「約束タワー」 (Yakusoku Tawaa)
So, after going on about how Revue Starlight is a much stronger show on-stage than off last week, here we have, as if to test my claims, an episode that’s entirely off-stage. I suppose this had to happen eventually. Most magical girl shows try for monsters-of-the-week to provide an excuse for some action, and most idol anime try to throw in a song-and-dance number (or at least some singing) every other episode. But choreographed, animation-heavy set pieces take time and/or manpower, which makes them expensive. Perhaps Revue Starlight wants to spend more time on stage, to play to its strengths, to give us more of what drew us to the show in the first place, but simply can’t afford to. So instead of surreal combat between actors playing themselves on a stage that is their mental landscape, we have Hikari playing tourist, diverting work to the background artists and giving the animators a break.
A cynical view, perhaps. But if I was full-cynical I would guess that some city is paying for Revue Starlight to show off its tourist attractions and Revue Starlight is simply delivering their end of the deal.
To be clear, this was not, per se, a ‘bad’ episode. Perhaps it was even a good episode. But we’ve seen this episode before. Anime characters chase after their childhood friends who waltz of on a sabbatical a lot, it seems, to the point it’s almost cliché, and Revue Starlight doesn’t really bring too much new to the table. On-stage Revue Starlight has flair, while off it could be any other adolescent drama or every idol anime. I’m not saying that supernatural action automatically makes an anime better, and plenty of perfectly mundane anime have taken a simple premise like two friends needing a heart-to-heart and done much with it. For Revue Starlight to do the same could be well and good, but alas I can’t be content with good when Revue Starlight has shown me the briefest glimpses of great. A lot of that comes back to basic storytelling rules, namely ‘show, don’t tell’. On-stage, even with all the extraneous dialogue, Revue Starlight naturally does a lot more showing than telling. Off-stage, it’s all dialogue. Not terrible dialogue, mind you, but the audience doesn’t need dialogue to understand. The characters in Revue Starlight are very eager to blurt out everything about their motivations and relationships, but there is nothing that Tendou Maya can say about how jealously she guards the top spot that can be more convincing than what we’ve already seen with our own eyes. We’ve long already formulated that talk < walk. But the show talks on regardless. We can already see its two halves work against each other a bit. On the one hand it relies heavily on dialogue, but on the other it still wants to keep the revues aloof and mysterious. So we have Hikari talking more in this episode than she has the rest of the series thus far, but she still twist herself into contortions to avoid explaining what the revues are, allowed only because Karen has the attention span of an ADD goldfish (just tell her what she will lose if she fails instead of playing this pronoun game!). It's artificial, revealing too much of the blatant craft behind the writing, and can easily be solved by just making the characters clam up to begin with.
I would say this: the off-stage portions are important for contrast. The girls are deadly foes on-stage, but off they’re supportive friends. I’m guessing the point is that Karen and Hikari will blur the lines and be friends on-stage as well. And perhaps they’ll add more characters to the ED as we go (am I the only one who prefers the solo version from last episode? The harmony is neat, but Karen’s seiyuu’s voice is too squeaky for a melancholic song). I do hope that Karen and Hikari fight at least once, though. To profess that they share the same dream is one thing. To test it in the fires of conflict is another. Earn that yuri-ending, girls.
ED2: 「Fly Me to the Star」 by 三森すずこ, 小山百代 (The two main leads)