Aug 14, 2020
In 2015, the company Bushiroad decided to try their hand at a new multimedia franchise project, which they called Bang Dream. The franchise was ultimately about a group of girls coming together to form their own band and play music, which isn't an uncommon premise, as many others have done their own takes on it. But at first, it really didn't go over well. The reception for the early manga and the first season of the anime were poor at best (Many deemed it a poor man's K-On or expected something like Love Live), the songs and concerts didn't make back the money that were
put into them, and the franchise didn't become as popular as Bushiroad wanted it to be. How bad was the reception for Bang Dream? Well, imagine this: You hold a big doujin event that allows 400 doujin circles to sign up...only to have a total of NINE actually bother to show up. It got to the point where various stores went as far as to practically beg customers to buy Bang Dream merchandise. That's...pretty sad if you think about it. Thankfully, Bang Dream would make a comeback when someone had the bright idea to create a mobile game, with more characters with fleshed out personalities and backstories, and covers of popular songs as part of the gameplay. Mobile games were popular, and people gradually began to check it out, deciding, "Hey! This is actually kinda cool!" And thus, the mobile game saved Bang Dream from becoming a dead franchise.
Being a multimedia franchise, a lot of manga were put out for Bang Dream, this one, Roselia Stage, being one of them. Instead of focusing on the main characters, the band Poppin' Party, this manga gives the spotlight to one of the side bands, Roselia (No, not the Pokemon!). So what's the story? A young girl, Yukina Minato, really wants to start her own band. Her father attempted to start his own band once, but when he tried to participate in a big festival, one of the execs told him to make music that's guaranteed to sell rather than the music he made on his own. As a result of being forced to create corporate sponsored music solely for profit, his band broke up and he lost all interest in music. Yukina wants to make her father's dream come true, only she won't bow down to corporate demand. Through trial and error, she manages to recruit four people: Her childhood friend Lisa, the bassist, Sayo, a stoic guitarist who has issues with her twin sister, Ako, a cheerful, enthusiastic drummer who admires her older sister, and Ako's best friend Rinko, a shy keyboardist. But Yukina has extremely high standards for her band, and her prickly personality and ulterior motives might end up being the band's undoing before it even has a chance to make its debut.
First thing's first: the art. I'm not gonna lie, the manga's artwork really isn't the best. This is mostly because I've read manga that had better art, but it isn't just that. The characters and their designs are faithful to the game they come from, which is fine, but my problem is that the artwork can be really inconsistent at times, especially with the backgrounds. When chapters focus on the music segments, especially the festival, instruments, the girls' costumes, and the equipment, they're nicely detailed...but everything else not involving the girls is given barebones treatment. For example, one scene near the end shows Lisa and Yukina talking to each other across their balconies, and their houses are little more than just a bunch of rectangles and squares, with little in the way of detail, and there's a random tree shoved in between them that's so overly detailed that it looks really out of place between them, making the difference in artwork all the more jarring. Lots of scenes where the girls are just going to school and doing anything not involving music don't have sufficient backgrounds, making the world they live in feel lifeless and milquetoast. Compare to something like the works of Inio Asano, who always puts lots of effort and detail into everything, especially his backgrounds, or Sakura Gari by Yuu Watase, a story that relies heavily on the time period in which its set, that absolutely could not afford to get any historical details wrong. Outside the inconsistent backgrounds, the mangaka really seems to love using thick, bold lines when outlining the characters, and seeing so much of them really takes me out of the immersion. At least the panel layout is good.
Thankfully, where the artwork falls flat at times, Roselia Stage makes up for it by having much more compelling characters and a better story than its parent anime. I watched the first episode of Bang Dream's first season, and I found it incredibly lackluster, with one of the reasons being the main heroine's absolutely lame and pathetic reason for wanting to start a band. Get this: Kasumi wanted to start a band...all so she could experience a thrill (And she even gives it a fancy name to make it sound more important than it actually is). I mean, are you for real?! That's not a compelling reason to start a band or get into music in any way whatsoever! The members of Roselia all have much more engaging and substantial reasons for wanting to break into the music scene: Yukina wants to fulfill the dream that her father couldn't, Sayo is sick of constantly being compared to her twin sister, Ako wants to be more like her sister who is also a musician, and Rinko wants to be less shy and learn to deal with crowds. Granted, they're still not exactly the most three-dimensional characters, being a slice-of-life manga and all and based on a franchise meant to market cute girls to a male audience, and most of the development they get is limited because the manga itself is only two volumes long and only meant to promote the mobile game, where they get more screentime and development. But the development they do get is fitting for the conflicts they go through, and the members of Roselia as a band are still more compelling than what little I saw of Poppin' Party in the Bang Dream anime's first episode, and the manga still tries to give them the right amount of depth so that you know that they're more than just a collection of archetypes and quirks. Ako could be a bit much though, especially since childish, overly enthusiastic characters who act younger than they are are a bit of a hard sell for Western anime fans. There's also a subplot where Sayo has problems with her sister that don't get fully explored, but again, that's what the mobile game is for.
As a standalone manga, it's perfectly serviceable if you want something more substantial than just the first season of Bang Dream but don't want to put money down for the mobile game. From what I hear, Roselia's story does get covered in the second season of the anime, but I haven't seen that, nor do I have any interest in doing so at this point in time because the first anime really doesn't make a very good impression. It helps that the manga is short too, only two volumes long, and Tokyopop is releasing it right now. Though seriously, how the hell is that company even still alive?! Weren't they supposed to have died off long ago?! Not helping matters is that they're licensing manga again but don't even bother to finish releasing the ones they unceremoniously cancelled out of the blue or never bothered to release at all (Pavane for a Dead Girl, anyone?!)! Anyway, back to Roselia Stage, there are a ton of other media that have done this premise, some better and some worse, but for what it is, Roselia Stage is perfectly fine as a manga. I certainly liked this a lot better than K-On (Real time: I really don't like K-On).
While just a promotional manga for the mobile game that spawned it, Bang Dream: Girls Band Party! Roselia Stage (It's full title) is a decently good manga that does what it set out to do reasonably well. If you're looking for a short read to kill some time, feel free to check this one out, especially now that it's getting released in English.
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