Review for Revue Starlight Collection - Collector's Edition
What is it about anime and bizarre premises? Sometimes I get the feeling that the creators, the mangaka or the scriptwriters just throw some random ideas together, see what comes out of it, and just run with it. I’ve seen shows with a boy with a miniature girl where his right hand used to be, cyborg schoolgirl assassins, tank combat as a girls’ high school sport and more. Never has an anime premise raised my eyebrows with more intensity than Revue Starlight. Girls chasing stardom at a stage school is normal enough, but with secret combat auditions judged by a talking giraffe!?
When they were five, best friends Karen Aijo and Hikari Kagura made a promise to become stars together. 12 years later, Karen is an unremarkable student at the Seisho Music Academy, typically late and frequently outshone by her more talented classmates. But then there is the day that a new student transfers in, one who has had experience at the prestigious Royal Academy in England, and it turns out to be Hikari Kagura. She’s certainly changed, has astounding talent, but is surprisingly standoffish with Karen. That night, when Hikari sneaks out of the dormitory, Karen follows her back to school, where she discovers a previously unseen door. It takes her deep underground, where she finds Hikari, singing, dancing, and fighting with another student. The Revue has begun, and now that Karen has learned the secret, she’ll be competing as well to be the Top Star. But the thing is that there can be only one.
12 episodes of Revue Starlight are presented across two discs from MVM.
1. Stage Girls
2. The Stage of Fate
3. Top Star
4. Promise Tower
5. Is “Shine” Even Possible?
6. Stage Left For Two
7. Nana Daiba
8. Toward the Light
9. On the Night of the Star Festival
10. The Show Must Go On
11. We are
12. Revue Starlight
Revue Starlight gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these two discs. The image is as good as you have come to expect from anime these days. The image is clear and sharp, detail levels are good, colours are rich and consistent, and the animation is smooth. About the only issue might be some minor banding in darker scenes and during scene fades. Revue Starlight’s characters are pretty generic for one of those shows with large female casts in an entertainment setting; think Love Live and Bang Dream and so on. But given the prevalence of song and dance in this show, the animation kicks it up a notch, and is very pleasing to watch.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with subtitles and signs locked during playback. I stuck with the Japanese throughout, and was happy with the experience. The actors are suited to their roles, and the performances grab the viewer emotions in the way they should. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. About the only niggle might be when characters speak foreign languages like English and French “perfectly fluently”. But the musical aspects of the show really come across well, with catchy songs, and delightfully animated sequences to go with them.
The discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
Disc 1 has a couple of Japanese audio commentaries, one on episode 1 with Momoyo Koyama (Karen), Hinata Sato (Junna), and Maho Tomita (Maya). There is also a commentary on episode 5 with Momoyo Koyama, Haruki Iwata (Miharu), Moeka Koizumi (Nana) and Teru Ikuta (Futaba).
Disc 2 kicks off with the textless opening and 8 textless closings.
Episode 10 has a commentary from Momoyo Koyama, Suzuko Mimori (Hikari), Aina Aiba (Claudine), and Ayasa Ito (Kaoruka).
There are 5:32 of Japanese Promos, and 2:47 of Episode Previews.
There are three short animations to spend more time with the characters, Measuring (7:44), Discussion (7:53), and Opening (7:58).
Finally there are trailers for Clannad, Ao-chan Can’t Study, Release the Spyce, and Maid Sama.
I haven’t seen the physical extras that come with this collector’s edition to comment.
Revue Starlight is like a non-lethal, musical Danganronpa with a talking giraffe instead of a talking bear. Girls in a stage school take part in secret auditions where they have to sing, dance and fight with swords to impress the giraffe; the winner is the one who slashes a button from the special uniform that is created for the audition in a lengthy and repeated sequence. Actually, Revue Starlight is what you would get if you took a Kinuhiko Ikuhara show like Revolutionary Girl Utena or Mawaru Penguindrum, and stripped out most of the metaphor, and all of the layers of deeper meaning. It’s all surface weirdness, but no less entertaining for all that.
Bushiroad is heavily present in the credit sequences, and they are the company behind the Bang Dream franchise, so cute girls competing in the arts is not exactly alien to them, but Revue Starlight levels things up by introducing musical theatre, song, dance and acting. It’s the whole package in drama school, and the various characters have to excel in multiple disciplines to become a star. The whole story revolves around the musical that their particular class is putting on, a play called ‘Starlight’. They’ve taken the decision to put it on each year of their school life, to adapt and grow and offer new interpretations of the material with each new performance. The protagonists of the show, Karen and Hikari saw the play as children, and it was that moment that inspired their promise to become stars together, a promise that comes closer to being fulfilled when Hikari transfers into their school after attending the Royal Academy in England for 12 years. Up to that point, Karen has been coasting, but Hikari’s arrival inspires her to change her attitude and work harder.
That eventually pulls her into the secret, giraffe led combat auditions that take place under the school, where the top candidates in class battle to become the top star, although for Karen and Hikari, their goal of becoming stars together seems unattainable given the rules. And as it happens, it seems the audition process also follows the character arcs and story of the Starlight play as well.
Of course they aren’t the only ones with ambitions to be Top Stars, and we meet the other likely candidates in class, the current top candidates, eternal number one Maya Tendo, and her eternal rival and second place Claudine. Karen’s roommate and close friend Miharu gets put out, and loses confidence when Hikari shows up. Futaba and Kaoruka are also apparently attached at the hip, a shrine maiden who wants to be a star and her pragmatic childhood friend. Junna is the class representative, who is supposed to keep everyone on track, and the quirky oddball of the group is Nana Daiba, or Japanese style, Daiba Nana and her whole world, culinary and verbal seems to revolve around bananas.
There is a whole lot of slice of life fun with the characters during most of the episodes, but things get a lot more serious when it’s audition time with the giraffe. Around halfway through the series, it becomes clear that these auditions are a lot more serious than they seem at first glance, that the cost of losing is a lot higher than just losing a role, that there is a cost to winning as well, and things start getting pretty metaphysical and fantastic when we learn just what the previous winner actually won. From that point on, things get progressively weirder, but all in a good way.
I must admit that I had a harder time than usual getting into this show. Revue Starlight is depressingly mundane during its first few episodes; the characters seem cookie cutter, and the story feels like Fame-lite. It’s only once the bizarre nature of the auditions becomes apparent that Revue Starlight really hooks, and I do believe that you have to give it four or five episodes to really get an idea of where the show is coming from. It is still rather ephemeral and disposable though, like the majority of anime, and it probably won’t make a lasting impression, despite the odd directions the story winds up going in. I do have to wonder what Revue Starlight might have been like with someone like Ikuhara at the helm.