Podzilla 1985

Monday, April 13, 2015

Starish Returns

Spring is here, bringing with it a new season of Uta no Prince-sama, and I am one happy fangirl.

To be honest, I was surprised when I found out about this a couple months ago. Season two wrapped up nicely and I was convinced that was all we were going to get.

This series can be a bit cheesy at times, but what else would you expect from a reverse harem title based off a visual novel game? I really wish Sony would market some of these to American audiences, but I have a feeling that they never will. Girls don't play video games, right? Oh, and we don't read over here either, so until I learn Japanese I'm out of luck.

For those of you haven't discovered this series I'll give you a basic explanation of the plot. Sorry if I spoil anything, but to be honest this show is somewhat predictable anyway.

 Haruka Nanami is attending a school for idols and other members of the music world. Her dream is to be a top composer and to write songs for her favorite idol, Hayato. While at Shining Academy she befriends several male classmates and forms a working relationship with them.

Why only working you ask? Well the school has one major creed, students may NOT fall in love. It is forbidden, for stars should put all of their passions into their work.

However over time each of the boys begin to fall for the cute, somewhat shy writer. When finals roll around they learn that all students are to form writer/artist pairs and create a final performance. The ones with the most talent will debut with the school's entertainment agency. To Haruka's frustration she is asked to be the partner of six different young men. One is even her idol Hayato, who's trying to shed that persona to debut as himself.

After some self reflection and a little outside inspiration, Haruka decides to write for all of them. Let's break the rules and form a boy band! After a little work to convince their principal, who is also the agency's president Shining Saotome, STARISH is born.

Their song Maji Love 1000% is so freaking catchy, but the lyrics are goofy as hell. I'm not going to lie though, the song is part of what helped get me hooked. 

So peppy!

With season two the group makes their debut with Maji Love 2000%. Along with this each of the guys begin to do their own side work as idols. One small change has been made to their dynamic, however - a seventh member joined them to finish rounding out their sound. Like her previous classmates, this new singer also likes Haruka. The big difference is that he actually tells her! The others have, for the most part, been a bit more subtle. With this added challenge they might have to up their games a bit.

So as we watch STARISH grow we also get to see each young man get some alone time with Haruka. Though she plays innocent through it all, I still think she knows their intent and is just playing dumb. I really like Haurka, which is surprising cause usually the heroines in these kind of shows are really irritating. Either they're too meek and total push overs, or they whine a lot and have bratty personalities. I will admit Haruka comes off meek, but I feel that her passion for her dream overpowers it. This is also what leads me to believe that her clueless attitude towards the boys is an act. They have all in some way let her know that they care for her on a romantic level, but she is staying true to the Shining Agency's creed - talents may NOT fall in love.

She's keeping things professional and doing what she can to encourage the artists that she wants to see flourish. Why destroy the thing you helped to create? She loves to hear them sing and watch them perform. No doubt, choosing one and discarding the others would crush STARISH as a whole. 

The main goal for the group in season two is to be nominated into the Uta Pri contest for new music groups. Winning this award means big publicity for them, so naturally Shining Saotome wants them to work hard and gain this prestige. To help them along they are assigned mentors who are seniors in the agency.

Enter Quartet Night.

These four men are there to push STARISH to their best, and teach them what it really means to have star qualities. They are hard on them, but in the long run they mean well. By the end this senior group is in turn inspired by their juniors to work harder as well. This leads us to season three, Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love Revolution!

The first episode of season three aired on April 4th. You can find the episodes on Crunchy Roll but you'll have to wait a week after they air to watch if you don't have a premium membership. I currently don't and waited all week to watch this one. Probably gonna end up forking over some money so I can stay current, even though I really prefer the cheap route. If only Hulu would get on the ball about it, since they have seasons one and two already, why not three? I already pay you Hulu, hook me up already!

Back to the point.

Quartet Night will be playing a larger role it seems. The opening song is theirs and we get some fresh screen time of them preforming. The goal this time around is to open for a world wide sports event, much like the Olympics, called the Triple S. Several music groups throughout Japan will be fighting for this chance to debut world wide, since their country is hosting the event. Shining Saotome announces that the Shining Agency will be entering Quartet Night into the competition and that he wants Haruka to write a new song for them.

