Oct 1, 2018
12 of 12 episodes seen
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If you pluck the tiny star, then you may obtain a tiny measure of happiness. If you pluck the giant star, then you may ask for a great reward.
Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is maybe the most confusing anime to watch from Summer 2018. But at the same time, it's also the most predictable. It's a(nother) Bushiroad idol project. But at the same time, these characters are not idols - they are Stage Girls. Its story originally conceived by the people who usually work on the famous Takarazuka Revue. Its anime adaptation is directed by Furukawa Tomohiro, a close friend x protege of the famed Ikuhara Kunihiko,
known for the heavy use of metaphors, symbolism, and a rather eccentric plot in all of his anime.
Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is neither an idol anime nor an opera play. It might come as a cheap knockoff of both, actually. But at the same time it is its own thing.
And that's what makes it great.
Writing Part I: Plot, Writing Method, Screenplay : 9
To be honest, I feel that it's wrong for me to split this part into two. But MAL scoring format demands it.
Since MAL advises me to not write synopsis and not spoil, I shall retell the plot in a short manner: it's a group of teenage girls fighting for their hopes and dreams, while discovering and rediscovering their own definition of identity.
Being a story of self-discovery of more-than-4/5 main characters, Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight puts its focus more on the characters than an overall continuity of a grand plot. Although, that doesn't mean there is no grand plot; There is a grand plot, being told slowly, some parts through metaphor, and some parts through foreshadowing. But that's not the only thing it foreshadows: it foreshadows everything, builds every personal plot of every character in a subtle but, at the same time, obvious manner. It's almost like it doesn't try to tease you to be interested (which some people I encountered in my process of making this review actually found issue about,) but when the twist comes and we learn more about the character's personal motives, viewers are given with a mix of emotions best described as awe. There's a complexity in it (which I will later explain,) but of the tidy sort. One that shows that Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is properly written by a proper pro-writer.
Its heavy use of metaphor serves to hide everything until the great reveal happens. (Well, sometimes it isn't as great, but it still keeps certain qualities which I will explain in the next section.) But the best part isn't that; The best part of the usage of metaphor in Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is that some of the metaphors are later proven to not be just a mere metaphor, but instead it's the real, literal thing! As the borders of what is hyperbole and what is reality cease to exists (in a Utena-ish fashion, I need to point out,) viewers are presented with a feast for the minds, the ears, and the eyes: of something that are both brave, challenging from an artistic view, and entertaining from a mainstream Japanese anime industry perspective.
Writing part II: Characters (Personalities, Motives & Mindset, and Progression) : 9
Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight... is, in essence, still an idol anime. The personalities of its characters are troupey. But at the same time, its great focus in adding depth into the motives of each of these seemingly run-of-the-mill anime girls put the anime clearly a cut above the rest of other idol anime, or even other anime these days, where complicated character development for many characters is a privilege, usually reserved only to big anime with big money and big timeslot for many episodes or multiple seasons. Each character maintain multiple layers of motive (which I can't explain here, because spoiler.) Each character learns, relearns, and learns more of their truest reason of becoming a Stage Girl, and comes out stronger, wiser, and with more conviction to their identity, despite of the cost they had to pay in process of that.
Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight can do it for all 9 characters in 12 episodes, and does it even better than most anime, imo, as it provides more depth, with a stronger logical foundation, without making us feel cringe of the risky dose of metaphors, instead it makes us love the characters, with its nice alteration of light-hearted moments and serious plot points.
And last, here comes the meta. The underlying belief which is the core idea of the writing of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is the philosophy of pairings in Takarazuka Revue. As depicted in the story of Starlight Gatherer, the fictional play that is the setting of the whole story, each characters' development and progression are closely tied to the perceived partner they have.
In my humble opinion, it serves as its best quality but also biggest downfall.
An anime with a certain driving and proven ideology or philosophy often works very well (and, if its lucky, gets big and famous.) It's because the writer(s) has a set of ideals for the story in which it becomes a guide to how the plot should go should the writing process hits a roadblock. It also gives the characters more soul, as their ways of thinking become strong. Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight maintains this philosophy in each character plot. The conflict of relationship with others and also with the respective character's partner creates a clear guide for the actions of each character. They know what they want. They know what to do. They know what should have been done but not done yet (and thus they did it, it's the plot.) In its process, each character learns of the different meanings other characters have about being a Stage Girl, and they learn their specific role to their respective partner and to the group. This means that the story has a clear direction, and will not turn into a mess of jumbled ideas.
But it's also a weakness, in my opinion, because of two things:
1) Because it leaves an impression that the girls are too glued to each other, and thus they are not truly what they believe they are, but they are just a Stage Girl who are a part of the stage, and part of the acting of each other's. While that's true in relative to the setting (of the world of stage play,) still each person is herself in real life. Real life isn't a stage, and the girls won't be bounded to a clear obvious direction of fate. In simpler terms: it could have gone slightly coming-of-age drama, but it didn't. (Or maybe it did, but did it slightly the wrong way.)
