Multimedia projects have been massively popular in Japan, being featured in all sorts of magazines such as B’s Log, Cool-B, and even Sweet Princess, just to name a few. And in fact, I have reported on multiple projects that are either currently ongoing or will be gracing our feeds very soon in 2023.
Among those projects, I recently got hooked on MILGRAM after being introduced by a group of friends. This unique project engages users to decide the fate of the characters (Prisoners in this case) in a rather innovative way. And so, I’m here to explain to you what Milgram is, why is it popular and how you too can enjoy it.
▍What is MILGRAM?
MILGRAM is an interactive music project created by music creators DECO*27 OTOIRO and Yamanaka Takuya in 2020. Inside a mysterious prison holding ten prisoners, fans experience MILGRAM through the eyes of an amnesiac prison guard known as Es, and their talking “rabbit” guard, Jackalope. You will have to uncover the truth behind the prisoners’ crimes and decide their judgments. “Are they innocent?” is always the question.
▍To “Forgive” or “Not Forgive”
Each prisoner will go through three trials in MILGRAM. And to help you better make the judgment, a music video designated for that prisoner will be posted on the official MILGRAM YouTube channel, hinting at the backstory and his/her crime from the prisoner’s point of view. A voice drama known as an Investigation will also be released, where the protagonist and prisoner talk in private in order to truly get to the truth of the question “Why?”.
Voting can be done either via the official website or via the MILGRAM Portal app once a day. It is through the latter app that you can also view other details about the status of the current prisoners. Those who are voted to be “forgiven” are given relative freedom of movement within the prison, because YOU (the voter) agree that they should get away with their crime.
As for prisoners who were deemed “not forgiven”, however, they are given a punishment and restrained. This can lead to a number of occurrences, which Jackalope will happily explain to you in the Intermission Videos. These are a report on what went on in the prison as a result of your decisions at the end of the season.
▍The Music of MILGRAM
The music videos are Arguably the most important part of MILGRAM. You can’t truly enjoy the song’s implications without watching the music video, as it gives you a good glimpse at their crime, even if sometimes it’s not always black and white.
One example of this is the animals from the All-Knowing And All-Agony trial song from Haruka, where you can see that he commits the crime because he wants to be noticed. What makes MILGRAM so interesting is that you never really know what crime or why the prisoner commits that crime. As the music video only conveys a rather vague concept of what’s really happening, you will have to build your theory and make your own judgment based on the uncertainty.
The music, lyrics, and animation are so good that you just can’t help but keep repeating the video, trying to look for the smallest details to help you make a better judgment. The trials also raise hot discussions online as everyone gets their own theory and you can basically debate with others on whether the prisoner is guilty as charged.
Personally, however? The person with the best-sounding track has to be Prisoner No. 3, Kajiyama Fuuta. Yes, I realize I might be biased in saying this, but Arthur Lounsberry just does a really good job when it comes to singing, it has to be said.
▍Meet Your Prisoners
Inside the prison, there are ten prisoners in total, alongside two guards: Es and Jackalope. Each of the prisoners has a different personality, but they all have one thing in common: They have committed murder in some shape or form.
■ Es – CV: Amami Yurina
The existence is meant to represent the audience of Milgram. Es wakes up with their memories gone and becomes the guard of MILGRAM Prison. With no memories about themselves, they perform their duty as a guard without doubting their origin, as per Jackalope’s instructions. Es’s role is to decide whether the prisoner’s sins are to be “forgiven” or “not forgiven”.
After the first season of Milgram, Es went into a deep slumber, while Jackalope kept tabs in the prison. After the start of the second season, they got a report on how their decisions affected the prison. While Es is awake, fighting between the prisoners is strictly forbidden.
■ Jackalope – CV: Jun Fukuyama
A mysterious horned rabbit guards the prison along with Es, keeping tabs on what goes on in the prison while Es is asleep. Aside from being a guide in MILGRAM, he also instructs Es on how to perform their guard duties. He speaks the human language and has a facetious personality. However, only Es seems to be able to hear his voice.
■ Sakurai Haruka – CV: Shun Horie
Prisoner Number 1. A quiet young prisoner who’s normally always looking at the ground. At first, he would only respond to Es’s questions with a word or two. But as he starts to open up more through conversation, he slowly starts to become more talkative, which also reveals that deep inside, he is a kind and gentle person.
After the first season of Milgram, he was forgiven, but the freedom of thought only made his desire to be controlled even higher. This led to him making an alliance with Kusunoki Mu. Now whether is this alliance beneficial to him, or simply a “queen and slave”, is unknown.
■ Kashiki Yuno – CV: Yuuka Arisaka
Prisoner Number 2. A female high school prisoner who appears trim and tidy. She has a laid-back and whimsical attitude and is surprisingly good at reading the room because she is quickly able to stop conflicts from breaking out. She has a habit of jokingly asking for money.
After being judged as “forgiven” in her first trial, she started getting rather contemptuous towards MILGRAM itself, making her personality change drastically to a cold and realistic one, as opposed to her Season 1’s laid-back and whimsical personality.
■ Kajiyama Fuuta – CV: Arthur Lounsberry
Prisoner Number 3. A young, strong-minded prisoner with fierce-looking eyes. Out of everyone in MILGRAM, he is the most impulsive and has a rough temper. He has a strong sense of justice, and will strongly oppose any wrongdoing. When talking to Es, he protested his own rights and demanded better living conditions.
