Precure Can Drink in Japan: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for February 2023

February has arrived, and that means new Precure, of course. It’s this odd exception in that February debuts have been typical of the franchise, so I have it on my mind—especially because it’s the 20th anniversary [I’ve been informed that Precure is actually only 19, so oops.]. I still remember seeing the original Futari wa Pretty Cure being mentioned in an English-language anime magazine, and noticing the large combat boots and floppy socks they wore. It’s been a part of my fandom for two decades now, and while I don’t have plans to write a retrospective, I wonder if I should. At the very least, expect a review of Delicious Party Precure.

Moving on from a two-decade-old magical girl juggernaut, I’d like to thank my Patreon subscribers!

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from January:

“Son Goku” vs. “Sun Wukong”: The Challenge of Translating Chinese Names in Japanese Media into English

If you’ve ever wondered why a Chinese character’s name in an anime sounds so unlike what the subtitles say, this might be hwy.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Season 1—Bold New Steps

My review of Season 1.

The Elegant Design of Suntory’s Virtual Youtuber

Many VTubers have extremely busy designs, but one notable exception comes from a surprising source: a Japanese beverage company.

Kio Shimoku

Kio actually retweeted one of my posts this month!!!

Closing

I learned along with everyone else that Love Live! School Idol Festival is shutting down to make way for the sequel game. Given this information, it’s all too perfect that I finally managed to achieve my goal. Will I play the new game? I really don’t know—it depends on how much time I have and what the gameplay looks like.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury Season 1—Bold New Steps

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 OF GUNDAM: THE WITCH FROM MERCURY

I know I probably shouldn’t do it. Sunrise is notorious for fucking up a good thing by meddling midway, and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury has been good. Yet, even if I regret in the long run giving this show praise, I want to lay out my thoughts now, especially after an intense and shocking season finale.

Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is the first major Gundam anime to feature a female protagonist. While there have been heroines before like Christina Mackenzie in 0080: War in the Pocket and Hoshino Fumina in Gundam: Build Fighters Try, no one has been as prominent as Suletta Mercury. It’s a milestone that can easily be mismanaged, but the creators have done an amazing job not just with her portrayal, but also constructing a world that is a significant departure from typical Gundam while also feeling true to the spirit of Gundam and addressing modern concerns.

One of The Witch from Mercury’s biggest adjustments to the lore of Gundams-as-mecha is simple but profound: In this universe, Gundam technology was not originally designed for war. Rather, it was meant to help people with disabilities, and was only made into weapons through the greed of others. The world is dominated by corporations operating from space at the expense of those on Earth, touching upon a very relevant concern about the unchecked power of the moneyed. 

It’s within this context that Suletta stands out in contrast to her peers as she enters school for the first time. When we first see her (outside of the traumatic childhood events of Episode 0), she’s a nervous mess of a teen who has never interacted with kids her age, and whose only friend is her Definitely-Not-a-Forbidden-by-Law-Gundam, the Aerial. She seems to have the power to persevere in spite of her anxiety, carrying an innocent-yet-powerful sense of right and wrong. She wants to both make friends and do good, and the wrench she throws into the systems in place at her school is a big one.

The school setting is also something of a first for a main Gundam series, and the way it’s handled is beautiful. While on the surface it makes The Witch from Mercury look like it’s trying to mimic a popular trend, the show successfully does two things to make this work. 

First, it presents the school as an unusual place with unusual rules: a place to train students in the use and management of mobile suits, which also features a formalized mecha-dueling system that participants can use to wager and settle disputes. It seems silly, but it’s also contextualized as a kind of sheltered space to protect/mold the rich kids of the corporations running the world and give them advantages to further leverage their positions. This is precisely what Suletta gums up by becoming the “groom” for the “bride” of the school, Miorine Rembran—the daughter of the CEO who owns the school.

Second, it takes those setting elements of the school and uses them to drive home certain themes and metaphors. The Witch from Mercury has often been compared to Revolutionary Girl Utena, and while the abstract symbolism and allegories aren’t as robust and dominant here, they still carry a lot of weight. Not only are the yuri vibes undoubtable and a more overt step into that territory, but the duels are very revealing about each character and their motivations. The balance is very reminiscent of G Gundam.

