Reviewing 10 years of THE IDOLM@STER history [Translation]

At the very end of 2015, Dengeki released an interview with Ishihara Akihiro, the general director of The IDOLM@STER franchise. Its a very in-depth look back where he does not just look back at the lives, but also talk about certain incidents in addition to bits about how the game started in addition to how the anime was done.

As always, thanks a lot to @puchi_tl for the assistance in editing the extra long piece. I personally hope that you, the reader will learn more things about imas from this interview.

Looking back at THE IDOLM@STER’s 10th Anniversary with Ishihara D (Dire1). Closing in on the depth of the live events until now.

Do you know what THE IDOLM@STER is? It is an idol raising game that started out in arcades and continued to expand and flourish on consoles and smartphones.

It has been 10 years since that IDOLM@STER came into being. Of course there are all kinds of producers: from those who have been running with the franchise for 10 years, to those who just joined the franchise midway.

 

This article will take a look back on the trails of THE IDOLM@STER together with Ishihara Akihiro, the person who has been with it for 10 years, no, probably even more.

Looking back at LIVE events, an essential topic when talking about the 10th anniversary of THE IDOLM@STER

It’s been 10 years since “Akabane desuyo! Akabane!”, and “Dome desuyo! Dome!” finally happened during the 10th Anniversary Live “M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD!!2015”. Please tell us your impressions of this successful dome live.

Frankly, it was packed and now it feels like it happened ages ago (laugh). The 10th dome live was first announced during THE IDOLM@STER Movie completion party in February 2015.

The first thing I thought about when holding this dome live was Seibu Dome’s capacity. THE IDOLM@STER lives have been getting bigger and bigger, but the live in Saitama Super Arena on February 2014 only had around 15,000 people, I was worried about being able to fill up one with double the capacity at around 30,000 people.

In interviews I talked about being worried about filling up (the live venues) (laugh), but this time instead of filling up the venue we were worried about being able to show something that will fit the occasion. Seibu Dome is not an encapsulated type baseball field. And we heard about how it’s going to be really hot in the middle of summer! While considering the timing of the event and the opening during the day, I thought we needed a composition that takes time into account.

Parts of the location are fundamentally different from the other lives we’ve had so we had to create something around that. To research, I watched Momoiro Clover Z’s Seibu Dome Live Blu-ray and used it as reference.

Based on the starting time of the Momoclo Live and the setlist on the booklet, I estimated the time, and worked out that a certain part of the area will get dark during sunset. We needed to take into account the direction from which the sunrays would enter. Finally, at around 19:10, the rest of the dome will be dark so lighting needs to be taken into account. I used it all as study material for the stage play and composition.

To create the stage, I talked with the person in charge of the baseball field and confirmed how the lives that were held there were made, and to make a stage that is even a little more visible, I went to the baseball field a few times and took pictures to create the final stage design.

I even called up a radio program that is unrelated to IDOLM@STER despite it having two iM@S seiyuu for their Seibu Dome coverage. I confirmed toilet congestion and started taking breaks into consideration.

Basically, I took longer than usual to create the stage this time, and am really glad that the live finished safely without any major troubles.

During the day of the live, including the goods sales day, I’d walk around the Seibu-Kyujomae station to check out conditions when I had the chance to. I was astonished at the sheer amount of Producers. There were a LOT of people in front of the station.

On those two days, people who were in front of the station mostly came for iM@S, all these producers came for iM@S…! I personally feel that this is the closest to a festival that we’ve come so far. But on the flip side, the “post-festival sadness” feel after the live also hit hardest.

Usually after lives are over, it just ends so quickly that we don’t even get the feeling of, “Come on, we have to put this away now…”  But this time, we sat in the guest seats that were located in a glass-sided area behind the backnet with the performers. From there, we watched as the venue was dismantled.

 

We don’t usually get the chance to see the stage be torn apart with the performers, and that time I felt that, “We did it!” that comes with a fun festival. It was also really emotional for the 765 Pro members to finally reach this place after 10 years. I feel that those two days were fantastic for the performers as well.

