand, in which case Nana looks completely out of place. It was always thus with her. But the song itself is absolutely fine, better than fine even. There’s some great instrumentation throughout and some of the vocals work brilliantly.

Lunatic Show: You know how I was talking about Deresute’s hypocrisy in picking types for these idol collection songs? Well, how about a Cool song with one Cool idol in it. Genius. This Syoko and Koume original is redone with the addition of Yuki and those pillars of lunacy, Sachiko and Sae. Because they are of course exactly who you think of when you think of a hard rock song. This utterly bizarre unit choice aside, the song works well enough. It’s certainly an agreeable alternative to Syoko’s image song for me.

Sweet Witches’ Night ~Rokuninme wa Daare~: Behold this terrifying quintet of witches, including Airi with her terrifying lack of awareness, Nono with her terrifying negativity, Shizuku who…erm…well, she could knock you out with her tits, I guess. And… Kanako? I can’t think of anybody less scary than her. Nor Noriko, whose donuts aren’t the scariest thing ever, either. Still, let us not dwell on its unit; this is a fine song. It’s actually quite relaxing overall considering the theme, well-rounded in all musical aspects and it’s generally very easy on the ear. Oh, and I’ve FC’d this one plenty of times, too.

Angel Dream: Now, this was the collaboration with some taiko game called Taiko no Tatsujin. And I think it’s rather good. Rika, Riina and Chieri make for a fine trio and the song is really, really fun – especially the chorus. The vocals are particularly sweet to me. I enjoy this one.

Jounetsu Fun Fanfare: The passions attempt at matching Triad Primus this time. Again, it doesn’t really work out. It’s just too weird-sounding for my tastes.

Sakura no Koro: A song so traditional I came out from listening to it with a Japanese passport. It’s a fine and calm affair though, impressive in places and the unit is spot on. This is a good one.

∀NSWER: If you thought my opinion on Evermore was bad, wait till you see my opinion on Answer. If anything, I enjoy it even less. Again, the unit is a real problem here. Syoko works well with good colleagues around her, but she hasn’t got any here. Mirei…I don’t know about her, really. She seems like Koume without the surprisingly positive side to her. And Nono’s negativity annoys me deeply. So that’s a bad start. And it gets worse the instant the song starts. Call me mad, but I really do not like the instrumentation here. That sound which should be mimicking a guitar instead sounds like an actual angle grinder. It’s horrid. And the vocals don’t help matters, especially when they inexplicably (and badly) start autotuning them. Plus the MV appears to show them dancing in a darkened cage, which has inexplicable bits of metal flying around, and then suddenly and without any real explanation they’re on a stage. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense. Are they suggesting they’re performing inside the cage before they leap onto the stage, or something? Because no one can hear them down there, the silly idiots.

You know what else I’m not big on? Everyone is forever asking when its Starlight Master is gonna come out. I’m not sure whether I don’t want it because I don’t like the song (unless they provide a superb second image song to go with, or something else), or whether I do want it because it will stop people bloody asking “Answer when?”. Yes, Starlight Masters have slowed to a crawl and it troubles me as well. No, that doesn’t mean I want this one, too.

shabon song: The shanbon song continues the trend of entirely accurate idol collection songs by being a Cute song with only one Cute idol in it. The janbon song was originally Mika and Miho’s jam, a good combo to begin with, and adding Yumi, Haruna and Miria does it no harm whatsoever. It’s one of the stronger units for these sorts of songs, but the bonbon song itself is no more than decent. Also it appears to be a song mostly about bubbles. That’s interesting if you’re a West Ham fan, or Peter Drury, but not if you’re anything else. Still, at least Mika looks niceIsn’t that right, Miho? In fact, Pinky’s lovely, distracting voice is probably the best part of the bourbon song.*

*Incidentally, it’s Mika’s seiyuu’s birthday as I write. Happy birthday. Keep that tokimeki escalated. Keep that voice of yours wonderful and distracting. And have mercy on me in Deresute, please.