So when the other shoe drops in Episodes 11 and 12 as a real battle begins, it really highlights what an isolated environment the school really is. Duels are playtime and ways to establish hierarchy. Combat is where lives are lost. The competition between corporations is only one factor when the tensions between Earthians and Spacians can lead to such death. And when Suletta emerges as being surprisingly okay with murder (for the “right” reasons, like saving people), her lack of hesitation is downright frightening. It’s why Miorine’s reaction at the end is so powerful. She and Suletta worked out their emotional differences and trust issues, but now here’s an unexpected side called “Suletta can literally smash someone into a bloody stain and not bat an eye.” It really is like Utena and Anthy switched spots.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the similarities between Suletta’s mom and Char Aznable, and how they go beyond the masks. I was mostly thinking about their presentations and mannerisms, but this has made me realize there’s a vital aspect of Char’s character I didn’t look at enough: the unwavering desire for revenge. And so it begs the question—what would Char do of he has a child? The likely answer is “shape them into a bringer of vengeance.”

I hope The Witch from Mercury can live up to the greatness we’ve already seen. Please let this one get through okay. The next time I write about this series, I imagine it’ll be as a Gattai Girls entry.

RABBIT!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2023

Yesterday, I watched the Hololive COUNTDOWN LIVE 2022▷2023. It involved 3D concert performances by a variety of members including two of my faves, the currently COVID-stricken Haachama and the on-hiatus La+ Darknesss. I highly recommend it, especially the crossover sections between the girls of Hololive and the boys of Holostars. This clearly takes some inspiration from Japan’s long-standing end-of-year musical event, Kohaku Uta Gassen, but I’ve never actually watched it.

Looking back, it didn’t hit me how long the past year felt until I saw Kio Shimoku mention that Hashikko Ensemble concluded back in January of 2022. At times, it’s like the days move by all too quickly, and other times, it’s like they slow to a crawl. I can’t tell at this point how much of it is the prolonged funk of the pandemic and how much is just me getting older.

But here we are at the start of 2023 and the Year of the Rabbit, at least if we’re going by the solar calendar. Whenever I think about it, I find myself remembering a certain old flash video from the 2000s. Thankfully, someone uploaded it to Youtube, so I can inflict it on a new generation.

January’s Patreon subscribers are looking good. Thank you, everyone, and here’s to another fine (?) year.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from December:

Elegy of Fire and Metal: A Tribute to Mizuki Ichiro

Paying respects to one of the greatest singers in all of anime who passed away.

Hololive 3D Concerts and Bringing Different Fans Together

This is partly an analysis of how different fans have different expectations for their VTuber faves, and partly an excuse to post more videos of La+ Darkness’s amazing dancing skills.

Prospera Mercury, She Is a Char

How the mom in Gundam: The Witch from Mercury nails that Char Aznable feel.

And normally, I only pick three highlights, but I must mention that I’ve selected my anime characters of the year.

Kio Shimoku

Kio’s tweets mostly show his model-building progress and his thoughts on the 2022 World Cup.

Apartment 507

Chainsaw Man Anime vs. Manga.

Closing

At the start of the year, I feel myself wondering if I should be doing more both with Ogiue Maniax and outside of it. One thing I’ve thought about is starting a Substack, but I have no idea how I might divide my writing. In my head, there’s no real differentiation between “regular” posts and “premium” ones, and I’d probably have to figure out some way to make it worthwhile. One possibility is to break off the VTuber stuff into its own dedicated area in case it’s becoming too intrusive, but I don’t think it’s that bad currently.

I could also do premium posts on Patreon, but that sort of runs into the same issue. If anyone wants to see that sort of content (or if you even hate the idea), feel free to leave a comment. I think I care less about the money at this point and wonder more about how to promote Ogiue Maniax in 2023. All the old ways seem to be vanishing (and Twitter is constantly on the verge of collapse because of its moronic new boss), and I still haven’t caught up.

Whichever ways things go, though, I hope you’ll keep reading.

Prospera Mercury, She Is a Char

“Char clone” is a fan term to describe a certain character archetype in Gundam. It references Char Aznable from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and is typically used with a constellation of certain traits: some combination of a rival to the protagonist, who’s masked, morally gray, and mysterious. But while Char clones are practically a given at this point in the franchise, Prospera Mercury from Gundam: The Witch from Mercury might be the most Char of them all.

While Prospera Mercury is indeed a masked character, she’s also unique in that she’s the mother of the heroine, Suletta Mercury. And this isn’t a Darth Vader–esque secret either: Suletta knows she’s her mom, and Prospera even takes off her mask on a regular basis. At this point in the story, they haven’t fought, and there’s nothing saying that they will in the future. Prospera doesn’t have a noteworthy color scheme, she isn’t battling her daughter on a regular basis, which might appear to disqualify her from the ranks of Char clones. But what she does have is body language and a cryptic/veiled way with words that immediately brings to mind the Red Comet himself.

