One day, second year high school student Kanade Amamiya is suddenly scouted by legendary idol Haruto Mikami. He now faces the life an idol with others in the same agency. He aims to make his CD debut in Dream Festival!, joined by the mysterious Shin Oikawa, the stoic Junya Sasaki, the kind but passionate Itsuki Katagiri, and the clumsy but smart Chizuru Sawamura. In order to receive the Dream Festival! Cards sent by fans, can Kanade and the others become the best on stage?
First things first, let's state the obvious: DreamFes is an idol anime based on a videogame, with a sprinkle of magical boys, in 12 episodes. If you've considered that and have your expectations set accordingly - good. We can also get two things right out of the way: it won't win any award for the story or the overall visuals. Personally, I wouldn't call either of those mediocre, in fact in my opinion, the efforts can, at the very least, be seen, and that's enough to rate of both of them above the completely neutral "meh" middle ground.
Ok, so it's an idol anime, what
about the idols then? That's one part where I think the anime rises above the average. The main cast consists of five characters, and unlike in some other anime of the genre, they actually are distinct individuals. It might not be painfully obvious right from the start, but as the story unfolds and we get to know them all, it actually becomes clear that they're not just five blanks with different looks. I dare say they aren't even necessarily the usual archetypes, either. It's not only in their back stories and motivations, but it's also visible in how they relate to and deal with each other and with problems life throws at them. Even the supporting characters have their own personalities, and while many of them only have a few appearances throughout the season (consider the constraints of 12 episodes), it manages to shine through quite nicely. They're all loveable (or not, though I don't think there's a single character here that deserves hate) for different reasons, and that's awesome. What's also worth noting in regards to the characters is the fact that most of the VAs are rookies. It's not hard to pick up on at first, and it may be weird and annoying. But hey, everyone's had to start somewhere, and honestly, even if they didn't get any better throughout the season, they grow on you.
Well, what about the music, then? I think it's great. If you're into Japanese pop / idol music in general, of course, but that's common sense. Coming from the game, where it's the main point (it is a rhythm game, after all), it's no surprise that those songs we can hear in the anime, some of which we can even see being "born", are actually mostly quite strong. Totally radio-friendly, of course, either inspirational or emotional (or both), with the usual awkwardness of Engrish here and there - which you've already learnt to love if you're here for this kind of music. And the way the story goes, we learn the meaning of the songs, the stories behind them, which I do believe can important to be able to enjoy music in general. It turns the songs personal in relation to whoever makes it, but at the same time it also gives a way to relate to them, which doesn't have to be exclusive, but is certainly a nice extra.
This sounds like a very good anime! And it really is, probably the most underrated one of the season. Doesn't seem like much at first glance, but once you get into it... The story manages to remain real (or as real as it can be, of course, within the genre limits), almost mundane, in a way, which I believe is an awesome feat. The way the boys interact, the things they have to face and the ways they deal with them: it's actually believable. Even the fanservice parts, whether humorous or of an entirely different nature, felt more organic than in many other anime, more believable details of whatever is going on than things just tacked on as an afterthought. Then of course there are the "magical" elements, the way the idols transform once on stage: it's a cool extra addition that makes the anime a little unique. And it also plays into how the stage performances are rendered 3D graphics: not of any eye-watering quality, for sure, but the thing here is the fact that it's taken over from the game, where we see this same animation style, so it's another way to tie them together. It's unusual at first and takes some time getting used to, and some may never like it at all, but it's worth remembering that it isn't a gimmick without a reason.
All in all: DreamFes is a very good anime, one of those that may just be greater than the sum of their parts. Almost like an underdog, really, and it's rather incredible that it comes in as a timid, shy, ordinary little thing, and then manages to exceed the expectations. That's truly all I can say, it's simply underrated. I'm convinced that it could be an instant favourite of many of the genre's fans, at the very least.
I decided to write a review before the final episode because the episodes seem to be very consistent in quality and feeling. I gave it an overall 8/10, but personally my enjoyment is 11/10.
