I talked a bunch about surrealism last week, and went into a lot of high-brow stuff about symbolism and juxtaposition. The main reason, though, to inject surrealism into your anime is simply that it makes the show look more interesting. Turns out, reality can actually be rather boring. I’ve argued before that the main strength of anime as a medium is that, being a hand-crafted thing, it’s not restrained by reality at all. It can do whatever and look however it wants. The only reason that anime needs any realism at all is because it’s what the audience is familiar with, and even the most abstract work needs some frame of reference. Other than that, anime is free to go nuts. And I think more anime should be going nuts; anime is chiefly a visual medium, and if you want to grab an audience quickly you need visuals that pop. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that drew me to Revue Starlight was its visuals, in particular the stylised combat. No, not the sword-swinging stuff; that’s a dime a dozen. I’m talking about the over-the-top theatrics, with combat deliberately as performance. What we want is something eye-grabbing.
It’s not just about the ‘ooh, pretty’ factor. It’s great when an anime looks good, and there’s no shame in picking up a show just because it does. But since anime is visual medium, storytelling is naturally more engaging when done visually. And I’ll say that, for me personally, Revue Starlight is least engaging when its characters are talking. It’s not that the script is particularly bad (serviceable, if a bit bland), it’s that there are so many better ways it has to communicate than just spoken word. On the one hand, we can have character yak on about competition, ambition, exposition. On the other hand, we can just show it. Revue Starlight is a show of two halves. One is charming enough but not all that outstanding. The other is much more impressive. Does Revue Starlight really need to explicitly hammer home that there can be only one ‘star’ on stage? That it’s highly competitive? That only those who want it from the bottom of their heart need apply? Does it really need to explain the metaphor? It can and should be well understood from the performance. All the revues are one on one duel. Tendou literally fights from the higher ground. Competition is literally cuthroat. When she wins and takes centre stage she makes sure to be larger than life. Heck, even just in the way the two characters sing, even if you can’t understand a word, you can tell that Tendou has a stronger singing voice. That’s characterisation right there. Which is why I get so annoyed when characters talk (or even worse, grunt), over the musical portions. Why are you undercutting your superior storytelling method with your inferior one? The number one rule, when there is a performance on-stage, is to shut up. .
Perhaps Revue Starlight doesn’t trust its audience. Perhaps it’s not confident in the power of its visuals. Most likely, the choreographed song-and-dance segments are very expensive to produce and it can’t have too many of them. Regardless, I feel it’s a missed opportunity. Just to demonstrate how effectie visual storytelling is, have a look at the ED. Here’s a rather dull looking Hikari. She seeks something. In a more colourful world, she finds it. In the end, she stands alone. It’s just largely still images set to an obvious homage to Fly Me to the Moon, but it communicates a lot in just a minute and a half, and without a single word spoken.
All in all though, Revue Starlight is still a rather interesting take on the magical girl formula, and three episodes in I think we can say it’s worth sticking with just for the chance to see the height of its ambitions. I don’t know if I should be blogging it this season, though. As you can no doubt tell, I only really want to talk about half of it (the half that’s on stage) any given episode, and I don’t know if there’s enough interest in the show to sustain the entire season. As usual, chime up in the comments if you any opinions about coverage of Revue Starlight.
Full-length images: ED 04.
ED: 「Fly Me to the Star」 by 神楽ひかり CV: 三森 すずこ (Mimori Suzuko as Kagura Hikari)
I feel like you want to tell the director of this show to be less like G. Lucas and be more like N. Yamada. I would agree on that. Though I suspect all the dialogue in the musical duels all comes down to this show’s target audience….. young teens?, young adults?, anime enthusiasts?, musical theatre fans? I think the creators are having a hard time knowing who their audiences are. But this is just conjecture of mine at the moment.
Personally, I am really enjoying show. I think it has a lot of charm.
Whether or not you will blog this show, thanks for sharing it. I will not have seen this without your post.
Yeah, that analogy works. And, perhaps, rather than not knowing whom its target audience is, Revue Starlight does think it knows and doesn’t think very highly of them. It’s not a very positive conjecture either, though, so I’d prefer to be wrong.
You know, Revue starlight also reminds me of 2016’s flipflappers in how it tries to use its surrealism and visual esoteric-ness to communicate the emotional pathos of its narrative. However, I don’t feel like it succeeds at doing it the way Flipflappers had and it almost makes me want to write a piece about how that show had already trusted its audience with its idiosyncratic audacity by ep 1 and why it was a better show for it
Flip Flappers is an excellent example of an anime that fully engages its visuals in its storytelling. But not every show needs to go to the lengths of Flip Flappers; it’s probably a lot of work, and I suspect that Revue Starlight would not be able to afford it. A lot of magical girl shows compartmentalise its magical parts and its mundane parts, and while they do not achieve the same level as flair as, say, Flip Flappers, but they’re still quite functional. I think — and I will have to put more thought into this, but let’s work with it for now — is that rather than one half leading to the other, in Revue Starlight one half effectively supercedes the other. Yes, they develop the roomate being in a love triangle to further the ‘there can only be one’ thing, but can’t it be done better on stage instead?
“Yes, they develop the roomate being in a love triangle to further the ‘there can only be one’ thing, but can’t it be done better on stage instead?”