Prospera “Momznable” Mercury is voiced by Noto Mamiko, who’s famous for her gentle voice. Yet, every time she speaks, I can practically hear Char’s actor (the inimitable Ikeda Shuichi) reciting those lines. And every time Prospera is shown interacting with others, it’s like I can picture Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (the original Gundam character designer), drawing her making those exact physical expressions. It’s uncanny, probably intentional, and gives me goosebumps.

Other Char clones have the visual trappings or follow the tropes. Be it Zechs Marquise, Schwarz Bruder, Lancerow Dawell, Mr. Samurai, Harry Ord, Raww Le Kleuze, McGillis Fareed, or others, they look and act the role of the Char. But Prospera Mercury captures the soul of Char, and it makes her the most intriguing figure in all of The Witch from Mercury.

Elegy of Fire and Metal: A Tribute to Mizuki Ichiro

It’s poetic coincidence that the man who sang the Mazinger Z theme would die the same year as the man who composed it. Mizuki Ichiro, aka Aniki, the Emperor of Anime Songs, died at age 74 after a bout with numerous health issues. It’s especially sad that what took him ended up affecting his greatest gift: his voice. But rather than dwell on sorrow, I think it’s important to celebrate what made Mizuki one of the all-time elder statesmen of anime music: the undeniable passion that he imbued in everything he sang.

I’m not going to cover his life and history because that’s already been done elsewhere. Rather, like with Watanabe Chuumei, I want to explore my own history with the songs of Mizuki Ichiro. 

I can remember exactly how I first heard Mizuki’s 70s singing: On a VHS fansub there was extra space at the end, and the fansubber had placed some old anime openings. And among them were Mazinger Z, Combattler V, and Steel Jeeg. At the time, my appreciation for retro stuff was a bit mixed, as I found all those songs to be varying degrees of hoaky—though the intensity of Mazinger Z in particular stood out. If anything, I at least preferred the music from the then-modern sequels such as Shin Getter Robo Armageddon and Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo. Of course, Mizuki was also a singer for those OVAs as well, and I think something clicked in me as a result. He was one of my gateways into classic anime.

I gradually transitioned into having a greater love of old school anime songs, and I remember watching videos of live concerts that featured Mizuki alongside greats such as Sasaki Isao, Kageyama Hironobu, Taira Isao, Kushida Akira, Horie Mitsuko, and MIQ. And while Mizuki wasn’t as prolific as in his heyday, he could still deliver. When paired with Horie in particular, the two could make some real magic, such as in Dangaioh and Godannar.

It was also around this time that I learned about one of Mizuki’s greatest creations: JAM Project.

There are two basic strains of anime music: Songs made for anime and songs placed into anime. Neither means a tune is automatically good or bad, but in 2000, the art of making theme songs dedicated to the anime had long been an increasing rarity. After all, using a 90-second opening as a commercial for a new single has its practical uses. But Mizuki is one of the greatest examples of the first style—the kind where you shout the robot’s name and all the attacks and talk about how they defend justice—and he formed JAM Project, a band that still celebrates anime songs meant for anime. Though members have come and gone, including Mizuki himself, the roster over the years is a veritable Justice League of anison: Kageyama “Dragon Ball Z” Hironobu, Matsumoto “Pokemon” Rica, Kitadani “One Piece” Hiroshi, Endoh “Gaogaigar” Masaaki, Yoffy from the band Psychic Lover, Fukuyama “Nekki Basara” Yoshiki, Okui “Utena” Masami, Brazilian singer Ricardo Cruz.

And even among these younger singers whose styles were more modern, Mizuki could hold his own. In fact, whenever I listen to the JAM Project songs featuring him, I’m struck by how his old-fashioned sound added an extra layer of depth. Whether it’s “Soul Taker,” “Hagane no Messiah,” or “Koutetsushin Jeeg,” Mizuki’s voice provided a sense of history like only a handful of people ever could. Additionally, although he wasn’t part of JAM Project by the time Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 came out, the game made him the voice of the ultimate enemy, Keisar Ephes. I think that says so much about the respect given to him for his contribution to anime, tokusatsu, mecha, and so many parts of Japanese pop culture. I eventually got to see JAM Project at Otakon 2008, but by that time, Mizuki had long been out of the group. I regret not being able to see him in concert, but am grateful that I could experience his music at all. Playing Super Robot Wars 30 this past year, I found myself continuing to listen to his iconic themes.

