Chance Pop Session
Three young girls from separate backgrounds attend the concert of their favorite pop idol, Reika. Akari is a gospel singer whose caretaker, Father Samuel, would prefer she had a quiet life. Nozomi is a rich girl who is constantly watched over by her butler and chauffeur, Hikoza. Yuki is a hard-working girl who goes from part-time job to part-time job. All find their solace in music, and each is determined to become a vocalist, just like Reika. When given the chance to shine, they must work together as a unit. Will the Angel of Music shine upon these three girls who seem drawn together by something more than just chance?
Before even popping in the DVD, I had correctly guessed the characters and plot of this series without so much as a word of spoiler text. Normally, this would be the hallmark of a truly bad show, but Chance Pop Session turned out to be an addictive, sweet, and earnest show anyway. Yeah, sure, I happen to be a J-pop fan and a voice actor junkie - two habits which this show totally feeds into - but normally that's not going to be enough to give out the good grades.
So why do I like this show when its predictability should be a fatal flaw?
Well, we can start with the voice acting. While the English dub is okay, this series should be taken as a voice actor vehicle, showcasing the talent of the girls in the spotlight. Iizuka Mayumi (Akari), Enomoto Atsuko (Yuki), and Yamamoto Maria (Nozomi) are all talented voice actresses who have proven themselves in such series as Magic User's Club and His and Her Circumstances. This show is no exception - these three play off each other very well, and probably most importantly, they seem to be really enjoying themselves. Who better to portray up-and-coming idols ... than up-and-coming idols?
In the anime, they idolize a singer named Reika, who is played by Kouda Mariko in a distinctly uncharacteristic role. Most of Kouda's idol/seiyuu work up to this point has focused on the cutesy ballads-and-polka-dot-skirts aspect of being an idol singer - if anything, Kouda Mariko's defining role up to this point has been Koishikawa Miki in Marmalade Boy. Well, Reika could not be farther from that image - elegant, sexy, and confident, Reika seems much more like Madonna than Miki, and I'm certainly happy to see that. An even more interesting role is Reika's mentor, Kisaragi Akiba (played by the mostly unheralded Daiki Yuu), who reminds me a lot of the mentor character in Glass Mask, without quite the drastic edge that character has. Of course, you can't go too far wrong when the series' obligatory love interest, Kaito, is played by Koyasu Takehito (who, unsurprisingly, also does the narration).
As the girls struggle to attain success in the face of adversity, you just *know* they're going to make it, against all odds, because this is *supposed* to be one of those "incredible stories of fate", too good to be true. The whole "fate brings them together" aspect of the show is certainly contrived, but it's actually kinda cute watching these girls reacting to everything with surprise as if they don't realize they're in an anime. They're so sweet and earnest that you have to let them get away with the whole silliness. Or maybe I'm just soft on J-pop idols. Well, so what? They're cute!
Which brings us to the music. Well, it's fairly stock, and competent and catchy enough to be enjoyable. I doubt these songs will make any diehard converts to the cause of J-pop, but I still wouldn't mind picking up the soundtrack anyway. Each episode features at least three to four songs, sometimes as bona fide music videos, which is fine because at least they wrap some character development and plot around the music (unlike stuff like Kaikan Phrase). One of my favorite moments early in the series is when Kisaragi Akiba reminisces about her own time in the spotlight, her own song playing in the background as a spot-on (and well-sung) representation of what was popular in the early 80s.
My only gripe with the presentation of the series, sadly, is a major one - though not one that affects the grade of the series itself. The subtitle track is extremely substandard, failing to decide, for example, between Hikosa and Hikoza or Jeeves and Jii (all of which, I might add, are the same character). Even Reika is not immune, being mis-subbed at one point as "Reiko". Even worse, the insert songs are never translated, just transliterated. It's all quite lazy, and I expect better from an ADV release.
Technically speaking, the animation is serviceable (though not impressive), incorporating unusual character designs that seem faintly reminiscent of the old shoujo dramas like Glass Mask, but with modernized curves and clean lines. The style may put off some viewers, but I rather liked it. What I really like is the art design on the backdrops, promo posters, and costumes - especially for Reika herself. Granted, the animation really takes a back seat to the music in this series, but it doesn't hold back the series like in Weiss Kreuz.
So what we have here is a by-the-numbers rags-to-riches success story like so many others, only this time with music instead of tennis, or acting, or extreme sports. Even the ending is very much like that of a sports story, suitably bittersweet, and more than a little sentimental.
Formulaic? Predictable? Absolutely. But there's something to be said for getting the formula right. As far as I can tell, the creators, composers, and performers in Chance Pop Session have succeeded, and I certainly don't mind having this in my DVD collection one bit.
Sweet, entertaining music drama with a forgivably cliched plot. If you don't care for the J-pop scene, take this down a notch or two. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Apart for the mildly racy album covers for Reika, there isn't a whole lot of fan service, much less sexual content. There are a couple of scenes of mild violence involving rival idol prospects, and Yuki has to deal with some misfortune on the streets, but nothing too serious. ADV is certainly playing it safe with their posted rating - while the intensity of some scenes may be a bit much for young children, I don't see this being much of a problem for anyone above seven or eight. Of course, teens and up would be most interested in the material anyway.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Chance Pop Session © 2001 Triangle Session Production Committee / Avex / ADV Films / AMF / d-rights
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