The first day of the 10th Anniversary Live focused on 765 Pro with the other groups acting as support.

While thinking up of the composition at large, I went with the concept of, “iM@S until the 5th year” for the first day. To begin with, the 10th anniversary wasn’t about, “765 Pro’s 10th anniversary,” rather it was, “10 years since THE IDOLM@STER was born.”

Because of that, the first day was designed so that when the 765 Pro characters appeared on stage, the Cinderella Girls and Million Live girls were still on the viewer’s side, yearning for 765 Pro’s stage. The general flow of the composition was made so that the idols would slowly meet over the course of two days.

Now, we had all kinds of concepts at the start. One was about tracing the iM@S historical trail that started with the arcade until the console games and also a concept that started with the arcade songs while going towards the future. However, I didn’t really like, “looking back into the past,” as a concept.

The ‘present’, ‘now’ is so much more than just a build up of the past. Because of that, showing off everything we can do would be the same as showing off our history. We put songs from MA3 from the first day, and tried to do everything we can happened from that concept.

That was a brave judgment, having only 765 Pro mainly appear on stage on the first stage.

When thinking about “Who should stand on the stage of the dome first?” of course everyone felt that it should be 765 Pro.

 

The supporting members were there because when you take the scale of the dome into account, having carts around the audience seats were necessary, and this performance is related to the concept of, “even the people on the audience seats can eventually come up on stage.”

Performance-wise, the carts were quite difficult to do. We wanted to effectively use the carts more, but the dome was so wide. For example if you go from the back of the backnet to the scoreboard, you won’t be able to go back without a car, so planning the timing and distance was really difficult.

Day 2’s performance had Cinderella Girls and Million Live in addition to a lot of unit songs.

On day 2, I wanted to show the world of IDOLM@STER and not just 13 idols. There were a lot of songs that we wanted to perform and hear, but in order to present the ‘liveliness’ of the additional idols we intentionally decided on a composition filled with unit songs while not doing any solo songs.

I wanted to make a world where people helped each other move forward along with new meetings and discovering what makes themselves special.

 

We went for puns related to the song title, character name and performers during the medley corner. For example, with Maekawa Miku’s song, Onedari Shall We~?” we tried out Takamori Natsumi and Itou Miku’s “Mikumiku Combo”

 

At the start we seriously thought about which combinations would allow for songs to be easily sung key-wise but we went with simple festival-like puns instead. A lot of people seem to have noticed the puns so I’m quite happy about that (laugh). This was a 10th special.

After the 10th Anniversary Live, the first large scale event was THE IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls 3rd Live ~Cinderella Ball ~Power of Smile~ held on 28 & 29 November.

 

The Cinderella Ball’s composition was done to show off the first cours of the anime on day 1, and the second cours on day 2.

Similar to the 7th anniversary live after the airing of The IDOLM@STER anime, the composition is designed to follow the anime, and I thought about making a live that ‘people who watched the anime’ and ‘people who found Cinderella Girls through the anime’ can enjoy.

The theme of the ball in the anime was “Power of Smile” and because of that, I wanted to clarify that ‘the smile’ is also the theme of real lives.

While creating the Cinderella Girls 2nd live and confirming a lot of songs, I felt that a show-up feel for Cinderella Girls would be good. It was a way to get people excited through the combination of the songs and the outlook of the characters in addition to stage and lighting. This will allow them to easily showcase their potential.

After all, Cinderella Girls is a world where we have a baseball cheer song, occult-like songs and mushroom songs all exist in the same world, so if we just sang them in order, they wouldn’t connect well. Because of that, so that ‘people who don’t know’ can enjoy it, we changed it so that the world view is done in a show-up feel that can be enjoyed like a musical.

In all our lives we always take into account the ‘enjoyment of people who are unfamiliar with the content.’ But, we understand that Cinderella Girls has a lot of influx from the fan layer. If the friends of producers who don’t know iM@S think, “I wanna go to the next one,” after watching, it’s a success.

Additionally, I wanted to live out the theme of “a ball made by everyone” like in the anime during 3rd. However, because it happened right after the dome live, my brain naturally went to large scale composition and stage.