Naturally the members of STARISH are excited for their seniors, knowing that this is a big deal, until their most inexperienced member posses a question. When can they perform at this event? They explain to him that only the artists of the hosting country are giving the chance to perform and that the next time it will not be in Japan. They all quickly come to the same conclusion - their chance is now and if they don't act, it will pass them by.

So we have a new music battle in the works and along with it the other main goal - winning Haruka's affection.

I couldn't help but laugh while watching the opening few scenes. They were cheesy and predictable, but also utterly adorable. I'm such a sap. I also can not choose who I'd like to see Haruka with. They are all such likable characters on one level or another. Plus you know with her writing for Quartet Night that they too are going to join in this conquest. I'm actually really excited to get to learn more about those four.

Now that we have an idea of what we're in for, let's take a little look at the yaoi fodder we have at hand. Don't try and fool yourself, you know what this genre attracts.

I'll begin with the members of STARISH.

Fun fact: one initial from each guy forms the group's name.

Natsuki Shinomiya is the most cheerful of the group. He's a little silly and loves small cute things like Haruka and a little chicken named Piyo-chan. He likes to dress his childhood friend Syo up in cute clothes too. He enjoys cooking, but is terrible at it. No one should ever consume anything that Natuski makes.

Despite his happy-go-lucky nature, Natuski literally has another side to him. He suffers from a split personality disorder known as Gemini Syndrome. If his glasses are removed he becomes Satsuki - a much harsher, realistic persona that is prone to violent outbursts. He's more talented musically that Natsuki and serves as a protective shield for the happy young man. Once Natsuki regains his glasses he remembers nothing of his time as Satsuki, but there is a part of him that feels that someone is watching over him.

Of all the characters I feel that I enjoy watching Natsuki evolve as a character the most. I like seeing him grow as an artist and watching the others deal with his quirks. He really likes Haruka, but at times it does seem like it's more because she's just small and cute. He grew up with Syo and often treats the smaller boy the same way so it can be a bit misleading at times when he plays with Haruka.

I like Natsuki, but I'm not sold that he's the man for our heroine.

Tokiya Ichinose formerly performed as the idol Hayato. He grew tired of this persona as his agency started turning him into a variety show clown rather than allowing him to follow his passion for singing. He joined Shining Academy under the act of being Hayato's twin brother so that he could debut as himself and shed his unwanted shadow.

He can be a bit cold, but part of that is his focus and a need to keep his secret. He truly loves music and wants nothing more than to sing. His drive is only strengthened when Haruka encourages him while not knowing that he is really the idol that she aims to work for. He also becomes inspired by her music and wants to share it with the world.

Tokiya is easily my favorite, and as much as he hates Hayato I still love seeing him be silly, as it's a refreshing change from his icy demeanor. He has an advantage with Haruka, since she's admired him from the start, and the other members of STARISH know it. They will do what it take to not let him get ahead, but it hasn't stopped him yet. I love watching Haruka's reactions around him. She's so obviously star struck and trying not to make a fool of herself.  I want to yell at her to just give in already! He keeps himself in line around her, but as time goes on he keeps dropping more obvious hints that he wants her to himself.

Cecil Aijima is the most inexperienced member of the group, at least when it comes to the concept of being an idol. He is the prince of an island kingdom known as Agnapolis, and the royal family there communicates with muses through song. For him music is a natural thing and a way of life. He could care less about fame, and just wants to be close to Haruka. He had been under a curse that left him in the form of a black ca, and it was in this form that he frequently encountered our heroine and grew to love her. Her passion for music and desire to help all of her friends succeed broke his curse. In turn, he was the one who suggested that she choose all of the guys for their final project at school. In a way he was the one to truly create STARISH.

Cecil marches to his own drum but is learning how to work as a team. As he watches his fellow idols, he gains the desire to work harder and spread his love of music to the world. When alone he likes to be outside and will often hang out in the trees while he's studying Japanese or writing lyrics to Haruka's compositions.

