Review by: Kylee Strutt
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $49.98 US (DVD); $59.98 US (Blu-ray)
Running Time: 325 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Welcome to Saotome Academy of Performing Arts, a school where musical prodigies come to prove themselves and pop idols are born from the music they help create. It’s no wonder that a girl named Haruka Nanami wants to enroll so badly and who can blame her since the place is home to some gorgeous guys who were born to be idols.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Uta no Prince-sama: Majii Love 1000% is your typical romance-comedy anime series with all the familiar requisites of the genre including the cute noble girl and a collection of hot guys who have taken an interest in her. Sentai Filmworks brings us the first season that introduces us to the cast of characters and a school where the love of music reigns supreme.
When we first meet Haruka Nanami, she is desperately trying to get through the guards outside Saotome Academy in order to take the entrance exam. Since she was delayed after helping a lost child, said guards wouldn’t let her in even when two hunky guys (the hot redhead Ittoki Otoya and the longhaired hottie Jinguji Ren) come to her rescue. As luck would have it, however, a mystery man is watching and tells the guards to let her in and she passes the exam with flying colors.
As Haruka quickly finds out, the school is a most unusual one with the Principal, a former pop idol called Shining Saotome, makes a flashy pop-star-like entrance. On top of that, the faculty is made up of either actors like the studly Hyuga Ryuya or pop idols like Tsukimiya Ringo (a young male who dresses like a girl). It’s a most unusual school indeed and, thankfully enough, Haruka finds herself surrounded by people who genuinely like her such as her roommate, Shibuya Tomochika, as well as her two hot saviors.
In fact, Otoya and Ren aren’t the only ones who have taken a liking to Haruka as she meets the other attractive guys working to become idols themselves. There’s the sullen Hijirikawa Masato who shares a similarity to Ren as head of his family’s business and then there’s Shinomiya Natsuki who, interestingly enough, suffers from a split-personality disorder he calls “Gemini Syndrome” that involves his glasses. Then there’s Kurusu Syo, a stylish blonde cutie who always ends up the target of Natsuki’s love for all things cute.
There’s yet another attractive fellow student named Ichinose Tokiya that attends the school and when Haruka meets him, she immediately thinks he’s her favorite pop idol named HAYATO. As it turns out, Tokiya turns out to be somebody else but it is through this meeting that we come to learn why Haruka wanted to enroll in Saotome Academy in the first place. You see, Haruka grew up with her grandmother and learned to play the piano but it isn’t until the frail girl encountered the music of HAYATO that she finds strength and the inspiration to create music for her favorite idol.
Of course, the music business is tough business and not everyone has the chops or natural talent to make it. We come to discover that Haruka can’t even read a music sheet and there are times when she chokes in front of her class when she’s asked to play a piece of music.
Still, Haruka finds that she has help from her friends and it is through them that Haruka gains the confidence to help create music. While those around her are not helping her, Haruka’s presence in the lives of the school’s “princes” begins to change the boys as well. For instance, the faculty threatens to kick Ren out of school if he doesn’t write a song as part of his class assignment and, while he didn’t plan on doing it, he does it because Haruka is determined to help him stay. She even gives Syo a hand when he tries his best to audition for a role in Ryuya-sensei’s new action film.
Meanwhile, the class assignments intensify as the students are asked to partner up according to their composer or idol track. In order for the composer and the idol to concentrate on their assignment, the school implements a “no dating” rule. Of course, this doesn’t stop the young men in Haruka’s life to show their affection towards her. In fact, a rivalry between two of Haruka’s circle of admirers becomes apparent early in the series.
Incidentally, the romance in this comedic romance anime is extremely light on the romance and heavy on the drama and goofiness. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but those expecting a sweeping romance between Haruka and one of the hot students will be greatly disappointed. Instead, the drama keeps the story interesting, especially when things start becoming clear about the identity of one of the students as well as coming to learn the little quirks and strengths of the male cast of characters.
Also, half the fun of the series is the comedy that, as I mentioned, is on the goofy side. It’s a blast watching Haruka try to make sense of the behavior between her circle of male friends and the effect she has on them to the point that – because of her – the boys form an sort of boy band group called ST*RISH that Haruka composes music for to complete the main assignment.
The animation in the series works perfectly and looks damn good when it comes to the dancing and the goofy humor. Of course, the men in the series are the main eye candy and Uta no Prince-sama does not disappoint in the very least. My biggest complaint is Haruka herself who looks cute enough but the yellow hue in her eyes makes her appear blind. It’s no big deal, really, but it makes it seems as if she were always in a state of shock. That said, though, the music is the real highlight here with a great selection of J-pop songs that range from cheesy to very catchy.
As I said in the beginning of this review, the story feels familiar and that’s because Uta no Prince-sama doesn’t stray from the usual formula that makes up the genre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the first season of this series hits all the right notes when it comes to writing. For every cheesy scene there are memorable moment involving Haruka or the school’s princes that make the series sincerely entertaining.
Then there’s the music in the series that punctuates nearly every episode. Most of the songs come from the male characters (including one sung by Haruna herself) and the majority of the songs are actually catchy albeit some come off as too sugary sweet. Still, it’s hard to complain when the voices are superb thanks to the talented voice-acting cast and an excellent score by Elements Garden.
Season 1 of Uta no Prince-sama doesn’t strive to be anything different and that’s perfectly fine since it does manage to deliver a J-pop-flavored comedy-romance series that is loads of fun to watch and even more so for fans of this genre. While Haruka isn’t exactly the most memorable heroines in anime, the rest of the cast is actually charming enough to make the lively first season a genuine joy to watch. Here’s hoping the second half is just as entertaining.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A kind-hearted girl named Haruka Nanami enrolls in Saotome Academy in hopes of making it as a music composer that will compose music for her favorite idol that changed her life. The music business is not easy but, as it turns out, Haruna gets some help from a collection of handsome “princes” who want to see her succeed.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
Saotome Academy is a colorful and imaginative-looking place that is far from realistic but, then again, this is a school run by an eccentric principal that makes flashy entrances. However, the nitpicky viewer in me wishes Haruka’s eyes didn’t have that yellow hue. Other than that, this series looks good on DVD.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting in this series is pitch perfect with the likes of Takuma Terashima and Junichi Suwabe but the highlight here is not only the score but also the oftentimes-catchy J-pop tunes that come from each prince. The boy band-like closing theme song is fun but it’s the opening theme song, “Orpheus” that is a highlight.
The set includes all 13-episodes in three DVDs and the only extras you’ll find are the clean opening and closing theme songs as well as a few Sentai Filmworks trailers. I wish the third disc at least included all the songs heard throughout this first season episodes.
The first season of Uta no Prince-sama follows a familiar pattern in the reverse harem genre but that doesn’t make this genuinely charming series any less fun to watch. In fact, there are enough memorable moments that keep the comedic and romantic elements fresh enough that you will find yourself enjoying the first half of this series and gladly await the second season.
Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks