While perusing my preferred anime download site one spring morn, I stumbled on an odd sounding series called Lemon Angel Project. I scoffed at the title and decided to click the link and read the synopsis just for the sake of a cheap laugh. And just like that, on a whim, I subjected myself to Lemon Angel Project, possibly a hidden gem that got lost in the unforgiving trends of the anime season.
Before I rip it to shreds, I’ll just get it out in the open that I liked LAP despite its shortcomings, of which there are many. It’s a short feel-good series that’s hard to dislike, with heartwarming moments and catchy J-Pop tunes abound.
With that said…
There are many good reasons why this was likely forgotten by everyone, and most likely doesn’t deserve a high place on anybody’s To Watch list. It’s a show that lacks subtlety and finesse, barreling straight on into a clunky mess of a story without any warning. Aesthetically, the animation isn’t great. It was a series from 2006, but even by those standards it doesn’t look like a fresh face.
It isn’t terrible, but the appearance is just so mundane that it’s hard to keep watching for the aesthetics alone. With the animation and art style alike denounced as mundane, it’d better have a story to make up for the lackluster visuals. After all, Welcome to the NHK didn’t look too good and that’s a classic in my books. [C] is looking hilariously off model most times, but it’s too interesting just to be held up by that.
Fortunately, there is a story in there. It’s just so predictable and obvious that the show almost doesn’t win points for it. The synopsis is essentially as follows: Tomo, oddly enough the only girl with an odd hair color in the universe aside from the foreign girl (Who’s made painfully obvious is foreign, but more on that later), witnessed the disappearance of her favorite pop supergroup, Lemon Angel, over a year before the current time.
She learns that the former leader, the elusive and aloof Miki, attends her high school and so begins to stalk her.
What begin as time honored Shoujou-Ai clichés quickly and thankfully change to Tomo stumbling on the dark secret of Lemon Angel and auditioning for the revival group. Along the way, she becomes more confident, makes friends, deals with her and her friends’ pasts and yadda yadda yadda. This has all been done before, and done better in Mahou Shoujo shows.
To be perfectly fair though, the drama is quite effective in some places; the tsundere being humbled by an old lady being a prime example.
Despite the occasional gold specks in the depressing dank of the story, these alone don’t save it. There isn’t a single challenging thought or deed, which I think has been done to attract and keep as many viewers as possible. However, it’s easy to see just how this managed to become such an obscure flop with such an approach.
Okay, so the story’s a big piece of shit, but what about the characters? Surely they can hold a show on their own if they have interesting enough personalities or backgrounds. Well, hypothetical inquisitive person who I always seem to quote, that would be the case. And to give the show even more credit, one or two of the characters are a little compelling. Too bad it’s balanced by just as many flat, offensive, and just plain hyperbolic characters.
For every girl in a modeling agency who wants to break free from her restraining, greedy, corrupt boss, you get two girls whose only collective goal in life are to be members of Lemon Angel. Also a gay guy who makes Liberace look like a ladies man.
For every two of those, you get a villain whose only reason for existing is to make the main characters miserable just for the sake of being evil. C’mon, this is a show about five girls and their rise to fame as part of a citrus fruit/seraphim themed phenomenon. For hell’s sake, Heartcatch Precure does better characterization with their villains. I mean Kumojacky at least becomes a little less smug over time.
Lemon Angel Project has little characterization, especially with the antagonists. They stay bad throughout the episodes that they feature in, and have no chance to redeem themselves. If their actions weren’t so cartoonishly villainous, they’d be marginally less boring than the color beige.
Speaking of color, the focus on the foreign girl Erika Campbell and just how foreign she is doesn’t make for a very compelling plot. Then again, I’m just irritated that I never found out what her nationality really is. They say she came from South America, but being ethnically ambiguous, that would still lead to confusion over the last name Campbell, a distinctly un-Spanish/Portuguese last name. She also looks and acts similarly to Kaolla from Love Hina, so that only complicates matters more.
However, where the characterization, overall plot, and animation fail, individual elements of the plot come to the rescue. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that despite the lack of a compelling overarching narrative, the plot itself isn’t bad. I retract what I said earlier. The small elements, like Erika learning the truth behind her brother’s past and the entire train station episode, are done pretty well and with enough conviction to make me forget the lame… everything else.
Since I seem to be running out of steam, there are just a few more points I’d like to make, and gripes I’d like to complain about.
There are a few minor problems that I had watching it, in addition to the larger ones. These weren’t enough to really make my experience unpleasant, but they sure didn’t help LAP’s case at all.
First, the main character’s voice is annoying through most of LAP, even when singing. I don’t know any kinder way to put that. Some people just don’t like it, but I found it mildly grating after a little while. Imagine Ahiru’s voice from Princess Tutu, except cracking while yelling into a wind tunnel. Now you can imagine how unbearable Tomo’s voice really is at times.
Finally, the entirety of LAP was punctuated with thunderstorms to frame a dramatic moment. I can’t tell you just how unfortunate it was that every single evening and nighttime moment was accompanied by an intense rain and thunderstorm. The last episode had a particularly hilarious example where thunder would sound whenever any two characters argued. I counted four different storms, all brought on by internal strife.
To summarize my first point again, Lemon Angel Project isn’t bad. It isn’t particularly imaginative or good, but you could do far worse in the coming summer months.