The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
A3! Season Spring & Summer
How would you rate episode 1 of
A3! Season Spring & Summer ?
What is this?
All Sakuya wants to do is act, and he's finally joined a troupe, the Mankai Company. But unfortunately he's the only member of the troupe, and with the disappearance of their greatest actor eight years ago, it's just about curtains for Mankai. When the man's daughter shows up in response to a letter from Matsukawa, the manager of Mankai, she learns that the troupe's theatre will be turned into a bar to pay off its debts unless she can get at least two more actors and prove that she has what it takes to revive the group. Izumi never thought that she'd be trying to save her dad's old troupe, but she can't bring herself not to at least try, and with Sakuya and Matsukawa, she sets out to revive old dreams.
How was the first episode?
Going into this series, I had thought it was just another male idol group tale. That's actually apparently not correct; this is about acting rather than singing. However, mechanically-speaking, that doesn't make much of a difference. It very much has the same formula as one of those boy- band stories (in fact, it follows those style points so closely that I'd bet that it was deliberately designed that way) and doesn't offer enough beyond that for it to likely have much appeal to anyone who doesn't normally like boy-band series.
That this is based on a mobile game is almost painfully obvious; the whole opening episode here is a classic “build the team from the ground up” scenario, complete with a fall to nothing to explain why the group is starting over and a crisis that puts a sense of urgency into the effort. Izumi clearly represents the player of the game, and considering that, she offers the one minor surprise: she might actually have a personality and definitely has a backstory involving acting. The series could have at least something going for it if she's allowed to develop further along with the boys.
The boys show less promise. The <strike>starting character</strike> initial recruit is about as blandly the genki boy as they come, the second has the standard mixed-color hair with deadpan coolness but is only interested in Izumi, and the third recruit hasn't even distinguished himself enough yet for his archetype to be clear. (There's also the older theater manager in the amusingly-awful patched suit, but he doesn't count.) Two of them know how to spout off Shakespeare, but beyond that we don't see them much in performance action yet. The Next Episode previews during the closer indicate that more bishonen are slated to appear, and the name indicates that at least two of the necessary four troupes will be dealt with in the series, but based on appearances along none of them look any more interesting.
Could the slightly different angle allow this series a chance for success outside of its target audience? Based on the first episode, I seriously doubt it. The artistry and technical merits are no better than average, the premise is a logical one but nothing special, and the performances so far lack an attention-catching spark, so the concept is getting no help. It's not necessarily bad, just eminently forgettable.
Options for reverse harem fans aren't ever all that plentiful, but for licensed series this season, it looks like A3! might be it. That's not hideously terrible – this first episode works well enough to establish the base storyline and introduce the first few attractive young actors for heroine Izumi to choose from – but it's also nothing special, and in a few places the secondhand embarrassment is strong. Mostly that last is due to the first character we meet, starry-eyed seventeen-year-old Sakuya, who joins the failing Mankai Company theatre troupe exactly one day before it's about to be disbanded. Izumi only shows up by chance, responding to a letter send to her dad, Yukio, who's been missing for eight years, and basically falls into the job of saving the troupe and its theatre from the bad guy and his backhoe-driving thug. (That guy is super excited about his backhoe. It's kind of the best part of the episode.)
Mostly the problem here is that there's nothing particularly compelling about the story or the characters. Izumi doesn't seem all that broken up about her dad having been missing for eight years (although she does seem to hope she's going to find him at the theatre), Sakuya's (and Izumi's) acting is phenomenally bad, and Masumi has no personality beyond “insta-love with heroine,” although he also does have the dubious distinction of having some of the worst hair this season. In a city where street performances are the norm, it's hard to get invested in the Mankai Company having a physical theatre at all, and the apparent ineptitude of Matsukawa as a manager makes you wonder if Izumi's dad was the ONLY thing they ever had going for them.
That the episode runs like playing the introduction to a game doesn't help. The quest is given, the heroine tries to orchestrate its fulfillment, and the characters begin to assemble, all in the particular order that they would follow in the actual game. (I assume; I haven't played this one, but it feels familiar from others I have.) There's no rule that game adaptations can't be good, but this one doesn't even feel like it's trying. I do like the use of Shakespeare, even if the speech from As You Like It they're using is a little too clearly aligned with the story's goals (though Shakespeare just doesn't sound right in Japanese), but this simply doesn't do a good job of standing out and capturing my attention. I may give it another episode just to see if the guy in the preview really is a rip-off of Cecil from Uta-Pri, but overall this isn't anything special.
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