Ensemble Stars! – Anime Preview
Synopsis: At Yumenosaki Private Academy, the next generation of male pop idols are working hard to win your heart. But at this intensely competitive school, the pressure and competition are taking its toll on the students as they fight to be the best—and the boys of Trickstar are ready to make a change! Can Subaru, Hokuto, and Makoto struggle against the odds to make their dream a reality? (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Ensemble Stars! makes it extremely obvious that our female ‘protagonist’ is nothing more than a self insert fantasy character as not only does she have very limited lines of dialogue but the guys in the show address the camera more often than her. Then there’s the fact that she is the FIRST AND ONLY female student in this all boys school filled with hunky, potential idol candidates. And to make it all the more painfully contrived and convenient, despite being admitted into the school for the ‘producer programme’, the school doesn’t even have a separate class or course for her! Instead she has to attend the idol classes that are brimming with boys. Not only that, despite knowing her for less than one day, the boys of Trickstar happily and completely decide that she is fated to be their leader for no other reason than that they ‘feel’ it and ‘hope’ it.
Tom: If it’s not clear by Linny’s comments on the ‘female lead,’ Ensemble Stars! is another low-effort adaptation of a Gacha Mobile game of the same name. While other adaptations at least work to try and hide their origins through expanding on whatever the game’s story was, Ensemble Stars! keeps things bare bones. From the lead girl who’s a self-insert with barely any dialogue, to a lengthy explanation of the B-SS Ranking System (likely dug up straight from the game’s rarity character rankings) the whole thing smells like a cash grab/promotional reel to suck in new fans. It follows the stereotypical pattern so many of these games adhere to, throwing a plethora of the game’s characters at you, far too many for any new fans to remember, perhaps speaking to the series’ intentions as existing more so for the die-hard player base.
Linny: The male cast members are all very perky and intense, each given a defining quirk to make it easy for the audience to find someone to latch onto such as the energetic and money loving idiot, or the awkward and bespectacled straight man, etc. Most of the guys introduced so far are very friendly and outgoing, something that feels tailor-made to cater to the fantasy of having a harem of idol boys and making the viewer want to get the game so they can have their own personal harem of cards..I mean idol guys. Fans of music/idol shows will also probably recognize the staples of idol show characters in Ensemble Stars cast, further cementing the fact that this show has an extremely specific target demographic.
Tom: If you’re going into Ensemble Stars! hoping for a traditional music-based drama, this isn’t it. If you want something that’s more like a game, with an absurd/gamey premise and an overabundance of characters then this is your ticket. Overall though Ensemble Stars! feels like yet another bottom of the barrel gacha game adaptation. These need not be terrible, Kantai Collection acting as a good example, but unfortunately game adaptations of that quality seem increasing few and far between.
Linny: As idol shows go, Ensemble Stars! manages to make itself stand out solely through its mobile game roots aka having its idols have literal physical battles where the competitors are allowed to punch and kick each other while performing and singing. Also, it takes the showdowns very seriously, injecting some extremely heavy music when the contestants are talking smack to each other. But it’s also the very reason it’s bound to fail because it already shows a lot of the hollow marks of being a gacha game, with predictable character types. Even though it reveals a dark twist towards the end, the characters are so hopeful and perky that it’s unlikely the show will manage to truly shake off the confines of being little more than marketing for an established game.
Ensemble Stars! is available for streaming via Funimation.com