「舞台少女」 (Butai Shoujo)
Here by popular demand: a Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight post! I don’t usually take requests (being a snobbish pianist at heart), but Revue Starlight is a genuinely interesting show and it could a few words to that effect can’t hurt. I should make clear, though, that here on RandomC when we don’t spend a post on a new show it’s not because we don’t like the show, or because it’s bad. Blogging bad shows is a unique challenge that we sometimes indulge in. Mostly, it’s because we don’t have the time. All the RandomC staff are real people with real lives and each season our coverage is a matter of triage. By all means, let us know which shows you’re excited for and would like to see blogged, but we respond much better to polite proposals than to capital letters. As most people do.
Not that you want Passerby blogging your show anyway. He doesn’t actually talk about anime. He just wants to use them as an excuse to explore wild tangents.
On that note, let’s talk about coming-of-age stories. Anime sure has a lot of those, doesn’t it? Even outside anime they are common, but this medium we love is particularly flush with stories of generically attractive youths pursuing their dreams and finding themselves. Perhaps it’s a matter of target demographic. Perhaps it’s because so many anime are set in high schools or star high school students. Perhaps one lead to another. Whatever the reason, the end result is that on first glance seasoned anime viewers (the kind who have the good taste to read RandomC, naturally) will probably find a show like Revue Starlight quite familiar. Even with all its bells and whistles Revue Starlight is not only is it a coming-of-age story, it’s a specific kind of coming-of-age story. Ever watched any idol anime? The Idolm@ster? Love Live? Well, don’t worry about those. We’re actually going to be talking about magical girl anime.
All magical girl anime are coming-of-age stories, told of young women who overcome obstacles on the path to adulthood. What those obstacles specifically are don’t much matter; the ‘magical’ part of the magical girl genre requisites some level of fantasy and any obstacles — taking the form of a monster-of-the-week, or a dark rival, or the heat death of the universe — are usually metaphorical anyway. This fuzzy flexibility allows any theme pertinent to a young, female audience to slide comfortably into magical girl anime, and in return magical girls to slide into any number of thematic settings. Take idol anime, for example. All idols in anime as we know it basically play the part of magical girls, but transforming only on stage, with the powers being song and dance and general charisma. As is appropriate; magical girls, even within their own stories, is theatre, play acting. When the young girls in question transform they are temporarily empowered, take the role of an adult, and play the part to prepare themselves for actual adulthood. Again, it’s metaphor, and theatre is metaphor. Plus, theatre is innately magical itself, inviting the audience to, for a brief moment, eschew reality and step over into a different world, to make believe.
Revue Starlight has evidently figured out the relationship between theatre, magical girl anime and coming-of-age stories and so it has taken the logical next step: magical theatre. Actually, I guess, Princess Tutu figured it out much earlier, right down to the battle ballet. Regardless of whether it’s a coincidence, a rip-off, or an homage, Revue Starlight has a very interesting theme going for it. This is not just in storytelling, which I’ve been labouring up until now, but also in aesthetics. For example, combat in magical anime has traditionally been very ritualised affairs (the same spells and transformation sequence every episode), so why not go all the way and make it literally theatre? Combined with the otherworldly imagery, Revue Starlight turns into a visually captivating show even without examining technical aspects of art and animation.
That said, join me again next week when I’ll probably talk about surrealism, and Utena.
OP: 「星のダイアローグ」 (Hoshi no Dialogue) by スタァライト九九組 (Starlight Kukugumi aka the main cast)