The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
BanG Dream! season 2

How would you rate episode 1 of
BanG Dream! (TV 2) ?



What is this?

It's the era of the girl band! Since getting their big break at a performance, Kasumi and the rest of Poppin' Party have advanced a year in school and met several other bands in their area. The girls face new challenges and new roles as they get to know each other in school, and things seem set for a pleasant year ahead. But of course, Kasumi can't stay complacent for long, declaring that she wants to put on another proper concert with her bandmates again soon. A conveniently-timed request for a show at a new venue finds Poppin' Party on stage with several other girl bands, where Roselia announces sponsoring their own event, which in turn inspires Kasumi to up the ante! The stage is set for a whole party of girls' bands! BanG Dream! season 2 is based on a mobile game and streams on HIDIVE, Thursdays at 9:00 AM EST.

How was the first episode?

Chris Farris

Rating:

Between its animation style, included characters, and stylistic focus, BanG Dream's second season seems to be actively trying to get as far away from the first one as possible. Given what a tepid time-waste that freshman outing turned out to be, that's probably not a bad thing. The first half of the premiere episode of this new season, despite still focusing on the needlessly front-loaded Poppin' Party, manages to hit a breezy, enjoyable, slice-of-life style that the previous season just couldn't manage. The characters easily interact with each other with their various quirks on display, and the basic idea of ‘being in a band with your friends is fun and cool’ comes across quite naturally. There is a nod to the idea of some overarching plots for the rest of the season, with Kasumi and the others wanting to hold some sort of event as well as teasing the new character Rokka, but that's just setup for now.

So with that decently strong groundwork barely laid out, of course BanG Dream makes the baffling choice to load up the back half of this episode with musical performances. Granted, one big selling point of this new entry is that all the bands from the hit mobile game will be properly appearing this time around, so getting them out in front of fans to play their hits is an obvious way to make that intent clear. But given that these are all songs that fans of the game will have heard a million times by now, and little of the actual character in these characters comes through in this round-robin sing-along, it becomes tedious quite fast. And that's just for established fans of the franchise; anyone who only watched the first season of the anime will of course know Poppin' Party and may recall Roselia, but no effort is made to properly introduce the other three bands, unceremoniously dropping them into the anime's cast in a way that may leave casual viewers lost.

The other major change is of course the animation. I'm unsure if the jump to full CGI by Sanzingen was done for budgetary reasons or simply because handling the different animations of this many characters would be a nightmare for any studio that wasn't KyoAni at the top of their game. Either way the result isn't unpleasant to look at, but it's nothing special either. The colors are all a bit washed out for my tastes, and motions can seem simple and repetitive, especially during concert scenes. For instance, anyone hoping to finally witness the full-glory craziness that Hello, Happy World's concerts are always described as will be disappointed that after a quick shot of their trademark crowd-surfing, they're resigned to simply nodding around on-stage to the beat like everyone else, with some pretty uninspired direction in the camerawork. At least the facial expressions have a lot of life in them, and there a few clever touches like Kaoru striking poses in the background of one scene.

One other note of criticism pertains to the subtitles. With all the singing in this episode, it's notable that none of the songs are translated, a frustrating choice given that most of them are older songs from the franchise that have had official lyrics available for some time now. Also, whoever adapted this script for Sentai Filmworks was apparently not given a style guide, with many of the characters' catchphrases being glossed over or translated differently than usual. It's an odd misstep for a series that otherwise just exists to cater to existing fans.

BanG Dream Season 2 isn't off to a terrible start, but only because it's not off to much of a start at all yet. All your favorite girls are here playing their hits, but beyond some pleasant atmosphere and the faintest hints of story, it hasn't committed to anything yet. It might come into its own over time, but what we've got still makes a disappointingly light premiere for a series that really needed to make better use of this second chance.


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