BanG Dream! is a Japanese media franchise that was created in 2015 by Bushiroad – a name that many Love Live! School Idol Festival players will no doubt be familiar with. The franchise is made up of multiple manga series and an anime adaptation – it is that adaptation that is the focus of this review.
The BanG Dream! anime was directed by Atsushi Ootsuki, written by Yuniko Ayana and produced by both the Issen and Xebec studios. It started airing (fairly late) in the winter 2017 season of anime and ran for thirteen episodes.
BanG Dream! is available on Crunchyroll.
BanG Dream! focuses on the band Poppin’ Party – or more specifically, it shows how the band came together. The plot is simply about a girl who wants to form a band on a whim.
Said girl is Kasumi Toyama, the lead character for the series. She’s an energetic, happy-go-lucky type who tends to get others swept up in her antics. Kasumi is also rather affectionate, and can often been seen hugging her fellow bandmates.
In particular, four characters who eventually get swept up into creating a band with her are Arisa Ichigaya, Rimi Ushigome, Tae Hanazono & Saya Yamabuki. Of course, each one has their own personal obstacles to overcome before they are willing and/or able to join a band.
The personal obstacles are things such as Rimi being too shy, or Saya being overly supportive of her frail mother. As such, the first half of the series is about the girls overcoming the obstacles, often with the help of Kasumi. It is also through these episodes that the audience is able to learn more about each member of Poppin’ Party.
Arisa is the first to be dragged into forming a band. Though she possesses a sarcastic nature, it is actually pretty clear that she does care for Kasumi. She would just never admit it out loud, and as such is a pretty good example of a tsundere character. She plays the keyboard.
Rimi, who Kasumi refers to as Rimi-rin, is the bass player in Poppin’ Party, and invokes another bassist from a certain other anime school girl band with her shyness.
Tae, who goes on to gain the nickname O-Tae, plays guitar alongside Kasumi. Whilst she is a more experienced guitarist than Kasumi, the two of them share some traits. This leads to some quite amusing situations, which often involves Arisa bemoaning having to deal with “two Kasumis”.
Saya is the drummer of Poppin’ Party, though she was previously in a different band. However, due to her mother’s poor health, she felt that she had no choice but to quit. She works in her family’s bakery, whilst also trying to make sure her mother doesn’t push herself too hard.
Kasumi is not immune from having hardships, either. In fact, her personal struggle might just arguably be the best of all the characters. It doesn’t really surface until later on in the series, but it presents some incredibly effective scenes when it does. In addition to that, Kasumi’s personal struggle doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it has a fairly satisfying resolution.
Some drama is also thrown in there with the reveal that the place that Poppin’ Party are aiming to perform live at is due to close down. Perhaps not the most original plotline in a series that focuses on a band, but it does contribute partly to Kasumi’s personal struggle and as such, her growth.
Being a series about a band, it would make sense to expect music. BanG Dream! certainly provides that, with music composed by Junpei Fujita and Noriyasu Agematsu of Elements Garden.
When a band performs, it is often done so in CG, but to be fair the during the times the CG sequences do crop up it actually looks all right. The songs and CG performances serve their purposes.
BanG Dream! is comparable to K-On!, and not just with characters sharing similar traits as alluded to earlier. That isn’t the only musical anime that it can be compared to – the whole ‘media franchise’ thing effectively gives a show that demonstrates what happens if you mix K-On! with Love Live!. In fact, Bushiroad’s president Takaaki Kidani has gone on record as saying that BanG Dream! is the forerunner of the band boom that will start once the idol boom has died down.
Which presents an interesting point about BanG Dream!; though the focus is on a band, what we have here fits pretty well into the formula of a typical idol anime. Still, BanG Dream! manages to be enjoyable, with the way its characters develop arguably being its biggest strength.
BanG Dream! is simply an anime about a girl who wants to sparkle on stage as part of a band. The series shows how she brings her band together, developing the characters by having them overcome their own personal obstacles. Throw in some decent music, and you’ve got a fun show, even if it does fall into a formula.