Mixed media thingamajig by Studio Kai
Streaming on HIDIVE
Haru, Rio and Kyouka are working hard to take their idol unit TiNgS all the way to the top, but their efforts aren’t translating into audience turnouts in the slightest. When their disbandment seems imminent, the president of their talent agency decides to give them one last chance… but in order to make anything of it, the girls are going to need a manager who can do the impossible.
Aqua’s verdict: Shut Up and Play the Hits
From the guy who brought you The IDOLM@STER, Shine Post is Konami’s answer to… well, The IDOLM@STER. I don’t think one of the most notoriously inept media conglomerates in all of Japan jumping onto the idol bandwagon just about a decade after The IDOLM@STER, Love Live!, Aikatsu! and similar franchises already divided up the cake was anything anyone was really looking forward to, but if there’s anything being my master’s degree in otaku anthropology has taught me, it’s that a good “wota” always has room for another “oshi” to “stan”. Maybe Konami being fashionably late to the party is not an issue at all. Heck, which ones of these shows end up becoming worldwide phenomena and which ones end up tanking like lead zeppelins seems to be little more than a complete lottery — and if there’s anything this industry loves, it’s pulling the lever on a slot machine.
If terms like “oshi” sound like gobbledegook to you — this is, unsurprisingly, not the show for you. Heck, it’s not the show for me either. Shine Post, like the many idol shows before it, demands you unconditionally accept the premise that there is nothing more inspirational than an idol shining on stage, and while it at least acknowledges that being an idol isn’t a walk in the park, the enormous potential an idol show that actually dares to acknowledge the dark sides of the industry would have, once again goes untapped here. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that Shine Post does what it sets out to do with a surprising amount of verve. If you, unlike me, don’t take issue with the rampant idealism on display here, I would say there is potential here.
For starters, the production quality is a step up from the usual idol fare, with the (mostly) hand-drawn performance sequences especially being a nice change of pace from the computer-generated puppetry usually associated with the genre. The artistic choices aren’t always on the mark — the translucent effect on the girls’ shirts especially looking like they spilled their slushies on their outfits — but it’s clear Studio Kai were afforded the time and budget here to meet the standards set by this show’s competitors. By far the wisest decision Shine Post makes, however, is starting out with a core cast of only three. These mixed media projects have the unfortunate tendency to inundate viewers with girls, girls, girls in their pilot episodes, which predictably makes nothing about them stick. Shine Post, in its turn, eases viewers into its world at a more leisurely pace. Haru, Rio and Kyouka still aren’t fully-fleshed human beings by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that they don’t have to share the spotlight with an approximate boatload of other aspiring idols at least gives them the chance to be remembered by the time the next episode rolls around.
Unfortunately, Shine Post‘s most distinguishing creative choice is also by far its worst. Dropping a twentysomething male manager character into a show otherwise populated by middle and high school aged girls always feels a bit like wish fulfilment for the intended audience, and while there are thankfully no too egregious cases of the idols eating right out of Mr. Manager’s hand in this episode, the general precedent for this kind of thing doesn’t exactly ease my mind. There are more apparent problems with Naoki’s character, though. The guy has all the personality of a training dummy meant for the girls’ shenanigans to bounce off of and his “tragic” backstory is too vague and nonsensical to get viewers invested in his journey, but by far the most bizarre thing about him is that goofy ability of his. Right, have I mentioned yet that this guy has superpowers? Maybe? Kinda?
I don’t know, but it’s a bafflingly arcane wart on a show otherwise as cookie cutter as they come, both poorly explained (What do these auras represent? Talent? Potential? Lies?) and poorly portrayed (Does he actually see auras or are these just visual shorthand?). Yet most of all, it’s a fundamentally lazy plot device. Instead of our Mr. Manager seeing his passion rekindled and his desire to see these girls succeed ignited through something they actually do or say, he just has his produce-o-vision tell him that Haru is special. It’s certainly a solution for what is essentially a spin on the “Tenacious D problem” I described in the latest podcast — how do you depict someone singing “the best song ever” without actually having to write the best song ever? — but it sure isn’t a particularly graceful one. You can’t just tell us that this girl is a once-in-a-generation talent. You’re going to have to do better than that.
In the end, I’m sure Sign Post will have its fans, and more power to them, but it just doesn’t bring enough to the table to get me to stick around. The core presentation is competent, yet the show struggles with finding an identity of its own, the confidence of its production and character writing ultimately undone by its head-scratching attempts to carve out a niche of its own with its increased focus on Mr. Manager and his inexplicably produce-o-vision. As odd as it sounds, Sign Post might have been better off being even more generic as it is. It clearly is most comfortable when it plays things straight out of the book and if you enjoy it just for that, I’m not going to hold it against you. Just like how I won’t hold it against you if you’re attending a live performance by, like, Vanilla Ice and end up thinking “okay, yeah, you know what, Ice seems to be having a good flow today and he’s pulling off all of his dance moves correctly and when you play them with a live band these songs are not actually that bad” and then when the crowd is all hyped up and waiting in anticipation for that iconic “Under Pressure” bassline to start, and you’re thinking “heck, I can’t believe it, but actually, going ape shit on fucking “Ice Ice Baby” may be exactly what I need right now”… he suddenly starts playing songs from his nu metal era. Jesus Christ, Ice! You had one job! People just wanted to hear “Ice Ice Baby”, Ice! What are you doing?