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THE iDOLM@STER (Japanese: アイドルマスター), also called as the official abbreviated name “iM@S”, is a series of an idol (Japanese equivalent of pop star) raising simulation games produced by Namco Bandai. Since it’s release, it has be come a very popular franchise particularly for it’s large amount of songs and dances.
The first console version was released on XBOX 360 in January 2007, though it was originally an arcade game released in 2005. Its unique gameplay and likable characters became the subject of many fan works ranging from art, comics, cover songs, music remixes and MADs, and live performances on Nico Nico Douga.
So far the franchise consists of three XBox 360 games, one PS3 port, three PSP games, three DS games, several manga releases, a light novel, and three anime releases. There have also been appearances in other Namco games such as the Tales of series and Ace Combat 6. There is also a Project Diva DLC package featuring Idolm@ster songs and costumes.
It’s popularity generated a huge a community named NICOM@S. THE iDOLM@STER series achieved overwhelming success from 2007 thanks to the support of this group. Recently, the series has received even more attention with the release of a 25 episode anime series that begin airing Summer 2011.
Currently on /a/ there have been ongoing Idolm@ster general threads which discuss everything in the series from the games to fan translations of the several Idolm@ster comics. Separately, there is also a general for the Idolm@ster mobage threads. Due to their ongoing popularity and constant presence, these threads have become somewhat of a rift in the /a/ community.
In a majority of the games you play as “Producer”, a young man who is recently hired by 765PRO studios (pronounced “Namuko Pro” as a pun on Namco). Your studio is rival to the dubious 951PRO (pronounced “Kuroi Pro”) run by President Kuroi. You rank up your idol by taking them to lessons, engaging in promotional campaigns, and winning auditions. Generally the goal is to become “Top Idol”.
The characters in The iDOLM@STER have a large amount of variety. The main heroine is Haruka, who is known for her iconic twin ribbons along with her clumsiness. She is who the fan-made mascot character Nonowa is based off of.
Including the DS Dearly Stars games there are a total of 16 canon idols. In iDOLM@STER 2 you are also able to produce Hibiki and Takane who were originally from 951PRO and in freeplay mode you are allowed to play as the male idol group Jupiter.
There was also a social game released for mobile phone called iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls which features over 100 playable idols. The game works very similar to other iDOLM@STER games. You’re able to build a unit of five girls and engage in Live Battles which you pit against other players.
Appeal and Gameplay
The series has appealing aspects similar to Touhou. There are a total of thirteen (fourteen if you count Kotori) girls in the main series and the PSP games iDOLM@STER SP. Two more girls and one “girl” were also added in the DS game series, “Dearly Stars”. Because of the large amount of characters, it’s pretty easy for fans both new and old alike to find character that they might like.
Idolm@ster also has appeal of anime dance crazes like Hare Hare Yukai and Motteke! Sailor Fuku. On top of that, it carries some of the notoriety of Vocaloids as the characters have a extremely large library of songs, even if the songs aren’t fanmade as they are with Vocaloids. There are several covers of both Idolm@ster songs and dances on NND and Youtube.
Another notable feature of the games the “touch” feature. Certain story points will ask you to touch your idol somewhere on her body. This feature is somewhat controversial as most of the girls are underage, but inappropriate actions will often make your idol upset.
Arcade photo taken from the a Wired article on iDOLM@STER 
Originally, the game started out as an arcade release in 2005. Idolm@ster had a very small but very dedicated competitive community. Along with raising your idol, the players also had the opportunity to battle other players in live battles as well as keep track of their progress on the leader boards or community diaries.
However, the popularity of the game really took off in 2007 when the game was ported to Xbox360. As users on Nico Nico Douga began posting video footage of the games, fans of the games began to create MADs using the game footage. To this day, a dedicated group called Nicom@s continues to create fan-made videos for the games.
On January 29th, 2007 a user named Zangi posted a clip of Communication scene with Miki. During the communication scene, Miki wants to practice self-defense and asks the Producer to act like a pervert. The clip gained attention because it was unexpected for that kind of scene to appear in a home console video game. The video was re-uploaded onto Youtube the same day and currently has almost 2.7 million views.
As months went on more and more iDOLM@STER MAD videos appeared on NND and continued to get a lot of attention. Songs like Ami’s rendition of Agent of the Night and relations gained a lot of popularity among Japanese fans. It also become popular to make MADs using songs Japanese band Perfume and MMD models.
The series received more attention from western audiences in July 2011 with the release of a 25 episode anime series titled The iDOLM@STER by A-1 Pictures.
Nonowa is a fan-made mascot based off of the character Haruka. It’s name comes from both of it’s eyes being the character “no” in Japanese and it’s mouth being the character “wa”.
Home Haruka was a skin offered for Playstation Home. The skin became rather notable for being very creepy-looking. This version of Haruka was dubbed by fans as “Home Haruka” and she makes appearances in several MADs and fanworks.
Te te te
This meme came from the iDOLM@STER BGM called Town. The chorus of the song sounds like “Te te te”. It became popular on NND to spam “Te te te” in the comments at key moments in videos. The song itself is also used a lot in MAD videos.
Originally known as the iDOLM@STER MAD community, Nicom@s is a a community consisting of MAD movie creators who release their works onto Nico Nico Douga. There is also a “YouTube@2ch BBS” which has threads in the NicoM@S community. Typically footage from the games are used to create these videos, though it is also popular to use Miku Miku Dance models.
Part of the community culture is to have a nickname followed by a P which is similar to the actual games where your name is always (name) P. This kind of naming became so popular that it even spread to Vocaloid producers. One example of this is the famous Ryo P of Black Rock Shooter fame.
In May 2007, “iDOLM@STER Medley like CDTV May 22” movie was released. The video was picked up by many news websites, and user Mo-Mo-DsukiP(桃月P) started the “Weekly iDOLM@STER Ranking”. This allowed public awareness of iM@S MAD movie to increase more, and websites specializing in iM@S MAD movies also appeared.
Tokachi Gold is a yearly event for iDOLM@STER fans. Hosted by fans, many famous online producers gather together and have a concert with iDOLM@STER MAD works. The first one was hosted in August, 2008.
The word “Tokachi”, which also shares the same name as the music remix movement that’s been a part of THE iDOLM@STER phenomena on NND, originated from the popularity of Ami/Mami’s version of “Agent of the Night”. This version of the song became popular on NND due to the interesting combination of Ami/Mami’s lispy singing and the style of a Japanese folk song. Afterwards, this particular song was labeled with the term “loli-folk song” (ロリ演歌, Loli Enka).
Agent of the Night was also included in the Nico Nico Douga medley.
I’m L@dy/My Body is L@dy
Based off of the already established meme, My Body is Ready , this variation of the meme is popular among the non-Japanese fanbase of iDOLM@STER fans. It is based off of a lyric in the opening song of the anime series called “READY!”. The joke stems from first lyrics of the song which say “Are you ready? I’m lady!”.