Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 10th 2013
Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 2000%
1 - 13 Streaming
Having graduated from Saotome Academy, to say nothing of having debuted as the successful pop idol group STARISH, Haruka Nanami and her potential love interests have all enrolled in a special post-grad Master Course, basically the equivalent of an associate's degree in being an idol. Shining Saotome, the eccentric principal of Saotome Academy and this graduate course, insists that they all push themselves to reach their fullest idol potential...while remembering not to fall in love. Each member of STARISH is paired with an entertainment sempai and thus begin their journey while trying to hide their feelings for Haruka, even when Prince Cecil is thrown into the mix. But the boys may soon find themselves fighting for more than Haruka's heart when they are chosen for the prestigious UtaPri Award. Now they must duke it out in a pop star battle against dazzling trio HEAVENS for the title of Princes of Song...and the losers will have to disband!
The grades that this show gets do not necessarily indicate how enjoyable it is. Looked at objectively, Uta no Prince-Sama Maji Love 2000%, sequel to Uta no Prince-Sama Maji Love 1000%, isn't really anything to write home about. Simply put it is just another reverse harem show which contrives to get one normal girl in a living situation with as many hot guys as possible so that at least one of them can fall in love with her. The gimmick here is that they are all aspiring idol singers, so each episode contains at least one song with mildly embarrassing lyrics. Sounds fairly basic, right? Where UtaPri2 shines, however, is in its ability to make you laugh or smile with each episode, whether from genuine enjoyment or just a sense of disbelief that you are actually watching it. It is schlocky. It is corny, cheesy, and schmaltzy. But it is also is a pretty good time.
This second season of the otome game adaptation takes place some unspecified time after the first, after Haruka and her admirers have all graduated from Saotome Academy. Now they are enrolled in Shining Saotome's Master Course, which appears to be some sort of Associate's Degree in Idoling. Now they all live together in the luscious Master Course dorms in rooms that any college student would cheerfully kill to have. All of them seek to hone their skills, and the show gives an episode to most of the males as they take on roles in dramas, model, or do other idol things. For the boys of STARISH, though, the major goal is to win the Uta Pri award and become top idols. To this end they are divided up amonst the four “sempai idols” of Quartet Night, an established group of handsome young singers who really don't get enough development as characters, although the last few episodes attempt to rectify this. Haruka does not get a mentor, and apparently her goal is to write songs for the boys and probably land one of them as a boyfriend. While this is clearly lesser than what is expected of the guys, it is still a far cry from other recent reverse harem shows, and Haruka herself shows more personality than winter 2013's nameless heroine in Amnesia. In fact, when compared with other fairly recent reverse harem shows such as Hiiro no Kakera, UtaPri 2 comes out looking fairly good, with at least interesting characters, if not a stellar plot.
The major change this season makes in terms of story is the introduction of Cecil Aijima, the mysterious prince of the mythical nation Agnapolis, who made a brief appearance as a cat in the first season. Cecil has been scouted by Shining Saotome (played by the incomparable Norio Wakamoto) himself to join the Master Course, and since it means that he will be able to be near Haruka, Cecil has agreed. He is unpleasantly surprised to find that he now must train to be an idol and that romance is forbidden at the school, but he still does his best to thwart Haruka's other swains and win her heart. This is most amusing in episode five, which focuses on Otoya Ittoki, or as viewers may remember him, The Red One. Otoya is at this point in the series the apparent lead for Haruka's affections, as he does not seem to make her uncomfortable the way several of the other boys do and is also fully aware of his feelings. Cecil clearly sees this and makes every effort to stop his rival from putting the moves on our heroine.
The format of this season is primarily that each aspiring idol gets his own episode. Starting with episode three – one and two reintroduce us to the main cast and bring in Cecil – Syo, Masato, Otoya, and Ren each get their own special twenty-four minutes showcasing their trials and tribulations in the climb to idolhood with the others following. While each has its highlight, overall the Otoya episode feels the best put together, establishing some of his backstory and delving into his feelings for Haruka more than the other three. Masato's is arguably the funniest, due in large part to Tokiya. Syo's episode is fun and Ren's utterly absurd in many places, but the major problem with this approach is that there isn't really a cohesive story holding the episodes together, although an attempt is made to show Cecil's evolving attitude towards being an idol in each one. It is not until the last three episodes that any real overarching plot is established with the introduction of the UtaPri Award in more detail and the appearance of rival pop band HEAVENS on the scene. Like Quartet Night, HEAVENS is pretty underutilized, making them cookie cutter bad guys rather than real rivals. Likewise Tokiya really doesn't get the character development that he deserves, a somewhat baffling choice given his more central role in the first season. Haruka herself isn't quite the blank-slate character she was in the first season, and though she gets distinctly less screen time than the guys, she still proves to be a quick thinking young lady, even if she falls prey to the stereotype that girls are afraid of shoddily constructed haunted houses.
Although he animation quality has dropped somewhat and there is a marked increase in the use of chibis and silly moments, UtaPri 2 retains its manically bright color scheme where everyone looks as if a sugared-up toddler chose their coloring. Most baffling remains Haruka's terrifying eyes – Mountain Dew yellow with a laser green pupil. What the designer was thinking when this was chosen is anybody's guess, but it is a definite sour note, even among the deranged choices for other characters' hair, eyes, and clothes. Quartet Night and HEAVENS both stand out in that they have more muted color schemes, although given the more bizarre choices in this show, Reiji's brown hair and gray eyes seem as out of place as Haruka's terrifying eyes.
On the whole, UtaPri 2 is the proverbial spoonful of sugar to offset the medicine of your day. The plot is lacking, the color scheme is insane, and there's enough cheese here to make nachos for a hundred, but despite all of that it is still an awful lot of fun. If you're looking for a well-crafted story about a plucky heroine struggling to the top of a difficult industry with her handsome male friends, this is not the show for you. But if you just need a laugh and don't mind the occasional moment of embarrassment for the characters on the screen or if you just really like twinkly jpop, then give this a go. As far as guilty pleasures go, UtaPri is at the top of the list.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : C+
Music : B+
+ Funny, whether intentional or not, Haruka is less of a doormat than some of her reverse harem counterparts. Catchy music. Energetic finale full of sparklies and absurdity.
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