Mirai Kasuga is seeking direction in her life. She’s in at least eight different clubs, trying to find something she wants to do, when she happens to get ahold of a ticket for an idol concert, featuring none other than 765PRO and their classic roster of Haruka, Chihaya, Miki, and the like. The concert leaves her absolutely starry-eyed! She also befriends Shizuka Mogami, a girl who wants to be an idol herself. Inspired by all of them, Mirai decides that she wants to be an idol as well. Meanwhile, a new producer has joined the ranks of 765PRO, and he seems to be working on a roster of new idols for a brand new project and is putting together an audition that Mirai and Shizuka just might be interested in…
And it’s back into the iM@S rabbit hole I go! The Million Live branch is an extension of the original “765PRO” group, featuring all of the original idols plus 39 new idols. One may consider it a halfway point between the more focused 13-idol original group and the 190-idol Cinderella Girls branch where almost half the girls aren’t even voiced. There’s a full deck of cards’ worth of voiced, reasonably-developed idols in this branch though, which nowadays primarily exists through the Theater Days rhythm mobile game.
The anime adaptation’s first episode primarily focuses on the “main girl” of the new Million Live idols. Mirai is to ML what Haruka is to the original iM@S series, and she has a similarly energetic and cheerful personality. Just as Haruka could be considered part of a trio with Chihaya and Miki, ML also rounds out the trio with Shizuka and the Miki-like Tsubasa, who both appear prominently in the episode. An interesting connection that this anime makes to the original The iDOLM@STER anime comes in the form of the producer from the original anime, who has been promoted to chief producer, while a new producer looks to take the role of primary mentor to the new girls.
I mention all this because, honestly speaking, it feels like this show is only really for established fans of The iDOLM@STER, whether they are already familiar with the Million Live branch or just know about the original 765PRO. Story-wise, nothing in this first episode really sticks out as a hook for newcomers to the franchise, as it is all the usual generic “pursue your dreams” stuff that a million other idol shows have started with. As for the animation, there’s something that annoys me: all of the major characters are animated with 3D CG, while background/supporting characters seem to have standard 2D animation. This is really jarring, and while I’m already generally not a fan of 3D CG, I wish they would commit to it one way or the other, either making the entire show that way or saving it just for performances like Love Live! and other idol anime do. Even the performance scene is pretty lackluster, with the girls just doing basic dance moves while standing in place and lacking any sort of dynamic visuals, accompanied by a song that can be generously described as a generic iM@S opening song.
I’m being very critical of this show as a reviewer who has to consider other potential viewers, but make no mistake, I will still be following this show, mainly because of certain girls in the ML cast *cough*Momoko*cough* that I really want to see animated. And really, that’s what this show feels like: something made to satisfy fans who wanted a Million Live anime. Certainly, the show could get better in the coming episodes; even the original iM@S anime had a bit of a slow start, and there are some great storylines in general from existing Million Live content to draw inspiration from. However, as it is right now, I cannot recommend this to anyone who isn’t nearly as invested in the iDOLM@STER universe as I am.
The iDOLM@STER Million Live! is streaming on Crunchyroll.