This series is still alive! It is! I’ve actually known Toast since before I was very deep into idolm@ster, in fact I likely wasn’t aware he was also a fan back then. It’s actually also thanks to him that I bought all of the G4U editions of the idolm@ster anime BDs back in 2012, since I saw him buy one of the volumes on Twitter. I then figured, hey I can do that too right? RIP $1000+
1. How did you first learn about “The iDOLM@STER”? What were your first impressions?
Hm, this is tough, as this happened way back in the deep recesses in my memory. I first found out about it when MAD’s of imas started getting around and I saw them on youtube and nico nico. I believe the MAD’s I watched were still mostly stitched together in a haphazard way, so Live for You must not have come out yet, so this must’ve been sometime between 2007 and 2008.
My first impression was just amazement! At the time, the quality of the cel-shading of the game was extremely impressive and raised the bar for anime style characters in video games, something Namco Bandai continues to do well. During those times, it was tough to get much specific information about the girls themselves, so I mostly knew only vague things, the kinds of personality people gave them through song choice in MAD’s, and that it’s not a hard guess what kind of character Iori is since they casted Kugyu. Some of my favorite videos was Yukiho with enka songs dubbed over her, haha.
2. Have you played any of the idolm@ster games? Which is your favorite?
Of the main series, I’ve only played idolm@ster 2, though I’m looking forward to Platinum Stars now (c’mon Namco, you know you’re gonna do PSVR!!). I wanted really badly to play imas on 360 and L4U but I didn’t have the means to import a Japanese 360 or j-tag one at the time. I also played a few days of million live & I think put in G4U Vol. 1 in once, but by far the game I’ve played the most is Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage. I’m not sure I’d choose it as my favorite, but it’s certainly the one I sunk the most time into.
3. Which idol is your favorite and why?
For 765 Productions, I tend to vacillate between Mami and Yayoi. When I first found imas, I actually leaned mostly towards Makoto and Iori but, hm, I guess over the years I came to appreciate Yayoi’s Ganbaru attitude. Having an appreciation for hard work is something I struggle with and it gives me a lot of joy to watch Yayoi approach every challenge and struggle with a sense of purpose and determination. As for Mami, I must admit not originally having strong feelings about the Futami twins when I first found out about imas, but when Ryuuguu Komachi happened with idolm@ster 2 I became a big Mami fan. I really liked the whole arc of them getting split up and watching Mami find her own way out from the shadow of her sister. The new hair cut didn’t hurt. I wish I could give both of them the number 1 spot but I can never feel right about putting either of them at number 2.
As for 346 Productions, I hope you can excuse me listing a different idol for each type. It’s pretty tough to even pick a top 3, but I’m going to say Koshimizu Sachiko, Morikubo Nono, and Murakami Tomoe. I don’t think I can give as specific reasons as I did for 765P so I hope you’ll forgive me for just saying they all made a big impression on me when I first met them.
4. What is your favorite idolm@ster song and why?
Reimei STARLINE, probably. I generally like ensemble songs like READY!! too, and Danketsu never gets old. I’m not very good at justifying why I enjoy certain music over others, so I can’t offer much other than I tap my feet more and sing along.
5. What’s your favorite aspect of the idolm@ster series?
Hmm… originally, imas weirdly occupied the same space as Touhou and Vocaloid for me, for a long time. I mostly enjoyed it through people’s fanworks and nico nico videos of it because I had no direct access to the games. This changed, of course, with idolm@ster 2 on PS3 and the anime by A-1. I actually didn’t watch the anime until the first volume of the bluray came with my imas 2 set! I was originally cautious of the anime because of the… trauma of Xenoglossia so I very pleasantly surprised when I watched the first episode and it was fantastic.
Since then, it’s been tough to figure out how to define myself as an imas fan. I’d spent like 3-5~ years a fan of it in mostly a passive way, unable to really directly enjoy anything that was official of imas, so it has been humbling to see the overseas P community step up and engage with it much more vigorously, much more actively, and at much greater personal cost. I’m still not sure I have an answer, but I do enjoy seeing the community grow and hope I’ll manage to make the pilgrimage someday.
As an aside, it’s been great listening to the girls of 765P get more confident as vocalists over the years. GO MY WAY!! is still good but it’s great hearing the evolution that took them to READY!! and beyond.
6. When and how did you become a “Producer”? That is, when did you consider yourself an idolm@ster fan?
This is tough! I’m not sure, for the longest time I wasn’t fully cognizant of the P community that formed until Exciel brought me into the fold one AX. It wasn’t until then that I’d thought about P’s. But in the case of being an idolm@ster fan, I definitely don’t think I’ve ever looked back since buying the idolm@ster DLC for Ace Combat 6… Namco Bandai got to me that day and never let go.
7. Have you ever been to an idolm@ster live concert? Please share your experience or any particularly special memories if so.
