Riding on the popular wave of life simulation games in the late 1990s and early 2000s, The Idolm@ster was introduced to Japanese arcades in 2005. As an idol-raising Producer, players had to train their chosen idol and then compete against other Producers online as they attempt to raise her to become a Top Idol within a limited time.
The success of the arcade version allowed Namco (now Bandai Namco Games) to port it over to the Microsoft Xbox, followed by multiple sequels on the Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, an Original Video Animation episode, spin-off mangas and eventually led to a brand new generation appearing on the mobile phone gaming platforms Mobage (The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls) and Gree (The Idolm@ster Million Live).
Already popular among gamers, the series’ popularity soon soared to greater heights. The television animated series was aired in July 2011, and soon the names of the 765 Pro (pronounced Namco Pro) idols were on the lips of a worldwide audience. A theatrical version followed suit in January this year, grossing over 765 million yen in the course of its two runs, the second of which is still ongoing to this day. In January 2015, the Cinderella Girls will take center stage with the airing of a brand-new television series dedicated to them.
The major selling point of The Idolm@ster series is not just the ever-growing list of over 200 characters across all three major groups (765 Pro, Cinderella Girls, Million Live), but their songs as well. From crowd-roaring energetic opening numbers, sexy techno, to heart string-tugging ballads, the girls have performed live to sell-out crowds over the past nine years.
This year, Anime Festival Asia gave us a short, but wonderful glimpse of what an Idolm@ster live performance feels like, with their first-ever overseas stage in Singapore, featuring Imai Asami (Kisaragi Chihaya), Hara Yumi (Shijou Takane), Numakura Manami (Ganaha Hibiki), Ohashi Ayaka (Shimamura Uzuki), Tadoroko Azusa (Mogami Shizuka).
Please share with us your impression of AFA.
Numakura : The fans here are very passionate about Anime culture, here just like in Japan. Even though we are mainly active in events inside Japan, in Singapore the fans greeted us with so much passion when we were on the stage, which lead us to really feel that all around the world, the “Producers” are looking out for us.
Tadokoro : This is my second time in Singapore for AFA. I really do think that the fans in Singapore are the same and as passionate about anime as in Japan. The warm welcome from the fans who learned and really tried to communicate with us in Japanese really made us extremely happy.
Imai : This is my second time at an overseas event representing The Idolm@ster, and I really feel that the oppoturnites to bring Idolm@ster to overseas fans is increasing. During the main stage presentation yesterday, I saw many passionate fans who really having fun while clappeing to our songs which made me very glad. As the Idolm@ster group has many members, but if there is a chance, and although getting everyone together may be tough, my dream is to have the whole team to perform overseas.
Ohashi : This is also my 2nd time at AFA SG, but this will be my first time participating with the IdolM@ster group overseas. I was astonished that there were quite a number of fans coming to Singapore just to watch our live when I had an autograph session yesterday. I really felt that there is no difference compared to Japanese fans when fans really love anime and Japanese works.
Hara : This is my first time coming to Singapore and also my first time representing Idolm@ster overseas as well. AFA is definately a very big event as I have even heard that people from many other countries, even from America, that had came down to enjoy this event. I’m very touched that the fans also have prepared a banner with our characters and face on them. Thank you very much.
How do you feel about being an idol on the stage?
Hara : I still feel I’m still at the early stage of learning to be a voice actor and idol and I still have the very strong image being of a theatre actor with me. Now that I’m challenging different things, learning different things, also with different lovely dresses on the stage and going on the stage, all these really feels very amazing and they are very valuable experiences for me.
Ohashi : At first Ididnt think I would become a idol, much less standing on the stage as an idol. When I first stood on the stage as a member of the Idolm@ster, I felt like I was standing with Shimamura Uzuki, and often thought of how Uzuki-chan should be like on stage itself. The Producers are always cheering and being passionate together, for which i m really thankful.
As Imai-san, Manami-san and Yumi-san have been active since from the first Idolm@ster, how does it feel being in the senior/mentor role for the Cinderella Girls and the Million Stars?
Imai : Manami-san and Yumi-san actually joined the team along the way after the initial release, and I’m the only one here that was in the Idolm@ster team from the onset. The strength of the Idolm@ster is that there are always young and talented members who aim to become an idol joining us on the the stage. So although we are from different “generations”, but having everyone together to perform on stage is very enjoyable. Of course we are compelled not to lose to them, thus we are all working hard to create an even better stage performance each time.
