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)