I honestly have a hard time starting this post for a wide variety of reasons. The main reason is the niche fame and favoritism from on this series. For the more seasoned anime watches, do you remember a lot of anime from 2018? Do you remember what your absolute favorite anime from 2018 was? I’m not a stranger to niche favorites either because my favorite anime from 2018 was Planet With for a lot of reasons. For the same sorts of reasons, Revue Starlight was a favorite series for a decent amount of people that I follow online in different places. I didn’t want to come into their nice home with a hammer and smash everything unintentionally. But if we are going to do this, let’s do this. Not like they are going to read this blog post or others anyway.
Usual Spoiler Warning Alert. Unlike a lot of other series, Revue Starlight have a twist half way into its twelve-episode run that really recontextualizes a lot of what happens in the first half of the show. Very creative and ambitious series even though it feels like it’s characters on railroad tracks for their character arcs and such. Sometimes too fast Still, it was a decent experience over all with a lot of spectacle.
Revue Starlight centers it’s story at the legendary Seisho Music Academy. A well-regarded school for theater that has lasted for almost a century. Our main cast come from Seisho Academy’s 99th graduating class. Like last year, their play for this year is Starlight. A play based on an english book that they seek to improve every year. You know, by improving everything to the finest detail. The itself starts with our protagonist Karen Aijou sleepily woken up by her roommate Mahiru so she gets up early enough to do her morning duties before class starts. It starts for a normal school day at Seisho until Karen’s childhood friend who went to England for school named Hikari suddenly became a student.
Hikari’s appearance at Seisho Academy not only mixes up the 99th class’s usual flow, but also Karen’s. Suddenly, her attention span and work ethic become super charged. Karen also opens up the hidden world of Seisho Academy itself at night. Daytime, it’s the usual students getting an education with a focus on arts and performance. At night time, a secret dueling session calls auditions underneath the school run by a mystical and unexplainable giraffe. You know, because you can’t just have these auditions run by a normal person. Our protagonist Karen discovers it when following Hikari one day, sees she’s in trouble, and jumps in to save Hikari. This is the beginning of the vague reasons why these auditions are going on until the big reveal.
The audition fights are honestly the highlights of the show for me. It not only shows the animation and artistic muscles that Kinema Citrus put into Revue Starlight, but for the voice actresses too. Each voice actress sings while they are fighting so they are putting in a lot of work too. Each one of these combatants are two voice actresses having a song battle about who they are and why they are doing this as the stage constantly changes around them to evoke their emotions of the changing stakes of the battle. There is a lot of time spent on gears and joints of these stages changing too, so there is a lot of mechanical movements. Add the extra expressiveness of their moe character designs here too and you get a large majority of why you should watch Revue Starlight. It’s honestly a very big spectacle show with good visual metaphor. Like how Tokyo Tower represents Hikari and Karen’s relationship for instance. The show is filled with that good sort of material.
I don’t usually talk about visual stuff before just giving an outright score usually, right? I can’t help but change up my usual sort of formula this time because I don’t think this show is that great with its characters really. That and the art during their fight has something to do with the characters too which only works because of how the characters are treated Why? Because I think there are too many for this show’s own good. The first half of the series involves exploring these characters a tiny bit during the daylight. You set up motivations in terms of setting up characters and then having their arc partially resolved for these characters to aim for the top spot in the play and the auditions. The vague reason for why auditions happen came when the show drops in the second half.
Let’s talk about some characters arcs, shall we? The most important one is obviously between Hikari and Karen, right? Hikari keeping Karen at a distance until an important moment where they decide to work together in taking on the auditions? This relationship is the heart and soul of Revue Starlight. It’s also contrasted by the top stars Maya Tendou and Claudine Saijo who had to make sacrifices in order to become the top star in the Auditions and Seisho Academy. So you have this balance of love vs ambition that is being played around with here. There is also Nana Daiba who steps down from acting so she work behind the scenes. Nana plays an important role in the second half too, but I am not going to give away what. So that’s all fun stuff, right?
Then you have the many, many characters and subplots which unfocused a lot of the first half and ends with them watching the final battle happening anyway instead of participating. For instance, Hikari moved into Karen and Mahiru’s room, right? Mahiru has a crush on Karen so the love triangle situation got resolved after lasting in an episode. We also see the many sides of play writing and ambition in the first half too. There is the arc and duel between Futuba who was always Kaoruko’s understudy working hard and surpassing Kaoruko who just expects Futaba to give her the leading role that Futaba worked hard for. We do see Kaoruko constantly in a bathtub in the first half so we know she’s lazy, but this arc gets solved in one fight during a singular episode. Kaoruko is going to work harder now. Maybe. We don’t know for sure because she’s not that much focus on afterward so we don’t see a pay off. It’s that sort of clunkiness that weights Revue Starlight done for me. Good stuff presented badly or handled poorly.
In the end, I think Revue Starlight is an anime that would easily get a B from me. So basically, that’s a good. I feel like a lot of the audition action scenes involving singing and fighting really lifts up a lot of the very questionable sort of character writing. The problem is all of that can only lift up the show so far. Still, it is all lift far enough for me to at least to recommend watching. It feels pretty bad to say “hey, the fight scenes are pretty great. You should watch this show for that”, but that’s honestly how I feel about Revue Starlight. For the most part except here and there when the connections between characters feels real. Plus, Revue Starlight really is a unique anime you don’t see that often. Maybe that uniqueness is what brought people to favoriting Revue Starlight. I feel sad in that I can’t join in that party.
I’m not familiar with that anime series. It did sound creative, but it sounds like the aim didn’t always hit the target. I’ve had similar feelings about so many shows and movies when I thought it was just okay and not the all out masterpiece people make it out to be. A theater based anime could be really fun and I’m not just talking about the parts in the Sakura Wars series where the girls are putting on plays when they aren’t piloting robots.
The metaphor about coming into people’s houses to smash everything is certainly an apt one. I totally get the courtesy of doing so even if I disagree with someone. There were times where I did get close to metaphorically smashing things when I read reviews of a certain movie franchise a few months ago (you can guess what it is and you’d be right), but I really have to hold back.
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Yes, theater anime can be a lot of fun. I keep thinking about Princess Tutu and how it did ballet and each of it’s set pieces felt like a stage. But yeah, this one felt empty for some reason. Maybe I’ve seen too many anime…
Yeah, I know how that feels too. I’ve had to keep my mouth shut when it came to people liking a lot of things that I don’t a lot recently because I am not completely sure I can hold myself back.
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Sure sounds like it. I haven’t seen Princess Tutu, but I do know that it has ballet and theatrical elements to it. I’ve had similar feelings about watching too much anime.
I’m glad you’ve felt the same way. There are times where I will comment and say reasons why I may not like something as much or why I like something in a civil way and I’ve had good discourse with people with some of those conversations. If it’s more a more problematic work, then I have to hold back a lot more. I’ve also wondered if some of my opinions are too contrarian with my reviews.
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