Dec 6, 2017
Chinomi-san (All reviews)
Ah, just skimming through the screenshots of this anime gives you the nostalgia surrounding that age-old dream and idea: if you believe in yourself and work hard enough, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. If you’re not too old to root along for a small band raising to the roof, “Kaikan Phrase” might be up your alley.

I can’t quite remember why I put this on my list. I think it was recommended to me by someone when I mentioned I hadn’t watched much music anime. Truth be told, if you notice the aesthetics, it’s not much to look at. The anime was aired in the late 90s but the quality was terrible to stream wherever I checked. You’d have thought it was even older. So if you’re someone who would be irritated by that, you might want to be wary of this, because even later they start putting English subs over the Chinese subbed version and the audio quality is taken from VHS, etc.

If you’re here for the right reason, though, which is to listen to some music put around a plot, you might be around for a treat. To be honest, the music is better than the plot hands down, but the story wasn’t something that made me tear my hair out (at least not all the time). I enjoy watching characters become better people, improving themselves and then making the most of their dreams. I can’t speak as if I were in a band, but I imagine that these conflicts do happen day-to-day in the music industry.

It was a little too convenient to see four of the members come together in the first episode or so, but Sakuya the vocalist seemed to be impossible. I pretty much hated his character for being so difficult and stubborn in the beginning. He was the typical brooding male that wanted to do things his way and had a hard time showing his feelings. He was good at giving insults and seemed to care only for himself. But I guess that’s how musicians can be sometimes. But I do remember them taking quite a while to recruit him just because of his attitude.

Once things got going, though, of course I expected everything to go smoothly. The music industry is harsh, and unless their band Lucifer stood out, not just with their looks, but also with their skills, talent, and emotional music, they would stay unknown. They fought through haters, rivals, jealousy, and the hardship of teamwork. I can’t say that the conflicts they went through as a band were cliche… I mean, what else is there? You’d expect for there to be competition among bands, jealousy between bandmates, differences in opinion for stuff like musical arrangements and lyrics, etc. They were resolved within a good amount of time and without too much fuss.

What I complain about most, though, are the other cliches. If you missed it in the info, this is also a shoujo anime. Unfortunately, it’s subject to those shoujo stereotypes. You can guess who in this show has a relationship with the high school lyricist they pick up. They say cheesy things to each other once the ship is canon, and the problems they face do threaten to tear them apart as they try to keep their relationship hidden from the public. There wasn’t enough to make me drop the series, though. The shoujo cliches mixed with the band plot can be a little bit entertaining, though.

Of course, it’s only natural to have every band member have a different hair color so viewers tell them apart; it’s a classic anime strategy. Nevertheless, that also helps differentiate their personalities as well. The leader of the band is the laid-back and calm Yuki, whose hair is long, smooth, and dark purple. The drummer Santa has a shock of chestnut hair that imitates his quick temper but powerful beat on the drums. The bass guitarist Towa has long golden locks, perfect for his nonchalant personality that is still bent on arranging the perfect music. Atsuro is originally a brunet but dies his hair a surprising magenta later in the series. He’s an avid guitarist that makes mistakes occasionally but definitely has skill. And Sakuya, with the most normal hairstyle, speaks volumes with his voice and bright blue eyes.

They’re a fun bunch, I have to admit. The only time I was annoyed with them was when they were trying so hard to recruit Sakuya, and he was being a big butt about not joining and insulting them all the way. Once he gave in and joined to make the best music, though, they were quite a team. Of course they experience their ups and downs—Santa and Sakuya’s personalities clashed all the time, Atsuro was really downhearted when he messed up, etc.

People might have complaints about Aine, though, the lyricist that shows up later. She seems like a typical shoujo protagonist to me, always trying to do the right thing and feeling completely crestfallen when things don’t go as planned. I think she’s probably better in the anime than the manga, though, based on what I’ve heard from other people, but viewers can see that later.

I don’t think I can comment much on the animation and artwork since the quality is so terrible. I can only hope that when it aired, it was much better than what I watched. I can complain, though, about their stances when they performed. Most of you are probably familiar with moments when guitarists get into the music and throw their heads back, etc. Unfortunately, for the first few performances, the band members don’t have any different poses. Sakuya throws his body around awkwardly, Yuki tosses his hair the same way, Atsuro holds his guitar at a weird angle, and other things like that. I don’t play any of those instruments, but as a musician myself I do know there’s more to performing than what this anime shows. Later on there is more to see, but I remember feeling disappointed with how they started out. I might chalk it up to beginners’ shows, though.

The band members are popular not only for their music, but also for being handsome, and I do admit that they are. Aside from their longish limbs and thin torsos, they can be pretty attractive. Towa’s hair is so distractingly flowing and shiny, and Sakuya always carries that aura of effortless coolness. I can only imagine that this anime looked really good when it came out.

I really did love the OPs and EDs, and I think it’s rare for a viewer to like everything they hear. What’s interesting about this anime is that the producers actually hired a real band to perform these songs and “become” Lucifer to give the show a little bit more realism. The real band played for a little bit after the anime ended and disbanded later, but I still think it’s impressive they thought so much to put this together. Japanese rock from the 90s is still cool.

Furthermore, it’s good that the songs that the band composes and performs are so great. The driving point of the plot is Lucifer’s rise to fame through talent and cooperation in the band. It would be inexcusable to have them make terrible music. All their pieces except one feature Sakuya as the vocalist, and while I wouldn’t say his voice is as phenomenal as the other characters make it out to be, his mellow tone and ability to meld with the band’s flexible style (not just rock, but also some slower ballads) is just as important as the tunes themselves. I don’t play the guitar or drums, so I can’t comment too much on the sound with more knowledgeable critique, but a good majority of the time my ears liked it. I think one piece was in a weird key, but all of them were head-jamming and seemed pretty cohesive.

The soundtrack isn’t bad, either. There’s a little piano tune they keep playing during emotional moments that I liked from the start. It was from a piano piece that Sakuya performed and sang in at a private club, a pretty and wistful melody that rang a chord in all its listeners. Other pieces were not as memorable, but just as fitting for the anime.

Hmmm, I can’t say that I would love this anime enough to read the manga, but that’s mostly because I heard it focuses a lot on Sakuya and Aine’s relationship and excessive smut. For the love of humanity, DO NOT PICK UP THE MANGA if you cannot tolerate sex and rape. The anime takes almost a whole new take on the manga entirely, being more about the music. There’s also the fact that since it’s manga, it won’t be accompanied with music, so I’ll have to imagine it in my head. Furthermore, it hasn’t exactly been very binge-worthy for me until the end.

All in all, it’s not a bad anime to watch, but it’s nothing I’d sing praises about, either. It well builds the ambience of a small-town band making its dreams come true, but it can be pretty cheesy about it and doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of music production. Perhaps in its day, it WAS the newest thing around, though. I have a feeling it was popular in its release. It’s a pleasant memory to watch, though, and I rather like seeing the band become better friends as they grew.