Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love Revolutions
by Rebecca Silverman,
A warning before we begin: it's impossible to write about this episode without giving away a pretty large spoiler for it, so if you haven't watched it yet, you may want to before reading. It's a good one, if that's what you came looking to find out.
Now that that's taken care of, this week's episode of UtaPri has something that's fairly amazing as far as this season goes: a clear plot. Quartet Night member Ai-chan (teal hair) is starring in a film with Starish's Natsuki and Syo as supporting cast members, and Haruka's writing the theme song, so the four of them are away at yet another gorgeous mansion filming. The movie appears to be about friendship at a 19th century boys' school – the only explanation I can come up with for why Syo looks like he just finished starring in Oliver Twist - and Ai-chan reveals to the other three that he can't understand why friendship is something people crave. As the rest of them gape at him in astonishment, we as seasoned anime viewers start to wonder if he doesn't seem a little, well, robotic. Then he collapses in the rain only to reboot when Haruka, Natsuki, and Syo get him to his room. Surprise! Ai-chan is, in fact, a robot idol commissioned by Shining Saotome, because who else would do that? Now Ai-chan must train his AI (get his name now?) to understand the concepts of love and friendship as represented by Haruka and her lovely boys.
So yes, a clear plot! Hackneyed and weird, but a plot nonetheless, and this sort of cheesiness really suits UtaPri. Remember, this is a show where one of the love interests is a magical prince from a kingdom of song who can turn into a cat, so really a robot is much more normal. It also adds a twist to the usual story about the sickly character – when Ai-chan collapses, it's not because he's dying of Mysterious Wasting Illness, but because he's overheating in an effort to conserve power. (He apparently forgot to bring his power cord to the shoot.) Syo and Natsuki are good characters to place opposite the emotionally stunted AI with their lack of boundaries; neither of them have a problem saying or doing what they think, and that really helps to off-set Ai-chan's reserve and Haruka's quiet support.
Speaking of Haruka, she plays a much larger role this week than she has all month. While ostensibly she's just there to work on the music, she provides a shoulder for Ai-chan to lean on as he learns to be more emotional, and in their relationship there's a very sweet element that we haven't seen as much in Haruka's interactions with the other guys. That may simply be because the others are all actively crushing on her while Ai-chan is just struggling to understand the concept of “friendship;” when we see him resting against her at the end, it looks more like a mother/son relationship than a romantic one. Interestingly, Haruka looks much more comfortable with Ai-chan than she does with any of the others; I do wonder if that's because he doesn't (yet) see her in a romantic light.
While everyone else does make a brief appearance – Otoya showing up and shaking himself off like a dog after being in the rain is pretty funny – this episode really belongs to Ai-chan. The robotic details of his eyes during his reboot make for some interesting animation and his slow collapses also look good, but this episode is more about the content and the dialogue than the visuals. Everyone still looks good and the animation is edging back to where it was in previous seasons, with some very nice moments such as a baby bird opening its eyes or Haruka's skirt blowing in the inevitable breeze. The insert song, performed by Shouta Aoi, Ai's voice actor, is gentler than some of the others we've heard so far and quite pretty.
UtaPri Revolutions is slowly improving with each episode, and this one is definitely the best so far. The plot is solid if simplistic and it just generally looks better in terms of visuals. Maybe the key here is going to be to focus on Quartet Night since we don't know them as well? Who knows – maybe one of the other ones will turn out to be an alien.
Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love Revolutions is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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