Thursday, August 4, 2011

F1RST IMPRESSIONS: Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 1000%

When you think of summer, you probably think of concerts and festivals, right? Consider this week to be your Summer of Song, as AniMaybe covers this season's two music-based shows. First up is Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000%, an animated adaption of the bishônen dating game from Broccoli.

Last year, my good friend Mike Toole (all-around anime wise man and ANN columnist) presented me with La Corda D'oro, a TV series animated by Yumeta Company and eventually subbed by Sentai Filmworks. Borrowing fully from the bishônen visual novel, the story focused on the life of a novice female violinist in an academy half-dominated by genius performers, most of whom were male. Not a bad story in there if you took out the fairy who helped the heroine, but that's a review for another time.

However, it did make me wonder if a company would squeeze more milk out of this potential cash-cow by going straight to something that clicked more with the target audience. Less instruments and more vocal cords later, Broccoli came out with Uta no Prince-sama (My Prince of Song) for the PSP, and that's led to the animated version, subtitled Maji Love 1000% (Serious Love 1000%).

In Uta no Prince-sama, the "academy for geniuses" scenario is relatively unchanged, as all those teens who want to make it big as singers and composers aim to be enrolled in the prestigious Saotome Academy. How prestigious? The founder "Shining Saotome", an ex-idol played by the flamboyant Norio Wakamoto (Mechazawa, Cromartie High School), comes flying into the opening ceremony and exits in an explosion of confetti. Needless to say, he's certainly one of the many colorful teachers at the institution.

Like all good bishônen visual novel games, however, the story revolves around a malleable heroine. With a heart of gold (and a pair of pupils to match), Haruka is incredibly eager to become a great composer, although she hasn't the capability to read sheet music. Rumors about her placement bring her down, but a sextet of friendly male students that come to her side soon give her confidence, each character comic in its own loud or quiet way. It's just too bad that there's a policy at school that forbids students from falling in love with each other!

Let me buffer this review by saying that it was about time someone stitched together anime with Japan's love for male-idol acts. Johnny's Jimusho have pretty much dominated the airwaves since the 80's, and it seems the characters borrow fully from the likes of SMAP and Arashi. The male characters are solid in the ways they fit their roles, complete with a sullen Mamoru Miyano playing the "KimTaku" role. Even Hiro Shimono, who isn't the best of singers, plays a short fedora-clad kid. Perhaps a Masahiro Nakai clone?

Either way, while the story is rickety, the show is animated nicely with some memorable comedy. With lots of color and music, it might be easy to dismiss the show as a Candyland musical, but animation by A-1 Pictures and direction by Yuu Kou (GIANT KILLING, Zero no Tsukaima) provides dependability. At times the music produced by the talents at Elements Garden could use a little more push within the episodes, but coupled with the openings and closings, they are better than expected.

Story: 2
Animation: 4
Characters: 3
Soundtrack: 3
"Hype": 3

Overall: 15/25

I still have lingering doubts that Uta no Prince-sama can be a cohesive work, but as pure entertainment it looks like it will carry the load. The hijinks might be enough to pull interest, especially with's video player capabilities to provide comments on-screen from viewers. It's a daring venture for NicoNico to push it as one of its big shows, but so far it brings me to the site (unlike some other titles, and we'll cover them later). I suppose the concert has the energy to go on, but we'll see what sort of fanfare Uta no Prince-sama produces.

(Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000% is simulcast on every Saturday.)

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