2) The beauty of a plot is always divided into two parts: the real in-dimension story, and the meta. The understanding of this philosophy in Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight helps a lot in understanding the story and how and why each character develop the way they did. But the problem is: not everybody understand that. As such, at times it can create confusion and misinterpretation. Although that, in itself, is also something beautiful, it becomes a problem when people quickly judge the anime for its seemingly troupey-at-first-sight characters. Adds to the metaphors which were already confusing enough, it might shoo away people who love to nitpick an anime (like me) and can't enjoy an all-girls set of cast.
Fortunately, though, all the other parts help to deal with this issue.
Visual Art (Storyboard & other technical stuff) : 10
The storyboard of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is simply magnificent. Being a story full of symbolism (and yes, once again I say the word,) metaphor, the anime needs to make sure that the daily life scenes deliver a calming yet foreboding nuance, and the action scenes deliver a thrill despite keeping the eccentric yet honest nature of the dialogues. Plus it needs to make the action looks great despite not having that much time and personnel in production. With all that, Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight manages to maintain a stable and relatively high standard in its every animation each and every episode, even during not so important scenes.
Another important thing to point out is that Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight decides to keep all the action to happen in a stage (a stage, as in opera stage.) The girls are fighting for real while dancing and acting. But they're not dedicated warriors, so naturally they won't look as good as the real thing. So a still cut wouldn't look real. It instead takes an old approach of constant camera actions and angle switch. It's an approach made popular in anime by Shingeki no Kyojin, and later on it is shown to have a bit of SnK influence in its animation. But it's not just that: the choreography for all the battles are great. (Man those Naginata play of Kaoruko.)
To complement all of those is the extravagant use of props. During daily live scenes where the room shouldn't change too much, the staff dared to constantly move all the items around it but the most key items, to constantly create a sense of change, of time actually progressing and there are human activities. While during battle scenes, we are treated to a sort of props changes that can be done, but hard to make authentic, in real life. Imaginative, metaphorical (yeah,) symbolic props that break the law of physics and underline the magical tone, the "shine" of a stage. It contributes greatly in making a powerful battle scene no one had expected when they first started watching this anime. A sort of battle scene that usually you get in shounen anime, instead.
In overall, there are constant movement to not only the animated characters and fluid battle locations, but also the seemingly silent and repetitive rooms of the daily lives of the girls. Such a constant movement requires constant (small, but constant) redrawing every episode.
Such simple yet tiresome decision adds a lot in the watching experience of the viewers, whether they realize it or not.
Sound (Voice Acting, SFX, BGM) : 9
To people who follow Japanese live action stage play, the names of maybe 3/4 of the seiyuus here are familiar. They are the real actresses who play the live action stage play. Some are Takarazuka Revue's veterans, others are aspiring talented actresses from various fields of entertainment. But, anime is anime, so I will talk strictly from that view:
1) Everybody can sing well (obviously.)
2) Everybody can act (also obviously.)
For a regular seasonal anime viewers like me, hearing some of these voices in anime actually feels new and refreshing. Although, I do need to point out of the clear difference I noticed that bugged me earlier in the season, between an actress from a different field who goes into anime, and a regular established seiyuu. In stage acting, the actress needs to have loud voice to make sure she is audible. But in return, she has her face expressions and body motions to help her make her acting feels convincing, or just the melody of her songs to help suck people into her singing. While in anime, no. The seiyuu only has her voice, but has to express as many as what a stage actress does. Motion, expression, are the jobs of the animators. As such, the seiyuu can only rely on how she imagines her character to look like when doing a scene, and as a result, the seiyuu always has to make sure that whatever comes out of the animation department, the acting remains convincing and engaging. This was a problem for me earlier on, as I clearly noticed how the way of reading some lines would have worked in a live action, but not in anime with the character's expression looking like that. As the season went on, I got used to it.
But now it's over, and I'm writing a review, so I need to point it out.
The SFX work of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is decent, and maybe that's the worst part of this anime (that isn't bad at all, actually.) The use of SFX itself is able to catch up to its heavy use of props and tools, especially during scenes that involve a stage. It does its supporting job very well, of helping to create the right vibe all the time. Although more often than not, it got drowned by the acting and the BGM. But I guess maybe that's the right way?
It probably is the right way. The BGM of Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight is.... a big spend. They use all(?) the songs in the album from live during battle scenes. It keeps every fight new and special.
While for non-vocal BGM, piano plays an important part most of the time. One thing that I notice is that every character have a specific tune that plays only during their penultimate moment of revelation. Although during other scenes, there are probably a total of... 12, maybe? BGM that they keep playing all the time. While I personally see it as a part of the depiction, during my process of writing this review, I did find someone who thought of it as repetitive (especially bcs it's piano-heavy,) and so I thought that maybe there are other people who may think so. (Or maybe not. Who knows?)
