Just How Much Does Aqours Actually Perform During Lives?

A few weeks ago, I went to my local movie theater to see a delayed viewing of Aqours 3rd Live. Anime idols and eventing is a culture I’ve gotten pretty deep into in the last 2-3 years, and the opportunity to watch a performance from the convenience of a neighborhood theater is a welcome one for me. I enjoy the Love Live! Sunshine!! anime and I like the (real and fictional) girls of Aqours just fine. I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore “Love Liver” but I think they have good songs that are really fun to go crazy to in a noisy room.

After the event, one of the first things my friends and I talked about wasn’t the curious exclusion of “MIRAI TICKET”, Inami Anju’s backflip, or the character songs — it was just how many intermissions there were during the set. I remember exchanging furtive glances with those around me during yet another costume change, anime insert, or extended MC session.

This isn’t the first Aqours concert I’ve seen, either. I’ve been to 2nd Live and Hakodate Unit Carnival DV’s and I also remember them having a noticeable preponderance of intermissions. I joked that there must be more intermissions than singing during Aqours lives!

Then I got really curious.

Through channels I won’t mention, I managed to get a copy of the video of Aqours 3rd Live Delayed Viewing and sifted through and recorded the length of every song and intermission. I used these following guidelines:

  • Events during the concert were categorized into “songs” or “intermissions”. Intermissions include MC sessions where the performers talk and interact with the audience, extended videos being shown, or just overall extended breaks.
  • I didn’t count the amount of time between songs as intermissions unless there was an actual several-minute-long break in action. I was pretty lenient on some of them.
  • I counted only the time between the start of the first song (“Mirai no Bokura wa Shitteru yo”) until the end of the final song (“Wonderful Stories”); the intro at the start and the part at the end where everyone says goodbye do not factor into anything.
  • I studied only live or delayed viewing recordings; intermissions and periods of inactivity tend to get edited out of Blu-rays.

Needless to say, this isn’t exactly the most scientific analysis, but over the course of 3-and-a-half hours a few seconds either way don’t really matter too much.

So, how many intermissions did Saitama Day 1 of Aqours 3rd Live have? Did it really have more intermissions than singing?

Oh yes it did.

Honestly, I didn’t expect there to actually be more intermissions than songs. Over the course of around 3.5 hours, Aqours performed 19 songs. After “Awaken the Power”, there were a total of fives songs in the last 90 minutes of the performance and 65 minutes of intermissions.

Now, I’m sure some people do find MC sessions enjoyable — I like Aqours and their personalities myself. But what are we actually getting to see?

(click for full size)

Now, MC’s being the longest event in a live performance is pretty common; but the sheer number of intermissions sets Aqours apart. Not counting the half hour of announcements and the girls profusely thanking us, Aqours and Saint Snow did around 36 minutes of MC. The rest was… videos. Videos, a musical interlude, and the encore call consumed around 54 minutes of time. I counted six costume changes (including a ridiculous costume change just for one song in “Aozora Jumping Heart”). If you look at the set list, the last few songs are a beautiful crescendo of hype, upbeat songs that concludes satisfyingly with the eponymous “Wonderful Stories”. I had a lot of fun watching 3rd Live in a theater, and I am absolutely sure countless thousands had a blast watching live, but I cannot help but think about the potential if the second half the set list wasn’t peppered with intermissions.

Maybe we’d have time for “Happy Party Train”, “MIRAI TICKET”, “Daydream Warrior”, and “Kimetayo Hand in Hand”.

So, it’s not a real discussion about Love Live without the inevitable comparisons to certain other franchises, right? Here are the numbers for Idolm@ster Million Live 5th.

I asked some people how much they feel a concert should be music, and I got answers around 60 to 80 percent. Million Live more or less hits right in that sweet spot of what people expect.

Now, for the sake of fairness Million Live is a bunch of girls who each take turns performing either solo or in small groups; the physical endurance factor is significantly reduced and it’s not particularly fair to compare them to Aqours.

Here are some other lives I’ve looked at. It’s a bit of work going through and timestamping all of these, but I got to watch a few performances I’ve never seen before. iDOLISH7 is new to me and honestly it was mildly enjoyable.

Click for full size

Just looking at Aqours 3rd and Hakodate Unit Carnival, it looks like Aqours is relatively consistent with its amount of intermissions. Roselia 2nd Live is an interesting example as the only other group with as much intermission as singing. Similar to Aqours, they are the only performers on stage — they even need to play their instruments!

On the other end of the spectrum, Wake Up, Girls! Festa 2017 had more singing than Aqours 3rd despite the latter being more than an hour longer. Festa also featured a group rotation with I-1 Club and Next Storm, but most of the set was still WUG; who are well known for their stamina in their own regard. WUG lives tend to be in the 70% in terms of song time.

So, what does this all mean?

