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Show by Rock Complete Season 1 UK Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

show-by-rock-dvd-bdAnd now for something completely different…

What They Say:
Set in the glamorous metropolis Tokyo Midi City, where music and the dream of musical superstardom is everything. Here, “battle of the bands” is more than just a teen rivalry: Dozens of ensembles compete for the honor of playing atop the city’s highest tower. When a Gothic Lolita-clad catgirl cutie named Cyan stumbles into the music world, she too is swept up by the dream of fame. After joining forces with three other colorful characters bunnygirl honor student Chuchu, shy doggirl Retoree, and adorable sheepgirl Moa the quartet becomes Plasmagica, the freshest band on the scene. Armed with special instruments, the girls face off with other bands striving for stardom, like the cool and passionate Visual Kei band Shingan Crimsonz, or the handsome pop idols Trichronika. Will the band find celebrity? Or are they doomed to be one-hit-wonders…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio has a 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese – I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese to compare – and with the Japanese release I did have to raise the volume a little from my default settings, however, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. This is especially important considering they dub pretty much all the songs so the audio has to be at a high standard and fortunately it delivers.

Video:
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation with some of the brightest clarity I’ve seen on a Blu-Ray, it is incredibly well defined and in your face with the animation (full screen, plus combines animation with CGI in different segments flawlessly) –with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching in either language, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release, perhaps one of the best ones out there.

Packaging:

There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:

The menu on both discs basically has a shot of the two main bands Plasmagica and Shingancrimsonz in various poses on the right, whilst below are your selections of Play All, Set Up, Episodes and Extras on a pink bar. Static screen with music in the background, it functions quickly like most Blu-Rays and also like most Blu-Rays has a pop-up screen allowing you to change your selections even during the show without resorting to returning to the main menu bar extras. Very standard but very accessible.

Extras:
Extras on both discs – the 1st one has the dub commentary extras – we get one on episode 2 involving Mike McFarland (Crow), Chris Sabat (Rom), Ian Sinclair (Yaiba) and Jerry Jewell (Aion) – also known as the LOUD commentary. Basically they talk louder than normal over the music or whilst listening to said music as the crew of SHINGANCRIMSONZ (all in caps lock due to how LOUD this commentary was) reveal that they all have a musical background whether current, or teen garage band type background (with some surprises like Sabat was trained in opera!), with typical music stories like bandmate fistfights, how dubbing anime music works (especially with the recent review of Nerima Daikon Brothers, how things changed 10 years later) and the challenges a show like Show By Rock can bring to the table.

Commentary 2 is on episode 6, this time with the girls of Plasmagica, Caitlin Glass (ADR Director/VA of Retoree). Alexis Tipton (Chuchu), Monica Rial (Moa) and Bryn Apprill (Cyan) – not quite as loud but very excitable commentary, again there is background of their musical skills but also the fact the dub cast everyone with some singing background or skill just in case they had to sing on a moment’s notice – also of note that this was a broadcast dub so the original showcase didn’t dub the songs but convention demand actually wanted them dubbed so the DVDs/Blu-Rays releases get their wishes. They speak of the music direction (Brina Palencia working her magic again), singing here in comparison to other shows and the surprising popularity of the show in Japan and hoping to work on the then just announced 2nd season.

The second disc is more general extras, though a fun spin on the promo video extra is that there are some band promo videos for Plasmgaica, Shingancrimsonz, Tsurezurenaru Ayatsuri Mugenan, Criticrista and Trichronika (all Japanese only), each of them (except Trichronika oddly) singing and advertising the release of Show By Rock. There is a more general promo vid section and commercials, all versions of the openings (2) and closings (6 of them!) as well as the full version ending from episode 12 clean, and lastly trailers for Fairy Tail Part 22, Sky Wizards Academy, Castle Town Dandelion, Summer Wars, Snow White With The Red Hair, and Jiniei: Life Consultation – all done as one video rather than separate choices for once.