Among my manga tweets and retweets about Mizuki is an abbreviated translation I did for Nagai Go’s message to Aniki. I think I’ll leave off with it, as it sums up everyone’s feelings well.

“We owe Mizuki for guiding the Mazinger Z theme song to becoming such a big hit.

Through 50 longer years of Mazinger Z, its continued popularity was ensured thanks to Mizuki. Every time, he would never let up, singing the theme with love and soul—that was his power.

He was someone who always went all-out, bringing out high spirits. This was the case for his stage performances, of course, but even when we got together normally, he was cheerful and humorous.

He cherished his fans, and he’d always bow his head from how he felt.

Thank you, Mizuki Ichiro. I pray for your passage into the next world.”

Yes My Dork: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2022

I’m riding high off of three things: recent elections defied expectations, the VTubers of holoX have just been celebrating their one-year anniversaries, and it’s been 15 years of Ogiue Maniax! It’s hard to believe each one for somewhat different reasons, but I’m hoping I can carry this joyous monentum through this month and into the eventual new year.

Here are my Patreon subscribers for December 2022! Thank you to everyone.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from November:

Hope and Chaos Take the Subway: Anime NYC 2022

My con report for this year’s Anime NYC. Note that it has a lot of coverage of Hololive.

I Started Reading the Saint Seiya Manga

And what a ride it is.

Non-Subpar Robot: Astroganger

I reviewed a lesser-known 1970s giant robot anime, now available via Discotek.

Kio Shimoku

If there’s anything to take away from this month’s tweets, it’s that Kio Shimoku loves Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise.

Apartment 507

Looking at Akiba Maid War through the lens of 1999 Akihabara.

Closing

As with every year, I’m going to be rating the anime characters I think are the best of 2022. It is unbelievable how tough this year’s field is. I feel like the top candidates would have won in virtual every other year had they been eligible.

Non-Subpar Robot: Astroganger

I first encountered Astroganger while watching a collection of robot anime throughout the decades. There it was, right after the black-and-white 1960s Tetsujin 28 and right before Mazinger Z. But there’s a reason Japan puts those other two on massive pedestals and considers Astroganger a weird relic that’s more meme fodder than anything else: the show comes across as dated even within the context of its time period, especially because it debuted just two months before Mazinger Z. Even watching the openings (both of which are sung by the legendary Mizuki Ichiro), you can see how much more impactful and eye-catching one is over the other.

Is Astroganger really that bad, though? The answer I’ve come to is “no.” While it’s not stellar, the show holds up fairly okay watching it in 2022. 

The story of Astroganger is that the Earth is being invaded by aliens called Blasters, who want to take all the oxygen for themselves. The only force powerful enough to stop them turns out to be Ganger, a sentient robot made of “living metal,” who can become even stronger when merged with a young boy named Hoshi Kantaro. Both Ganger and Kantaro have ties back to the far-off planet of Kantaros, which was devastated by the Blasters, and together, the combination fights robot monsters using kicks, punches, slams, and other physical moves.

Astroganger pushes few envelopes and its writing often glosses over things in ways that assume kids won’t notice or care, but it also does present its story with tension and drama in ways that I can imagine young viewers at the time would love. The series has that basic superhero appeal of a secret identity, but on a child rather than an adult. The show is extremely episodic overall, but it generally feels like a gradual escalation of challenges for Kantaro and Gangar, so that threats in later episodes are presented as bigger deals than in earlier ones. That said, the final episode’s adversary feels weirdly anticlimactic, which is then made all the stranger by the fact that the conclusion is extremely climactic.

The fights are where the series feels like it came so close to being something more, but ultimately falls into an “Eh, decent” range. Many of the battles revolve around either Ganger overcoming the opponent through sheer strength and willpower or figuring out some weakness. However, many times, the “trick” is essentially told to Kantaro by his scientist dad, or it seems to come out of nowhere. For example, while fighting a robot in one episode, Ganger goes, “I’ve figure it out. Your weakness is your hands!” He then proceeds to rip them off and the robot explodes—except nothing about the information presented either by words or action indicates that the hands were the Achilles’s heel. Both the willpower fights and the “strategic” fights remind me of mediocre pro wrestling matches: they can be fun but they’re also lacking in some ways, and you’re not supposed to think too hard about it.