Yea and that’s pretty much where my criticism comes in. I think this show’s merits can be just as profound without doing what flip flappers did, but the issue here for me is that 1. the show gives me the impression that it WANTS to do commit entirely to the whole “visual interpretation is the crux of our narrative mechanism” schtick and 2. the storytelling outside the stage battles is dull and lacking in emotionally cogent communication. The drama outside the battles aren’t being handled with enough deft, which ultimately makes wish the show just committed to its obscurity all the way and gave me esoteric imagery and symbolism to overthink. At least then, it’d be harder to see through the by-the-numbers drama of this show for what it is. Revue starlight wants to use its recondite visual prose and stage battles to engage the audience in its cavalcade of overly emotional, stressed out teenage girls warring with each other to be the last woman standing; the thing is that it’s just not achieving that as well as it wants to. I’m still tuned in and dutifully paying attention to whatever the series throws at me, but i’d be lying if i said this show was impressive (other than its stage fight choreography)
Again, I don’t mind the show being a more reserved Utena or Lain or whatever “out-there” anime people want to associate it with. Whatever it’s trying to do, I just want it to do it with aplomb, or at least with enough consistency to be called great.
I was expecting RandomC to be blogging an anime like Revue Starlight, giving some critical discussion about this anime; looks like i better stick with Reddit after all.
To be fair, while you mentioned about Revue Starlight missed some opportunity in directing their story-telling, it seems like thats the only angle you’re looking at in this anime. I get that maybe you dont like it when they talk during the singing part, like they need to explains what was happening like the audience cannot understand them at all. But how about animes like the shounen genre? While its clearly understandable from the fighting scenes alone, we of course got some side characters doing some narrations on the sideline. I honestly enjoyed the little debate going on between the two contenders, and also the singing part. Im not sure how many episodes this anime gonna get, but if its only one cour, then the debate or talking, you said, have to be crunched during the battle scenes because they wont have much time venting their inner thoughts, just during that one time off, then no more discussion. Except from their prequel manga, without them talking, we will not get any info about the girls sacrificing what in order to get to the top: Junna sacrificing everything yet shes bound to lose because of her “glasses”, and Claudine – she sacrifices her friendship with Maya in order to beat her for the top position and Maya have to accept that even though she’d ended up alone on top. I appreciate this debate, and what the songs did only emphasizing her emotions about her feelings on this.
Maybe im exaggerating my high opinion on this anime, while sadden on the fact that many will overlooked its other potential and enjoying more animes like Sunohara-sou no Kanrinin-san or Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu. But nevertheless, these are my thoughts alone. Thank you for your time blogging this anime; and since you wont be continue, its given, since the participation here is also less than 10.
I’m not sure if you’re being passive aggressive or misread my last paragraph. I was looking for an expression of interest for Revue Starlight. It’s all well and good to blog it, but if there’s not enough of an audience then it may not be worth it. Conversely, if there’s significant enthusiasm for the show amongst our readership then it’s easier to justify picking it up.
I should note that I look at Revue Starlight from a musical theatre perspective, in which I have minor background. The song and dance are not just action, they’re the bulk of the narrative. I see that you appreciate the dialogue between the characters, but the song is the dialogue. When they talk over it they essentially talk over their own dialogue, to say things that could have been communicated over song.
I also don’t believe that we will have less information if there is less dialogue. The dialogue will simply be replaced by other modes of communication. For example, we readily know that Maya and Claudine are friends simply because they’re paired together in exercises in otherwise, and we know that one has to trample the other for the top spot because we see exactly that (and perhaps we could have had more for their revue!). And we know that Maya stands alone purely by imagery; at the end of every revue, the winner literally stands alone.
It’d be less obvious, perhaps, but in my books that’s a good thing.
I saw this analysis video while looking for the ending.
I find the contrast between Kamimashita’s opinion and Passerby’s to be quite interesting. Whereas Passerby focuses in the musical duels, Kamimashita has his eyes on the character’s lives outside it. I think they both have great points since I think it shows Starlight’s strengths and weakness in it’s narrative.
Though from rewatching after reading Passerby’s post, I can totally get his criticisms.
“Only one star can shine at the top.”
“Yeah, I can totally SEE that without the dialogue. The context has already been said at the musical score. No need to hammer a nail over a nail that already been nailed.”
But don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying watching this show. So as far as I am concerned this anime is achieving what it is trying to do – entertainment.
A golden bird with fire coming off it’s back, a character wearing a Prussian Hussar coat… quite Germanic.
I’m also glad that they’re finally starting to address Karen’s involvement and her naivety about it all. She literally just jumped in with absolutely no idea about what was really going on – only the very basic stuff…from a TALKING GIRAFFE…and yet…not much reaction from her at all or anything.
It’s nice that Karen wants to share the spotlight with Hikari but let’s face it, there can usually only be one main star. At best, others will get a co-star position.
That’s ma muffin dammit.
If this was an apple-cinnamon muffin, I’ve have fought Hikari for it.
I’m here for the romance. Mahiru – Karen – Hikari triangle right there.
they talk over the musical part so people who’s thirsty for just the musical (me) will get the ost cd when it’s out