First off, we thought about multiple stages and having people appear from all over. The problem with that is that stage flow would become difficult. We thought about all kinds of crazy things but I ended up rejecting them, and reaching the point we are at now took a while (laugh).

That said, we still managed to use the experiences we got from dome. The usage of carts, an original mini venue, having Pinya Corata appear, and creating a festival-like feel in general happened because of what we experienced in Seibu Dome.

Nevertheless, Pinya Corata was really popular. It was like a Hollywood star. Cygames was a major contributor in the bits that can be enjoyed by the fans, and we managed to have a live that is similar to the ball in the anime. The cart, no, horse cart was made by Cygames and I would like to thank them again for that.

I can vividly remember the opening being musical-like. In January 2016, the Million Live live tour is starting, can you please tell us the themes and concept for this if any?

Cinderella Girls is about showing off using the whole stage, but Million Live’s style is about ‘emotions made by people’. This course is slightly different from 765 and Cinderella.

Ever since the early 765 events, I’ve always told the performers that “There is no need to forcefully blend the characters with performers.” For example, we don’t ask the performers to have a hairstyle similar the characters, and we don’t even limit the way they speak and act.

But of course we don’t stop people who want to be similar (laugh), I feel that producers don’t see the performer themselves, but the faint ghost-like, stand-like idol behind them.

 

We also have the performers tackle the live that way. If I was to put it bluntly, the performers on stage are like shrine maidens or mediums.

But I feel like Million Live has a slightly different aspect to it.  From the beginning, Million Live has held a lot of events with its CD releases. It has turned into a franchise where ‘instead of coming in contact with the idol characters, you see the performers first.’

765→Cinderella→Million was the order in which the IPs were born, and because of that I ended up having a spartan tendency to proactively go to festival-type events like Anisama where it’s easy to experience different people’s tastes all at once. That’s when I started thinking about an aspect I never thought of before: “Let’s get people interested in the franchise through wonderful performances.”

So, the tour isn’t meant to show off the world of the game, it is designed as an entry to the world of Million Live. Live viewings were set up for every single venue of the tour because we want people who haven’t seen it to see it. The first tour event. We want people to enjoy an unpredictable story.

To move a story, keypersons are necessary. Keeping with the flow of having the performers’ performance grow along with the idols in the game, we had Yamazaki-san, Tadokoro-san and Asakura-san lead the way by attending various events.

As seniors who are a bit in front of the other 37 members in the tour, they should be able to pull up the performances. Of course, I feel that the other members who also joined in the dome are also important members who will pull up the performances in general. I don’t know what is going to happen in the last day, so I’m looking forward to it.

 

The 2nd live held in April was amazing, now we’re looking forward to the future too! This time we would like to look back while focusing on the lives. Please tell us your impressions about past lives, something along the lines of “That happened back then.”

2006: THE IDOLM@STER Secret Live (Venue: Akabane Kaikan)

While we did events in AOU, officially the Akabane live was the first one. This event at the Akabane Kaikan 10 years ago was filled with all kinds of raw energy. I was in the broadcast club in university, and during school festivals I’d be making events. RBS people, how are you doing? (Private Message)

Because of that I said “I’ll think about the composition!” then. But at that point I still couldn’t feel the length of the event with my body.

I tried writing up a drama scenario for it, but didn’t know how long it should be. When I showed it to the performers they said, “This is long!” and they rejected it. I probably cut out nearly 40% of the scenario. We could only do the basic of basics of stage in terms of balancing the usage of how the monitor speakers sound and lighting.

The performers didn’t really have the experience in singing in front of people either, and this time they won’t just sing, but they’d need to dance too. “What do we do?” It was a pretty hectic situation. If I were to see someone do something like this now, I’d be lecturing them after the live (laugh).

At that point in time, the Colombia staff mostly wanted to do a simple talk show-like event, but I wanted to put in more things. I wanted singing, talks, dramas and presents. The performers and I wanted to make the producers who came enjoy the event after all.

