What They Say:
It’s a new school year and Kasumi, Arisa, Saya, Tae, and Rimi are thrilled to finally be second-year students. Even more exciting than becoming upperclassmen, however, is the fun they have while performing in their band Poppin’ Party… until things get out of control when the girls publicly announce that they’re going to do their own concert before they’ve really studied the issue.
Suddenly they’re committed to doing something that’s a lot more difficult than it seemed, and the pressure is doubled since their musical rivals in Roselia, who’ve also announced a live concert, are way ahead of them in planning! But you can’t stop the music, and with a little hard work and help from other groups and some talented newcomers, Poppin’ Party fever will soon be popping up all over!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the English language, both of which are 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; that didn’t click as strongly for me in the first season but it feels like it connects better this time around in-show. 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 2019, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this season are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Sanzigen, 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. I’m sure those more heavily vested in the show than I am will see the differences from the first season which was animated by a different studio, but with time and distance, all I know is that it looks good. 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. I really like the costumes they have and the contrast of it with the lighter background works really well. 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 BanG Dream logo along the lower left 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.
I don’t think the success of the first season of BanG Dream was a surprise in how it was met and what it helped with the larger scale of the multimedia project. But I’m glad that they didn’t just rush right into another season, instead mapping things out more and announcing two follow-up seasons with a plan tied along with the rest of the franchise. Coming two years after the first season kicked off, the second season landed in January 2019 and delivered thirteen more episodes. The third season came a year later and, as of this writing, is in the process of getting closer to its final. That’s a good thing for fans of the franchise as it’s spread out well with plenty of things to engage with, purchase, and enjoy to keep yourself invested in the characters and world.
As I’m not playing the games or buying the music, it’s been two years since I last touched upon this property so it was a nice little bit of rediscovery overall. The first season was pleasant enough with a good look and the usual cliches and that looks to be replicated here all while moving on as the girls are more experienced in terms of the music and performing. Taking place a few months shy of a year after the end of the first season, it’s now the start of the second school year for the gang and it’s fun to see everyone getting into the groove of it all. There are plenty of simple moments early on to help define personalities for the girls but it shifts into an event quickly with live performances at Galaxy. That brings in several of the other bands and a good sense of where they each are now in terms of competence and performance. Of course, as it goes on, we get Roselia talking about their sponsored show and that gets the Poppin’ Party girls doing their best to catch up so they talk about their own newly announced and conceived self-sponsored live show.
Naturally, it’s not an easy thing and that makes for a fun thing to deal with (from the distance as the viewer) as they struggle with it. The whole thing takes an interesting turn as Rokka becomes invested in what the Poppin’ Party girls are trying to do and that gets her working toward forming her own band in order to play at the self-sponsored show when it’s a reality. This really percolates for a lot of the season and comes up as a background piece here and there as needed. But what we really get to focus on are the more episodic events that allows the show to play big. One episode deals with Happy World as they get to do a cruise ship performance and spend some time in a hot air balloon. We get the World Idol Festival in another episode where Pastel gets to perform and that does the same in motivating the Poppin’ Party girls to get their acts together for their own show. There are so many shows that it blurs a bit, but that’s part of the appeal in that it touches on so many groups that are used in the multimedia aspect well.
And it’s well-animated in that we get a lot of costume changes throughout for the performances but the slice of life elements change things regularly as well. I know a lot of people still dislike the CG character model thing but BanG Dream works it so well and smoothly that it’s an ideal property to help build up the work on making it as close to traditional animation as possible while still exploiting what it allows animators to do. These performances are beautiful to watch play out because of the quality and fluidity of the animation and the actual songs themselves with their infectious energy. I may not connect much with the characters – there’s just a bit more than enough of them and I’m not fully vested in their stories for a number of reasons – but it’s incredibly easy to be engaged from episode to episode and enjoy the journey.
With a few episodes focusing on a joint cultural festival as well, it all barrels forward toward the final run of episodes with the live performances at Galaxy live house and the push to really put together the best self-sponsored show possible. It’s a good series in that it lays out the hard work needed and the dedication to doing it right, and the reward of the audience’s delight in seeing it go live. It’s no surprise that it turns into a really big musical number toward the end with multiple groups playing and that leans into the game elements enough so that everyone gets a chance to see their favorites. Which I get and understand as part of the whole process and it works to firm up the bonds even as the bands are competitive with each other. But it is an element that is very much woven into the fabric of shows like this when it might keep it from really exploring something a little more serious.
I know a lot of fans of this show and their passion for it is high. And I mean H-I-G-H. That’s something that I love to see series engender in people and there are a number that still do that for me. BanG Dream doesn’t get me to that point as the whole idol subgenre lost me a while ago but I enjoy the ones that does it well. This one definitely does it well and has a lot of fun with it as there are creative groups, neat performances, some great animation, and a good sense of character and growth in the big picture. I really liked what the larger production has done for this property and green-lighting two seasons at once was definitely welcome. This season builds upon what came before and Sentai’s release delivers us a good dub, a great encode, and something that fans will be very pleased to own and revisit.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 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: April 21st, 2020
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.