The Spring 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Utano☆Princesama Revolutions ?
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Are you ready to song? The boys of UtaPri are back, though this time it's not just 3000% - it's a revolution! Sort of. Actually, much as I love this franchise, this episode was a bit of a disappointment, lacking both the smooth hip-shaking dancing of the first two seasons and a little something called a plot. It probably says something about the show that I was more saddened by the former than the latter.
Unlike previous seasons, this one opens with the group Quartet Night, comprised of the regular gang's sempai, and features very limited choreography. The song is catchy enough, but it lacks the manic appeal of Starish's pieces, as becomes very clear when we hit the ending theme, which is our favorite rainbow-colored pretty boys belting out cheesy lyrics like a psychedelic One Direction, but there's a disappointment here too: the group dancing is no longer the beautifully animated traditional animation, but stiff CG, much more similar to the dancing in Love Live than previous incarnations of UtaPri. While individuals and duos still retain the old look, this felt like a real blow to the enjoyment factor of Starish's performance.
As for the plot, well, three-quarters of the episode involves us following along with ol' Mountain Dew Laser Eyes (Haruka) as she takes the world's longest walk back to her dorm room. She and the rest are still living in the Master Class dorms from the previous season, so this naturally provides her an opportunity to meet each and every eligible bachelor with whom she shares living space. Everyone gets a chance to roll out their best corny pickup lines, at least three nearly confess their love to Haruka, and everyone gets to touch her physically in some way. It feels like a cobbled together adaptation of several routes in the original game, mostly because there is no way she should have to pass through all of those places on her way to her room. On the plus side, your favorite guy has to be here, giving you a chance to bask in his animated presence for the first time since you rewatched season two, plus Haruka is acing her audition for “Most Clueless Female Lead Ever.” On the downside, plot would have been nice. We do get that in the last few minutes, when the incomparable Norio Wakamoto swoops in and announces that Quartet Night will be entered into the running for a chance to perform at the otome game version of the Olympics, an “international sports festival,” and that Haruka will be writing their song. Starish takes this well at first, but the end of the episode has them announcing to Saotome that they, too, want a chance to perform on the international stage. Then everyone repeats Saotome's pronouncement of “revolution” before the episode ends.
I love this franchise, even though I spend half of each episode squealing in embarrassment for the characters. I know I will faithfully watch it every week. But when I step back and really look at it, it isn't very good, and this episode is particularly lame. The fact that I could slather my matzo in the cheese from this episode is certainly a large part of the appeal, but the downgraded animation and the near total lack of an actual story really are a major problem. As this was basically a reintroduction to the myriad idols who make up Haruka's romantic options, I do feel safe assuming that at least the storyline will get better from here, but I hope that the dancing also shows some improvement, because this really was a bit of a disappointment.
This series is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
Bad news, UtaPri fans. Season 3 does not begin with a new fluidly animated debut performance from STARISH. The shame of it all! Instead, we are treated to a music video for their mentor idol group QUARTET NIGHT's new grammatically incorrect single "The dice is cast." (It should be either be "the die is cast" or "the dice are cast," but frankly the engrish is part of the charm.) The bad news is that the animation here is not remotely up to the caliber of the main performances from the first two UtaPri seasons. The character models are rougher, their dance moves are less elaborate and fluid, and there's plenty of cutaways and lens blurring to avoid animating most of their performance. I guess selling tens of thousands of blu-rays from season two only encouraged the production committee to cheap out on season 3 rather than gussy it up. Boo.
The good news is that the music video is hilariously entertaining regardless, and so is the rest of the episode to follow. Reiji cautions leading lady Haruka that she will be "entering the adult world soon," and the QUARTET NIGHT music video is centered around that theme, with the senior idol group spinning and vogueing around a glittering casino in suits, crooning about an evening of adult pleasures. Well, my goodness. None of this remotely penetrates Haruka's thick skull of course, as the rest of the episode details her wandering about campus, running into every single member of both STARISH and QUARTET NIGHT one after the other, as they all coincidentally decide to profess their love for her that very night, and not once does it take. She simply gives them her requisite doe-eyed blink and soldiers on to the next guy. That's eleven guys Haruka, do we have to reach a baker's dozen before you get the hint?!
The great thing about UtaPri is that it treats this entire sequence as the ludicrous contrivance that it is, instead of trying to play it off as serious like many other otome game anime have done. Each boy is introduced in some melodramatic fashion and accompanied by their own theme instruments, usually some differing mix of piano and electric guitars, but occasionally something a little more wacky like Cecil's celtic-sounding pipes or Ren's saxophone-bongo combination. Their confession backdrops also get progressively sillier. Oh, Masato has a grand piano to play in the moonlight, does he? Well, Camus literally rides up on a white horse! After this conga line of love confessions, many of them framed around the concept of Haruka "becoming an adult," she simply remarks that it's been a very strange night! It certainly has. It's also downright insane that all these guys are still studying in the academy's "Master Course" after STARISH has had not one but two massive debuts and QUARTET NIGHT have supposedly mastered their craft and become international sensations. What is this eternal idol garden racket Saotome is running?
Suddenly, Shining Saotome and the academy's head teachers appear from the heavens (in ridiculous angel costumes) to announce that QUARTET NIGHT will be playing the opening ceremony at the Olympics--erm, the Triple S! The Triple S is the Super Star Sports event, hosted by one country every several years or so--it's totally the Olympics. Anyway, Saotome wants the magical muse Haruka to write their new song for the event, which means she'll have to spend less time with STARISH and more time with their mentors this season...or so it would seem. Because he is the very best character, Cecil innocently asks when STARISH will get to perform at the Triple S. His fellow idols begin to explain that it won't be for many years if ever because other countries will host it in the future, but that sad future becomes too much for them to admit to themselves. Screw the guys who worked so hard for this once-in-a-lifetime chance, Haruka is theirs, and their newbie group deserves this chance too! They burst into Saotome's office to protest.
Shining Saotome says he can't enter them both in the Triple S, unless perhaps there is a...Revolution! Everyone responds with a shocked "Revolution?!" in turn, before the episode smash cuts to STARISH's new song and performance (called Revolution of course) for the episode's end credits. Once again, the bad news is that this performance is just as meagerly animated as QUARTET NIGHT's opening number, so we're probably not going to get anything as nice as the animation in the first two seasons ever again. The good news is that UtaPri is back and sillier than ever, so for those of us who like our otome adventures slathered in ten layers of cartoony cheese, the boys are back in town!
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