Because of that, the event ended up taking a lot of time, to the point we went over our alloted time. I remember getting mad backstage, going, “Well, we’ll just have to pay the fines then, won’t we!?” (laugh)

We didn’t have time for rehearsals either, and the event itself moved slowly, it was a very amateurish event. I’ve reflected on the event to death, but the memory of it being fun is definitely strong.

I feel that if it weren’t for this event, iM@S as we know it wouldn’t exist.

2007: THE THE IDOLM@STER ALL STAR LIVE 2007 (Venue: Zepp Tokyo)

The thing that I remembered about the second live was the fact that since there weren’t a lot of songs, it was going to be a live + event format. The event had Colombia at its helm, but we can’t do lives if there aren’t any songs! That’s what we complained about back then (laugh). A typical live would have around 22~24 songs after all.

At that point, even with the Xbox versions of the songs, iM@S had a total of 16 songs. That’s why  we mixed in a radio public recording in the composition of the live. We basically did whatever we could to make people enjoy themselves.

The IDOLM@STER didn’t depart from wanting to have live stages like artists, but doing whatever as long as it’s fun, we wanted to have an event that can be used to gather Producers too. A gathering of people with similar interests acts as a support to give courage to this franchise. I wanted to create a feeling of solidarity between people support the same idols.

Because of that even in large scale events we have now, we want to have variety bits like talks and have audience involvement, but with the sheer amount of songs we have now it’s quite difficult to do.

But I feel that something like “Ankiranking” and “Muscle Castle” during the 3rd live that gives of an atmosphere of “fun beyond just the songs”, something like “not a straight up live, but a good time made together with producers,” is something that iM@S needs.

2008: Go to the NEW STAGE! THE IDOLM@STER 3rd ANNIVERSARY LIVE (Venue: Pacifico Yokohama)

3rd was where Project Fairy debuted. I still remember the blank look on the producers’ face when President Kuroi first appeared on screen (laugh).

At its core the event was also made as a gathering of people with similar tastes. But this was the event where we wanted to push iM@S as a story that mixes with the real world. We wanted to make stuff that happened during the event into hot topics. We really wanted to have Project Fairy appear brilliantly!

But at this point in time, we had a mysterious internal company rule about having a news flash in a certain game magazine. I got mad at PR saying “I don’t care about that!” because I wanted to promote it flashily during the live.”

A lot of things happened and as compromise The IDOLM@STER SP was to be announced in the game magazine, but the announcements of the new characters will be done in the live! It was a real story, but the statute of limitations is over, so. (laugh)

I feel that this event is now the foundation of lives being used as a place to announce new information about The IDOLM@STER.

2010: THE IDOLM@STER 5th ANNIVERSARY The world is all one!! (Venue: Makuhari Messe Event Hall)

The venue for the 5th live was the Makuhari Event Hall, and compared to the previous events, the scale is now much bigger. We were worried about being able to fill space with 5000 people at that point. When I first went to check out the hall, I remember being scared because it was so huge.

I was also worried about being able to present a stage that is worthy of 5000 people. This wasn’t  just a “lighthearted event done by a game company.”

Because of that, despite writing the script for the events until now, we had directors coming in from this point, and I got the part of designing the large scale plans. This is the model we use up to now.

This event was also when imas 2 was first announced, and we used this timing and had Asakura-san who is now Yukiho appear, and she did a great job. It was an event with all kinds of spectacles that lasted.

Tokyo Game Show 2010 (Venue: Makuhari Messe)

The so-called ‘9.18 incident’ between fans. This was the turning point of the 10th anniversary, so let me express my honest feelings. I understand that a lot of Producers felt ‘bleh’ due to a lot of mixed feelings. For that, I would like to apologise.

Regarding the stance of the creators, it’s a difficult situation and we’ve also learned from this. However, so that people don’t misunderstand, the setting that was in the centre of the uproar at that point in time (Ryuugukomachi, Jupiter) was and is something I have accepted deep inside.

The plans of the anime also started around the same time, so an internal rivalry coming from Ryuugukomachi and the existence of Jupiter, rivals of the Producer are needed to move the story.They were both necessary for iM@S at that point in time.

