Revue Starlight – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Childhood friends Karen and Hikari promised that they would one day become the next theatrical stars. Years later, the two finally have their chance during a mysterious audition, but they are not the only ones who have trained for this moment. (Official HIDIVE Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Revue Starlight starts off like any other idol/showbiz anime. We’re introduced to our heroine, Karen, pegged as the happy go lucky talented type who, despite her dreams, cannot wake up on time without the help of her roommate. From there we move onto Karen’s daily school life, meeting her classmates and getting a feel for the setting. We even have a transfer student joining the cast, an anime staple. It all seems well and good as any other run of the mill idol centric tale…until the last ten-ish minutes of the episode when suddenly the show turns completely strange. Not only do we learn of the existence of an absurdly large underground theater-like structure where the girls battle it out to earn their place as onstage stars, but Karen is joined by a talking giraffe calmly conversing with her like this is all business as usual. The episode ends without dismissing any of it as a dream, which leads me to believe that this show might be a very bizarre mix of realistic and fantastical elements.
Tom: The show really does a 180, shifting completely away from a low energy, borderline boring first seventeen minutes before we’re thrust into an altogether wildly different presentation. The first seventeen minutes really are your standard idol/school fare. We meet too many girls to keep track of, each with their singular trait meant to make them memorable, but instead give the impression of a one note cast instead. What precedes the insanity is mundane, dull, and without true wit. It’s only when the episode does that insane shift into a far more abnormal setting that the show delivers on personality, not only through its writing but thanks to a sudden shift in direction, animation quality, and stylish music that brings the whole thing to life. The energy improves so dramatically you almost feel like you switched anime mid-watch.
Linny: Episode 1 focuses primarily on Karen Aijou, the story of her everyday life and her fateful reunion with Hikari, her childhood friend she promised to become a star alongside. Being an ensemble cast as most idol anime are, there are potentially other girls to round things out, but true to form, most suffer a one note personality, something that could be excused by having to fit so many into a single episode but undeniably falling into the traps and cliches of the genre. It doesn’t help that the other lead girl, transfer student and Karen’s childhood friend, Hikari Kagura has a lot of design similarities with Mahiru Tsuyuzaki, Karen’s roommate. A plot point touched on in the first ten minutes sees Karen and her unnamed childhood friend absolutely enthralled by a stage performance. Later, as Karen gets ready for school we get a brief glimpse of a photo, directly reference this brief sequence. But the glimpse is so brief it can be easy to confuse Mahiru as Karen’s childhood friend and cause you to become caught off guard when the show introduces Hikari instead. Confusion is cast aside quickly though as the girls’ opposing personalities come to light and make it clear and easy to differentiate them, with Mahiru being the caring yet panicky friend, while Hikari is the cold, mysterious girl with deep emotional heartache. Hopefully, as the show progresses, the other girls will get expanded upon and feel more like full fledged characters rather than archetypes pulled in to fill out the idol cast check list.
Tom: Karen and Hikari’s reunion, and Hikari’s emotional distance, make up the bulk of the premiere’s back half. The connection between the two feels weak and distant however, never offering enough depth to either girl’s persona, and their childhood promise, to make it feel all that engaging and compelling. Not that the show needs to give all the answers upfront, but Hikari’s emotionally distant nature is so without definition that its hard to identify with her, or Karen, who feels too much like the classic “goody goody inspiring/catalyst lead” who will not change over the course of the series, but rather inspire others to do so instead. That lead type can work, but it requires an ensemble/supporting cast far stronger than what is presented here.
Linny: Revue Starlight has a pre-existing fan base thanks to being a multimedia franchise, expanding from a stage musical last year into a manga and now an anime, and thus the chances are if you like those pre-existing materials, you already love this show too. If you’re new to the franchise like us, it may be a harder sell especially if you are averse to idol anime already. While the latter part of the show morphs into some sort of fevered dream, that alone doesn’t do enough to free the episode from feeling like a generic tale with some last minute chaos thrown in for ‘pizazz’. Yes, it makes you go sit up and take notice but it may not be enough to suck in a jaded or idol averse crowd.
Tom: There’s a lot of buzz for the transformation Revue undergoes in those last 8 or so minutes, coupled with deep appreciation for the music and vocal performances as each girl is voiced by cast members from the original stage production. The transformation really is a sight to be hold, catapulting the show in a new, far more engaging and visually stunning direction. Even the music, which we admittedly barely touched on in this review, is really quite impressive and once it takes true center stage during the episode’s climax, it helps to elevate the material to an even greater extent. But I worry that for all the surprise Revue offers in those last few minutes, it’s still really those first seventeen minutes that define the series proper. Revue Starlight is still a story about Karen and Hikari, but that childhood promise and both characters themselves feel hollow, or at the very least distant and underdeveloped. I worry that for all the spectacle to be had, the base story is still that weak and bland opening sequence that drags. If the writing was stronger earlier on, I too might be singing Revue Starlight praise, but for what it is, Revue Starlight is merely just ‘okay’ in my book, entirely lifted up by sheer spectacle.
Revue Starlight is available for streaming via HIDIVE.