The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
We should get out of the way that STARMYU isn't doing anything new, from its magnate art school setting to its Bad News Bears pop idol group. The path this series is treading has already been well-established, and the end goal result is so obvious that it's practically on fire.
We've got the “I can still play coach” main character Yuto Hoshimitsu (he has the word “star” in his name, so you know he's gonna make it!) who just enrolled in Ayanagi Academy. It's a top-notch school for aspiring entertainers, be it music, theater, or dance. Yuto doesn't know anything about anything, but he believes, and that starry-eyed effort means he's got nowhere to go but up. He decides to try out for the school's music section and a chance to join a Star Team helmed by the student council.
He brings along his new best buddy, the timid Nayuki, and manages to run into what will surely be his fellow idols: rakugo actor Kakeru, guy-who-owns-a-moped Shu, and less famous younger brother Kaito. They all have terrible personalities or habits, but the rebellious council member Otori knows they've got that special something. He also wants to mess with the rest of the council by choosing unlikable candidates.
The rest of the series' plotting is already in the bag. Hoshimitsu's tenacity and good spirit will somehow bring his shy roommate Nayuki out of his shell, teach red-headed Kakeru that he isn't better than everyone, and help Kaito find confidence in himself instead of living in his older brother's shadow. Maybe Shu will figure out how to not be chronically late? He's the only character whose trope isn't established. Through their newfound teamwork and trust in one another, they'll win some kind of competition. I'm putting money on it.
Before I sound too dismissive of STARMYU, it does have one redeeming quality. It's unintentionally hilarious, and I can't help but find that endearing. Similar to how Honoka literally played in traffic in Love Live!'s series opener, the school's elite student council performs a choreographed musical number to let the rest of the student body know they're better than them. The statement isn't inferred, it's in the song lyrics. This is part of their school entrance ceremony, but I want to believe they do it every single day.
This show is dumb, but it's also fun if you have a soft spot for nonsensical musical numbers happening in real time. I'd continue watching it only for that reason. If predicable emotional plotting and idols aren't your thing, there's nothing else here.
STARMYU is available streaming at Funimation.com.
As a counterpart to the harems and boy-attends-magical-high-school light novels that make up anime's male fantasies, these last few years have seen a welcome rise in female-oriented fanservice, with male idol shows starring a bunch of cute boys headlining the pack. This season, our first contender for that audience is STARMYU, starring Yuta Hoshitani. Yuta has just been accepted to Ayanagi Academy, where he learns that the prestigious Kao Council of third-year students will soon be choosing which students get to join them in the music department's elite track. And so the upbeat Yuta, along with his new friend Toru, sign up for judgment. Of course, Yuta isn't actually talented at music or dance, and so in a sequence of tests that occupy the middle segment of this episode, he pretty much flunks his way out of contention. But in his final interview, Kao Council bad boy Otori sees something in his performance. Yuta may not have the skills, but apparently he just might have the… something. Main character shine, maybe. Either way, he's the one we're focusing on here, so he's probably not going to disappear next episode.
Idol shows all kind of live and die on a variety of individual merits. The last boy-focused idol show I watched was Shōnen Hollywood, and that one succeeded by actually smartly interrogating the nature of idols. Since then, the idol shows I've caught up on (like Love Live! and Idolmaster) have each succeeded more on their technical merits, through underlying composition and strong execution. STARMYU unfortunately has neither of these strengths - the characters already fall into easy genre templates, the music is all generic synth chords, and the visuals are strictly passable. STARMYU's execution is obvious but unimpressive, and so the show comes off more as a boilerplate genre entry strictly appealing as a vehicle for cute boys.
It certainly does have lots of cute boys, though. It was actually a somewhat strange experience watching this episode, given how far outside my genre preferences it falls. Shows where the female characters are conceived as fantasies for a male audience are unfortunately no more than the background radiation of a lot of anime, but STARMYU takes place at a school where every single character is an unbelievable boy designed as the counterbalance to that trend. I didn't believe in any of these glittering boys as people, but it does offer some perspective to see genre tropes normally applied to either girl-girl or girl-boy relationships all illustrated in an entirely male cast. There's a heavy scattering of shoujo trappings in the execution here, from the more obvious bits like the shimmering flowers and character types to little things like the development of the relationship between Toru and Yuta. But outside of getting to see some gender-switched genre shenanigans, STARMYU is only worth checking out if you're very much in need of some cute dancing boys.
