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This Week in Anime
Is The Anime Girl Band Era Here?

by Christopher Farris & Nicholas Dupree,

Chris and Nick put on their headphones and dust off their vinyl records for a look at this season's guitar-strumming, mic-swinging girl groups.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

Sound! Euphonium, Bocchi the Rock!, and BanG Dream! It's MyGo!!!!! are available on Crunchyroll, while Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night and Whisper Me a Love Song are available on HIDIVE.

@Lossthief @BeeDubsProwl @LucasDeRuyter @vestenet

Bad news, Nick. The ANN Community Center is about to be bought by greedy real estate developers! The only way we can raise the money to save it is the usual: We've got to assemble a band this week and put on the best show this town's ever seen!
Hey everybody! Welcom to TWIApolooza! We're called Any New Noise, and this first song is called "ANNtidisestablishmentarianism!" ONE TWO THREE FOUR
Aw yeah, that's the good Kadokawa-approved anti-authoritarian sound. THE MAN better listen up because we're about to rock his face slightly uncomfortably with all the free-flowing spontaneity of months-long production committee planning and multi-company music copyright deals!

Truly, the voice of teenage rebellion.
It's been a while since we had such a confluence of music anime in a single season - and a lot of them somehow aren't about idols. It really is like being at a music festival, except it's not a thousand degrees, and nobody smells like overpriced beer.
As we in the seasonal mines are well aware, trends can come and go without warning. And just like a few weeks ago when Steve and I realized we were about to be chock-a-block with golf shows, somehow we've now found ourselves up to our necks in a mosh pit watching moody girls play guitars. And the occasional tuba.
Music, at least, is a lot more of an understandable trend. There have been anime about music for decades, ever since a producer figured out you could sell records alongside VHS tapes. Still, it's funny to see a confluence of shows that are somewhat outside the norm of idol-centric pop.
Truth be told, I've gotten the vibe that this sort of wave has been on the horizon for some time now. I'm the guy who's been on the BanG Dream! train for years, preaching the good word of the girls' band after it initially stumbled in the face of those dominant idols.

Sound! Euphonium's also been around for ages now, though I'll admit that series isn't quite aligned with a lot of the similarities of the other new, rock-based anime this season. So it might not be as relevant to this discussion (disappointing, I'm sure, to all the people who no doubt loved us talking about it last week).
I'm fine leaving the band geeks backstage. They can go march in the Rose Parade or something. Stuff like this is way more my speed:
Ah, yes, I might as well get properly started with the oddest entry to talk about this season. Girls Band Cry is, as far as anyone looking into it in this territory could tell, a series of 3D CGI animated music videos uploaded to YouTube depicting a band of girls crying their hearts out through music.

Who are they? What's the context for them here? No one can say.
Yeah, we've already covered this show's bizarre absence from the English-language landscape, but it is wild that a project with a lot of money and marketing behind it just...isn't available. That MV I posted has over 10 million views! Usually, a band has to hire their alcoholic friend as their manager to leave that much obvious money on the table.
It's even more confounding that the MVs are widely available and not region-locked in the US like some of their other stuff Toei's posted (What up from the Super Sentai fandom), with proper English closed-captioning for the lyrics, even! That's more than BanG Dream! got on its songs in some of its officially simulcast seasons!
It really sucks because, well, honestly, it seems like the show that best understands the appeal of a music anime. These music videos have flare, drama, and mood! They have characters doing cool stuff to show their coolness while utilizing all the visual tricks developed in the past decade of CG idol performances. But if you want to know what's happening, you'd better have taken French in high school.
Maybe it's only appropriate that a series like this necessitates the most underground approach to actually watching it. The good news(?) is that if you want to check those MVs out to get a taste of Girls Band Cry before you do watch the show, you know, wherever, they do sell that style of the series. The insert song from the third episode posted a couple of weeks ago, in particular, has some fierce anti-idol energy.

What's more punk than not selling something, I suppose?
See, that whole angle is fascinating! We've had girl band shows before, but they're always about high school kids doing it in their free time. According to all the promotional info, the main character of GBC is a high school dropout, and the guitarist is a full-on adult. By all appearances, half the conflict is about the struggle of supporting yourself while also trying to be an artist. Full disclosure: I checked out the official French simulcast, and while I'm not fluent enough to catch everything, I'm pretty sure they talked about copyright for songwriting at one point. I've genuinely never seen an anime talk about that!
As we've espoused before, I hope that frustration gets broken with a proper release sooner rather than later since I'm also fascinated by Girls Band Cry. It's also noteworthy since one of the simulcasting shows it's sharing a season with is also characterized by a group that includes school dropouts grappling with The Struggle™️ of producing as independent artists.
Again, weird synchronicity with this season. However, I'm less interested in the music than in GBC's angsty rock tracks.
I'm enthused by the scrappy creative energy in Jellyfish Can't Swim in the Night, and I'm not going to complain about getting to watch Doga Kobo animate some characters. But it probably says something that the big spontaneous musical number that capped off the first episode hardly got me up and cheering.

Like so long as it's inviting comparisons to Girls Band Cry, just comparing the direction and editing of the musical performances highlights the disparity in rock'n'roll levels, regardless of which genre itself is your speed.
The generous part of me wants to say that it's intentional. Kano's musical performance there is a pretty simple, stripped-down acoustic ballad that's more of a song scrap than a whole track. It's supposed to be a small, personal triumph that inspires Yoru to reclaim her art, and it does that pretty well. At the same time, god damn if GBC doesn't hit with way more impact when the characters stop time with the power of their song.
Even if they're seemingly similar in subject matter, each series takes a different approach, and GBC's certainly feels like it's pushing for more ambition. What else would you expect from the series whose previews show off its wildly expressive, overly smooth CGI animation?