But in my words, I personally felt that words similar to “true feelings/true opinions” weren’t mixed in, and as explanations they lacked persuasiveness and sincerity. To be honest, as a planner of the arcade game, the idols that I gave birth to and raised not being “completely playable” was something that I still couldn’t accept at the point of TGS.

I also resisted this matter. But things like time and budget limitations always come into play. The staff did whatever they could within those limitations. We worked hard and showered it with love. But in the end, we couldn’t sincerely show it to the producers.

I felt that since iM@S made it big, it now had a lot of clashing expectations. What happened at then also made me start thinking about the relationship between the creator side and the fans who support them.

There are fans who feel that the creators weren’t able to live up to their expectations and stopped supporting them. But there are others whose expectations were fulfilled.

At this time, who should the creators talk to first…? I feel that of course it should be said to the people supporting it. If at this point the creators started arguing with the fans, they will end up ignoring the people they should be facing instead. But if that keeps being repeated, the content will be left with yes-men, and I feel that it’ll become smaller.

Even now I feel that content should be created through both the creator side and fan side having a sense of tension. The creator side cannot just one-sidedly pander to the fans’ wants. Even if we got the opinion of every single fan, we still won’t be able to control it in the end.

However, the fans also don’t need to one-sidedly accept the words of the creators.Since the beginning, we made an environment where it’s easier to communicate with creators via the web. A scolding filled with love can sometimes  be a chance for the creators to take a second look at their stance.

This may be misunderstood, but I feel that love is important. Bashing is not related to love. I feel that the feeling of, “Please do this!” is love.

The creator side shouldn’t see the fans who always have a feeling of tension as just numbers, but they must be prepared to show the direction based on criticism. Fans shouldn’t feel that the creators are gods, but people who can make mistakes too.They should love them enough to give them leeway to a certain point.

I feel that it’s probably not something that will last forever, but as long as this relationship continues, even if the content’s shape constantly changes… I think it’ll last for a long time.

In reality, a lot of people on the creator side are also fans of different content, and there are people on the fan side who create content themselves. Thinking about this inseparable relationship and having people’s loves conflict is really great.

Tokyo Game Show 2010 made me decide not to do things that I can’t agree with, and it is an important event in my heart. Later on during the early starting stages of the Cinderella Girls plan,

Shimizu-kun and I showed our plan to the higher ups. “It won’t sell,” they opposed, but we went ahead and made it anyway (laugh).

 

2009: THE IDOLM@STER 4th ANNIVERSARY PARTY SPECIAL DREAM TOUR’S!! (Nagoya, Fukuoka, Tokyo, Osaka)

2011: THE IDOLM@STER 6th ANNIVERSARY SMILE SUMMER FESTIV@L! (Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Osaka)

I wanted to do a tour for the producers who lived outside the Tokyo area. I came from the Famicon generation, and admired national caravans (laugh). “You don’t have to come and see us, we’ll come and see you!” that’s what I feel tours are like.

2012: THE IDOLM@STER 7th ANNIVERSARY 765 PRO ALLSTARS Minna to Isshoni! (Venue: Yokohama Arena)

The 7th live was made to be the grand sum of The IDOLM@STER anime. It was a live that had all of the 765 Pro idols including Kotori-san. We always makes lives to have a once in a lifetime feel. The feeling of “This could be the last time we do it with these members” hasn’t changed.

For games and anime, as long as you can power it on, you can enjoy the unchanging world, but lives are acted by people and because of that you won’t be able to see the exact same thing twice. Even with identical setlists, it will be a completely different thing. In this live, even though the setlist was the same for both days, the impressions I got were different. That once in a lifetime feel can probably be felt most during this live.

I felt that the grand stage that is Yokohama Arena is “Massive!” but due to experiencing Saitama Super Arena in Anisama, I’m somewhat used to the scale and didn’t feel as terrified as I was in Akabane Kaikan.

The success of the anime also gave us confidence and was definitely a major aspect too. Everyone who stood up on stage also held their heads high.

