|A surprisingly well done story considering the source material, with good characters, story-telling and decent world building as well.||The alternation in animation styles may put some viewers off and the choice in music styles are not for everyone.|
Before the Spring 2015 season began I listed Show by Rock!! as one of the series I was curious about, and thought it may even turn out to be a sleeper hit for me. Well, I am happy to say that I was spot on in my guess, but in a strange way this proved one of the earliest examples of being spot on in matters related to the series in general – and being spot on so often that it became a bit surreal, especially as I am a terrible guesser when it comes to figuring out story lines, plot and what not in any medium, anime being no exception. However, I was correct in my guesses so often it made me feel in part that there was something about the series that just “clicked” with me, as if I was on the same wavelength with it (which to be honest I am not quite sure what to do with such a realization).
I have mentioned it a few times already, but for me the two series released by Bones this season (Show by Rock!! and Kekkai Sensen – which I will try and write up a review on later) have been among the most engaging of all the series I have followed this season, and both were surprises. But man – are they ever both different when placed side by side. This season has had a fair number of series that have had crazy and bizarre settings out of the gate, and Bones’ two offerings were no exception (together with Mikagura Gakuen and Punchline, for example).
Just as Show by Rock!! starts out with the main character getting suddenly sucked into a different dimension of weirdness she knows absolutely nothing about and physically changed into another being entirely, the viewers also find themselves hurled head over heels plop in the middle of things … and with no explanation of what is going on. The aspect of the craziness of the series was helped by its switching back and forth between animation styles. As if getting tossed into another dimension were not bad enough, something happens and the main character finds herself in yet another pocket dimension within the alternate dimension, where even crazier things happen. Surprisingly though, this all worked quite well for me, it was not jarring so much as fascinating and eliciting my interest as a viewer to want to know what was going on.
Of course it was not just visuals that the series excelled in – the animation quality for all three settings; the “real world”, the “Sound World” and the claymation style used in the “dark monster dimension” were all excellent in my opinion (especially the animation of the various different types of dark monsters that showed up – including the last boss’s final form totalling four of them). Another area this series excelled in was world building. It was amazing how detailed the series (based on a mobile device video game, no less) was, with the world, the city-states, the different inhabitants and “living environments” hinted at in some of the latter, the different inhabitants of certain districts of the main city – all were touched on and developed. Then there were the companies, and on, and on, and on.
Then there were the characters: the various company members and the bands proper and their members – with at least 8 or 9 bands of 3-5 members each were touched on with most of them getting fairly decent (or remarkably full) character treatment, sketches and personality outlines, with some from other countries and some from other cities. Together with this world building there was a surprisingly well developed story to boot. And a story that seemed to make excellent use of a vast number of its characters without leaving the feeling that it had skimped on them in some way (a whole lot of them seem to have contributed to the overall story) and leaving the audience both wanting a little more and yet satisfied at the same time? Excellent work in my opinion.
The series itself in its origin is, of course, a sort of “battle of the bands” setting, and there are certainly plenty of different styles of music here. I thought that they did a good job in that area of the series as well (although my personal taste does not drift there as much). The main area of interest in regards to the music was how closely they linked it to the inner dispositions of the players – in many ways the crux of the series could boil down to a pretty interesting premise, one that felt straight from the more “mature” or “intellectually developed” (sorta) of the current mahou shoujo series … and for the record I think it could be argued that Show by Rock definitely has some strong mahou shoujo elements in it.
Essentially at the core of Sound World is the music that lies at the heart of all things, and one’s inner disposition can either make said music shine with brilliance (it is linked especially to “positive thoughts”, one might say) or else pulsate with “dark energy”, even eventually enabling one to possibly turn into a “dark monster”. This sound energy has the ability to transform and purify the listeners on the one hand/side of the spectrum, or else change others (sometimes even “forcibly”, taking advantage of the level of darkness one has allowed to grow within one’s core – known as a melodisian stone) into dark monsters as well. The main character (as repeatedly emphasized by her main helper from Sound World early on) carries within her a great amount of raw, unrefined goodness and potential, and even develops it quickly and powerfully, but it takes a step of maturity and bravery for her to utilize it. And this step has ramifications for her back in the real world as well, of course.
I am of the opinion that certain series are more effective when steamrolled and others are more effective when trickled out on a weekly basis. Each mode can create different ways of processing the content of the series itself. But in this case, after steamrolling the series after it had completed and comparing notes, so to speak, I am of the opinion that it seems to work much better waiting in between eps, getting the viewers to think about the story and things going on. When steamrolled there is not enough time to properly mull over the extremely involved world building and story that goes into the series, I feel.
This is a surprisingly developed setting that leaves a lot of room for future seasons, but to be honest I would be really surprised if the series itself sold well on disc. Of course disc sales are not the only factor in deciding if a series gets a second season or no, but even if it did not I must admit that I was surprised and delighted by the content. This was truly a sleeper hit series for me (perhaps partly helped by the main character, Cyan, being “the quintessential cat-girl” as someone described her). It wonderfully balanced the visuals, the audio, the voice acting and especially the story writing and world building. If another season does come I can only hope that they are able to keep it up to the standard of the first one. This was enjoyable and excellent in most every way. It gets an overall A- ranking from me … and only a smidgeon shy of an A!
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