This post is about μ's, the fictional idol group from multimedia franchise Love Live!, and their corresponding real-life counterpart consisting of the voice actresses involved. There has been a rumour circulating on the internet recently that μ's will be disbanding following their live at the end of March. This post aims to discuss this, but is ultimately my opinion, so please keep an open mind when reading it.
Is μ's disbanding?
It was officially announced today that μ's will not be disbanding. Nitta Emi, the voice of Kousaka Honoka, confirmed to Oricon that although μ's is having their final one-man live at Tokyo Dome on March 31st and April 1st, they will not be disbanding at that point.
Our next one-man live in Tokyo Dome will be our final one, but that doesn't mean we will be disbanding
This announcement comes at an interesting point of time, but it's very likely that they revealed this information following the baseless rumour spreading on the internet about how μ's is disbanding due to the contracts for the voice actresses expiring at the end of March.
The original Yahoo! article that brought up the issue of contracts didn't actually mention that μ's was going to disband, but due to the dates of the final one-man live coinciding with the end of March, people speculated that their contracts would not be renewed and that μ's would disband. Due to people's uncertainty and fear, the speculation quickly blew completely out of proportions.
However, it's important to note that the Japanese fiscal year begins in April and ends in March. As such, it is not uncommon to see contracts that begin in April and end in March. Contracts for employees who produce satisfactory results are usually quite likely to be renewed, and I'm quite sure that the members of μ's have produced "satisfactory" results by becoming one of the best selling music acts in Japan.
Yes, it has already been announced that μ's will be releasing their final single and holding their final one-man live next year. But what does this actually mean? I believe that this announcement was very carefully phrased to provide a solid signal of intent, but at the same time still leave the future ambiguous.
I had a few people tell me that μ's won't have any more new songs now that they are releasing their final single. However, I would like to point out that not releasing new singles does not necessarily mean their musical discography is coming to a complete halt. Releasing singles is a way for artists to capitalise on their music individually, before they ultimately release an album containing a few singles and more original tracks.
What does this mean for μ's? Well, although this is their final "single", this might not be their final song. They can still release collaboration singles with School Idol Festival (because these apparently don't count as singles), release unit singles, release bonus CDs with other media, but most importantly, they can still release albums.
It looks to me as though Bandai Namco is trying to slow down μ's to push Aqours a bit more at this stage, which is perfectly understandable. The use of albums here would fit nicely with this goal, as albums contain many songs (usually somewhere between 10 to 15) and so generally have a longer release schedule. This would allow Bandai Namco to focus their main efforts on pushing Aqours with regular new singles and content, and a new album from μ's less frequently, but still maintaining activity.
When I watched the original video announcement, it really stuck in my head that they emphasised the fact that it was their "final one-man live".
For those who aren't familiar, "one-man live" is a term borrowed from English that is used to refer to concerts/lives where only one artist (can be solo singer, musician, group, band, etc.) performs for the entire duration, as opposed to other concerts where there may be multiple artists performing.
All of μ's anniversary lives have been one-man lives, as μ's is the only performing artist, but I actually can't recall them making this distinction between regular "live" and "one-man live" before (my memory might just be bad). Due to this, I think they specifically wanted to say that they will not have any more lives where they are the only performing artist, leaving the path open for them to continue performing as part of festivals like Animelo Summer Live and sharing the stage with sister group Aqours (or maybe even rival group A-RISE?).
It's perhaps worth noting that if the lives are no longer considered one-man lives, there may be less pressure for Nanjou Yoshino, the voice of Ayase Eli, to participate. While I'm not saying that she won't participate (this ultimately remains to be seen, depending on how the treatment of her knee goes), it looks as though Love Live! is following the path that THE iDOLM@STER took with their lives.
Currently, THE iDOLM@STER lives do not always feature a full cast. Even at their 10th Anniversary live this summer, only 10 of the 13 members of 765PRO ALLSTARS+ were able to perform, and the performers for Cinderella Girls and Million Live! regularly change depending on who is available.
What does the future hold?
The way I see it, there is nothing to worry about at this stage. Bandai Namco doesn't hate money enough to make μ's disband. But even they have realised that μ's has reached the peak of their popularity and that they need to broaden the scope of the Love Live! franchise to keep fans interested (the same way THE iDOLM@STER did). The CEO of School Idol Festival developer KLab has already announced that SIF will be continuing, by the way.
Personally, I think this announcement was due to have come at the end of the Final LoveLive! in April. That's where they would announce the future plans for μ's and the Love Live! franchise as a whole. But due to the overwhelmingly negative sentiment on the internet and the avalanche of speculation, they probably felt a need to clarify things. We should calmly wait for the Final LoveLive! to see what μ's has in store for us.
Header image from Manten Web.