At that point the anime was over, but the production of the Shiny Festa animation was ongoing and it was linked to the movie production. Aniplex and A-1 Pictures also helped out later during the creation of Cinderella Girls, and it felt like we can share a lot with each other. It felt like a good encounter.

2013: THE IDOLM@STER 8th ANNIVESRARY HOP!STEP!!FESTIV@L!!! (Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, Fukuoka, Makuhari)

This was the first time that the 765 only lives had Cinderella Girls and Million Live mixed in.

The Saitama Super Arena live in 2014 was already decided at this point, so we wanted the new girls to get used to the big stage while showing them off as well.

At this point of time I had a strong hunch that lives from now on will not just be 765 Pro’s, but if we weren’t conscious of it, the theme of ‘advancing into the future’ will be lost.

The iM@S lives which kept getting bigger in scale was already becoming a large physical burden to the performers. In terms of scheduling it was also a burden because of any lessons and rehearsals they had to attend for other events.

A seiyuu’s main duty is working with their voice. If we focused on event appearances and end up with people getting sick they would have to delay breathing life into the idols and reduce the amount of time they spend with voice work. We end up losing sight of what they should be doing.

That’s why I thought that voice acting work should get priority if they were already there. So while we did adjust our schedules with the agencies, we didn’t pressure them. We understand the stage the producers want to see, but we’ll cover it with the large amount of people we have.

The number of people appearing in the event wasn’t limited. We started exploring this thought as a method of dealing with the events that are getting bigger and bigger. It must’ve been difficult for the staff to deal with staging that changes according to the amount of people appearing (laugh). All of the staff from the creator side wanted to reduce the burden on the seiyuu.

While having that theme in the back, the preparations for the dome live dream that happened in 10th started.

By the way, the Cinderella Girls and Million Live performers are able to stand on stage majestically now, but back then, they were nerve wracked. Especially Tadokoro Azusa during the Yokohama venue where she felt major pressure. She spent a lot of time practicing the choreography for Precious Grain backstage until right before the performance, and that left an impression on me.

2014: THE IDOLM@STER M@STERS OF IDOL WORLD!!2014 (Venue: Saitama Super Arena)

The SSA live went beyond “promotional event” and “gathering of people with similar interests” and aimed to let even people who didn’t know iM@S enjoy it. We wanted to have something festival-like similar to Anisama where people who like different things come together.

The thing that left the most impression during SSA is definitely… Usamin (Nickname of Abe Nana, the idol voiced by Miyake Marie). I’m not sure why but watching Usamin sing made me cry.

I thought that was just me, but the older guys in the staff cried too (laugh). And on the sides of the gate, the PA staff who constantly had a serious face on them also smiled (laugh). I also cried  watching the rehearsals for the fifth and sixth time. I’m not sure what moved my feelings, but this must be Usamin power…is how I feel.

The Cinderellas and Millions started becoming aware of each other at that point. After the live, the Cinderellas asked “Will we get the chance to sing that Million song?” and the Millions asked “Please let us sing that Cinderella song!” Their awareness of each other was amazing.

With 765 Pro members added into the equation, everyone felt like one big team.

2014: THE IDOLM@STR 9th ANNIVERSARY WE ARE M@STERPIECE (Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo)

9th was personally an exploratory live. The burden one person can experience thinking about scheduling details and such can be pretty massive, and because of that during spring I asked people “This is how it’s gonna go, can you do it?” and I heard them out before deciding.

With the little amount of participants, we turned the tables and tried to make a live composed of solo songs.

Finally, we added a live band to the mix and made 9th a live where you can properly listen to a lot of songs, and that made 9th live a live that I really liked. If a song isn’t put out in the sun, it’ll get moldy after all.

Getting away from lives for a bit, THE IDOLM@STER songs have @ as replacement for the letter A. Songs with an @ seems to be important songs, and those for the group. What is the difference in the songs with an @ and without?

The IDOLM@STER has @ in its title, and to continue that theme we put @ in the titles. As to why the letter ‘A’ turned into @, the reason is because we wanted a title that felt digital as the arcade game was a network versus game.