Nocturne: The most spectacular of any of the Idol Collection songs. This is a Cool one and – voila – it actually has five Cool idols in it! Well done, guys. And not just that, but five idols who blend together incredibly well. Kaede and Mizuki’s original is bolstered by three more mature idols in Minami, Ryo and Kanade (yes, she showed up in two of these, the lucky girl). And the song they sing really is something else. Unlike some of iM@s’ attempts at epics, this one manages to hit the spot just right. It’s an incredibly powerful song.

Nothing but You: The MV for this is particularly interesting, I have to say. And the unit is pretty decent too…with the exception of Miku. I’ve seen a few people question just what the hell she’s doing in this song. The song itself is hardly the worst, but it feels a lot like the kind of song a popular band would do after they’ve claimed they’re ‘experimenting’ with different styles of music, only to find no one likes it. Not that no one likes this, of course. But personally, I think that while they could have done something pretty special with this, they didn’t quite pull it off to the best of its potential.

Mouretsu★Yonaoshi Guilty!: Blimey, this is quite something. Sexy Guilty is a unit to behold in the form of the stacked Sanae, the stacked Shizuku and…well, Yuko’s alright, I suppose. The song itself would probably take a back seat to this lot if it didn’t happen to be pretty good itself. It’s full of humour, yet is actually a very fun tune in its own right. They nailed this one, I say.

Yes! Party Time!!: I’ve seen plenty of people give this song love, and I can kind of see why. But while it’s pretty decent on the whole – as are the costumes they gave to everyone for it – it’s not as good as some perhaps make it out to be. This being the original version, of course. Few give credit to what Deresute did with its event version, which was to put LMBG in it. That wasn’t as well received.

With Love: A calm and actually half-decent song, and one I’ve FC’d a few times as well, despite the unit being a bit of a motley crew on the whole. Yuki, Yuuki and Yukari are all decent by themselves, as is Kirari, but together they don’t seem like they should work. Unless they were going for a tallness theme here. Kyoko isn’t the most inspiring idol either, but despite this the song manages to work. So I say, fair enough.

Little Riddle: Ah, now this is one of the most fun songs to listen to of them all. Even though the unit isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Anzu is a top tier leader, proving her place as the rap god in this song. Rika is good too, but I’m less inclined towards Mirei and Koume, although the former puts in a good shift here vocally. As for Asuka, well, blimey. I don’t see her fitting in with this lot at all. It doesn’t matter though. This is a lovely, lovely song and one I find myself singing to quite a lot. Well, Anzu’s rapping, anyway. So much so I kept on missing the actual all-important lyrics the other four were singing. Once I got out of that habit, I managed to FC it eventually. Good stuff.

Kawaii make MY day!: Here’s an interesting one; a Cute song where all the idols are actually relatively ordinary, but not so ordinary they bore you to tears. Yuka and Yukari are both good here, and I suppose Noriko is fine as well. And the song they make isn’t half bad as well. Nice and catchy actually. Lovely vocals as well, and even the composition is pretty decent on the whole.

Illusionista!: A grand show of a song this one, Illusionista is jazz with the wick turned up and it does all the little things very well indeed. I’ve already previously talked, at length, on how much I enjoy its MV on every single level, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, get up and dance to on the whole, and it even had the honour of introducing the 2D rich MVs which are just even more fun. It’s not perfect, mind. They’re releasing the Cinderella Master of this imminently but apparently the full version is rather uninspiring. And while Mio “HABBA GOOT NAIT” Honda does a fine job up front, along with Minami and Fumika, I’m not as enamoured with Mayu and Sachiko. But they don’t take away from what is undoubtedly a worthy song for Deresute’s 2nd anniversary.

Take me☆Take you: The 5th election song, which is actually perfectly alright musically…but not so strong in terms of the idols it got. Mio and Kaede are fine, but not as fine as Nono, Uzuki, Nana and Miku aren’t. And all the event version did was take out half the unit…including the only two good idols in it. And they didn’t even have the inclination to take Miku and Nono out. Still, if you gloss over this considerable flaw, this is actually fine.