Knack, the studio behind Astroganger, is also infamous for Chargeman Ken: an anime with five-minute-long episodes that are so bad and bizarre that they’ve become the butt of many jokes online. Astroganger often looks cheap at times, but it’s nowhere near as dire as Chargeman Ken, which it actually predates. In fact, some stories in Chargeman Ken now come across to me as taking episode plots from Astroganger and shoving their contents into a questionably digestible bite-size experience in a manner reminiscent of Homer Simpson. 

This includes the notorious episode “Dynamite in the Brain.” The Astroganger version is less pathologically amoral, but it’s still kind of weird, which tracks.

Another aspect Astroganger shares with Chargeman Ken is its decidedly unimpressive antagonists. The Blasters are pretty generic alien beings who are all interchangeable, and the only way you can tell who’s in charge is because their leaders are named and visibly numbered “Blaster 1” and “Blaster 2,” like it’s Bananas in Pajamas. Dr. Hell and Baron Ashura they are decidedly not.

I give all these criticisms, but I do want to note that in terms of excitement and entertainment, Astroganger would probably give most American cartoons throughout the 70s and 80s a run for their money. The fact that it has a fairly decisive finale (albeit odd in many ways) is something I can appreciate. In many respects, the show holds up okay. Not great, but okay. 

PS: I’ve recently learned that Astroganger was quite popular in the Middle East, to the extent that an interview with a famous Arabic voice actor lists Astroganger as the main title he’s known for. It’s also a beloved work in Syria, and the final episodes actually moved people to tears. The official upload has all sorts of comments by people from that region talking about how much they loved the show. If we ever get an international Super Robot Wars, I would like to see Astroganger alongside Grendizer, so that such a game could show its appreciation to the Middle Eastern fans who love these anime.

Domon Kasshu, Tenjou Utena, and the Witch from Mercury

Many viewers have remarked on the similarities between The Witch from Mercury and another anime, Revolutionary Girl Utena. Both feature heroines having to protect a prized bride in ritualized duels that involve cutting off a symbol to win (an antenna and a rose, respectively). It’s hard not to make the comparison. But I think the fact that we are seeing “Utena Gundam” so readily embraced is a sign that the Gundam fandom has progressed in ways I couldn’t have seen years ago. This is especially the case when looking at a different spiritual predecessor to The Witch from Mercury, 1995’s Mobile Fighter G Gundam.

There was a time when G Gundam was the black sheep of the family. Eschewing the backdrop of war for a gigantic mechanized fighting tournament, many fans regarded it as antithetical to what Gundam was supposed to be. But as the decades have passed and new fans have come to the franchise and brought new perspectives, the notion of Gundams in formal duels isn’t viewed in such a negative light anymore. We even got a tournament anime about fighting with Gundam model kits! There might be an inherently ridiculous quality that seems to (double) harken back to 70s super robot shows like UFO Robo Grendizer, but that doesn’t mean such a series can’t be serious and insightful in its own way.

The larger setting of The Witch from Mercury, beyond the school, clearly sets up a world where the shady politics of militarism and capitalism shape events in ways worth analyzing that feels very current but connected to the past. When the duels are viewed in this context, they feel not so much separated from the outside as connected to the larger problems that exist. In this sense, it truly does feel like the child of G Gundam and Utena, but also the grandchild of Gundam itself.

The Results Matter: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2022

The new anime season is in full swing, but while I’m enjoying the hell out of so many things (like Gundam: The Witch from Mercury!), my mind is on the upcoming US midterm election. I plan on (sort of) following up with my thoughts on this subject in a few days but for now, I’m using this time to encourage citizens to vote however they can: in person on Election Day, by mail, by early voting, anything.

I’d also like to thank my Patreon subscribers for this month of November 2022.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Naledi Ramphele

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

Gattai Girls 12: “Idolmaster Xenoglossia” and Amami Haruka

After like two years, Gattai Girls is back with a new entry!

Evangelion + Beavis & Butt-Head = Chainsaw Man

Call it an epiphany?

Rock-Troll Remake: “Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island”

My review of the nostalgic Gundam movie.

Kio Shimoku

A sparse month of comments, but his tortoise is feeling better!

Apartment 507

Thinking about VTuber Gawr Gura’s recent animated short relative to other bonus animations.

Closing

Congratulations to Brazil for making the right choice and not re-electing an authoritarian nationalist who cares more about his self-image than the wellbeing of the people (sounds familiar).

How about I make some Saint Seiya posts to celebrate?

Gattai Girls 12: “Idolmaster Xenoglossia” and Amami Haruka

Introduction: “Gattai Girls” is a series of posts dedicated to looking at giant robot anime featuring prominent female characters due to their relative rarity within that genre.