This isn't to say they don't harmonize in complementary ways. I got a kick out of the first music video the JELEE girls produced using that endearingly amateur, low-animation slideshow approach, which GBC also deployed in one of its pre-series MVs!
There's no "right" way to do it, but I'd be lying if I said GBC's unadulterated angsty energy didn't appeal to me a lot more. It might not be an idol show, but being directed and written by Love Live! alumni means it understands how to use music to emphasize and punctuate emotional moments. Much like a stage musical, it heightens things for the audience in an infectious way if done right. I don't need to see the full episode to understand the feeling in this performance clip:

By comparison, Jellyfish is much closer to a typical film or TV drama. The music videos are extras meant to complement the emotional moments within the dialogue.
Yeah, it's about music as a creative outlet. Still, it might be telling that several girls in the JELEE crew aren't musicians but artists and animators who support the production of the songs and MVs. This lets the series feel more varied in its coverage of artistry in the modern era, where every song has to come with a YouTube video, while also exploring teen drama and some industry commentary for seasoning.
It's a distinctly modern perspective on music-making, and that unique angle gives it a lot to work with. I may be most familiar with the music scene of live shows and rock bands you see in Bocchi the Rock!, but for many young artists, JELEE's setup of collaborating amateurs putting stuff up on YouTube probably strikes true. They even have to figure out DAW interfaces!

It's not enough to learn an instrument, now you have to have a Bachelor's in Garage Band to get anywhere.
The act of making puts something like Jellyfish opposite Sound! Euphonium. The anime's concert band focus is more quantifiably about music, but all the pieces are pre-composed, and the expression there is more about the characters honing their craft and how they embody that in their performances.

That's closer to the pseudo-sports-anime approach of Love Live!, except the music is technically even less original.
That's why I think it lost me after a couple of seasons. A big part of my connection to music is its ability to express things that can't be put into words. Technical ability is absolutely a part of that, but the competition to see who can tuba the best has just never really clicked with me. Also, three years of middle school band made me allergic to teenage marching band drama.
As much as I'm still enjoying all the after-school tea spilled in the Kitauji band, I agree about that separation of storytelling expressiveness. I mainly brought it up because that made for an effective comparative through-line to the other, other, OTHER music anime airing this season.

Whisper Me a Love Song has technically had the least music out of all these shows. But it is all about the experiences that would compel someone to pursue that craft to express their feelings.
It's also the gayest by a country mile, so it's got that going for it.
I have no idea where you got that interpretation; these girls are just cool love-at-first-sight buddies!
Himari might not realize it yet, but I have enough experience crushing on hot girls who play guitar to recognize a kindred spirit.
She's not even the only one in this show!
Himari's lucky her crush isn't old enough to play an 18-and-over show, so she doesn't have to beg her cousin, who knows a guy, to sneak her in. Cough
Really though, it's noteworthy that while the likes of Jellyfish are using its adorable music videos as punctuation celebrating the girls' efforts, Love Song goes several episodes working up to Yori even considering writing her, uh, love song. So it lands somewhere between Jellyfish's exploration of the feelings that drive artists to create and GBC's view of the resultant music as the only way to release these pent-up feelings.
It's the only adaptation of the three, rather than an anime original. Since the manga couldn't exactly lean on songs to punctuate the narrative, it's much more focused on the process rather than the end product. The big question for Yori is how she can express feelings of love genuinely, something that even the most accomplished songwriters struggle with. It took David Byrne years to make one he was happy with, so good luck, girl.
Maybe someday, Yori will find herself in a beautiful house with her beautiful wife, Himari. But this story's clearly in it for the long haul, and I'll be interested to see where it goes, especially with those inklings of a love triangle and some other angles of romantic drama brewing. Though I do hope the music element proves strong if any more songs pop up since the visual production on this one, uh...

Someone commissioned Kiui from JELEE to give these girls a pass in her editing booth.
Yeah, in the Anime Battle of the Bands, Love Song will not win any prizes for its stage effects. GBC and Jellyfish are setting off pyrotechnics and rotating stages while Yori is trying to find a mic stand that will stay up.
I'll joke, but I don't want to be too hard on Love Song. It's admittedly not trying to be a big sold-out stadium effort like those others—more of an intimate coffee shop set. With several gay cats I haven't seen represented since Sasaki and Miyano.

For all its production woes, there's still much to like about the show and what it might say about music. If nothing else, the short snippets of Yori humming on her guitar captured the right vibes.
It's just nice and embodies why I would consider Love Song a music anime despite the paucity of music in it thus far. And that, in turn, demonstrates why a serendipitous genre grouping in a season like this can be a neat thing: each of these anime is doing something different from what a "music series" can be, which contrast to highlight their differences, some of their weaknesses, but also their particular strengths and why different viewers might appreciate each one.
It's certainly got me eating well! And hey, if the industry is looking for another gay band series to make into anime, I might have a suggestion or two. The world is ready for Jass-fusion lesbians.
As in the music scene itself, there's always room for influence to spread in the world of music anime. Just seeing how we've arrived at this current spread, I'd like to think that trailblazers like the wildly successful Bocchi and my precious daughter Tomori at least partially set the stage for Girls Band Cry and its seemingly glorious girl-failure of a lead.

I certainly won't say no to more stories in this vein, provided I don't have to pull my high school French-to-English dictionary out of storage again. Maybe we'll see a production brave enough to make good on Zombie Land Saga's premiere and get a death metal girl band. The world of music is as vast as the ocean, and in the age of streaming, there's an audience for every sound!
Well...so long as that sound can be found on streaming.

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