Souyoku no Aria: A song so edgy I actually came out of it with a stab wound, this is the result of forming Chuuni United and getting Ranko and Asuka together. A song I assume so many people wanked over when it came out, I thought about rubbing my phone down with a damp cloth before playing it, just to make sure. It’s about what you’d expect – a song full of pomp and circumstance with a hugely overblown MV and all the drama you’d expect of these two drama queens. This is a song up about a million people’s streets, but I’m not one of those people. Still, full marks for effort.

Twin☆kle★Tail: They gave the Jougasakis a song together, too. And it too is about what you’d expect; it’s like listening to a normal song while being plugged into the actual mains. It’s chaotic, and some. Not catastrophic, however. And that’s fine because it’s pretty fun to listen to in some places. Weirdly, while I find this nigh impossible to FC on Pro (hey, that’s new for these sisters), it’s not quite as much of a handful on Master as I expected. Even the last segment of the song where it all goes a bit mental after the quiet section wasn’t as bad as I remembered it after the first time. Which gives you all the more time to admire the immense production value that went into its MV. If you compared anything from the early days to this, your mind would be blown. It’s genuinely impressive.

Halloween♥Code: Hmm. The song is all lovely and sweet, surprising for a Halloween tune, but again it’s the unit that lets it down. And it only has three idols in it. Two of which are Nana and Miku. Dearie me. Still, Yuuki is nice to have…

Akikaze ni Te o Futte: This was the first of the seasons songs they put into the game, songs which seem like they get their units by pulling names from a hat. Still, some of them aren’t entirely hopeless. Like this one, which has a wholly decent trio of Riina, Yuka and Yumi. And the song they sing is good as well. One of the better slow-tempo ones. They’ve all got fairly attractive voices, as it turns out. And I think they shine quite well in this song.

Kimi no Soba de Zutto: The other 5th election song, and again one which is about as good/bad as the nine-idol unit, only halved. Kaede remains but so do Uzuki and Nono. And this song does not have the relative loveliness of its A-side to bolster it. It’s a more relaxing song, much as Tsubomi was to Absolute Nine, but this one is just plain boring. A lot of users joke about nodding off on some slower songs, which usually I think is a bit harsh, but it really does sum this one up for me. The event version is a bit more interesting, mind. Ayame, Tamami and Karin is a nice mix, which makes up for their relative averageness as individuals.

Trinity Field: So, everybody loved Triad Primus so much they got another song. Which, when they announced it, was terrific. Mind you, it was hard to see how they could possibly better Trancing Pulse, literally one of the best songs in the entire series. As indeed they didn’t. Not for the want of trying, though. They threw in all the symbolism in the world into what is a very overbearing MV, so much so you can only take it in in full in 3D rich. Sadly, if I try to play it on my phone in 3D rich, I end up with a lot of lag and a phone that feels like it’s on fire. So for instance, instead of having their silhouettes on that triangle at the start I just end up with…nothing. So it just looks like an inexplicable triangle spinning around. It’s very confusing and yet probably sums up the theme of the MV by itself. But, away from these bizarre moments and far too many triangles, the song itself is, as you’d expect, pretty great. I hear instruments from different series entirely in places (is this just a Nao thing?), but on the whole it is, predictably, very impressive. By itself, it’s a fine song…but not as good as Trancing Pulse. And that’s fine. Because topping that would have been nigh on impossible. But they had to be seen to be trying. So they had to go at least a bit over the top with this. It’s a bit like what Final Fantasy 8 was to 7. I like FF8 a lot, though. And I like Trinity Field a lot, too. The question is…which unit will get a second song next? Sexy Guilty? Love Laika? …LiPPS?!

Koi ga Saku Kisetsu: Bamco must have been chomping at the bit when they got the chance to voice five new idols with the 6th election. You know what else has five idols in it? Starlight Stage songs! So they introduced the new idols to the series all at once in Starlight Stage by giving them a song together…albeit the song that also happened to be the 6th election song anyway, but we’ll gloss over that. Presumably the full version will be added to the game accordingly, which is fine, given the only real bad idol of the lot is Mayu. But as for the five new ones, well, their debut isn’t anything too special. The instrumentation is alright on the whole but there’ve been much better songs than this.

