The Summer 2016 Anime Preview Guide
TSUKIUTA. The Animation
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tsukiuta. THE ANIMATION ?
What is this?
Six Gravity and Procellarum are rival groups of male idols, now working together to promote their newest songs. But Syunpei doesn't care about any of that; he's just going to their handshake event because his sister demanded it, and doesn't really have any interest in idols in the first place. But a chance meeting will result in Syunpei crossing paths with the idol Kakerun, and maybe changing his tune just a little bit. And Syunpei's adventure with Kakerun is just the first step in a journey that will take us through every member of these passionate idol groups. Tsukiuta. THE ANIMATION is based on a series of drama CDs and can be found streaming on Funimation, Wednesdays at 11:00 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
It's fitting that Tsukiuta's first episode focuses on blonde-haired idol Kakeru, as he and the show have a lot in common. They're both thoroughly pleasant and seem happy to be here, and neither one of them is all that memorable. This episode goes through all the usual motions of introducing a bunch of handsome male idols before focusing in on one guy in particular, but it's missing that all-important spark of personality. There's just nothing obvious for me to point to as being this show's standout feature.
As our initial window into Tsukiuta's world, grade-school kid Syunpei provides a useful perspective. Since he's just attending an event to get merch for his sister and couldn't care less about the idols, we're spared the increasingly tired moment of the viewer-insert character freaking out over being in the same room as a pop star. This lets Kakeru and the other idols interact with him in a normal, human manner that plays into Kakeru's nice guy personality. The big moment when Syunpei figures out who he's been hanging out with all day is impossible not to see coming, but it's kind of cute in a sappy way.
If Kakeru is supposed to be the easygoing, levelheaded member of his group, then I have no idea what the rest of the guys are going to do to distinguish themselves. They're all generically pleasant and professional, without the larger-than-life personalities that we usually see in this genre. That'd be fine in a series with some entertainment industry drama to spice things up, but Tsukiuta doesn't appear to feature any sort of conflict worth mentioning. If this series is going to do a harmless one-off story about a different character each week, then those characters need more energy than I'm seeing here.
If you're looking for a new group of male idols to provide some weekly entertainment this season, I'd suggest that Tsukiuta and B-PROJECT are largely interchangeable. Tsukiuta plays it a little more bland and safe in comparison to the slightly more ambitious B-PROJECT, but the end result is about the same as far as first episodes go: pleasant but forgettable characters, average production values, and music that gets the job done without ever really standing out. I doubt either will do much to pull die-hard fans away from the genre's more established heavyweights.
So this is one of those male idol group series, and as expected, it has a plethora of pretty boys of almost every personality type and hair/eye color combination. It even has two six-man idol groups who seem to be in friendly competition with each other, just to make sure that there's no shortage of cute/handsome guys to ogle. However, this does create one big problem: even though they are all introduced at the beginning of the episode (under the premise of them appearing on a talk show), keeping track of not only which guy is which but also which group the guy belongs to requires a score card. Even then the personalities tend to blend together, with only a couple of members so far standing out at all. But I would guess that's not going to be a big complaint for the target audience, which is definitely not me.
The first episode takes an unexpected structural approach, though. Instead of focusing exclusively on the boy bands or being a reverse-harem situation, it actually focuses more on a boy whose older sister is a big fan of one of the band members and has sent him to a handshake event in her stead. Through a string of coincidences he winds up unwittingly hanging out with just the person he had been sent to see, which gives the series a chance to show some of the boys in relaxed mode from the outset. The Next Episode preview further gives the impression that this might not be a one-time thing, either. In fact, a “boy band story” which focuses more on individual vignettes with a loose plot behind him would be an interestingly different approach for this kind of series (if that's what it is actually doing), and I could see it working. After all, the boys are what matter here much more than the story.
Of course, this being a series about idol groups, an elaborate stage performance of a song is only to be expected, and that is, indeed, featured late in the episode. The animation shifts into CG for this because some more elaborate moves than the normal animation can handle are involved, but despite some nice vocal coordination this is ultimately a run-of-the-mill pop number. In fact, that brings up my long-standing gripe about original musical performances in anime: they so rarely live up to the hype that they are supposed to embody.
