Reviewby Amy McNulty,
Show By Rock!!#
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Although Cyan already saved the magical, musical metropolis of Midi City once from an enemy intent on corrupting the purity of music-lovers' hearts, the entire planet is now at stake yet again. This means Cyan must leave her life in the real world behind once more to join the all-girls band Plasmagica. Along with several other ally or foe-turned-friend bands, the girls set out to perform better than two new villainous bands with nefarious intents. Is the one behind it all Dagger, the foe they defeated at the end of the first season? Or is this a new threat from another world, whose goal is to replace all music with darkness?
The first season of Show By Rock!!# charmed audiences with an electric color scheme, anthropomorphic animal character designs, and toe-tapping musical numbers. Based on a rhythm phone game, it fleshed out this musical world by adding more elements of girl power, battle-of-the-bands, and even magical-girl-style conflict. Unfortunately, it never quite focused enough on each aspect and wound up finishing weak, largely because it didn't devote enough screen time to properly convey the stakes of its world-shattering final battle. The magical girl conflict actually seemed entirely extraneous, as a story solely about a battle of the bands would have been compelling enough.
A second season almost seemed unnecessary—although the first ended conspicuously with Dagger, the villain, being shrunk down and set free to slink away. Still, Cyan, the main character transported from modern Japan into this magical alternative world, learned self-confidence and was poised to summon the courage to join a band back home. She literally saved the world and exhibited tons of character growth. Now we're shown a Cyan—tasked with writing an original song for her school festival—who's not that much more confident. Both she and the remaining members of Plasmagica miss each other to the point of being almost too depressed to function. While understandable, since they formed such a tight bond in the first series, it undermines the message of the last season to have Cyan return to Midi City, supposedly being the key to defeating a threat to the planet once again. While it's true that the show wouldn't have been the same without her, the series also would have been stronger served by the return of a more confident Cyan instead. There are plenty of other characters to focus on for development, so just seeing Cyan gain the confidence to write her song by the end is a weak rehash of the theme from the first set of episodes.
That said, the second season does mostly take care of the first season's problem of introducing too many characters by relegating most of the previous bands to the sidelines and limiting the new characters to two new bands and a new villain. (True, there's an additional hero band, Ninjinriot, but they get so little screen time that they may as well have not showed up at all.) ShinganCrimsonz does enjoyably steal a lot of the spotlight, just as they did in the first season, and there's an interesting connection revealed between overdramatic guitarist AiON and Ailane, the leader of the new villainous girl band Bud Virgin Logic.
The show could have done without Dagger acting as a red herring villain too, as his evil schemes are merely the prelude to the revelation of a true antagonist who was under our noses the entire time. The story would have been tighter-paced and more coherent if the focus had remained on this real final boss entirely. Instead, the band battle against BVL just becomes a weak warm-up for the ultimate clash at the end. The show would still do better to eschew the magical battles entirely for a battle-of-the-band style affair, but since the magic likely originates from the mobile game mechanics, it might not be a faithful enough adaptation for Sanrio's purposes.
As with the first season, the art shines in Show By Rock!!#. The color scheme lends an almost nightclub-like aesthetic to the proceedings, with just enough bright and vivid colors to make the visuals more upbeat. The animation is minimal but not obtrusively so. The more action there is—such as during a performance or a magical battle—the more likely the animation is to switch from traditional to CG without explanation, making characters into chibi animals like the rest of the Myumons instead of the humanoid forms they take for most of the show. However, the second season probably relies on CG less often than the first did.
For a series that centers so much on music, the music better stand out—and it usually does. Although it's not especially memorable, there's not a bad song in the bunch. Unfortunately, it seems like there are fewer concerts than there were in the first season, but the focus on a smaller number of songs does help tighten the narrative. Still, you won't feel the real impact of the ultimate all-bands-join-to-take-down-the-villain number at the end without sitting through the first season, as some bands that participate, like Trichronika, are hardly blips on the radar this season.
Like its previous season, Show By Rock!!# suffers from an overly ambitious narrative with too many players to keep track of. Still, when it zooms in to focus on individuals or small groups, it shines through a mix of quirky visuals, blunt humor, pleasant music, and likable characters. The show is always strongest when it focuses on the bonds between musicians and the concerts they play; with fewer concerts but a more focused story, Show By Rock!!# is in some ways an improvement on its predecessor, even if it's a step back in others.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Catchy tunes, a vivid color scheme, and more time spent on character interactions than the first season
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