Fuyuzora Precious: Unlike the autumn colours, with which they actually used the main song, the winter colours just had the passion song instead. Probably partly because the main winter song is a bit of a waste of my two favourite idols (and Miho), and partly because this one is actually quite action packed. The instrumentation is not great, and the unit is remarkably average at best, but it’s composed very well and is a lot of fun to listen to. Sometimes you can get by without being perfect, you see.

Happy New Yeah!: They brought out NewGen for this latest new year song, and their guest stars on this occasion are the currently trending Shin and the lovely silky tones of Kanako. Lovely silky tones which are entirely wasted on this song because it is wholly unremarkable. It’s another basic round of J-pop from NewGen, which isn’t completely terrible and is sort of the point, but it could have been more. It should have been more.

Bi ni Iri Sai o Ugatsu: It’s Kyoto: The Song, as they get Syuko and Sae together for a song that…is not done by IOSYS. Missed a trick there, boys. Mind you, the result is still pretty epic regardless. It’s all sorts of hectic and it’s a riveting song to listen to. The MV also happened to blow absolutely everyone’s mind, and rightly so. It is very well choreographed and seriously dramatic, inexplicably flying umbrellas be damned. A worthy song for a unit people were waiting for.

always: As is customary with the election album’s B-sides, this is a calm affair next to the more intense nine-idol bonanzas. That worked fine with Tsubomi, but they didn’t match it next time out and they haven’t matched it this time either. There’s a fine margin between making a slow-paced song beautiful or boring, and this comes out on the boring side. Also, Starlight Stage opted to shun the original in favour of doing one with the five newest voiced idols…again. Their version, inevitably, is worse, since they’re removing two great voices in Kaede and Mio from the original. They’re milking this lot for all they’re worth, aren’t they? I’m pretty sure I didn’t see the statement where they said these five would be the main characters from now on. Again though, we can expect the original to come round in Deresute at some point in the distant future. So that’s alright, I suppose.

Blimey, that was a lot of songs, wasn’t it? All that’s left to do is finish up the last of the image songs and I’ve covered the lot. I’ve left the second half of those for last, and for a very good reason…

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When the idols met the Fantasy

I don’t think I’ll ever see myself getting into Granblue Fantasy. One mobile game I’m constantly flocking to is quite enough, for me. And I don’t even have enough time for that, most of the time. But the mobile game in question is Starlight Stage, with which it shares a surprising amount in common with, from good relations to the amount of money it makes. Those good relations resulted in a collab between the pair of them. In iM@s, this amounted to one song in Deresute. In Granblue, it amounted to actually having 20 idols in the game. Which is quite something, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Of course, they aren’t the usual bread-and-butter idols we know and love. This is a world of fighting and they’ve been given fighty stuff to do fighty things with. And, while I haven’t played the actual game, there’s nothing stopping me from directly observing just what this collab gave to us all.

And we’ll start on familiar ground with Shiki. I don’t enjoy her in most circumstances, but I have to say that here, I enjoy her even less.

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Quite apart from the unconvincing nature of her snake look, I am not a snake girl fan. Or indeed a monster girl fan, period. Best leave her to the sort who would actually go and take one of those.

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The only other girl on nodding terms with her, unsurprisingly, is Miku. But then she was a slam dunk so there’s nothing to see with her.

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The edgiest look for this game, predictably, goes to Ranko.

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Although Sachiko and Koume run her close.

But to me, the most amusing outfit is actually Mika’s.

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In short, because hers were already so outlandish to begin with, they’ve just taken one of her canon ones and used it here.

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Aside from some small additional details, and the fact she’s sprouted horns (which is also canon, to be fair), it’s literally the same as that SR of hers. Apart from the whip. The whip wasn’t originally there, I’m pretty sure. Or, as Granblue hilariously undersells it, the ‘dagger’. If that’s a dagger, well…Mika’s holding the longest dagger I’ve ever seen.

Mind you, she’s not the only one to stick to what we know.

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In fact, her sister’s doing the exact same thing. However, no one notices this because everyone’s too busy coming to terms with the fact that she’s riding around on a large teddy bear. Utterly mental. And utterly brilliant.

There are, predictably, some typically princess-ish characters around.