He is also the most open with expressing his love to Haruka. On many occasions he's flat out proclaimed his love, much to the displeasure of the others. He will never hesitate to embrace the girl and has been foiled many times when attempting to kiss her. Her other "princes" keep a close eye on his actions.

I'm not against Cecil, but he's currently my least favorite. He just goes at his own pace too much for my tastes. I understand that he's learning and has a bit of a cultural difference from the others, but something about him just doesn't work for me. He amuses me, but like Natsuki, I just can't really see Haruka with him in the long run.

Ren Jinguji is the playboy of our dream team. He's a natural flirt and doesn't always take his work seriously. He's a rich boy, who was pretty much told by his older brother to be an idol and be his company's poster boy.

As a boy he grew up with fellow member Masato, but after realizing their roles within their respected families they grew apart. Now they are rivals in most things, and the subject of Haruka is no exception.

Ren flirts shamelessly with the girl, though he is a little more daring when they are alone. He tends to call her Lady or Little Lamb rather than by her name. I'm pretty sure enjoys making her uncomfortable, but he never pushes things too far. He always ends up claiming that he'll wait until she "grows up".

I like Ren, but I think he's more than Haruka can handle. She does indeed need to grow up some more before getting involved with this pheromone king. I know he won't do it, but he's still the most likely to rape her (Seanán - what kind of show are you watching!!).

There, I said it. Moving on...

Otoya Ittoki is the most boyish of the group. He gets extremely excited about their work and is highly motivated in improving his own skills. When he doesn't have idol work to do, it is a safe bet that he is somewhere practicing.

He is bad about keeping his issues to himself. He's an orphan. His mother died in an accident when he was little and he never met his father. All he knows is that the man was also an idol, so that's what drove him to be one as well. When the others found out about his past, they scolded him about being so secretive, as they would never treat him any differently.

Otoya often acts on his emotions without realizing it until it's too late. There are times where he hugs Haruka out of pure happiness, just to jump back with a blush and flustered face while  laughing it off.
He's adorable.

I want to cheer for Otoya, because he is just too cute around Haruka. I said it's hard for me to pick one, but I'd be very happy if he wound up winning Haruka over. I love watching them interact. They come off as close friends one moment and can be completely mistaken for an innocent couple the next. I couldn't help but smile at his first appearance in this new season.

Those moments give me that warm fuzzy feeling that keeps me addicted to shoujo titles.

Syo Kurusu is the shortest memeber of STARISH, and as much as he hates it, he keeps getting reminded of that fact. His disdain for his height tends to trigger his temper and leads to him going off on people who point it out. He's the more athletic of the group and loves action shows and movies. He tends to make up for his stature with a very manly and strong nature.

He strives to be like his favorite idol Ryuya Hyuga, who is not only a big action star and former idol, but a teacher at Shining Academy. As Syo improves himself, he is lucky enough to work with his idol and even gains praise from him. His admiration for this man also cemented his connection with Haruka. The were both fans who wanted to live in the world of stars. He feels that this understanding makes her closer to him than the others, and drives him to work harder not only for himself but for her as well.

Syo is a bit more subtle with his signs of affection. He tends to give Haruka things of his own that are important to him, like a DVD of his favorite Ryuya film and a hat he wears a lot. He'll protect Haruka at all odds, even if it is at risk to himself.

This guy surprised me. I never seem to lean towards the shorter characters, but Syo is awesome. He's always full of energy and positivity no matter how bad things may be going. He's also very adorable standing next to Haruka. They just visually make a really cute couple. It's kinda nice seeing her not have to look up to see the face of who she's talking too. I always enjoy watching them interact. Haruka always gets dragged into his excitement when he goes into fanboy mode and I love it.

Masato Hijirikawa is the most serious of the group. Like Ren, he's from a well-to-do family but was brought up in a much stricter manner. This may be why he has a rather old fashioned way of thinking and how he presents himself. He has a very hard time showing his true self to anyone.

Unlike Ren, he wasn't forced into this route, but he had to fight for it. His passion for music was something he had to prove to his family, and that it wasn't a waste of his time.

