First Look: Kageki Shojo!!

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Alternative title(s): Opera Girl!!, The Curtain Rises
Manga Adaptation by Pine Jam
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

The Red Flower Musical School has trained thousands of young would-be stars over the years to become fixtures of the Red Flower Opera Company – an all-female musical theater troupe created solely by unmarried women. When ex-idol Ai Narada and the granddaughter of a kabuki actor, the enormously tall Sarasa Watanabe, are both accepted into the prestigious school, personalities collide and dreams of the ultimate stardom – playing a lead role in The Rose of Versailles – are born.

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Artemis’ verdict: Hashtag Not My Takarazuka

So I’m a bit of a fan of the Takarazauka Revue, and I’m also a big fan of Rose of Versailles – both the 70s anime and the Takarazuka stage production, the latter of which I was able to see (the Cosmos troupe 2014 version) in person during my first stint of living in Japan. The Revue has made it into plenty of anime before, but mostly in an “inspired by” or “loosely based on” way (Revue Starlight), or as an outright parody (the Zuka Club in Ouran High School Host Club). This is the first anime that I know of where the Revue is more or less named as such and the entire plot revolves around it – or at least, the training school version of it. So yeah, knowing nothing about the anime itself going in, I was excited to see what Kageki Shojo!! might have to offer.

Not much, apparently. Between the bitchy side characters, the bizarre plot beats (sure, we regularly send in the JSDF to train budding musical stars, wat?), and the gender-related themes that have all the complexity and subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face, I was disappointed, to say the least. Kageki Shojo! may present itself as an earnest, albeit not overly heavy, school drama about following your dreams to stardom – a bit like a non-magical Takarazuka version of Kaleido Star – but its ham-fisted approach to its subject matters made the premiere seem more like a bad comedy at times. I’m also frankly a bit baffled that this anime of all things was directed, composed, and edited entirely by men. A sadly ironic missed opportunity if I ever saw one.

I’m not saying Kageki Shojo!! has nothing going for it – I actually think there are plenty of potentially good elements here – but to my mind, the premier fails to put them to good use. That’s a real shame, but what can I say, I lack the time (and let’s be honest, the patience) to continue watching stuff that doesn’t grip me from episode 1, no matter how lackluster the rest of the season.

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Jel’s verdict: Audition Failed

I’m not sure the writers of this show know anything about human interaction. The characters in Kageki Shojo!! look and act weird. They spout all kinds of unnatural dialogue that makes it impossible to take them seriously. And this is BEFORE they bring in the JSDF to teach stage classes for some reason. I’m particularly critical of this because it seems like the series wants to be a simple, ganbare! your way to the top type of story. So to me it just looks like bad execution.

What really infuriates me though is the “not all men” vibe from the male characters, all of which have authority over the female cast. For example, one of the female characters tells her handsome teacher he’s different from other guys, or there’s the JSDF instructor (???) giving a speech how men have to be careful about sexual harassment these days and I don’t they’re saying that’s positive. There’s a lot more gender commentary that I’d love to hear someone more qualified try to unpack, but as for me I’m going look for something better to watch.

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