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Uzuki, in particular, looks like the most princessy princess you could ever princess.

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Other characters following this trend include Airi and Mizuki, while Kanako and Miria seem closer to villagers gone wild with their outfits.

The coolest outfit is a closely fought battle.

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Mio makes a good showing, looking like she’s stepped out of a western with a revolver in her hand.

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And Anya kind of looks like her swordfighting sidekick, with a dapper hat to match.

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But they’re both beaten out by Rin, who looks predictably awesome. A bit like every typical hero in these sorts of games ever, but much, much better. Why can’t they all be Rin Shibuyas?

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But the most beautiful outfit has to be Minami’s. You know how she’s forever compared to a valkyrie? This is what she’d look like if she was one. And what she looks like is a 6-foot goddess who could unleash all her power on you at any moment. But she’s so polite that she won’t. And now I’m wondering why Idolmaster doesn’t have an actual 6-foot goddess who could unleash all her power on you at any moment in its ranks. Something to ponder there, Bamco.

They do have something approaching a 6-foot ‘goddess’ though, and that’s Kirari. She’s here too…but not as a playable.

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Instead, she appears in Anzu’s as her actual summon. Predictably, Anzu is put in the great gold robber position and she’s pretty hilarious too.

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Oh yeah, and they even have three idols from something called ‘SideM’, which is Idolmaster but all the girls are boys instead. Errgh, male idols. How disgusting. Still, at least they all look pretty cool in this instance.

So, there you go. If you ever wanted to imagine what some idols looked like in a world of fantasy, look no further. Although frankly the world they started in is probably enough for me.

iM@s CG art, circa ‘the early days’

Bamco have mostly got their art down of all their 184 idols now. But it wasn’t always thus. Certainly, at the beginning of the franchise, they hadn’t quite got their artistic skills down with every idol yet. And it resulted in some art that looks frankly bizarre today. Here is some of the best of the worst.

With thanks to the Starlight Stage Discord for enlightening me on some particularly, brilliantly terrible ones.

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Fine, apart from the yawning chasm between Rin Saki’s eyes. Get used to those…

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I offer you, by way of comparison, the same Wakaba card in Deresute.

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That’s a special amount of surgery they had to do on her face.

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Another lesson in how to butcher eyes, with the added bonus of failing to properly acknowledge how she’s angled her head.

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Kaoru’s head be flatter than a pancake.

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To be fair, most early art is merely dated rather than flat out bad. This is one example, although this one comes with the added bonus of inexplicably large hands.

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Oh, good lord. What did they do to poor, poor Riina?! She looks like an actual dog with that face. It’s a wonder she made it anywhere with something like that. Still, at least that card awakened should be better, surely?

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Ah.

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This one of Miria’s got the lot. Far too wide eyes, which are also off to the side, and tilted. And god knows what her right hand is doing. Or why it looks like that.

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More wide eyes, accentuated by the fact they put this card in Deresute and didn’t change it. Still, that’s not the worst of Naho…

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Please note her right eye. That is not how eyes or hair work. Her hair is quite literally in her eye. That’s not an artistic thing like this sort of thing is…that’s a really, quite bad cock-up.

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They didn’t change this one in Deresute either. Just as well that a lot of this bad art is reserved for idols who have ultimately remained unvoiced.

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They couldn’t get eyes right even when closed. Even the eyebrows seem to have nothing in common with where Ema’s eyes actually are.480px-cooabec_

You know, if they’d nailed this a bit better, they might have ended up with something quite interesting. A very different version of Koume. Instead, they appear to have taken her sideways hairstyle as carte blanche to make her right eye completely disappear. Honestly, I bet you wouldn’t find it at all in there.

And to finish up on eyes, the ultimate eye test. So to speak.

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Failed, comprehensively. Those things really do Freddy no favours.

And now, it’s time to pause for

A MINAMI NITTA SPECIAL

There are plenty of examples of art going down as looking very out-of-date these days, but no one has quite so much, and looks quite as different, as Minami. And the weirdest thing is, her normal is not one of them. In fact, as I’ve stated previously, it’s pretty terrific.

