I’ve said it before. 2018 was a phenomenal year for anime. There was literally something for everybody, and shows that lots of fans haven’t even heard of could still be worth the watch. My personal standout that did not receive that much attention would be “Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight,” an anime that in my opinion blurs the lines of what exactly an idol anime is.
The main difference between “Revue Starlight” and generic idol anime is obvious, and I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it as an idea before. Rather than just being about singing high school girls, the show covers nine girls as members of a prestigious Japanese school of theater, where each girl wishes to be a “stage girl” down the line. From various walks of life, they were brought together as some of the best potential actresses Japan had to offer.
The other main difference is also quite obvious, although it is nothing I could have ever hoped of dreaming. The girls face a second set of auditions, likely unknown to the rest of the students at the school, which consists of gladiatorial-style combat to decide an eventual “top star.”
You heard me right. Over seven days of “auditions,” each girl fights one another using totally legitimate weaponry. Of course, rather than kill each other, they have to cut through a pin their opponent has on their chest, which drops a cape-style garment they’re wearing to the ground. What’s more, this is done in such a way to advance the character arcs through both showmanship and song. Karen Aijo, the main character, has the most important storyline of keeping a childhood promise to her friend Hikari Kagura, who had suddenly reappeared in her life. The emphasis is on this, but the other characters have storylines that are just as present. Junna Hoshimi suffers from not being able to surpass her competitors despite her perpetually working as hard as she can. Mahiru Tsuyuzaki lost her sense of purpose when Hikari became part of Karen’s life. Claudine Saijou and Maya Tendou, as the top two girls in the class, are constantly at each other in hopes of proving themselves to be the best.
The storylines aren’t all necessarily that unique, and as with most media, they follow the tropes set before them. But where the show really shines is in its character interactions. The idea of competition allows the characters to not only be friends but also be rivals on a level that’s known but not always shown. Kaoruko Hanayagi can show that she doesn’t want to participate if her friends get the glory and not her, as well as that when the rest do participate that she wants to be with them in the end. You know they’re not enemies, but the rivalry really sets this apart from other shows.
Granted, every show needs a hook. As pieces come together, it’s easy to reflect on the show and why it’s great, but as someone goes through it there has to be something that keeps them interested. That’s where the combat scenes come into play. The choreography is excellent, and the stage they audition on comes to life beneath them, allowing each girl to have personality
even to their battle methods. It’s truly a theatrical performance, as the music accompanying it is sang by the characters themselves in an attempt to get across everything they’re fighting for.
On the subject of the songs, everything is done so beautifully. While some members of the cast are relatively new to voice acting, some of them already participated in other idol shows. Suzuko Mimori voiced Umi Sonoda in “Love Live! School Idol Project!” and returned to voice Hikari. Aina Aiba voiced Yukina Minato in “BanG Dream!” and voiced Claudine for this. The reason I was initially interested was to follow the career of Satou Hinata, who debuted as Leah Kazuno in “Love Live! Sunshine!!” and returned to voice Junna. Having experienced voice actresses in the more influential roles allowed everyone else to make a splash and they shine in their own right.
On the surface level, “Revue Starlight” is peculiar or even weird. However, it’s one of the best animes I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It has fun characters, fantastic music and stunning action scenes. Beyond that, the story is deep and sophisticated and allows the viewer to put the pieces together at their own pace. It’s likely that “Revue Starlight” will never be associated with being the best anime to come out of 2018, but it’s something I recommend anybody and everybody to watch.