At that point in Namco, title drafts must be submitted to the President, and it won’t be used without the president’s go-ahead. I remember writing stuff like “By turning ‘A’ into @ we can show how digital these 2 dimensional idols are” as excuses on the bottom of the title draft (laugh).

Putting in story to the Cinderella Girls anime is to think about the work’s future.

The original creator for both THE IDOLM@STER anime and Cinderella Girls is Bandai Namco Entertainment. During the making of the anime, what kind of work did you do?

At the start I was asked “what kind of work do you want to make?” and “which direction should we take” and so we started out by deciding the concept for both works. For The IDOLM@STER anime, the thing we wanted to show off the most was “never seen before expressions of the idols” and “behavior.”

The biggest aim of the anime is to make the girls livelier. But, if we didn’t have the P, the people who enjoyed watching the idols happy will probably feel, “I guess we’re not needed”(laugh). Because of that, having the producer appear in the anime was something we decided pretty quickly.

While thinking of how to show a variety of scenes with the girls, we felt that a more objective point of view was necessary. It wasn’t going to have first person point of view like the game where the P doesn’t appear. Because of that, the Producer must be created as a character too.

We didn’t want a story that focused on one person, but a story about 756 Production Office with the idols, the Producer, Kotori-san and the President.

When we got to Cinderella Girls, there are a lot of idols all over the place with so many worldviews.

We have a chuunibyou, a girl who says she can see ghosts, a normal school girl and a girl who loves alcohol and puns. If we were to say that they’re all under one agency, people would think,  “What kind of agency is that!?” We were worried thinking about a direction that can combine all that.

We had some sort of image about the agency, but in order to be able to materialise that as a picture, we had to put down a concrete image. If we had taken the setting of the game and directly turned it into an anime, it would become a character oriented anime. Something along the lines of Cinderella Gekijou would be good too.

But Director Takao’s characteristic is that of an elaborate world view, “a directed world”. After all, Cinderella Girls has the best keyword: ‘Cinderella’ in it, and in the end we went ahead and made a proper story. God sleeps in the details. By having that unconscious information, we added reality into the girls.

In addition, through the story, and by seeing the character’s background and different aspects, the work can continue too, and this was one of the many pros that I felt.

In the game, you can tell who gets along with who, but the game does not have an ending. I felt that in Cinderella Girls, the character’s goals and the way they see the world along with the depth in which the characters are portrayed are still lacking.

We set those details in the very beginning. In actuality, the setting created in the anime was also used in Dereste, so I felt that this was a good thing.

But I’m sure there are a lot of fine details the viewers won’t notice. For example, in the 1st season ED, the setting for Rin’s house is in Sangenjaya and Uzuki’s is along the Setagaya Line so they’d go back together until Sangenjaya. Uzuki’s house is further away, so Rin is the one seeing her off.

The scene with Riina and Mio playing Taiko no Tatsujin is similar, both of them use the Sobu line so they’d both get off at Shinjuku and hang out.

By the way, in terms of smaller details, we also did this for 765 Pro. When ordering the clothes to the designer, we asked them in a super specific manner for “clothes that can be bought for this much money in this shop in a Lumine in somewhere like Omiya or Fujisawa.”

In Cinderella Girls the story’s general details were made from the start. At that point, we put up the theme of “magic being broken.” In the anime, the magic was broken in episode 14, but the concept of the dress being needed to be taken off first was there from the start.

This storyline also got Director Takao’s approval. After that, together with Takahashi and the others in charge of scenario we slowly polished it. Since it didn’t have any specifics yet, I felt like Cinderella Girls took more time and was more difficult to finish.

The kind of feelings that want to be put into the 1st year of The IDOLM@STER that is entering its 11th year.

The communication part in Starlight Stage there are a lot of things related to the particulars behind each character turning into idols, and stories of characters meeting each other and becoming friends. The fans love this kind of story. Are these scenarios additional supplements for the smartphone game and stories that weren’t talked about in the anime? Or is it a completely parallel setting?

