「そして箱は開けられた」 (Soshite Hako wa Akerareta)
“And then, The Box was Opened”
Based on the popular 2002 shoujo manga of the same title, Skip Beat! brings us a love story about a girl’s dedication to her childhood friend in his pursuit to become a star, who turns out to be a huge egotistical jerk that’s been using her as a free servant. Having given up all personal aspirations of her own, our heroine Mogami Kyouko moves from Kyoto to Tokyo with Fuwa Shou as he aims to be the number one performer in Japan. There, Kyouko lives an extremely frugal life while working multiple jobs, just so she can cover food, necessities, and living expenses for her and Shou, none of which he helps with out of his own pocket. Despite this, Kyouko is more than willing to support Shou in his aspirations, until she stops by his company one day to bring him food and overhears how he’s only been using her to cook and clean, due to the skills she acquired from working at his parents’ inn back in Kyoto. To add insult to injury, Shou also starts flirting with his manager on the spot, when he hasn’t once shown any sign of affection towards Kyouko. Rather than being disheartened and breaking down in tears though, Kyouko’s “Pandora’s box” opens inside her and she lashes out at Shou in an enraged fury while vowing revenge. However, she’s soon dragged off by security and taunted by Shou to become a bigger star than he is if she wants revenge. Taking his words to heart, Kyouko immediately cuts and dyes her hair, sells off all her possessions to rid herself of her past, and begins making her way into showbiz to top Shou.
Produced by Hal Film Maker that’s best known for their work on the ARIA series, Skip Beat! looks really sharp, and maintains that 1990’s look and feel (for better or worse, depending on your take on it). With this art style and an arrogant male lead in Shou (played by Miyano Mamoru of Gundam 00, SOUL EATER, and Vampire Knight fame), I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this shoujo story and Itazura na Kiss. Despite the current angst between the two main characters, this series is a romance comedy first and foremost, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Kyouko and Shou’s paths will intertwine in a more positive light down the stretch, much like Kotoko and Naoki’s did (albeit probably not THAT far along). Starring as Kyouko is none other than Inoue Marina (Yoko in Gurren Lagann), who uses her girly, light-sounding voice for a change. I haven’t seen Marina portray any characters with this voice in a while (especially with all the male roles she gets), so it comes as quite a pleasant surprise. Supporting (interferring with?) these two quarreling love birds is Konishi Katsuyuki (Kamina in Gurren Lagann, Ozma Lee in Macross Frontier) as Shou’s main rival in show business (and later for Kyouko), Tsuruga Ren. Music-wise, I haven’t heard anything from “the generous” or 2BACKKA before, but find that their songs are a really nice fit for a shoujo series, just like AZU‘s was. Out of the two songs, I like the sound of the ending theme “Namida” more, because it reminds me a lot of Sunset Swish‘s music. The opening “Dream Star” on the other hand gets catchier the more I listen to it and seems befitting given the lyrics and all.
For most female fans out there (and the guys with diverse tastes!), Skip Beat! looks like a good series to fill in that shoujo void this season. The length of the series is still unconfirmed, but given how there are 19 volumes out already, I’d imagine that they’ll need at least two seasons if they hope to cover most of the material. Whether or not they have two seasons though is another thing, but the story is looking pretty interesting so far.
– Mogami Kyouko (最上 キョーコ) : Inoue Marina (井上 麻里奈)
– Fuwa Shou (不破 尚) : Miyano Mamoru (宮野 真守)
– Tsuruga Ren (敦賀 蓮) : Konishi Katsuyuki (小西 克幸)
– Kotonami Kanae (琴南 奏江) : Hayamizu Risa (早水 リサ)
– Yashiro Yukihito (社 倖一) : Kawanago Masahito (川中子 雅人)
– Lory Takarada (ローリィ 宝田) : Ishii Kouji (石井 康嗣)
– Takarada Maria (宝田 マリア) : Konno Hiromi (今野 宏美)
– Sawara Takenori (椹 武憲) : Hamada Kenji (浜田 賢二)
– Aki Shouko (安芸 祥子) : Natsuki Rio (夏樹 リオ)