The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
ARP Backstage Pass
How would you rate episode 1 of
ARP Backstage Pass ?
What is this?
ARP, which stands for Artistic Republic Performers, is an idol quartet using the most up-to-the-minute augmented reality technology to make performances more interactive. The young men who form the group, however, are just regular students at the International School of Music who were chosen to be a part of the project based on their talents and skills. Now this show takes you backstage to see how the whole thing started, as you meet the “real” versions of the characters, their friends, and the technology that brought them all together to perform.
How was the first episode?
Ah, yes, nothing like a show that has one of the characters spout the line “Mother Earth can shove global warming up her ass!” Okay, that line really has nothing to do with the rest of the show, but it stood out as somehow even more off than the rest of the episode, which I think is based on a real group of virtual idols who are now getting a story about the fictional way they all came together as a band. Or maybe they aren't real and the whole thing is made up based on the virtual idol industry? It almost doesn't matter, because all you really need to know is that this is taking a mockumentary approach to the story, featuring the CG idols narrating and revealing their “real” selves (more traditionally animated, at least in style) for their fans' delectation. The closest thing I can compare it to is Spice World, the Spice Girls movie, in tone and style. It is an interesting approach to take, with the chatty bit at the end where the preview would normally go doing a credible job of making this seem like a real tell-all that the guys are good-naturedly making.
What it doesn't do so good a job of is most of the rest of the episode. We have almost no connection to the characters and the show doesn't do much to give us one; with the exception of Shinji having a dog (Boston Terrier? French Bulldog? Why do I care?), none of them have much in the way of personal lives or interests outside of music, although Reiji (also spelled “Rage” and still pronounced “Reiji”) and Daiya's desire to be able to eat is relatable. There's a sense that the episode is trying to take a page out of Uta-Pri's book with the school director signing all of his notes to the boys with a heart, which is in no way creepy, but it falters by not taking things far enough in that direction – or any direction, for that matter. This is a bit like pretty boy pabulum, bland but absolutely featuring some very pretty young men.
It is worth mentioning that the CG sections are very well done. The models and rigs are good enough that the motion capture looks smooth, and if I don't love the shiny quality of the art in those sections (and the less said about the choreography, the better), I do appreciate how far the style has come since the first season of Love Live!. The songs are catchy enough as well, although nothing earth-shattering, and I do appreciate the disconnect between the characters' “actual” appearances and their performance looks.
Honestly, this didn't work for me, but if you're in the market for a boy idol show, this is certainly an interesting variation on the theme. I'm not sure if it'll hold up, but if you're curious, it is worth a look.
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