The 346 Pro in Starlight Stage is different from the anime. After all, the Producer isn’t the one acted by Takeuchi, but the players themselves. In that meaning, it is completely parallel.

MAGIC HOUR and NO MAKE in the Cinderella Girls were done as supplements to the anime’s story, the scenarios in Starlight Stage are not.

It’s been 10 years since the Arcade version first released, and if you included development and recording time it’s probably closer to 12-13 years, there are talks of whether the game releases will stop. Do you have any memories of this period before this 10th Anniversary?

“Can we release the game?” is is the only way I approach it. The card games in the arcade have parts similar to what we call social games now, and after release, the development didn’t end as the operation continued. Firstly, can we make the game? Then can we sell it well? Then how are we going to maintain it after release?

We thought about that endlessly, with the feeling of wanting to keep the title popular even after its release, and somehow 10 years passed. If the first game released was a home console game that was completed after it’s sold, we probably won’t get to this point.

I believe that it is because the start was an arcade game that we thought about the root of the operations and devoted ourselves into continuing it.

THE IDOLM@STER has become a major franchise after 10 years. When did you start feeling/believing in this success?

Honestly, I still don’t believe that we’ve succeeded yet. I won’t be the one to judge whether or not a thing is successful after all. But looking it objectively, as a pioneer that gave birth to a lot of followers, maybe we are successful.

I cannot say the numbers in terms of market, but as a group we made contributions in a level that can probably be said as very successful. However, personally I feel that it isn’t enough. Probably because we can’t get priority in the company when we ring the bell if we didn’t get the budget (laugh).

But jokes aside(laugh), right now I feel that I’m just seeing whatever is in front of me while gathering small rocks from the river and seeing how far I can stack them.

 

If we were to talk about the one thing that made us feel its success, it’s probably the first question I answered about how I feel after seeing the dome live stage being torn apart. That was the only time I felt, “Wow, we’ve been doing this for 10 years.”

In the past 10 years, I wasn’t the only one running, the staff around me and the fans were also there. That gave birth to huge passion. That live happened precisely because we received that passion, and I feel like it was a miraculous two days.

Please tell us your feelings about new developments and also what you are enthusiastic about in the future.

We always have a general direction of where we should go, but we don’t have the details worked out. I feel that by deciding on the minutiae, we’ll be bound by it. The method will turn into the goal.

In the 11th year I feel that we should decide the direction for each individual contents to evolve. If the concepts overlap with each other, there won’t be a point. SideM has also started for real.

The first stage was the history created by 765 Pro, and in the midst of that the seeds that are Cinderella Girls, Million Live and SideM began to sprout. Because of that the second stage will mainly be about raising the tree from these sprouts along with the producers.

Of course there is a game for 765 Pro planned for the PS4. History isn’t going to stop. But the iM@S camera has stopped being a camera focused on the world of these girls, and has started covering a bigger world filled with all kinds of idol activities. The 876 girls, along with the idols that appeared in the anime all live in this world.

We would like for everyone to have more love than ever before and support us. The creator side will also do even more to earnestly make idols meet with the Producers, and it would be great for everyone to be able to spend time happily ‘producing’ daily.

Please tell us what you are enthusiastic about in 2016/01/02

All right, last one. Producers. The curtains for the first iM@S story that started with “Dome desuyo, dome!” have fallen. The 11th year of The IDOLM@STER is a new year 1, a fresh restart. I’m also looking forward to see what kind of story will unfold.

May your daily life be filled with The IDOLM@STER from now on! Let’s have a wonderful year this 2016.

3 thoughts on “Reviewing 10 years of THE IDOLM@STER history [Translation]”

  1. Really enjoyed this retrospective. As someone who doesn’t feel like they’re well versed in iM@S, Ishihara’s thoughts are helpful in placing things in perspective, while giving a better idea about how things stand and where things have went and may go.

    1. I feel the same way, TheBigN. I’ve been a fan of im@s for only a few years but HPT’s translations and podcasts have led me to delve deeper. Ishihara Akihiro has steered the franchise brilliantly, I think it has earned my attention.

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