Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
There's a craze sweeping the world for people to become PriChan Idols – using a popular streaming service with seemingly magical digital technology, anyone can create their own channel and become whatever kind of idol they want to be. Middle school first years Mirai and Emo are big fans of their classmate Anna's channel, and are inspired to form their own idol group and make their PriChan debut as Miracle Kirratts. The girls later team up with classmate Rinka, who has the technical know-how they lack, and soon they're on their way to the top! But that pits them against Anna, who is less than thrilled to suddenly have very real rivals. Can they keep coming up with great concepts for livestreams and continue their rise to the top of the PriChan charts?
In the magical world of Kiratto Pri☆Chan, random adults can give underage children potentially exploitative technology without requiring parents' consent that allows them to broadcast whatever they want to an audience on a version of Earth that has astounding wi-fi in every single remote corner of the globe. These children can then compete with each other and the few adults who also participate to become the top digital idols in the world, buoyed by likes that, when amassed enough, allow them to give live concerts on their channels. It's a shiny, sparkly credulity-straining wonderland!
It's also not entirely fair to paint the first twelve episodes of the series with that brush, although the close comparisons with the real world do at times make it feel a bit difficult to truly suspend your disbelief, especially if you watch too much Law & Order or work in education (Meganee's behavior would set off all the alarm bells and trigger a bit of mandated reporting). If you can get past these potential issues, however (and honestly, the worldwide wi-fi was the hardest for me; you can't get a signal in three-quarters of my state), there's a fun candy-bright story here that can be very entertaining, even if it doesn't quite overcome its roots.
Kiratto Pri☆Chan is the first title of the Pretty Rhythm series to get an English-language release, and while it can be a lot of fun, these first twelve episodes end up feeling a bit like they're more sparkle than substance. In large part this is because these episodes lean a bit too hard into the arcade game they're based on. This means that each episode has not only a transformation sequence but also a song-and-dance number with moves that practically scream “rhythm game” and “merchandising.” While magical girl shows do almost the same thing, magical girl transformations take up less time, and when they're using their attacks with their highly marketable magic items they're actively fighting against someone, meaning that there's tension to the scenes. Kiratto Pri☆Chan lacks that tension – the concerts they put on are rewards for the show that has come before, and that makes them feel boring after a little while. Adding insult to injury is that they talk over their own songs, meaning that you can't even really enjoy the music uninterrupted.
That, however, can't fully detract from the story. The plot follows a group of middle school girls in their first year. Mirai Momoyama is a big fan of PriChan idol Anna Akagi, although real-life Anna is something of a pill. Stuck up and eager to flaunt her family's wealth, Anna isn't particularly nice to her fans at school, something that ultimately encourages Mirai and her perky best friend Emo Moegi to become PriChan idols themselves. When they realize that they lack the technical knowledge needed to make really good livestreams, they enlist classmate and friend Rinka Aoba to help out. In a very nice twist, Rinka has zero interest in being in front of the camera because of her crippling timidity. Rather than spend a lot of time trying to convince her to just try it, Mirai and Emo let her do what she's comfortable with for the most part, accepting her for who she is in a way we don't always see in shows like this. When she does want to appear on camera in a later episode, she learns the trick of putting on a costume that enables her to be someone else, a real skill that helps some people with her brand of anxiety that makes for a good lesson without being preachy about it.
That's a general theme that works well throughout these episodes. While many of them involve the girls learning something important, it's never framed as a Meaningful Lesson in the way that poorly-written family entertainment tends to; instead it's organically worked into the storyline. Yes, many of these are geared towards Anna learning (eventually) that her money and power can't always manipulate things into going her way (a lesson that may not fully come to fruition until later in the series), but we also have Rinka learning to cope with being onstage and Emo having to temper her enthusiasm for cheering with the acknowledgment that not everyone is going to want her there putting on a show. This is done through the lens of her relationship with her younger brother Shunta, who plays little league and is getting to the age where he really doesn't want his big sister calling attention to him in public. Mirai perhaps has fewer major lessons to learn, but she does make up for that with her struggles in trying to come up with good content and realizing that doing her own thing is always going to be better than copying someone else.
Another successful element of these episodes is the way that the girls are all believable middle schoolers. It's not hard to see from their behavior (and choreography) that these are thirteen-year-olds, and their interactions with each other also help to highlight that. Anna and her friend Sara especially are torn between being their real selves and maintaining their celebrity images, and an episode where Mirai takes Sara to a bunny café is a wonderful example of how Sara's afraid to risk her “cool” image by geeking out over the fluffy bunnies. That Mirai and Emo also have very supportive families while we don't see anything of the kind for Sara and Anna here is another good detail, especially since Sara and Anna are far more concerned with image and willing to do things in a more extreme way than the other two are.
There are definitely some issues here, though, that don't relate to the aforementioned suspension of disbelief. Chief among them is the disconcerting possibility that the show, despite having been developed specifically because of a lack of arcade games aimed at little girls, knows full well that it may have an older male audience and tries at times to cater to that. While transformations are done with the body entirely enveloped in sparkles, costume skirts are artificially full and camera angles low to afford a good view of the girls' thighs (but never underwear), and many of the costumes and dance moves call attention to their behinds, with Emo's butt pom-poms being the most egregious. Certainly this could be reading too much into things, but when combined with the KGOY phenomenon (Kids Getting Older Younger) it would be disingenuous to write it off entirely. There are also other visual issues, like the tendency to draw background characters as muppet-mouthed stand-ins and one character who's a dead ringer for Sailor Iron Mouse. The reuse of choreography is perhaps less of an issue, as is the CG being done with what appears to be more of a game engine with very good collision – it's a little weird in a TV series, but certainly makes things easier with costume changes.
As of these episodes, Kiratto Pri☆Chan doesn't quite have the demographic crossover appeal of something like Pretty Cure. It lacks a solid, forward-moving plot and it really is more sparkle than substance. That may not be true of later episodes (and I suspect it isn't), but as of these twelve, it's cute, poppy, and shiny – and maybe not much else.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Cheery pop music soundtrack, lessons don't feel like Lessons. Some nice story details and main character designs.
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