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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After several nostalgic reviews, this is one of the most recent anime I’ve reviewed that has got a Blu-Ray release in the UK – and this is the case simply because I still have friends who tell me to watch this. Originally airing in 2015 and based on a rhythm game originally released in 2013, the quirky cast, cute girls vs. bishie boys and musical motif suggests a rather silly series.

Sometimes I dunno if I’m happy when I am right, or sad when I am right but could have been more…er…righter?

Our lead character is a shy musically inclined girl named Cyan, who wants to be part of her school’s music club but is too shy to join. Then one night as you do, she gets sucked inside a certain rhythm game into a musical world known as Tokyo Midi City, has turned into a cat like creature, is in the middle of a music performance/fight to the death via a boy band named Trichronika, gains a guitar named Strawberry Heart who with the power of music defeats a monster who was trying to turn the boy band evil, and then is immediately scouted for a girl band named Plasmagica.

O.K, seriously, what the f…

In terms of weirdness, the 1st episode of Show By Rock is a cluster of everything happening…and then calming down. After that initial drug induced episode, she joins the band (remember she has just transferred to this weird and seems…O.K with it I guess?), meets the other band under the label in Shingancrimsonz who get contacted by Trichronika to be the opening band for them (with a bit of history involving Rom and the lead of Trichronika Shuzo) and Cyan happens to be quite the singer and cutie-pie for the girls who adore them (especially shy girl Retoree who gets her own little story about how she wanted friends and how the two are quite similar to the point they are almost crushing on each other) – Cyan’s addition gives the girls confidence to go into the world and whilst they lose a match against a rival girl band named Criticrista (owned by the apparent big bad in the background) they take it as a way to get better. They see other bands, including the far eastern sounding Tsurezurenaru Ayatsuri Mugenan, learn about each other (Moa, the cute sheep girl, is in fact from another world as well but as an alien agent – the girls couldn’t care less though because she is lovely) and their ambitions (Chuchu, the lead, is the team mom, but she does later get feelings of jealousy over Cyan which does throw a spanner in the works)…

Despite this, there is an ongoing plot – the big bad is named Dagger, who is the owner/CEO of Unicorn Virtual Music, who is using music to create these dark monsters to try and take over Midi City, with a legendary musican trapped by him named Grateful King who is forced to help him (a nice little connection between King and Cyan is realised before the end of the series which was surprising) – a lot of the more popular bands seem to get targeted whilst Cyan’s origins are questioned when she doesn’t seem to know a lot of the trends and bands in the city. This in turn does lead to the girls becoming closer despite the fact Cyan and Moa both may have to return to their worlds someday (Retoree does not take it well initially), whilst Shingancrimsonz also have their own issues with the dark monsters, one of their members being infected, as well as Chuchu’s jealousy over Cyan also making her seemingly join Unicorn even after they defeat Criticrista in a rematch (which doesn’t end well for Criticrista as Dagger doesn’t tolerate failure…)

It leads to the Boodookan, where Plasmagica, Shingancrimsonz, Tsurezurenaru and Trichronika are all scheduled to perform, where by this time, her guitar Strawberry Heart who is able to talk, seems to have no response (this in turns synchs in with something happens with Grateful King) as Dagger attempts to take over Midi City with the power of Grateful Kings song. The four bands are attacked by a huge dark monster (who has absorbed the souls of Criticrista) that Cyan, Shuzo of Trichronika and Darudayu of Tsurezurenaru are the only ones with the power to actually hold it off. They team up so Cyan can purify it, with them facing off against Dagger who tries to force Cyan to join him by capturing everyone. However, they are saved by Grateful King (who had been rescued by the underrated managers of Plasgmaica, the voluptuous Angelica and the egg manager Maple) – it does lead to Cyan defeating Dagger, performing one last performance before she is sent back to her world….and setting up the inevitable sequel.

