What They Say:
Kasumi Toyama was enthralled by the stars as a young girl, so when she discovers a trail of star-shaped signs one day after transferring to a new school, she can’t help but follow them. They lead her to a shop run by the grandmother of one of her new classmates, and Kasumi finds something that will change her life forever: a star-shaped guitar! And just like that, Kasumi knows that forming a band is her destiny.
Of course, convincing Arisa and her grandmother to sell her the guitar won’t be easy, and finding a group of other girls who want to become musicians will be even harder. But when a girl has stars in her eyes and a starbeat in her heart, there’s nothing that will stop Kasumi from making her fantasies come true!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is done up in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that’s pretty much a slice of life piece that has some minor moments where it does boost things up a bit with the music but a lot of the song focus for it is something that doesn’t exactly jam. That does pick up as it progresses and the group comes together more but for the most part this is a dialogue-driven piece. The music has a good bit of warmth to it and fills the forward soundstage very well while the dialogue side is clean and clear throughout with some good placement at times and a solid handling of the quieter parts of the show as well. It’s a good mix that handles the intent of the show well and is problem free during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The fourteen episodes for this season are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Issen and Xebec, the show has a really good look about it with a lot of warmth to the backgrounds, strong character designs that aren’t too overdone, and some fluid animation in the higher motion sequences. The encoding captures the color design for it very well with a solid look throughout as it avoids blocking or cross coloration. The animation for this goes a bit more high end than some other shows in this genre and the result is a very appealing looking show with a really strong encoding to bring the detail of it to life.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs against the walls that are easy to pop off of. The front cover works the familiar key visual of the main cast with their respective instruments as they all look bright and happy. The color design is great where it’s vibrant but not overly so and the busy nature of it all works in its favor with all the detail and widgets in the background. The logo is kept along the bottom which looks decent even if it is a bit lost in everything but it’s solid enough here. The back cover gives us a nice image of Kasumi while carrying the background design from the front cover and we get a large block where there’s a tagline and a simple but effective summary of the premise. The episode count is clearly listed as are the extras while the bottom rounds things out with a simple production credits block and an easy to read and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple but works well because of just how energetic it is. With the navigation along the right we get the “Poppin Party” logo along the top with a cute breakdown of the episodes by number and title. The bulk of the screen is made up of some good key visual material of the main group of girls with colorful backgrounds that has a very upbeat feeling about it that captures the tone of the series. The layout is simple and effective and with nothing here beyond the show itself and a couple of extras it’s easy to get around in. Submenus load quickly when needed for the extras and the menu is a quick load as a pop-up menu as well.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Multimedia franchises have been pretty common for a long time and the one for BanG Dream began in 2015 through the musical group Poppin’ Party. With a range of material out there for it including a couple of different manga series, the anime adaptation landed in the winter 2017 season where it came out with a thirteen episode series followed up by an OVA. It worked well enough within Japan and Asia that two additional seasons were announced for it, which is something you don’t see happen too often. The show is certainly well put together with a solid bit of animation here (though that changes for the next two seasons with who is producing it) and there’s plenty of story material that drives it all forward in a way that will appeal to the fans of this genre.
The premise for this is pretty straightforward in that it’s a group/ensemble piece that builds up around the central character of Kasumi. Arriving in high school, she’s looking forward to the experience but has a secret objective to getting into this particular school. She’s been on the search for something musical from her childhood that has driven her to this point – though not to a point of actually learning how to really play before this. Her time exploring has her discovering a pawn shop that’s owned by the family of a classmate where she finds a special looking gutar of an unusual shape. It’s a really awkward sequence with how it unfolds there because she’s practically stealing it and then basically talks her way out of it because of how her upbeat and outgoing personality works. It’s all in service to the destined event here of her forming a band in order to find what it is that inspired her as a child.
The awkward setup leads to the slow formation of the group as we get a few other first-years to join her. A five-member band is pretty familiar and we get that here with Kasumi being joined by the skilled Tae on guitar, Rimi as the bassist who has ties to another group through her sister, Saya taking on as the drummer with a past, and Arisa as the keyboardist that has to play at being the rich and refined type for her family. There’s a familiar layout to it with some that get along with Kasumi better than others, notably with Arisa and the friction that she generates, but for the most part we get the familiar kind of drama that comes from any ensemble show. Frankly, there are no real surprises here as you can see the interactions that come from here in any number of girls-in-a-band high school school shows. What will make or break the show is whether you like the characters and the approach they take to it.
BanG Dream, to me, doesn’t chart any new ground for the most part. We get standard character archetypes and some minor nods to their lives outside of school and the band that Kasumi puts together but otherwise it plays largely real-world. In fact, I was kind of impressed that we didn’t get anyone that was overly intense in the hype about it or a range of characters with bright hair and costuming. It’s all pretty realistic in a lot of ways and that does help and it becomes more noticeable later on when we see the Glitter Green characters show up in their costumes and hair design that’s more traditional musician. That grounded aspect is a good thing for the show because it helps to humanize the cast and keeps it a bit more realistic, but at the same time I’m not sure just how realistic it is in a sea of high school girls that want to form bands would actually play it this normal and work style over substance.
Kasumi, for me, was a particularly frustrating character because of how she approaches all of this. She’s the one behind the formation of the band but has the least ability overall and that’s kind of glossed over in a way. We see a lot of the struggle of the group through her with what they face, including how she deals with the owner of the Space club that she wants to perform in, but Kasumi just left me frustrated in the way that a lot of these leading characters do. When you have characters in this that have spent years practicing and playing and then have someone drop in with no real background to what they’re doing and force it all together like this, it rubs me the wrong way. There are fun moments in seeing the group slowly but surely come together but I found myself more interested in the rest of the cast than Kasumi, which isn’t exactly a good thing with her as the central focus to bring it all together.
BanG Dream struck a chord with Japanese fans but mostly what I found here was a solid and serviceable show that felt like a lot of other girl band shows. It’s well put together in terms of animation and the character designs but the music doesn’t work for me, which isn’t a surprise as my j-pop days are so far behind me at this point. The character stories have potential but I don’t think they really managed to grab forward enough to make them fully engaging, though there’s enough variety and interesting subplots through them that makes it worthwhile. Sentai’s release is kept simple since it’s not dubbed but we get the OVA, which is a huge plus, and the quality of the encode will please fans with how great it looks.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 19th, 2018
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.