Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: STARMYU Season One
Anime Studio: NBC Universal Entertainment Japan
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Music / Comedy / Slice Of Life
Released: March 18th 2019
Length: 300 Mins
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Trailers
First-year Yuta Hoshitani enters the esteemed Ayanagi Academy with dreams of following in his idol’s footsteps. But competition starts the moment he steps through the doors when some of the best young talent in the industry try out for a spot in the musical department. Catching the eye of an eccentric member of the academy’s elite Kao Council, Hoshitani and five other misfits are given the chance they were hoping for. With egos as strong as their talent, it’s up to Hoshitani’s shining personality to bring Nayuki, Tengenji, Kuga, and Tsukigami together for the biggest performance of the semester. While the strict authorities of the Kao Council try to put an end to their inventive musicals, these five young stars practice day and night for a show that will shake the school.
STARMYU, AKA High School Star Musical, was a surprising series for me. I’ve never had any major issues with idol centered shows, such as the ever-popular Love Live!, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the genre either. So, my expectations for this season were that it would likely be an easy but familiar watch, with the added twist that the up-and-coming idols were all male rather than the usual female. What surprised me was that the show did a fantastic job of sucking me in and making me want to see our protagonists succeed.
The reason for that is simple: the story played out in such a way that the characters became easy to care about. Our initial stars are Yuta Hoshitani and Toru Nayuki, who are in many ways polar opposites. Hoshitani is driven, and willing to put himself out there, while Nayuki is quieter and not as self-assured. They soon get joined by the strict Kaito Tsukigami, who has a famous brother, the prideful kabuki actor Kakeru Tengenji, and the mysterious Shu Kuga. Their characters types are really nothing out of the ordinary, and their personality progression is what you’d expect, but there’s just something about them that’s remarkably likable.
In part, I put that down to their underdog status. Being the team formed of those that, despite having talent, failed their auditions for the music department marks them as lower class performers, after all. Underdog stories have long been a favourite of mine, so having an element of that is a definite plus for me. That they don’t instantly jump to the top is also great, as it gives the team’s progression a realistic edge. It’s a story of small steps rather than giant leaps, which is far more compelling. It also makes each little victory that much more meaningful. Honestly, I was smiling so widely after both their main performances this season.
But things don’t just focus on the young stars-to-be. The familial saga between their mentor Itsuki Otori and his fellow Kao Council member Tsubasa Hiragi also adds to the interlinked stories going on on screen. The upperclassmen’s interactions were thoroughly engrossing, and learning more about their situation was every bit as entertaining as the team’s arc. That the other Council members get some good screen time too is a bonus, though it should be noted that they don’t really get to shine as much as Otori and Hiragi.
Being a music-focused show, there is a musical interlude each episode, usually designed to tell us a little about a character or situation. The songs are mostly quite good, and cover a couple of different styles, albeit without straying far from pop sensibilities. The dance routines are decent too, and I was happy to see that they didn’t appear to be the jarring mix of CG and traditional animation that you often see. A lot of the time, the scenes come across like full-blown music videos, with special effects and lighting abounds. Meanwhile, the ambient sounds and voice acting is all very good, leaving nothing to really complain about in terms of the audio. The art style feels very shoujo, with plenty of long limbs and strong faces on show, and that fits well with the show, as well as the musical routines.
Outside the music and visuals, the show does a good job of balancing the serious and silly moments. From the get-go, we’re shown how hard everyone is going to have to work: From the X-Factor style auditions to the clear adoration for the high-end performers, you know that success is not going to be given for free. By the same token, the serious parts of each character’s backstory are treated well, and how it affects not only them personally but their interactions with those around them feels natural. Meanwhile, the humour is all very good-natured. The episode in the mansion was great for this, with both the absurdity of Team Hiragi appearing form the bushes and the whole vase incident being genuinely funny.
All the positives aside though, the show is not perfect, especially in terms of animation. There are times where the animation feels slightly clunky, such as when characters are opening doors. The musical routines also sometimes seem to lead to the lip movements faltering, which stands out against the mostly fine – though not standout – body movements. Tengenji’s overuse of the word boor became irritating by the end of the series for me too. These issues don’t detract from the show too much though, so are really quite minor all things considered.
In all, I expected STARMYU to be a passable series but found that it was actually a bit more than that. Surprisingly engrossing, and featuring a main cast that it’s easy to root for, STARMYU is an easy recommend. 4 out of 5.