And yes, that was as strange as it sounded.

Show By Rock I actually did see the 1st episode last year via a friend, and if I had gone alone by that, I probably would have dismissed it. Watching the entire series…and I’m confused on what I think about it.

Let’s start with the bad side I guess – the shows plot really makes no sense if you think about it. First of all, why was Cyan transported into this world via a video game? There is no real explanation about it in her arriving, and even at the end how she gets back – it is basically just a means to an end to get the idea/plot started. Second of all, instead of getting home sick, she immediately accepts where she is, joining a band (granted her dream but this should be thing 6 on the list of things she needs to think about), finding a place, having friends, etc – this is a fantasy for her that basically comes true. Even the villain side is a bit ‘O.K, we are meant to believe this?’ With music creating dark monsters, absorbing the souls (it does remind me of Shugo Chara a lot) – it doesn’t really give much explanation, it’s just ‘it happens, accept it.’

The bands also suffer from that there are definite hints of issues (especially between Shuzo and Rom) but there isn’t enough time to expand on it and just hints of history and hate are shown. Aside from Plasmagica, none of the other bands also get enough screen time or character development (Aion of Crimsonz gets an episode to himself but it feels strange that the supposed lead of that band Crow barely gets that much time on screen) to make themselves truly potentially memorable outside of the fleeting moments to remind you that they are there. Hopefully this will be looked into the sequel because there are definite things that you like with the other bands.

That said, the show does at least give the main band enough for each of the characters outside of Cyan their memorable moments. Moa seems to be the odd duck, but her bubbly personality combined with the fact she is similar to Cyan in terms of being from another world (though more the fact she is an alien) – she gets one key moment for her to ponder and when Cyan reveals her past, it brings her to be braver and the girls just grow from that. Chuchu develops from the team mom to actually having dreams and wanting to be solo, being selfish yet growing to love Plasmagica, yet the hints of jealousy when Cyan appears to be more popular actually do slowly develop before the finale, giving another hint of tension outside when Cyan is revealed to needing to go back home at some point.

And then there is Retoree. She is so lovable that you are always rooting for her especially as she seems to be a character that can easily be recognisable. Like Cyan, she was looking for friends but unlike Cyan, she seems eternally reserved and even uncomfortable in her current situation. Her early indications of reacting to Cyan’s cat like language seems like she is not as reserved as she appears and this turns to be the case but still remains quite shy but gingerly reaches out to Cyan and the two are insanely adorable and sweet together it gives my teeth cavities. She makes the brave decision to talk about her past as well as invite the girls to a band trip of Mugenans, as she slowly becomes braver, and who is it that is most heartbroken when Cyan reveals she may have to leave and is hurt the most? I can see why people love her and also why people do ship her and Cyan, though the best friends’ moniker is where they seem to be and they give the warm fuzzies.

The series is strange – it goes through quick, the finale does feel rushed (though it does make sense) and the speed it goes through means there isn’t enough for everything they want to do. However, similar to Nerima Daikon Brothers, what makes the series is the effort in songs, and again in English too as well as Japanese – all the songs are dubbed, the 5.1 track bursts it into full throttle and it is just a pure fun show. Certainly not one I’d put on my top 50 list, but one I’d return too so I can have a big old smile on my face.

In Summary:
Show By Rock on one hand isn’t a classic show by any means, the plot is weak, the show is fairly rushed, the characters outside of the main band aren’t developed or memorable enough, and the finale is very deliberate and tacked on. On the other hand, is a gorgeous show, the main band is lovable, the music is catchy, the combination of CGI and animation works incredibly well that it fits easily into the guilty pleasure list. Not one I’d recommend for anyone looking for anything in depth, but for a bit of fun, there are definitely worse out there.

Features:
Episode Commentaries, Band Promo Videos, Commercials, Promo Videos, Textless Opening & Closing Songs.

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Anime Limited via Funimation
Release Date: February 20th, 2017
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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