Here, “prominent” is primarily defined by two traits. First, the female character has to be either a main character (as opposed to a sidekick or support character), or she has to be in a role which distinguishes her. Second, the female character has to actually pilot a giant robot, preferrably the main giant robot of the series she’s in.

For example, Aim for the Top! would qualify because of Noriko (main character, pilots the most important mecha of her show), while Vision of Escaflowne would not, because Hitomi does not engage in any combat despite being a main character, nor would Full Metal Panic! because the most prominent robot pilot, Melissa Mao, is not prominent enough.

— 

At face value, Idolmaster: Xenoglossia is a perplexing title. Why in the world would the very first anime for The iDOLM@STER, a video game about managing Japanese idols, be a mecha series where the girls strive to save the Earth rather than give successful stage performances? When you get under the surface, though, it results in an even greater cognitive dissonance between the franchise’s origins as an idol sim franchise and this science fiction story ostensibly built on its foundation.

The confusion begins from the very basis of Xenoglossia. The premise is that high schooler Amami Haruka is unexpectedly recruited to potentially become one of the “Idolmasters,” pilots of world-defending robots called iDOLS. Outside of Xenoglossia, the name of the franchise refers to the player as an idol producer. That’s a simple enough change to accept given the story’s setting, but where the show throws the hardest curveballs is the portrayal of its characters.

Despite this being a franchise where fans support the actors who play their favorite idols, the entire voice cast was changed for Xenoglossia. It’s an extremely odd decision in hindsight, but what makes it all the more strange is that the changes don’t stop there: age, size, personality, and more are drastically altered to the point that many characters become almost unrecognizable. The best example is the character of Takatsuki Yayoi. In The iDOLM@STER proper, she’s a small and energetic girl in her early teens known for her high-pitched voice and signature squeal of excitement. In Xenoglossia, she’s noticeably taller and bustier, is the only actual conventional idol in the show, loves to wear mascot outfits), and is much more antagonistic towards Minase Iori. 

I’m not a huge The iDOLM@STER fan, but I’ve watched the anime and have a decent idea of the core cast and their personalities. On some level, it’s impossible for me to fully divorce my preconceived notions, but this level of change is beyond rare. The closest example I can think of is the first Comic Party anime, where a high schooler got aged up and a middle schooler got aged down for seemingly no reason. It’s as if the creators of Xenoglossia just looked at some preliminary character sketches and just went their own way without regard for the source material. 

Funnily enough, the only character who’s mostly like her original self is the franchise’s flagship heroine and Xenoglossia protagonist, Amami Haruka. Her personality remains optimistic and hard-working, though tinged here with a bit of self-doubt as to what she’s capable of. But when she’s surrounded by an endless parade of bizarre doppelgangers, something always feels a little off. If one can ignore that to a degree, the show gets more enjoyable.

In terms of Haruka or any other character’s portrayal as giant robot pilots, they’re never upstaged by any male characters swooping in to save the day; in fact, there aren’t any male pilots at all. Different characters struggle with different aspects of being Idolmasters, and much of the plot is built around striving to overcome those challenges. There’s also a great deal more nudity and sexual behavior (including possibly incest?!) than would be expected of something based on The iDOLM@STER—which might be a dealbreaker for those who strongly believe in the whole “idol purity” concept, but still feels kind of odd for even those of us who don’t.

The relationship between the Idolmasters and their iDOLS also arguably runs counter to “idol purity” because the way they talk about the robots makes them seem on some level like giant mechanical boyfriends—especially the main iDOL, Imber. The robots are shown to be sentient on some level, and the way some characters work to become worthy of and accepted by the mecha while others treat them like companions comes across more like romantic fiction at times. The entire setup of Xenoglossia is conducive to this, showing itself to be the kind of anime where the requisite to becoming Idolmasters has angst-filled drama baked in.

Idolmaster Xenoglossia we got could never be made today. It came out at a time when The iDOLM@STER was a much smaller deal, as evidenced by the fact that the girls are all based on their designs from the first game rather than the revised versions from The iDOLM@STER 2 that have since been codified. This early on, Xenoglossia followed in the fine (?) tradition of titles like Lunar Legend Tsukihime, where it was assumed that a fledgling idol manager franchise needed a boost in star power and storytelling from the anime industry. Now, the shoe’s on the other foot, and if they were to attempt this again, it’d be all but inevitable that the characters would adhere much more closely to their original selves. It’s a historical curiosity, indeed.