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You can see the differences a little, but she actually looks quite amazing. It’s just a shame they followed that up with this:

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Please advise: this is her perm Deresute SR. Admittedly a lot of perm SRs are taken from mobage cards, and this isn’t the only unflattering one (e.g. Kaede). But, by god, that looks nothing like Minami.

We then have quite possibly the greatest piece of early art in the franchise:

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Just glorious. Look at those eyes derping the hell out. Look at the expression. Is she stupidly bloody happy? Has she seen a ghost? What does it mean?!

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Beautiful.

And who knows what the bloody hell this is:

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I know I was talking eyes plenty before, but those were just outright mistakes. This though, looks nothing like the Minami of today. What did they do to her back then?!

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And this could be a different idol entirely. My goodness. Poor, poor Minami.

And to conclude, well, where else but her CD cover.

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Magnificent. Presumably ‘Venus Syndrome’ was named after something she caught; since those brutal early days she has turned into quite a magnificent looking idol.

Still, which would you rather?

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Minami is a magnificent idol, make no mistake. But my god, her early days were hysterically awful. And I wouldn’t have them any other way.

I suppose I’ll use this intermission to note something: you might have noticed the image quality of all these mobage cards are pretty terrible. The simple reason for this is; they’re all JPEGs. Artifacts, and all. Even the good ones – of which there are many – are made just that bit less flattering by this approach to their cards. This plagues the game’s cards to the present day. I mean, they could’ve at least made it a New Year’s resolution or something, rather than making their new year’s cards in this quality

Still, you’d think that they would at least put in plenty more effort into their CD covers. Given they’re selling them on actual store shelves and all. Surely Minami’s affair would be a one-off?

Hahaha…no.

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A clutch of the early Cinderella Masters are rough round the edges, but none of them come close to Kaede’s effort. Again, god knows what they were thinking with her eyes and expression. Kaede has plenty of early disasters (a reminder that they actually made this her Deresute SR) but this is by far the biggest. To think she became the consensus favourite after this!

The CMs actually improved markedly after Onegai! Cinderella; not immediately perfect, but nothing too insulting. Maybe that was the point at which they realised they might have to step up their game and make their art look actually good. Mind you, even the aforementioned song has its oddities; I doubt Mio and Mika have ever looked like this outside this album cover.

Then again, I don’t think the latter has quite looked like this since, either:

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>mrw

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Mika avoided the early art plague on all bar two very notable occasions: her awakened first card,* and this. Just look at the new year’s card I linked of her previously. Or in fact, this rare early art triumph, which was actually conceived earlier than this. How the bloody hell did they look at that phenomenal first SR and end up with this? Beggars belief. Sometimes it seems as if the only good thing about Tokimeki is the song itself. The CD cover is terrible, it’s Deresute’s hardest song… Poor, poor Mika. Weirder yet is the fact they gave her an awakened artwork to go with this, and that turned out to be rather good, too. Although she hasn’t looked like that ever since, either. Thankfully, since this moment in history, Mika has been a looker pretty much every time they’ve drawn her. With one truly awful exception. Which I have to touch upon later. Sadly.

*The expressions of her unawakened first card all look like they were drawn by different artists, but none of them are necessarily bad.

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Now this is a truly special effort. Asuka* looks fine. So does Arisu, and – just about – Syuko. But who are those two on the right-hand side? They sure as hell aren’t Kanade and Fumika. Stunt doubles, maybe. Or perhaps the producer heard their miserable attempts at ‘yay’s in Near to You and had them culled. Kanade is far from unblemished (these two efforts look like she’s stepped into different franchises entirely, and she has broken the laws of physics before), but this is comfortably their worst attempt at her. Then again, this is the company that made her Deresute model black-pupilled, until they realised she’d actually had gradient eyes since the day she’d been conceived. They didn’t even notice that until they came round to making her CinFes. (For the record, while I, a KanadeP to the extreme, reckon her old model looks quite tempting, her new model is just adorable, much more beautiful and, ultimately, better.)

*Whose birthday it is as I write this. Edgy birthday to you.

