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Dated 16 October 2015: I watched Hanayamata for Ueda Reina

Naru
Ueda Reina was fine as Naru, but I think I like her better in more assertive roles.

After learning Ueda Reina won a rookie seiyuu award in 2015, I decided to watch Hanayamata, since voicing Naru appeared to have been her first starring role. Ueda Reina is good enough to continue drawing my attention in other roles (such as Mikan in Jitsu wa Watashi wa and Loose Cannon Witch Killer in 35th Platoon), particularly as Kousaka Umi in THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! where she appears to be the best idol (at least on paper), now that Shiho has stopped being a bitch to everyone else. As far as Hanayamata itself goes, it was a pleasant enough show about a bunch of girls getting interested in yosakoi and becoming better friends as they improved at it.

Hana
Hana was less of a nutjob than I was expecting.

The anime had a somewhat contrived crisis for its ending, but it wasn't too offensive. Any Hanayamata viewers should probably have expected by that point that things were going to work out all right. This was a pleasant anime where good things happened to good people, so I didn't really have any meaningful complaints about the show itself. With regard to minor gripes, I guess I wished the OP hadn't so obviously spoiled who was going to end up in the club, but spoilers are an anime OP & ED staple. I also would have liked to have had more interaction between the teacher and "Umibouzu," but it wasn't their show. I'd definitely watch a second season of Hanayamata, but these 12 episodes are probably all we're ever gonna get.

Dated 10 August 2016: Umimi and me

Normal Umi
So far so good.

A while back, it was about a year ago, I think it was, I decided to check out more of THE iDOLM@STER's action, right, figure out what Million Live! had going on that I didn't have going. Although I was a (secondary) fan of the "real" iDOM@STER and knew of Cinderella Girls from its anime adaptation, Million Live! I only knew from the various cards people would upload to the Danbooru.

High Rare Umi
I'm guessing Umi smokes this girl.

Well, it turned out there were quite a few Million Live! characters (and a shit ton of Cinderella Girls). At a whim, I decided to start burning through all the bios to see if perhaps there was one I'd be likely to favor best. I even started a a spreadsheet compiling the official data. (This spreadsheet has since grown out of control.) It sort of felt like shopping for a mail-order waifu from a catalog since I was at least semi-consciously intent on determining which Million Live! was best Million Live!.

Super Rare Umi
I don't actually know anything about this event.

Coincidentally, this was also about the time I lost my previous disinterest in anime figures. I reasoned that as my anime-type hobby didn't seem to be going away, it probably wasn't just a phase, and perhaps that made it all right to spend some money on anime tchotchkes. And maybe a display box of some sort. But not a display case, that's going too far. After all, I would only be getting one. (Heard this one before, have you?) I just had to figure out which one. Preferably not one which would cost me like two hundred damn dollars only to melt during a relentless Southern California summer.

Super Rare Umi
I can't tell if this is an exhibition or a competition.

Also coincidentally, this was about the time I learned of the Rookie Seiyuu Awards. Ueda Reina won that year for Hanayamata, so I watched that (it turns out it's really good) and a bunch of other shows with Ueda Reina roles, even token ones. (It turns out Ueda Reina is really good too.) Anyway, those of you who happen to be Ueda Reina fans probably already know where I'm going with this, as will anyone who is an actual fan of THE iDOLMASTER: Million Live! itself rather than just a fan of the idea of THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! like me.

Manami, Minami, Reina, Kaya, and Yuka
Ueda Reina, center, with some of her fellow Hanayamata seiyuu.

It turns out Kousaka Umi is the not-quite-anime-character perfect storm. Some of you already know that—in the absence of any other key indicators—I start my character ranking determinations based on the various candidates' hair. Kousaka Umi's extraneous twin braids immediately put her in towards the top of the list, because I love me some twin braids. The top of the list, incidentally, included such company as Kitazawa Shiho whom I liked from the iDOLM@STER movie because she was such a bitch to everyone for no reason, and Nanao Yuriko (whom I also liked for her hair, even though she wasn't a bitch to anyone in the iDOM@STER movie). I'm also partial to enthusiastic Top Fuel Genki characters in general. Add in some real-deal athleticism, and I'm basically sold. Wait, there are also random ballet-themed references and non sequiturs? Someone's been reading my old journals. I'm totally in favor of a ballet-trained idol even if it means she is probably really bendy.

Rare Umi
Actually, she is really bendy.

At this point, I was tracking Kousaka Umi as the likely best Million Live! idol, but she didn't have any anime presence to speak of. Was she in anything else besides the game? Thanks to my aforementioned serendipitous curiosity about anime figures, I decided to see if possibly a Kousaka Umi figure existed. And yes, it turned out one did. This was somewhat perplexing, as she was also the only Million Live character who had an anime figure of any sort at the time. It's still not clear to me why; if there was only going to be one, I would have expected one of the characters from the movie. Anyway, finding out a Kousaka Umi figure did exist and that it did not cost two hundred damn dollars worked out pretty well. Especially since this way I could claim my lone anime figurine was somewhat esoteric despite being part of a well-known franchise.

Umi figure
This Kousaka Umi anime figure came with an extra face.

You know what's next, right? As I understand it, most (or at least many) Cinderella Girls characters are not yet voiced, but every Million Live! character is voiced. Kousaka Umi, you've surely already guessed, is voiced by Ueda Reina.

THE IDOLM@STER LIVE THE@TER PERFORMANCE 10
"ココロ☆エクササイズ" is quite catchy.

Well, shit. Umimi not only cruises through all the checkpoints (at least on paper), she has an anime figure which was apparently under-appreciated even when it was the only game in town as far as Million Live! figures went, AND she's voiced by my favorite newbie voice actress. So there you have it. This was a no-brainer. Also, if you're reading this on August 10th, then it means I managed to get this written in time for her designated birthday. Happy 16th birthday again, Umimi. You're my THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! Best Girl.

Dated 30 December 2016: Shiho Standings 2016

Top-Tier Shiho

Iwasaki Shiho
Wake Up, Girls! I-1 Club Shiho.

Great Shiho

Kitazawa Shiho
The iDOLM@STER: Million Live! Shiho.

Good Shiho

Shiho Huit
My-Otome Shiho.

Bad Shiho

Shiho Munakata
My-HiME Shiho.

Know your Shihoes. The life you save could be your own!

Dated 10 August 2017: Umi 2017

Umi
What, another year already?

Dated 10 August 2018: Here we go again (Umimi 2018)

Umi
Okay, this is getting out of hand.

Dated 10 August 2019: Here we go again (Umimi 2019)

Umimi
Well, it's been another year.

Dated 10 August 2020: Here we go again (Umimi 2020)

Umi
Philips 1180X
Close enough, eh.