I think the main takeaway is that I have way too much time on my hands. This post was not meant as an attack on Aqours; they are a group I enjoy and respect as professionals. I recognize people attend lives not just to hear music, but to experience the atmosphere and also to meet the performers. In this regard, having lots of MC is not the worst thing in the world, but a majority of Aqours intermissions isn’t even MC. Combined with the placement of intermissions in the set list, this post serves as critique over how Aqours 3rd in particular was set up.

Aqours lives have demonstrably more intermissions as a proportion of total run time compared to several other popular anime seiyuu/idol groups. The possible reasons for this include: i) physical limitations, in order to give performers a rest between songs; ii) catering to a Love Live fanbase whose preferences are diverse, therefore showing anime content, seiyuu MC, and music as an attempt to appease everyone; iii) to accommodate costume changes and stage preparations; iv) reduce the number of songs that need to be practiced and performed and padding the length of the concert.

I am not a big fan of any of these potential reasons, and I think each of these reasons have holes in them. At present time, Aqours has no issue with fan numbers, and these fans are happy and excited to attend performances. Needless to say, Aqours puts out a satisfactory product that is enjoyable and fun. However it is my personal belief that Aqours lives can be improved even further if there a proportion of songs more similar to other popular seiyuu groups, and intermissions were scheduled more strategically as to not interrupt the energy of the audience.

Below is the Tableau viz that I have created for this project. Click the name of a set on the top portion to see a breakdown the time on the bottom half. You can also hover over the bars for more details. If you would like to see a particular set broken down, please let me know and I will consider it!


3 Replies to “Just How Much Does Aqours Actually Perform During Lives?”

  1. Hoo boy.

    I think this post wouldn’t be an issue if people were actually hipster, experienced concert-going types who appreciate things like stage presence, acoustics, the genre, the production values of the set, lighting, stage direction, costumes, and all nine yards of that. But they aren’t and just want to shout ietaiga during Aquarium.

    Let me also just thank you for the good use of your abundant time looking at satrips or otherwise, taking one for the team.

    I too thought the long non-musical interludes in the Aqours 3rd Saitama was pretty … unusual? I mean I’ve seen musicals with as much time %-wise in the singing acts. But I think that is the path Aqours has taken as an artistic direction. I can’t and am unable to judge. However I do know what Japanese dome lives are and I think 99% of the time they are shite to my butt-old eventing health (but obviously here I am, balloting for TWO DOMES, so so much for that), so I don’t really care about that particular product as a live event. As opinions go, I like it a lot more as a viewing in a theater.

    The inclusion of WUG in this comparison is good. Obviously different musical/stage acts are doing different things, satisfying people in different ways, and often time satisfying completely different people. WUG’s fanbase, as you know, heavily overlaps with actual idol fans. It’s no surprise i*Ris and WUG are cut from the same cloth, which is Avex’s idol training and management program, based on mainstream idol industry chops. It’s natural that they put out a product comparable to other mainline idol acts. (BTW anyone seeing i*Ris at TIF?) Love Live…is not really idol to be fair. It’s not even “baby’s first idol” thing–maybe it’s a gateway to that at best. It’s as much as being a Girl und Panzer fan makes you a WW2 history buff. There’s an overlap but one is not the other.

    Obviously what I’m going for here is to say Love Live is its own aesthetics as a media-mix entity focused on SIF, the anime, and the live shows with our lovely 9+9+2 seiyuu. It’s not an idol show. It’s closer to a stage show/musical. As a pretty serious Producer I see the same thing play out in IDOLM@STER, especially Cinderella Girls. However because unlike Aqours there isn’t a core story to hang your hat on in imas, all the production can do, as a stage show with live action performances, is do the actual live performances as a way to move the content forward. Not to mention IDOLM@STER is actually not tongue-in-cheek about idols (as opposed to “school idols”). That, and with 20+ performers you really need every minute of the allotted event time to get every performance in. If each song is 5 minutes total, 20 performers’ solos is 100 minutes already. Out of a 4 hour live, that’s already about half of the total music time on average. CG 4th SSA and Million 5th are pretty cut and dry examples of “too many idols not enough time.”

    The different branches of imas also make a good scale of how much MC you get and how much touring, performing, songs, etc, due to the cast size and level of physical exertion. Million Live wants to be more like Japanese idols, so they definitely try very hard to give a good value proposition for their fans. Their lower popularity level makes this still a possibility. 765Pro All Stars have their semi-annual live (Producer Meeting) where only a third of the time is dedicated to the live (maybe 25% of music time at best). CG is going the route of Love Live, I guess, but the benefit of having an army of idols (and an army of idol songs) play out during a big event like a dome live, if non-stop entertainment is more your thing.

    Personally I’m okay with it either way, as long as they do a good job! Music cost-pa analysis is still far, far away from galaxy brain.

  2. Thank you for this article! I quite enjoyed the analysis and it looks like from your excellent usage of Tableau you know your way around data visualization. I hope to see more good content from you in the future!

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