Review: There is an audience out there for the series whose full name is High School Star Musical; in fact, I will be surprised if this doesn't end up being a fairly big hit. However, that audience does not include me, so the criticisms that I am about to lambaste it with should be taken with a grain of salt.
At one particular (apparently all-boys) school, the elite of the elite is the Kao Council, a quartet of dazzling seniors who stand at the top of the school's prestigious music program. At the beginning of the school year they conduct auditions for both the music program and for the Star Teams, groups which will be specially-coached by one member of the Council. New student Yuta, who was inspired by a boy he once saw dancing on an outdoor stage in the rain, is one such applicant, and he encourages the more timid Nayuki – who turns out to be his roommate – to try out, too, because you never know what might happen if you try, right? As it turns out, the free spirit who once inspired Yuta is the reluctant fifth member of the Yao Council, and he not only recognizes Yuta's unwitting efforts to emulate him but also seems to have set his mind on grouping together a collections of misfits and problem children to be on the Star Team that he is going to lead. This all of course involves either individuals or groups periodically breaking into song.
The first episode has exactly two things going for it: the main protagonist is plenty likable and so is the artistry, especially in character design and coloring. In fact, the roster of important boys looks as gorgeous as any such roster that you will find in any other similar series. Everything is downhill from that, though. Those gorgeous character designs also conform to the kind of lanky, long-limbed shojo visual styling that I hate and the dance moves, despite a fair amount of effort being put into animating them, seem stiff. Crafting a more generic roster of stock personality archetypes for shows of this ilk would have taken specific effort; you could practically make a game out of identifying each one as he comes up, with the kabuki actor character, as the arrogantly condescending one, being by far the most obnoxious of the lot. Absolutely nothing is initially compelling about any of the personalities shown so far, almost every move the series makes is utterly predictable, and the bland, generic musical numbers are far from enough to compensate.
Basically, this is not so much one of the worst new shows of the season as it is one of the least interesting. It simply has no hooks to draw in anyone who is not normally at least tolerant of this kind of fare.
Western fans don't care for it much at all, but Uta no Prince Sama is basically the hottest thing short of Love Live! in Japan right now. (Both guys and girls like Love Live!, but guys don't have much interest in UtaPri, so that bolsters the gulf between "mega hit anime" and "less mega hit anime.") Studio C-Station seems like the newest party to decide that if you can't beat 'em, you should join 'em! We saw a (failed) attempt to jump on this bandwagon with Shōnen Hollywood recently, and that trend can only continue as UtaPri continues to sell. More idols for the idol god! This brings us to STARMYU, a story about color-coded would-be idols at idol high school.
Future shining star of the stage Yuta Hoshitani (GET IT?) has come to Ayanagi Academy to make his dreams of being a dancer come true. On his first day, he meets the meek yet honey-voiced Toru Nayuki. Can these newfound friends rise through this prestigious school's musical program and become true idols? Not if the super-elite Kao Council, led by a group of triple-threat third-year idols, have anything to say about it! Oh, that Kao Council. That's where all our troubles begin.
There are lots of problems working against STARMYU's favor, but I think the biggest hiccup of them all is a little more subtle than its too-bland tone and extremely generic character designs. (Although yes, this show's writing is dull as dirt, and it has the most generic character designs I've seen in recent memory.) See, there's a fine line between "homoerotic pack of bishounen who play to the whims of their screaming female fans" and "I think all these characters are just straight-up batting for the other team." In the reigning King of Boy-Idol Shows, Uta no Prince Sama, the guys are sensitive and non-threatening, almost puppy dog-like, and a lot of their choreography has them touching each other a wee bit suggestively. It sits on that nebulous line-o-sexuality just perfectly for fawning fujoshi.
