Sep 27, 2018
Stark700 (All reviews)
There are so many ideas spawning in anime making these days that sometimes, you wonder if there’s enough. Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight originally gave me the impression of an idol series with musical themes with its promotional material. I’m not going to lie, idol series these days have become very redundant in terms of context. With some exceptions such as Love Live, the majority of anime musicals haven’t impressed me in recent years. Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight soon made its presence for Summer 2018. To my pleasant surprise, it became a showstopper that exceeded my expectations and also left me with an appetite of wanting for more.

Right off the bat, I should mention that the series can be deceptive looking at first glance. You wouldn’t be wrong if you’re getting flashbacks from series like Love Live with the all-star female cast and pretty outfits. Still, this show manages to build a story with its cast and being able to hook me from the start. Featuring a group of nine girls, the story tells about these characters competing in stage plays. Not everything gets too far underway though as the first episode had a more lighthearted slice of life mood with character rehearsing for a theatrical play. Soon, the show surprises us with "Revue Starlight", an underground audition program orchestrated by a mysterious talking giraffe. We are also introduced to some of the main characters such as Karen and Hikari. The series makes it clear that they made a promise to each other but fate unites them at the same school. Make no mistake. Seisho Music Academy is more than just about learning the concepts of stage of performance. It’s about making superstars.

There are several selling points in the show that I think are important. The plot itself isn’t too complex but it’s the characters that really create a sensation. Every character establishes themselves throughout the show so it’s not just Karen and Hikari carrying the story. This is important as certain characters aren’t left in the dust and we get to see what others can really do. For instance, there is one episode that focuses on Mahiru, another that showcases what Futaba and Kaoruko’s talents, and even an episode that’s named after the character, Nana. To be clear, Hikari and Karen still get their prominent moments as we see many of their moments together. The most important one revolves around their promise together when they were just kids. By presenting these flashbacks often, it make us want to see how much they can accomplish together. Indeed, the series has the purpose of making this troupe of girls into stage stars. The way characters reaffirms their intention is also noticable through their innate dialogues and narratives.

The more I watched this anime, the more I also felt attached to the character relationships. I’m not just talking about character chemistry but how characters behave on stage and in real life. There’s an abundance of moments between the cast that are worth noting. It sometimes creates a sensation of subtle yuri while other times evoke human feelings and amplifying character personalities. This is mostly characterized by rivalries that are established throughout the show. Maya and Claudine is an example who competes for the #1 spot. Mahiru also has her own personal rivalry with Hikari due to her admiration for Karen. The centerpiece relationship deals with Hikari and Karen at how much they have changed. In some of the climatic episodes, we get to see how much they have improved as kids while revisiting their childhood moments. It’s a principle used for this show that is devastatingly effective. Because let’s face it, the series takes good care of its characters without holding them back. I’ll get to the actual theatric performances later on but some of the characters' inner thoughts speak so much about them.

You’re definitely on the right track if the series gives you an impression of the anime being a bit too gimmicky at times. Combining elements of music, dance, combat, art, theater, and stage performing feels like the show oversells itself at times. However, I want to also mention that it is able to capitalize on its concepts to make it as creative as it can be. It sells its stage performances like a form of art. There’s also psychology with a deep dive into characters’ motivations in the show. We don’t often see musical series like this too often as it’s about a group or individuals just competing against each other. What I think Starlight got right is how much it can make the audience feel attached to its characters. No one is really left in the dust at the end and every character is memorable. The story gets more and more complex but it just made me love it more. If you fancy some slice of life moments outside of the stage, there’s that too.

There’s also one other main selling point of the show and that’s the visuals. To me, it’s like a work of art. The stage performances and theatric character moves is incredibly dynamic even from the very first episode. Director Tomohiro Furukawa should be given praise given the amount of creativity he poured into this work. It reminded me a bit of Mawaru Pengindrum (I mean, that talking giraffe is about as surreal as it can get) at times while also making sure the show didn’t lose its focus. On stage, the characters draw their emotions from their colorful dialogues, theatrical dancing, and human expressions. The unique design of the character costumes are also distinctive with the red fiery capes and uniforms. Every girl in the show also wields a unique weapon as part of their stage combat that includes rapier, cutlass, sword, scepter, bow and arrow, twin katanas, scythe, naginata, and daggers. It brings variety to their stage performances and sets the bar for entertainment.

And stage performances can’t be complete with the music. Everything feels so smooth and synchronized as I watched and more of those performances. The music plays in union with the performances that never loses its momentum. The emotional quality of the soundtrack is definitely outstanding with its style. I should also mention that there is a variety of theme song performances from talented artists and all of them left me in awe.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight sets the gold standard for a show being able to make an identity of itself. From the stage performances to its valuable character cast, every episode made me carve for more. It has a pacing that perfectly worked well for this anime while also having moments of lighthearted slice of life and comedy. It’s a show that may not be able to attract a general audience so it's not easily recommendable for anyone. It's an underrated gem that may have slipped under the radar but definitely one worth talking about.