You know the worst bit about this album cover? It was conceived in the year 2016. They’d mostly nailed art until this point. I mean, the first Jewelries art was also rough – again, no one on the Cool or Passion cover have looked anything like this since (although the Cute one is weirdly good). But cocking it up in 2016? That’s not a good look.

Still, surely, with their art perfectly refined these days, they would be able to avoid cock-ups these days. Well…

…I’m afraid not.

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Well, OK. This one isn’t as bad as the others per se, but the angle is. Like seriously, why you do this to Takumi?! It’s all a bit implausible, this one.

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There’s only one fuck-up they’ve made with Mika since that CD cover, and it’s this. And as fuck-ups go, this might just be their biggest ever. And let me remind you – this is supposed to be her lim SSR. Some people have excused this on the basis it was one of the earliest lim SSRs. Yes, it was. It was also the end of 2015, by which point the artists very much had their shit together. There is no excuse.

There are, quite obviously, a lot of problems:

  • that pose
  • it took me a while to even realise she’s kneeling down, which is also bad
  • butt sweat
  • no seriously, that pose is physically impossible
  • I can think of 7 million better ways to show off her arse
  • you can’t make hearts light up out of nowhere
  • I’m not joking, her back is literally broken

You know what’s also tragic? The costume, on her model, is fine. Absolutely fine. And yet I couldn’t possibly use it. Because I just can’t look past this godawful art. Newsflash, Bamco: not all MikaPs are leches. Well, most of them. But this is just flat out disrespect. So much gorgeous art of her and yet there’s these three absolute (and highly prominent) clangers in there. Unbelievable. I sincerely hope they do her justice with her perm SSR. Preferably on all counts.*

*No, I’m not having her CinFes either. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Aim for it specifically? That always ends well. And either way, you might love it, but while I think it’s a good card, it’s not necessarily a good Mika card. Doesn’t suit her.

And finally, I know this is cheating a bit, but…

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OK, look. I know anime is forever going a bit off model. Heavens, as a fan of Studio Shaft’s works, I should know. But firstly, I used this picture in a previous piece and this is as good an excuse as any to bring it up. And secondly, CG’s off-model-ness is unusual, in that it was largely limited to half of one episode.

The shot above was the first of many (as in, literally 10 seconds in) in that small sector of the anime that were left looking particularly unfinished. I won’t go and snapshot all of it – just watch the episode yourself and you’ll see what I mean. (Also watch it because it’s the best episode of the first season.) Only Anya seems to get away largely unscathed. It is a bit strange though. To be fair, Starlight Stage hadn’t been invented when the first season was going, so you can’t say Bamco was too stacked with money to let this happen. But even so, it seems strange it’d be so prominent for one small section of one episode. What could force them to go down this route at such a specific stage?

Oh, right. That.

Yeah, that was worth it.*

*We’ll gloss over errors like this because it was lit the first time I watched it and it’s still lit now.

If you have any more brilliantly awful art we can all look back on and laugh at these days, do let me know. I suppose there’s a bit more I could mention, like the recent example of them giving Tokiko’s SSR two right feet, but because, in a rare display of novelty, they actually fixed it, I’m not sure if there’s any evidence of that screw-up. But frankly, I’ve roasted Bamco enough. So I’ll leave it to you now.

And, I suppose, there’s always one crumb of comfort: it could be so much worse

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 can’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’re helped out by elements from other genres, too. Now, I knew Idolmaster mixed other genres in from time to time. But 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 funny 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 brilliant 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.

Really late post-edit: There’s a reason I haven’t touched on this song’s presence in Starlight Stage in particular; it is, by any measure, the game’s hardest song on every difficulty (except Master+, because it and a 31* difficulty have not yet been invented). On Pro, it’s a Master in disguise. On Master, every attempt I’ve made to play it has ended before I’m even half a minute in. No song has a greater disparity in feeling between the prospect of listening to it yourself and the prospect of playing it on Starlight Stage. But I don’t want to drag it down with barely contained fury about how the pinya always gives it to me at the worst possible opportunity. Because, as I said above, the song is way too fucking good to get upset about.

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 stands out as my clear favourite above 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 then they’re 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 one song I’m gonna be talking about and I haven’t finished it yet. Stay tuned.

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?