STARMYU plows right through this line and just keeps on going. Of all the fujoshi-aimed series I've seen, STARMYU is by far the least heterosexual, and believe it or not, being "too gay" can be an actual problem for the female target audience! If the guys in the cast don't have major personality problems like the too-petulant-to-be-likable Tengenji, they're a little too nice in that "I am not remotely interested in you madam" kind of way. It's pretty much all in the staging and choreography.
Hoshitani's solo number is incredibly rainbow-tastic, which would be fine if he was singing about romance or something, but he's singing about his personal dreams of becoming a dancer instead, so it loses that potential appeal to the female audience. This is to say nothing of the Kao Council, whose rotoscoped dance number comes off way too gentle and feminine before you even get to the lyrics. This is not supposed to be a romance song. It's explicitly addressed to the all-boys school at large and all the freshmen who want to join their program. "You're dazzled by us", "The prince can meet you now", and "Number One is right here, this is the only one" (that one's spoken while the guys briefly point to their crotches), these are all lines that fall a little too far off what I think the show was going for.
All these elements combine to turn a supposedly tongue-in-cheek campfest for ladies into a straight up sincerely gay show for a prayer of profit. That would be fine if the series was interesting or fun or impressive-looking, but it's not any of those things. This is a low-budget, generic-looking ploy for idol sales that doesn't really understand that fujoshi need a little more salt with their sugar than this. If this does well in Japan, I'll be shocked, but then again, I'm not a fujoshi myself. I'm just speaking from an outside knowledge of the market and a lot of time spent with members of its target audience. So you can take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I think STARMYU's broth needs a lot more spice to be worth anyone's time.
I guess I have to go eat my hat now, because STARMYU is not, despite appearances, based on an otome game, or indeed any kind of game. It is, however, clearly cashing in on the UtaPri formula, minus that pesky girl character, with a school full of gorgeous guys who want nothing more than to sing and dance. Our entry into the story is first year Hoshitani, who when in middle school witnessed a high school boy dancing in the rain and was consumed by a desire to perform the same choreography. To that end he has enrolled in Ayanagi Academy, one of those ridiculously prestigious and specialized high schools anime is littered with. Upon arrival he meets shy Nayuki, whom he convinces to join him in auditioning for the even more prestigious Music Department of the school. If they make it in, they might get a chance to join a “Star Team” lead by one of the amazingly awesome Kao Council, the school's biggest celebrities who perform song and dance routines in front of the school steps while everyone else lines up on either side of the path to watch them.
STARMYU is a combination of delightfully ridiculous and kind of embarrassing, like someone threw The [email protected]: Cinderella Girls and UtaPri into a blender and then shaped the results into a show. All of the usual character types from an otome game are here: Nice Guy, Shy Guy, Bastard Guy, Moody Guy, Energetic Guy, etc, and all are nicely color coded so that we will be able to tell them apart sooner than later. The story is really basic thus far, but let's be honest – you're probably not in this for the stellar and innovative plot. But if you're here to see cute guys singing and dancing, you are in luck. While I wouldn't call STARMYU a musical in the sense that the songs have to do with the story, there are two separate performances within this episode, featuring different songs and choreography. That's pretty impressive, and it's clear that real effort has been made to choreograph dances that work for either a group or a soloist, with the former designed to show off harmony and the latter the dancer's specific skills. Since Hoshinari performs the solo and he isn't a trained or polished dancer, we can see the faults in his movements, from extensions that don't quite cut it to sloppily held arms. As a dancer and choreographer, I really appreciated that, and the dance scenes really made the episode for me. It helps that they look great, especially the Kao Council dance; the ending theme's dancing just doesn't hold up to it, which is kind of interesting. Why take shortcuts in a segment that will air every week?
Beyond the choreography and dance, this is a pretty basic reverse harem style story, minus the self-insert girl character. (I kind of miss her, to be honest.) I definitely appreciate the attempt to make something goofier than previous boy idol shows, but this really does feel very cookie cutter in terms of both idol stories and pretty boy tales. In terms of eye candy, this is pretty great (albeit fanserviceless, if that's an issue for you), but I feel like I'd like a little more substance with my style.
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