I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one to like idol shows. When I think of idol shows, I think of an overblown cast of generic so called cute girls whose lazy character designs all look practically identical and whose inexperienced voice actresses all sound similar and fake. I think of a show completely devoid of heart, passion, or anything to remember it by outside of the thousands of dollars worth of figurines, wall scrolls, and body pillows which accompany each girl. When I found out Radical☆Girl Revue Starlight was going to be an idol show after watching the first promotional video, I was immediately disappointed on concept, but eventually impressed on execution. It quickly became apparent to me I had been narrow minded; this anime was about to show me just how innovative, refreshing, exciting, and inspired an idol show can be when done well.
So let’s go through and correct my jaded misjudgments, shall we?
When I say idol shows are overblown with mishandled casts of vapid and poorly voiced characters, this show says, "Non, non!” Karen, Hikari, Mahiru, Junna, Nana, Futaba, Kaoruko, Maya, and Claudine. All nine principle characters left enough of an impression on me such that I actually remember their names and faces which says a hell of lot coming from me, and their voice actresses did nothing but further their individuality in my mind. Mahiru, the timid one, is voiced by a women with an unimposing voice but who has the skill to sound stoic when things need to get serious, and Maya, the proud one, is voiced by a women with a strong and demanding voice but who has the skill to sound coy when things calm down. I don’t want to waste your time continuing with examples, so please trust me when I say all the voice actresses are just as capable women who most certainly aren’t getting paid enough. And, hell, even if they weren’t so competent, the script would more than make up for it. With a one cour show which needs to get through at least nine whole character arcs, the writers waste no time at all. School life scenes are never plot relevant, allowing you to pick up on the characterization naturally and learn about these girls with your own two eyes, so the scenes on stage which are plot relevant get to skip the forced inner monologues and let you judge the characters’ actions and dialogues amongst each other instead of their long-winded thoughts. And lets not skip over and take a second to appreciate the fact the stage scenes are not only more than mere fanservice and meta-narrative advertising, but the single vehicle for storytelling in this show of true innovative genius. Even when they finally use a (single) expository character monologue off the stage, it turns out to be one of the most heartfelt moments in the entire show which flushes out the character with the most in depth and quite frankly shocking backstory in the whole cast.
When I say idol shows have lazy character designs, boring art, and are, generally speaking, poorly produced, this show says, “Non, non!” Remember those stage scenes I just mentioned? This show isn’t about to give you the same old ugly CG dances with minimal choreography, cookie cutter identical designs, and corny lyrics. No, no. Radical☆Girl Revue Starlight boasts a production value and structure which can compete with the biggest studios you know outside of Kyoto Animation or Production IG which delivers on stunning stage performances of battle, song, dance, poetry, and heavy symbolism for each girl with their own personalized dresses, suits, cape jackets, medallions, and weaponry almost every single episode. No CG, no shortcuts, nothing. It’s a truly elegant show I would honestly recommend to anyone, if only to get them to watch these often breathtaking performances. On top of the animation, costume design, and choreography, each girl gets to participate in a fully produced, sung, and lyrically written stage revue which was personally made for them and their partner specifically, and THAT is already on top of the magnificent orchestral OST playing over the entire show, whether it be a stage scene or not. The amount of effort here is genuinely humbling to witness, and while the consistency isn't flawless enough to be considered a true masterpiece of animation, the lows still top any idol show to date and the highs, again, are absolutely lionhearted.
When I say idol shows are uninspired and trite, this show says, “Non, non!” You can (and I have) spent hours upon hours rewatching and analyzing the stage shows and revues for all their hidden meanings you’ll most certainly find. Every character is obviously one whose been conceptualized in a multilayered, human fashion I described in the previous paragraph. Now I’ll have to be vague here to avoid spoilers, but for a show with almost as many principle characters as episodes in the show, they somehow managed to deliver finalized and wholly conclusive character arcs for each of them. Some weren’t given as much gravity and depth as others, but every character is in some way changed by the time the curtains closed. Speaking of progression, the director, like the voice actresses, is certainly not getting paid enough. The direction of this show kind of reminded me of Kunihiko Ikuhara, the director of Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, and Yuri Kuma Arashi, except if it was actually watchable. Like, you can really see the symbolic nature of it all, without the director having to shove it down your throat during every second of screen time making the viewing more like an investigation than entertainment.
Call me petty, but I almost fely obligated to hate this show. Having initially thought it was going to be an original magical girl show for some misconception I still don't understand how I came about, I was such a presumptuous little bitch about it when I learned it was going to be an idol show instead. “Oh, whelp, there goes all that potential!” I should’ve filmed my dumb old face watching the first few episodes when the pure elegance and beauty of the revues lit my jaded heart up and proved to me any genre, no matter how terminally heinous, could whip out a wonder the second I let my guard down.
Thank you for reading.