When Haruka is involved, Masato will allow his softer side to show through, but he still has a hard time expressing himself. He still acts in a restrained manner but it is clear to him that he not only wants to be close to the girl, but he also feels that he needs her by his side. He won't be whole if she isn't with him. He also get's extremely jealous whenever Ren, or any of the other guys really, get close to Haruka. He's even verbally threatened Ren a few times about it.

At first I wasn't impressed with Masato, but he's grown on me. His quirks are intriguing and my interests have leaned towards the serious characters more in a number of series.

Maybe I'm finally growing up a bit too!

....not likely.

I do feel that Haruka is good for him, but if something is going to happen he needs to learn to express himself better. At the very least he needs to get up the nerve to have basic physical contact with her. There's a whole episode in season two that goes into that. It's hilarious and involves a little cross dressing on another idol's part, but I won't spoil that one too much.

As for Quartet Night, I don't know that much. I've found a few things online, but they relate more to the games that I'll never get to play. Hopefully the new season will shed some light on them.

But that doesn't mean I can't leave you with a few basics!

Ranmaru Kurosaki grew up with Ren and Masato. He's no longer an heir to a fortune, but rather is in great debt. His father lost everything they had, getting screwed over by a business partner before he passed away. Ranmaru became an idol so he could pay these debts off. He's a cold person and tends to be harsh to others, though he does like cats and cooking. He also loves rock music. As a senior, he's in charge of Ren and Masato.

He's the member of the seniors I'm the most curious about. I understand that he's been through a lot and has had a rough time, but is that truly what has made him so stone cold? He keeps showing hints of a gentle nature and I want to see that come out more.

Ai Mikaze is the most analytic of the group. He often seems more interested in results and calculations than actual people and their feelings. He's also a strict teacher and expects discipline from his juniors. He's in charge of Syo and Natsuki.

Ai doesn't really interest me at all. I don't like flat characters and that's what he feels like. I hope he get's fleshed out some more and is given some depth.

Reiji Kotobuki is the clown of the seniors. He's very upbeat and gives everyone nicknames on his own whims. He loves to play pranks and Ranmaru is his favorite target. He's in charge of Tokiya and Otoya.

I feel Reiji is the most likable of Quartet Knight, and actually seems interested in STARISH's progress as a music group. I also think he's the most likely to start messing with Haruka, if only to get the younger group riled up. He's already started flirting a bit in the first episode, though in a slightly creepy way.

He starts out sounding like he's just praising her hard work, and says that she's capable of more. He tells her he could show her how. The part that raises eyebrows though is when he says, "Let's enter the world of adults together."

WTF Reijji?

Camus is the final member of Quartet Night. He's a count from the country of Permafrost. Sounds like he works for Elsa right? He's very passionate about his homeland and tends to "sparkle" when he talks about it. He has no interest in being friendly with anyone outside of a work relationship. He's very detailed and tends to take notes often and does a lot of research. He's in charge of Cecil.

I don't know what I think of Camus. He reminds me of Millard Peacecraft, though far more flamboyant. He does need to chill out a bit. He's too uptight from what I've seen so far.

I liked the first episode, though it was only a small taste of what is waiting for us. My only real complaint was with STARISH's new song, the closing credit number REVOLUTION. For starters, it's not as catchy as the Maji Love songs, but it might grown on me with time. No, what bugged me most was their weird animation transitions. You have the usual animations for the up close and mid shots, but as soon as it pans out to a wide shot  the guys go into a weird 3D model, or odd rotoscoping effect.

*rotoscope - a form of animation where live action footage is taken and then 2D animation is drawn over the frames to achieve realistic movement.

It's odd, and as an animator it bothers me a lot. It'll try to let it go, but I make no promises.

Overall, I look forward to having another interesting and amusing season. I've been enjoying this series and I don't want that to change now. So for the time being, I'm going to fight with myself about if I can wait a week to watch the second episode when posted or if I'm going to be a bad kid and subscribe to Crunchy Roll again.

Until next time.... Uta Prii!
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