12 D@ys XII: さぁ、行こう!選んだ道の先へ

Look, SideM isn’t going to get an anime. It hasn’t even been three years yet. Let’s just chill. Look at Million Live, it’s been four years and they haven’t had an anime yet, but it’s successful and continues to grow and they’re even at Budokan this year. Getting an anime isn’t the only marker of success. I’m sure SideM will get there eventually, but there’s a lot of other stuff to look forward to in the meantime.

Holy shit SideM got an anime.

I’ve always been resistant to putting all of my hopes for SideM into getting an anime. Part of it is because the timeline didn’t necessarily work out in my mind based on CG and ML. But a bigger reason is that while it’s obviously a huge deal for a series to get an anime, it wasn’t clear to me what was supposed to come next. Like, the series gets an explosion of growth and popularity after one or two years and then… what? Not that it matters anymore because it happened.

I remember that day, when I was unfortunately not at Makuhari, but in bed, just having woken up and catching up on tweets just in time to see the news and @imas_anime putting up the reaction video.

There are a lot of angles to explore when it comes to the SideM anime we got. In particular, one can ask a lot of questions about the production circumstances and the timeline it’s been on. External factors concerning Aniplex and the game app may have had adverse effects. Is it really only one cours? The obvious big disappointment is the retreat to 3D CG performances, with cuts ranging in quality from quite good to noticeably jarring. But those are the same types of questions that Cinderella Girls faced when it became clear that production was not going so great.

The big challenge for the SideM anime is really the same question that’s followed SideM since it was announced: is this imas? Despite its production challenges, Cinderella Girls was able to convincingly and conclusively be imas.

It turns out this wasn’t going to be much of an issue at all. Everyone was ready already crying because of the return of imas anime with Episode 0, but that’s a bit unfair, considering some familiar faces show up. But after the first episode about Teru and Dramatic Stars? Yes, it really happened: we have another imas anime to look forward to and this time it’s about boys. The SideM anime makes its case so convincingly that you’d have to perform some elaborate mental acrobatics to think about SideM as not imas or consider imas without SideM.

People would raise an eyebrow if you tried to suggest that Dearly Stars or Cinderella Girls or Million Live wasn’t imas, and so we should too if someone tries to do the same for SideM. So what is it about the SideM anime that makes it a part of imas? It’s danketsu. SideM follows in the footsteps of its elder siblings and focuses on the unity of all the idols at 315 Production. In a way, SideM approaches this much more directly, both as the culmination of Jupiter’s story and also explicitly by noting the diversity of all the idols’ origins.

This is also where I think the SideM anime displays its biggest strength over the various other media that’s carried the bulk of SideM’s story up to now. It’s been much more effective at mixing up character interactions between everyone and setting up smaller spontaneous moments. The problem with, say, text in mobage is that everything has to be explicitly presented to the reader. In an anime, you can have things go on in the background or small cuts or breaks that show something very quickly, giving us situations where everyone gets to mingle, which contributes to building a real sense of community for these guys.

At the time of writing, only the last episode remains to be seen. The producers have said that SideM 1st was the main inspiration for the anime even existing and that it’s about 315 Production’s path to their first live. They’ve definitely stuck to that: the stage that Touma and Teru were standing on in episode 9 is Maihama Amphitheatre and will be recognizable to anyone who’s seen SideM 1st.

Like SideM 1st, I think this anime has been a great catalyst for getting more people into SideM, particularly if they’re more casual imas fans. But SideM 1st’s full title was THE IDOLM@STER SideM 1st STAGE ~ST@RTING!~ and the phrase “The Story of 315 Production ST@RTS!!!” can be found on the boxes of the BDs. In a lot of ways, this is still just the starting for SideM and after this year of wild things happening for SideM, I hope it’s a promise that they’ll deliver on next year and on.