Dream Festival! is an anime about a few guys who are hoping to make their debut as idols, their dream is to win the Dream Festival contest. We meet Amamiya Kanade in the first episode, who never even thought of becoming an idol, but through Mikami Haruto's persuasion he accepts the offer. He later on forms an idol unit with Shin, Junya, Itsuki and Chizuru and they become the DearDream unit. Later
on we get to know their main rival, the Kurofune unit.
This is a very typical idol-boys kind of anime. You've got your concerts and silly idol-things (like sending kisses to fans, "every fan is very important to us!", trying to aim higher and higher, occasional drama among the unit mmebers) in every episode, but somehow DreFes does it all in a very endearing way. Every aspect of this anime feels "good, but nothing special", but I think that's what makes it so great - it's a very nonchalant, easy-going anime.
However, that does not mean that it's superficial or boring. I think the personal dramas were good, the occasional suspense was exciting, and all in all, I was (and currently am) entertained.
DreFes isn't the best with songs. For example, UtaPri has a lot better songs, but DreFes has some catchy tunes too. Just don't try to focus too much on their terrible English lyrics... They don't use much technique in their songs either - the variety of instruments and modern effects is quite minimal, and every song has the same kind of feeling to it. This kinda makes the concerts (or as they call them, Lives) repetitive and boring, but luckily the songs are quite short, only 1-1.5 minutes long.
For some reason, the animation team went with using CG characters for the dances? Which was a terrible decision in my opinion. The dances look very awkward and even the facial expressions seem kind of blank and emotionless. But then again, luckily it's over quickly, and in comparison to some other CG animations, DreFes actually does surprisingly well.
STORYLINE AND CHARACTERS
I think DreFes's charm lies in these things. Every episode has a pretty solid and enclosed storyline that is easy to follow. The occasional humor is very endearing and adorable. The characters' little quarrels and problems with each other are always solved, and at the end of every episode, everybody goes home with a smile on their face. The problems presented in these episodes are very real (being trampled by rival unit, having to choose between personal career and the idol unit, family problems, etc), but with love, everything can be solved~!
DreFes uses total "newbies" as their voice actors for the main characters. The only "big name" is Mikami Haruto's voice actor, all the other guys have this as their first role. [note: There are still some characters, whose voice actors we don't know.] I won't lie, it's pretty obvious that these guys are kind of new to this field. Sometimes their acting comes out a little flat, and you can hear their effort, but really, it doesn't make it unenjoyable. I think they're doing a great job despite this being their first time. Their characters' personalities really come through, and with the whole package of animation, background music, and all that, the emotions do come through. All in all, I think they are doing an exceptionally good job. Personally, I prefer these new voice actors, because it's kind of different from the usual, it's nice to give them a chance, and it's a nice mix of 'unexperienced voice' and 'trying hard and actually doing it right'.
Unlike some other titles this season, DreFes's animation quality stayed pretty consistent, which is a big thing. Now that doesn't mean that there aren't occasional derp faces, but I think they are cute in their own way. The dancing is surprisingly well animated (except for when it's the CG dancing part), the colors and character designs are really pleasing to the eye. But that's about it - they don't really go overboard and try to make it flashy and sparkly. It's a pretty simple artstyle but I guess that's exactly what makes it nice.