No, but the pilgrimage will happen someday. I’m determined. If things work out, I think I have a good shot in the next 5 years…
8. Do you play any of the mobile game series such as Cinderella Girls and Million Live?
I tried Million Live, but I was already playing other mobile games then and the proxying required at the time wasn’t something I could deal with. However, with the launch of Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage… I actually originally refused to engage with it, haha. It didn’t have 765P in it, after all, and mobage don’t mix well with my life… but I wasn’t able to stay away. I don’t rank in every event, but I’ve ranked in more of them than not. I don’t have any of the SSR’s I really want yet, but I at least have a good number of SR’s that I’m pleased with.
9. Did you watch the Cinderella Girls anime? What were your thoughts?
Haha, I actually haven’t found the time to yet. When it first aired, I still didn’t know much about CG and was doubtful an anime based on a mobage, even an imas one, could impress me. Now that I’ve played a lot of deresute though, I keep meaning to go check it out, though none of my favorite CG idols are major characters in it, haha. My 346P tastes are too indie I guess, aside from Sachiko.
10. Do you have any favorite seiyuu related to the idolm@ster series?
I’ve always followed Kugyu since I first heard her in Shakugan no Shana. I still check out anything she appears in these days, and it’s very impressive to me how she’s maintained her presence in 765P despite also being quite active in her broader seiyuu career, unlike some seiyuu from Dearly Stars that need no mentioning, haha.
11. Shout out your love about the idolm@ster series, say anything you’d like!
In at times subtle and at other times overt ways, idolm@ster has been in my life for approaching 10 years now. Geez, that’s a long time. And its ability to maintain that continuity is amazing. Some days, I watch really old MAD’s with, like, Sakura Taisen music dubbed over imas 360 footage or I rewatch the “House of Jealous Lovers” MAD (sm5623069) that I still remember discovering and being blown away by as a teenager in high school. Other days, I’m furiously tapping away at deresute at 3am to make a token border, or browsing new imas goods that I can buy to help express some of my gratitude.
What’s been undoubtedly amazing about imas is its longevity in this way, bridging the past with the future. I’m not sure there’s quite a fan community related to anime and Japanese idol culture that has stayed with an act like imas, instead of shedding off for newer and younger acts. That to me, is probably the finest and greatest achievement of the idolm@ster community and I’m glad to have a place in it.
12. [From bbb If you were the owner of a small indie game company, and The Idolm@ster never existed, and you were tasked with creating the franchise in your vision, what would you create? Would it have more or less lives/chara goods/music? Who would the audience be? Assuming the profit from anything you create goes back towards franchise development, what path would you take to lead it to success?
Phew, this is a tough question! Please don’t make me live in a universe where imas never existed, oh my god, you are so cruel.
I’m not sure how to answer this. I doubt I could successfully helm a project designed to succeed mainly in Japan though, so I think it would have to be international. If I’m being selfish here, and I’m not considering success, I think I’d definitely keep imas a management game. I would probably want to strip it back down to managing a single idol again though. I think I’d want a game of you and the idol you produce taking on the world (or Japan), having chance meetings along the way and competing for eyeballs with a bunch of CPU controlled idols. That’s kind of a fantasy now, in the AKB age, though, huh? I’m a big fan of Princess Maker 2, though, and I feel idolm@ster shared a lot of things with it initially and I’d want to drill back down to what makes them compelling and bring some of that back out.
Being selfish again, I’d definitely want a broader range of music represented. One of the fun things about Cinderella Girls is the greater representation of rock in its song selection thanks to the more outlandish characters over there, though at the same time I’m not sure that would be easy with a tighter, focused cast versus mobage where you can just make a ton of girls and see who sticks. Still, I’d love to see some hip hop or even… rap, hahaha. But I suppose those would be tough to do calls to w
If we’re being real though, I’m not sure there’s a path of success except mobage, but I guess that’s not really what an indie studio can make anyways.
I think VR has a lot of potential for idol games, as a side note. With the PSVR powered by move controllers and Vive with its wands, and apparently Oculus Touch is basically wand based too, the field is ripe for a damn good VR game that puts you in a virtual live and can score you on how well you do calls. I mean, just being able to drop into a live sounds awesome, but I think an environment where people could engage with the culture of live-goers at home would do a lot of good, and certainly help with practicing calls if you lived somewhere without many P’s to hang out with.
13. Say something about the next interviewed person (Matcha), also please ask them a question.
Hm, haha, I don’t know you so well, so I’m not sure how appropriate this is to ask, but since I ended up talking about them a lot, how familiar are you with imas MAD’s? Do you have a favorite one? If that question doesn’t work, what fanworks of imas do you enjoy? Is there a favorite fanartist or doujinka you follow?
You can follow ToastCrust on Twitter @ToastCrust
<Better Know A Producer>
#01 – [Exciel]
#02 – [Kurotsuki]
#03 – [vota]
#04 – [Seraph]
#05 – [Shinikenshi]
#06 – [Erwin]
#07 – [JT]
#08 – [garbejP]
#09 – [KenP]
#10 – [YashaFoxP]
#11 – [omo]
#12 – [ShinP]
#13 – [Basu]
#14 – [karagea]
#15 – [vae]
#16 – [Frank]
#17 – [Robert]
#18 – [Landro]
#19 – [bbb]
#20 – [ToastCrust]←Here
#21 – [Matcha]