Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50

Title: Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50
Language: Japanese
Genre: Music, Shoujo, Slice of Life
Episodes: 26 (13 each)

Keeping my promise to a fellow maid/host, I decided to watch at least the first season of this male idol anime, after completing Show By Rock!!. I didn't know what to expect, but I went in with an open mind.

It takes place at a fictional theater called Hollywood Tokyo in Harajuku, where members of the idol group "Shounen Hollywood" develop their talents with diligent work and studying. [source: MyAnimeList]

Knowing my maid/host friend's interest in Japanese idols such as Fudanjuku, AKB48, and Zen the Hollywood (which I'm not sure is inspired by the show or the show's inspired by them), I feel like she's way more invested and knowledgeable about idols than I am. There's very few Japanese idol groups I listen to and most of them I casually follow. Most of the jpop I listen to is more R&B solo artists with a sprinkle of EXILE projects like GENERATIONS, THE SECOND, and Flower. In other words, I've never explored the idol industry in great depth. I know some things, but I couldn't have a deep discussion about it compared to American pop artists and kpop idol groups, which is probably strange considering how much I love Japan compared to South Korea. So, entering this series taught me a few things about jpop idol groups.

Upon the first few episodes, I felt very unsure of my enjoyment. It didn't quite feel like a chore because I thought the characters were interesting, but the story and pacing took some adjusting. No, I wasn't expecting to ship these handsome characters or demand shameless shounen ai fanservice. In fact, I believe that could've ruined the purpose of the show. I think it might be the fact that it's part of the slice of life genre. It's a genre that can easily feel too much like reality that it doesn't deliver that feeling of escapism as say Bleach or Hunter x Hunter would give you. Now, I'm not unfamiliar with the slice of life genre as I do enjoy shows like Azumanga Daioh, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Fruits Basket, but they kinda have this odd gimmick, while this show has music. The story follows aspiring idols Ikuma Amaki, Kira Saeki, Shun Maiyama, Kakeru Kazami, and Daiki Tomii as they balance their day to day life and idol training. The show displays a great detail of the struggles these young men face such as participating in a drama, preparing for their first concert, being on the verge of disbandment, self doubt, and being more than a child actor. Each character comes from a different background which makes these various struggles more realistic and even more entertaining. The story goes at a moderate pace. Some episodes feature high risk dilemmas or obstacles for its characters and other episodes are more low risk or purely entertaining like their first appearance on a music show and watching Tomii's acting on a drama. Similar to real jpop idol groups (and even kpop ones), you're going to have a favorite out of the cast. Each member falls into your typical boy group archetype, so prepare your hearts fangirls and fanboys.

Before I move forward with this review, I want to state that I did enjoy this series, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered watching the second season. I enjoyed the diversity of characters, watching their journey to fulfill their dreams as idols and conquer their struggles, and learning about the jpop industry. The reason I want to make that clear to my precious Cult readers is because the next thing I have to say may sound like I didn't enjoy it. This series isn't one I could confidently recommend to everyone and it's definitely not because this is a bad series at all. To me, this series is a little slower than other slice of life anime I've seen. There's not a lot of major dilemmas that make the viewers worry and I'll reiterate not to expect any shounen ai (boy love) or hint of it. In short, this show takes some patience as it really focuses on the characters and their development from episode to episode. There's no real flashy gimmicks or anything, just pure entertainment and realism.

Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 & 50 is an entertaining and informative slice of life anime about idols that opened my eyes to the Japanese idol industry. The characters are fun and diverse and it was hard not picking a favorite from the group. The show focuses on its characters and the various struggles they have to go through individually and together. The music and performances are entertaining and feel like a real idol group, even though it can be a little cheesy at times. It is hard to forget some of their core songs though. It's definitely a more realistic take on pop idols and music industry that I've seen so far. I cautiously recommend this series to those who enjoy idol pop and want to learn more about their development and the industry. It's not just an informative series, it's also full of heartwarming and comical moments with catchy performances.

Rating: 3/5

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