Now it's not like we haven't seen other idol anime titles do some silly and weird things in their idol universes, like flying through the sky and building things with strings of talent etc. etc., so it's really no surprise when I say that in the DreFes universe, the fans choose the idol units' clothes for the concerts, which they then put on magically in a magical-girl-transformation way. The outfits are printed on a card called Dream Card (or Dorika), and when the concert starts, the fans just shoot these out from their designated card holder thinga-majingas, and then the idols need to catch a card to be able to equip it. Surely this whole system was created to boost sales for the game, and it's actually not very well explained in the anime why they went with this kind of system or how this works (but I guess it's my problem for trying to look for logic in an idol anime)
OTHER DREFES THINGS
DreFes is actually pushing through really hard in Japan with arcade games and buyable Dorika cards, and overall they're doing a very strong campaign for this merchandise line. This would make anyone think that the DreFes anime is also just a sales technique and no deep meaning will be found in the storyline, or no huge budget will be spent on it. I was actually surprised in a very positive way. I think the anime is very down-to-earth and loveable, despite the fact that it was really only created to help sell the merch.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH DREFES
- loveable characters, interesting chemistry between them
- quite relaxing, it's an easy anime to watch, with a solid storyline
- some songs are actually pretty catchy and all that
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T WATCH DREFES
- if you really don't like the concerts and are not willing to skip them
- if you wish for more depth and/or negativity in an anime
- if you're looking for anything sexy or something like that (DreFes is actually very PG-13)
I'm writing this before watching ep 12 (hasn't come out yet).
I gave the story a 9/10. Within moments of the first episode, I had a feeling it was based off of a game, and I was sure of it by the first performance. When it comes to their dances/performances, it's all very confusing. The fans have these card holders where they shoot out strange 'Dorika' and choose the clothing of the performers, which was very strange. But that's pretty minor.
The story itself, I think, is pretty well done. There were some moments that were very cliche and I could easily call, but
the story was pretty legit. You got to see development and interesting plot lines, cliche as some may be. I thought it was interesting.
The art is pretty decent, 7/10. I like the animation, except for the awkward 3d CGI when it comes to the dancing during their performances. It's pretty bad, all their faces look emotionless and flat and it's pretty cringey to watch. But other than that, I think it's pretty well done. The emotional parts are done well and there aren't a ton of derp-y moments. I'm not picky about art, so my only issue is the CGI. But other than that it's pretty decent.
6/10, and I'm being a bit generous there. As far as songs go, they're all so...similar. There's not much change and they all seem to have the same beat/tune, even if the lyrics and dances change. Especially since this is a music anime, I don't think that's good at all. Shounen Hollywood had more variety, as well as UtaPri and Starmyu. However it wasn't like the songs were bad, perse. Generic, but I guess that's what you'd expect from idols who only sing pop songs. The opening and ending was interesting, though, and I did like it. But it's not particularly good.
There were some new voice actors for this, I could tell pretty quick. That, I think, can be both a good and bad thing. I like the change and I appreciate that there's variety as alot of anime just recycle the well-established seiyuu, but this one does bring in fresh faces. Err, voices.
However, it's not always as good as it could be. Sometimes I think it's pretty bad and that they should have just gone with some big named VA to keep the quality up, but I think it's fairly decent all around.
Dream Festival definitely has good characters. You feel where they want you to feel and dislike where you should. I was expecting the typical batch - passionate MC, tsundere, kuudere, deredere, and hyper Nagisa™ from Free, and they all eventually come around the MC. You start off with something similar to this, However you do get character development, see what motivates and inspires each character, and it becomes more interesting as you start to feel for them, which is what I guess really matters.
The only thing is that there are no female characters. I have yet to see one major female character (beside two moms and a sister). However it's not something that bothers me personally - I think it was well done without females, but I'd be interested in seeing one or two that actually played a major role.
Basically, the characters are good and I'd give them a 9.5/10
I definitely enjoyed watching this. It was fun and interesting. Probably would not watch again, but it's good if you're into this type of thing - a gaggle of attractive guys singing and being passionate. It can get 'suggestive' (i'm using that loosely) between them, as you might expect from an anime with a bunch of pretty boys and no female characters, but that's all to the imagination, I guess.. This is fujoshi bait, or rather shoujo bait in general. It's an anime a person interested in attractive guys will probably enjoy. However guys shouldn't fear it. Though the targeted group for this is quite obviously women.
I liked it, and thought it was interesting and a good waste of time. Would recommend to anybody looking for an attractive group of guys to watch. Don't expect too much -- take it lightheartedly. This is not a top-notch anime by any means. But it's fun and interesting. Watch it for a good time.