Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Show By Rock!!# & Shorts
The first season of Show By Rock!!#, based on the game of the same name, was a delightful romp, full of catchy songs and nenoroid-ready CG characters. While that should be equally true of the show's second outing, it regretfully doesn't pull it off with nearly as much panache. In part this is simply because the show's premise is no longer as new as it once was, but more at issue is the pacing of the story and the fact that the songs don't quite scan as well, either in English or Japanese. Add to this an insufficiently epic conclusion and Show By Rock!!#'s second season just can't achieve the heights of the original.
The story begins when a strange quartet arrives from the future, come to warn the denizens of Midi City that a woman named Victorious, the self-styled Queen of Darkness, is coming for their melodesian stones. Victorious, like so many villains before her, hates music and happiness, and she wants to make sure that both are eradicated. The four from the future are the only real survivors of her attack, and they've come to make sure that she never succeeds in the first place. To that end, they need all of Plasmagica to be in Midi City, so that means that one of them has to go to our world to retrieve Cyan once again. She's been living her regular school life, struggling with composing a song for her school festival, so it's rather fortuitous for her to be whisked back to Sound World where she'll be surrounded by music.
There is an attempt to dovetail real-world Cyan's problem with Sound World's Cyan when she falls into the same pit, saying that the song she's writing for Plasmagica is more complete than it is. She goes on a quest to find the Grateful King for help, which resolves pretty much as you'd expect with the idea that the music is not only inside her heart, but intertwined with her friends', which is the overall theme of the season. While that may be a little corny, it's certainly not problematic. The issue instead is that this thematic element is buried under a variety of other plots and side stories, rendering it much less effective than it ought to have been. It doesn't even really pop up with any regularity, although there are attempts to thread it through some of the band issues. This is most successful when it relates to Shingan Crimsonz, the main boy band, who get two such storylines. The most obvious is when Aion discovers that his sister is fronting a band and is forced to not only take his hand off his face, but to confront his uncomfortable family history, but the plotline involving rival group Arcareafact is also replete with the themes of music being a force of friendship and for good. In their case it becomes more of a mini-study of their band's dynamic and how a disguised Victorious took advantage of that, and really it would have been stronger as more of a focus in the show.
The visuals are also less impressive this time around, although there are still plenty of beautifully animated scenes. The chibis are no longer exclusively CG, which may sell fewer figures, but more at issue are things like Retoree's backwards hands in episode four or the fact that you could grate cheese on Yaiba's abs. Titan the unicorn's off-center horn is annoying, but more likely to be a stylistic choice than a mistake; if you're likely to be bothered by such things, however, it really is very obnoxious. There's some fluctuation in Rosea's overall character design over the course of the show as well, with her height and bust going through some obvious changes each time she appears.
Show By Rock!!#'s second season just doesn't quite pull together the way it ought to. With episodes that don't really contribute to the plot significantly like the water sports tournament and the visit to Moa's (vaguely culturally insensitive) home planet, the whole thing just doesn't feel as cohesive as it needs to. The voice acting and singing continues to be excellent in both languages, and the included shorts are all dubbed as well, which is very nice. Oddly for something that was designed to come between seasons one and two, the shorts are all on the second disc in the set, so the inclination is to watch them after finishing season two, which doesn't quite work with some of the stories. (Most of them seem designed to remind us of who characters are and to preview new ones.) The usual commentary tracks are also present, with the first being a Q & A session and the second a regular commentary with the voice actors for BVL.
If you've missed the characters and cute songs and designs of this franchise, this second season is nice enough, but if you're looking for a plot to go with them, Show By Rock!!#'s sophomore outing is a bit of a disappointment. Lacking in cohesion overall, it just doesn't quite work as well as the original. The songs will still get stuck in your head, but that's about the best that can be said.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Catchy songs, cute art, and fun Sanrio references remain
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