No need to say much. My AOTS.
(I mean: I just wrote a freaking essay on this thing, backed by a little "field" study on the internet.)
If you ask for a tiny wish, then you shall gain a tiny bliss.
If you reach for a giant wish, then you may reap a great reward.
Feb 27, 2018
9 of 13 episodes seen
people found this review helpful
From the staff that were in charge of the No Game No Life project, comes a side project that is equally as entertaining.
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, from here on it will be adressed as UchuuYori, isn't... exactly special in terms of plot. We have 4 highschool girls trying to live a life, trying to have a fulfilling youth by going on an adventure with also a little bit extra drama cream in it. Sure, the destination is Antartica, but... that's it. Apart from the destination, it's just your usual good coming-of-age x slice-of-life story we've seen and read. Even its drama element aren't exactly
heavy. It's serious, but it's not the type to rub it over and over again.
Yet, 9 episodes in, a lot of people, including me, enjoy this one hell of a trip. To find out why, I decided that UchuuYori should be my very first review on MAL. So, here I go:
As I already mentioned, we have a 4 teenage girls, in a setup you will be very familiar with once you've watch enough slice-of-life anime:
- Kimari, your usual energetic, lively, full of expression, and a little bit stupid at times, main character.
- Shirase, that typical character that may look calm and collected to people who don't know her, but is actually very shy, very clumsy, can be a bit tunnel-visioned, but is also brave in facing the challenges that appear in front of her.
- Hinata, is high-spirited, positive, but is also calculated on her approach to every situation.
- Yuzuki, a serious and rather aloof person with lack of experience in peer grouping, but is often shown to be pretty naive once she drops that serious mask.
This setup isn't really something new at slice-of-life genre, but it's how UchuuYori plays around the depth of each of the characters, to draw out a conversation that can be filled with all kinds of emotions as the plot requires, is what is amazing.
Like, if the story wants to meld the tense by giving us some light comedy, then the characters will put on their funny mask and deliver a twist with the amount of comedy it wanted.
Meanwhile, when the story wants to go dramatic, be it slice-of-life lite, coming-of-age, or simply pure drama, the characters have enough dimension in them to allow the right vibe to come in a natural way.
One of the problem of a lot of anime (especially slice-of-life x drama) is that; Sure a certain character can have a tragic background that can be used to turn the story dramatic if the writer wants it, but there are times when it doesn't work because you, as a viewer, can't compare the difference: between when the plot demands the character to put in the mask she usually uses in her life there (and this include stuff like tsundere, dandere, kuudere, all of those troupes we are all very familiar with,) and when the plot... just requires her to be herself, requires her to tell us what is really inside her head.
UchuuYori manages to solve that big problem with an excellent group of characters supported with top class voicework. Thus, we can enjoy a good show.
Writing and Plot
The writing of this series, well, it's magnificent. An excellent balance of narrative and dialogue is the main showcase here.
A narrative that actually tells us what is inside the character's head, instead of the stuff we can see with our own eyes (the stuff that should be told via the pictures and animation.)
The sort of thing you expect from an anime designed as a best-seller.
Something that, if you just look at how rough the character visual design are at first, and how they actually changed title a few week before airing (lol), you can tell that this anime wasn't meant to be.
As for plot.... plot is okay.
Each episode have potential. Each episode are decently-built, and thus each episode do hit pretty well. Thus at first sight you won't notice the effect a 13 episodes x 22 minutes time-limit has on the plot. But if you've just watch each episode again, you would be amazed in how UchuuYori can still deliver such a powerful mix of emotions in each episode with all the amount of bits about Antartica (and, later on, bits of characterization for the supporting cast and side cast) it has to tell. A lot of the parts are cut. A lot of the parts aren't shown, and we, as viewers, whether we realize it or not, have to use a lot of our assumptions in. Assumptions that are meant to fill in the holes (instead of the supposed "making us unaware thus when the twist comes, the emotion hits.")
Which, brings me to another praise on its writing: of how charming the story-telling and characters of UchuuYori are, that it manages to make us assume a lot without making us think that it's actually bad writing.
is surprisingly decent. The character visual design seemed rough at first, but as the season goes, the animation proves to be fluid enough to be enjoyable.
The 3DCG is also great.
and oh yes, a lot of people don't realize this, I'm sure, but the background is sublime.
I already said it previously: top-class voicework, from best-in-the-business voice actresses (and actors.) Especially the main 4 (Minase Inori, Hanazawa Kana, Iguchi Yuka, and Hayami Saori.)
As for BGM and OST... there's one song that got repeated too often. (The saya (was it hers?) insert song from episode 1, 3, 7, 9.) Other than that it's great. BGM works mostly well. OP song okay. ED song (while isn't special as a song,) has done an excellent job in closing out every episode, so far.
My AoTS <3
Overall: I always rate anime purely from my enjoyment.
(Who cares the technical stuff if you love it, heh?)