Blu-Ray Review: Revue Starlight – The Complete Collection

MVM Entertainment offers a dazzling performance with a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray release of Revue Starlight, but does this animated series manage to captivate the audience, or is it a performance that should be forgotten? Let’s take a look and find out.

Synopsis:

As the 99th graduating class of the Seisho Music Academy prepares for their annual review, “Starlight”, aspiring actress Karen Aijo is happy just to have the chance to be in the cast. But when Karen’s childhood friend Hikari mysteriously arrives after years abroad, Karen quickly learns that there is more going on at Seisho than the normal drama classes.

Following Hikari late one night, Karen discovers an elevator that takes her deep below the Earth, where the secret auditions for the leads in Starlight is underway… a competition that is fought with real weapons as well as song and dance! Goaded by the giraffe in charge of the trials, Karen throws caution to the wind and takes the stage herself… but will she be ready to survive the ultimate contest of drama and skills?

Our View:

In Japan Revue Starlight is part of a much-larger media project, with stage shows, live action features and manga all being released at the same time as this animated series. For us in the west all we have is the aforementioned anime series and while it offers up the drama of a competitive school experience it lacks purpose with a story that is mediocre at best. Performing arts meets magical girls in this bizarrely artistic but woefully dull drama of dreams and friendship.

Revue Starlight follows the activities of the 99th Class at Seisho Music Academy, or more specifically that of Karen Aijō who, after witnessing a compelling stage performance with her childhood friend Hikari Kagura at a young age, dreams of becoming a star. Karen Aijō is just one of many students at the academy, and with her classmates Maya Tendō, Claudine Saijō, Mahiru Tsuyuzaki, Junna Hoshimi, Nana Daiba, Futaba Isurugi and Kaoruko Hanayagi, they practice together and perform the musical drama Starlight to a enticed audience.  For their second year at the academy they hope to continue working with one another to improve upon their past performance, that is until a Hikari Kagura transfers into the school.

For added context Seisho Music Academy is a prestigious academy in Japan that educates and trains students to become the best actors and stage hands. Each day is filled with rigorous training, but alas that is not the story that is being told here. The story is one of rivalry and wanting to be the best, as shortly after Hikai’s arrival at the academy Karen is whisked away into the darker, more secretive, side of the academy. The auditions of Revue. These auditions, of which are orchestrated by a talking Giraffe for some reason, see potential candidates battle it out one on one to demonstrate their ability and determination, with the victor granted any wish they desire.

The introduction into this world of mystery initially sees Karen arrive as a spectator, but upon seeing her childhood friend in danger she jumps into the stage and becomes the auditions ninth participant.  Cue flashbacks of magical girl anime and Karen finds herself suited up and ready to attack her friends assailant, who is actually one of her classmates. The auditions of revue see the nine classmates do battle against each other each day, with wins and losses paving the way for the overall victor.

Other than first, and last, three episodes of the series, which act as an introduction and ending to Karen and Hikari’s experience with the auditions, the remaining episodes focus on each of the other classmates. In this case each episodes focuses on a single characters dream of being an actor and how they became involved with the Revue auditions.

These individual stories are meant to help build up the characters and explain more about the auditions they partake in, but realistically all they do is distract you from the real story. That being Hikari and Karen’s relationship. In all honesty you could easily watch the first, and last, three episodes of the series and you would still receive the same type of experience as the other characters are do not serve a purpose within the finale.

Revue Starlight offers a promising start with its attention to detail of the musical drama and cast of clichéd characters, but by the second episode the realistic approach to drama school has changed to a magical girl stage show whereby the rules of logic do not apply.

Other than rekindling the friendship between two childhood friends, and potentially illustrating that anyone can be a star, Revue Starlight does not present an explanation of understanding to its objectives or what is taking place, things just happen and then end. As such we felt like Exiting stage right… and as fast as humanly possible.

Extras:

MVM Entertainment once again continue the trend of using disc masters authored by Sentai Filmworks which means that we once again receive all of the bonus features that were part of the US release. This means viewers of Revue Starlight on Blu-Ray will find Japanese audio commentaries, Promotional Trailers and animated shorts alongside English curated content such as promotional trailer for other releases.

I was pleasantly surprised by all of the bonus content on offer as despite how terrible the series turned out (for me at least) the inclusion of this content is admirable. The Japanese cast commentaries, which operate in a similar manner to English cast commentaries on FUNimation titles, provide further insight into the overall production of the Japanese product – something which we rarely get to see.

The Revue Starlight Shorts, as well as the Japanese promotion, on the second disc further continue this trend and give us something both authentic to Japanese release and new for western fans to experience. Even if you do not like the series the inclusion of these assets are appreciated as they could have easily been left off.

The final selection of bonus content is trailers for other Sentai Filmwork releases with some of the titles, such as Maid-Sama!, being released in the UK while the others remaining absent for UK audiences. It’s a common trend with Sentai Filmwork releases but, once again, they could have easily been removed.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 3:46:00 (Disc 1), 1:15:05 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD 2.0 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Revue Starlight is a series that combines magical girl styled traits with the determination of being the best, in which nine classmates do battle amongst themselves in order to reach their dream of being the top star. In this scenario Karen Aijō, a seemingly average high-school student at Seisho Music Academy, finds herself jumping in to an Audition of Revue in order to help save her childhood friend from being attacked. Unbeknownst to her this voluntary act of kindness sees her forced into a tournament of archiving ones dream of being the top star.

The journey here is not one of Karen overcoming obstacles and becoming stronger, instead it quickly shows the shaky relationship of Karen and Hikari before exploring each other characters own origin story of how they entered the revue. Each episode from this point on is a mixture of past-and-present and merely provides a reason for their existence in the series, and not really a good one either. The final three episodes meanwhile continue the struggle of Karen and Hikari’s strained relationship, with the ending showing that Hikari would sacrifice everything in order to protect her friends which – as one would expect from a magical girl styled presentation – sees the other friend (Karen) risk it all to return things to normal. It’s your typical cliched ending, even if it is done in a unusual manner.

The storyline, its characters and the world they inhabit is all mediocre at best with the only compelling part of the series being its artistically detailed animation and visually stunning presentation during Revue scenes. The relationship of Karen and Hikari is an interesting talking point that should have flourished more, with the same for their room-mate, but storylines of other characters were not needed and do nothing other than fill out the episode count. Even the whole concept of the series is rather dumb, with a talking Giraffe granting them their desire whose only desire himself is to see something blinding and completely new. The more I think about the series and the storylines it offers the more I begin to dislike it. It’s all pointless and a lot of it doesn’t make that much sense, but those are just my own thoughts.

On the flipside MVM Entertainment’s re-authored UK release of Sentai Filmworks disc masters yields some positive comments as all of the bonus features are included, with Japanese commentaries and animated shorts being the notable highlights. Some praise also has to be given to Sentai Filmworks for the inclusion of an English Dub, although as with most Sentai produced dubs it failed to meet the standards of other dubbing studios and doesn’t feel as compelling or authentic as you would hope.

For this series I would recommend watching it in Japanese, but honestly I would suggest not watching it at all. Revue Starlight is visually pleasing, but it fails to deliver a story that’s worthy of your time, instead it’s a story of rivalry between actors that are forced to partake in a magical girl styled battle royal. It’s poorly explained, it’s poorly paced and it’s just not worth your time watching.

Score: review-stars-2

Revue Starlight – The Complete Collection is available as a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray release in the UK via MVM Entertainment.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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