After the first season of Milgram, he was judged as “not forgiven”, and shortly after, was assaulted by Prisoner No. 10 Kotoko, but thanks to Prisoner No. 7, Mukuhara Kazui, he only suffered light injuries, which were treated by Prisoner No. 5 Kirisaki Shidou.
■ Kusunoki Muu – CV: Kouri Arisa
Prisoner Number 4. She seems to be cut off from the rest of Japan and has an air of transparency. Appears to be indecisive but is actually very blunt with her words, and can’t accept being in the unusual situation in MILGRAM. When meeting Es, she appeared very wary.
Nothing much has changed with her personality after her “innocent” judgment from season 1. However, according to Jackalope, she has developed a rather weird relationship with Prisoner No. 1 Haruka.
■ Kirisaki Shidou – CV: Nakamura Shuugo
Prisoner Number 5. A tall male prisoner with a gentle expression. He is considered to be one of the more senior prisoners in MILGRAM, and he is cool-headed and calm, or at least not easily perturbed. Despite being in an unfamiliar place like MILGRAM, he still wishes for himself to consent to capital punishment.
Despite this, however, in the first trial, he was judged as “forgiven”, which allowed him to use his medical knowledge to treat Fuuta and Mahiru after they were both assaulted by Kotoko. According to Jackalope, had it not been such a case, Mahiru would’ve been dead due to her critical condition.
■ Shiina Mahiru – CV: Okasaki Miho
Prisoner Number 6. A talkative, ever-smiling female prisoner who’s warm like the sun. She doesn’t play favorites with the people she interacts with, and is very devoted. She is the oldest among the female prisoners. Despite that, she’s pure-hearted, always acting cheery even when she’s being teased or lied to. Her presence in MILGRAM allows others to feel more relaxed.
After her “not forgiven” judgment in the first season, she was assaulted by Prisoner No. 10 Kotoko, and suffered critical injuries. This, on top of the MILGRAM restraining orders, left her “broken”, both physically and psychologically. In fact, had she not gotten treatment, she would’ve died of Kotoko’s assault.
■ Mukuhara Kazui – CV: Takeuchi Ryota
Prisoner Number 7. An easy-going prisoner who is always making jokes to lighten the mood. Considers himself an old man compared to the other prisoners but is kind to everyone regardless. He likes to drink and considers it his number one hobby, because “whether it be beer wine, or shochu”, he can drink anything.
In the first trial, he was judged as “forgiven”, and was given relative freedom throughout the prison. During Kotoko’s rampage, he managed to defend Fuuta from her attacks, and thanks to that, Fuuta managed to survive with minor injuries.
■ Momose Amane – CV: Tanaka Minami
Prisoner Number 8. A female prisoner and the youngest in MILGRAM. Despite her young age, she is very calm, mature, and polite. She is usually seen with a vague smile and hasn’t shown any sign of fear of finding herself in MILGRAM. Even amidst conflicts with the other prisoners, she sits in a corner, not wanting to be involved.
She was determined to be guilty, which caused a massive change in her personality. In Jackalope’s own words, she might not even be herself anymore and advises Es to be very careful when handling her in future trials.
■ Kayano Mikoto – CV: Hanae Natsuki
Prisoner Number 9. A normal person with an average build. A rational individual who is constantly bewildered by the oddity of MILGRAM. He is trying to get used to these unusual circumstances. Unlike the other members who are aware of their sins, he doesn’t know anything about his own crimes. He firmly believes that it was a slip-up that caused him to be brought here.
After the first season, he was deemed guilty. However, MILGRAM’s punishment did not go through, because of his multiple identity disorder. As a result, he was excused from the rules as the project’s first-ever Unchained. Because he was guilty, however, he was attacked by Kotoko, but managed to repel her without a single injury.
■ Yuzuriha Kotoko – CV: Aimi
Prisoner Number 10. A woman with sharp eyes and a cool personality.
Her physique is like that of a model’s. Due to her appearance, behavior, and words, she may come off as cold, but her blunt attitude does not bear any ill will. It can be said that she observes MILGRAM Prison even more thoroughly than Es themself.
After she was judged as “forgiven” in the first trial, she started attacking the prisoners who were judged as “not forgiven”. She attacked three people: Fuuta, Mahiru, and Kayano. Mahiru suffered critical injuries, Fuuta got off with light injuries thanks to Kazui defending him, and Kayano managed to fend her off without any injuries.
▍Why is Milgram So Popular in Japan?
Possibly the biggest reason I can give for MILGRAM’s popularity is that not only are the music videos and trial videos released with English subtitles but there’s nothing stopping overseas fans from registering to vote for the project. There are also multiple fan groups providing translations and theories to help you make your decision, and because you can vote once a day, you can change your mind later.
Furthermore, because the entire prison changes after a season end, anything could happen. Personally, I really enjoy the prospect of a project in that the audience can change the outcome, especially because it allows for some unexpected plot twists. The soundtracks are also really nice to listen to, with beautifully crafted video clips. So if you think you are ready to start judging morals, ethics, legality, and everything mixed together, I highly recommend dipping your toes into MILGRAM.