But that's a strictly personal issue. The technical merits otherwise are nothing special, either, but they are at least competent. Overall, the first episode shows the potential to do something different, but it is going to have to do that consistently to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded field.
It is a good season for fans of boy idols. Tsukiuta actually seems much more like an UtaPri knock-off than its predecessor B-PROJECT if only in its formatting: it looks like each episode will focus on a different member of the dueling boy bands Procellum and Six Gravity, who are managed by the same agency. Each band boasts six color coordinated young men who naturally each have their rabid fans – and in the case of Six Gravity at least, they also come pre-paired for your shipping enjoyment. This first episode is a Six Gravity one with a focus on the incredibly ordinary Kakeru and some random kid named Syunpei who is doing his big sister a favor by accidentally spending the entire day with her favorite Six Gravity member.
Actually, I very much liked that the everyday character here wasn't a besotted fan, or even a girl. Having Syunpei, an elementary school boy, hanging out with three members of the superhot bands grounded things a bit more than we generally see in idol shows, at least when the characters are already established idols. Syunpei's also a fairly believable little boy – he is way more interested in eating fancy sweet buns and riding the roller coaster with the nice older boys than standing around being a dutiful little brother. He does do what his sister wants, but only after he's had a great time stuffing his face and playing first. As for Kakeru and the others (Koi, who of course has pink hair, and Rui from the other band) all seem to enjoy just having a normal day before they have to give a handshake event and concert. That they go out of their way to avoid letting Syunpei know who they are indicates to me that they just want to be themselves for a while. That premise looks like it will carry over into the next episode as well, juxtaposing their lives as idols with them as people.
The show itself looks serviceable. It has an odd conceit that pretty much everyone, with the exception of the white haired guy, has eyes the exact same color as their hair, down to the random passersby, and having the two groups wear very similar outfits with one in white and the other in black seems a bit too obvious to be working on the fangirls. I personally am not a fan of the 3D dancing, and the camera angles also aren't working for me in terms of showing the choreography particularly well. Also the song made me want to fill a salt shaker with sugar, but that's besides the point.
If I had to choose only one of the two boy idol shows to watch this season, I'd go with B-PROJECT. It might just be because I watched it first, but it feels a little more interesting to me. But Tsukiuta is not a bad show in itself – it just feels like a rote one, and if there's a choice, I'll pick the more interesting one.
The bar is honestly pretty high for idol shows at this point. You have to bring something new to the table, be it strong character writing, excellent animation, or a generally infectious narrative momentum. Love Live! succeeds through energy, polish, and humor, while Shōnen Hollywood stood out to me for its biting commentary on the idol industry. So far, Tsukiuta isn't really demonstrating any particular strengths within its field. Tsukiuta just kind of is.
This first episode establishes the format for the show, where it seems like each episode will focus on a different member of the two starring groups. But if this story is anything to go by, calling this a character-focused show might be a bit of a stretch. As a focus character, Kakerun never comes off as anything more than “pleasant” - he's nice to a little boy, they spend an afternoon getting snacks and riding a rollercoaster, and then that little boy is surprised to learn that his new friend is the idol he was sent to meet. That is the entire narrative of this premiere.
It's frankly a little tough to gauge the appeal of this show, beyond the general appearance of a bunch of cute boys. There isn't really any comedy, and there's certainly not any drama - the biggest trouble Syunpei runs into is the fact that his game tablet is out of batteries. The characters aren't given much time to come across as people, and the dialogue isn't strong enough to give them much definition, either. And even the show's aesthetics aren't much to talk about - the direction is purely functional, and the big performance scene at the end is relegated to mediocre CG.
Overall, Tsukiuta is a harmless production that I don't really see any reason to continue. It doesn't look like this show's going to be offering a legitimately incisive view into the idol industry - it's more focused on highlighting a specific set of charming boys. But if that's the priority, then this episode still isn't a particularly good advertisement for the show to come, considering I barely know more about Kakerun at the end than I did at the start. Tsukiuta is merely watchable, a low-tier entry in a crowded field.
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