What does being an “Idol” mean to you?
Tadokoro : An idol is someone that gives energy to everyone~! (laugh)
What does it take to become an Idolm@ster?
Imai : It is my Life! Idolm@ster is a life that cannot I cannot separate from. (laugh)
How would you will relate yourself to the character you are representing?
Numakura : I felt that Hibiki and I are not alike in terms of character at all. I was told that in the past I’m a very matured and calm person, but on the other hand Hibiki comes across as a cheerful character who’s always full of energy that brings joy to everyone. I was surprised that the initial character setting given to Hibiki is she is good in knitting, which I’m also good in as well, therefore enabling me to establish a common ground with her; She and me are essentially opposite sides of a coin. As I continue to play her role, while we may be different on the outside, we are actually quite similar in many aspects. As the game producers continued to add more links that are similar to me, she now feels more like a family member or a sister to me.
What are the main challenges faced voicing Takane?
Hara : Takane is like a perfect existence. She is beautiful, stable, good in dancing and singing that really made me feel that she has no weaknesses at all; which is totally different than me. So in order to catch up to Takane, I’m still working very hard to improve myself to bring her image out for everyone.
It has been 9 years since The Idolm@ster started. What would be the most memorable event for Imai-san?
Imai : There are a lot of things that are memorable for me! Before the official launch of the arcade game, I had tried it out for myself in the arcade privately when it was undergoing trials, unsure if the game would ever be released, and created a lot of memories. But the most memorable is when the game was finally launched, I came across the general public playing the game which struck me as “Oh! A real Producer has arrived!”. That is something I can never forget. In addition, I had been practicing a lot for the lyrics and lines for 1.5 to 2 years before the launch of the game. All these factors made that moment a very special one for me.
Has Ohashi-san ever dreamt that the Cinderella Girls would turn out to be so hugely popular, considering that you just had your 2nd Live performance for the 3rd anniversary of the game last week?
Ohashi : Cinderella Girls is so well-known thanks to everyone at Namco Bandai Games, who created the game, as well as all the new Producers that are playing and supporting the game. We were invited to perform as guests during the 8th anniversary tour, and after that performed together with the Million Live and the main teams at Saitama Super Arena (The Idolm@ster M@sters of Idol World! 2014). There are also all the producers that supported us as well during that live. There is also the television anime that will also be broadcasting soon, which I’m very thankful for.
The Cinderella Girls game reached its 3rd anniversary, and to commemorate it a 2nd Live was held. With a stage much bigger than the one during the 1st Live, to have managed to come so far as well as to have an increasing number of fans have also been increasing, I’m really feeling overwhelmed with all these opportunities.(touched and cried)
Do you have any message for the international fans?
Hara : I would like to take the opportunity to spread the message for The Idolm@ster. Please continue to support us as well to spread The Idolm@ster all across the world. Thank you for supporting us.
Ohashi : I’m going to work even harder together with Uzuki from now on. Please also invite friends as well to start producing for The Idolm@ster.
Imai : I went to see the 2nd live event for Cinderella Girls recently. From the top floor, I think I spotted quite a few overseas fans as well. Since the producers from overseas have always been coming over to support us, and if any opportunity arises, I will be glad to take the chance to go overseas directly to thank all the wonderful producers that had been supporting us.
Tadokoro : Since Million Live have been relatively new and just started not long ago, I think that there are not many people in Singapore that know us. While I feel that we have not caught up to the senior members, we are slowly reaching that bit by bit by pushing ourselves harder in Japan. Not just myself, but the Million Live team would definitely work hard so as to be able to participate in future AFA events, so do support us. Thank you.
Numakura : This is my first time participating in overseas events. I had even had to apply for my passport just to be able to come. Even though it’s my first overseas event, I had a wonderful experience and had good food as well. I have 2 more nights in Singapore, I would really love to experience more wonderful memories from this trip. There are also many that couldn’t make it to AFA this time round, however I do truly feel that The Idolm@ster is being cherished and loved throughout the world, so I’m definitely certain we will meet some day, so please wait for us!
That’s all we have from The Idolm@ster, stay tuned for more from Ani-Culture.net !
Photo Credits: SM