After being repeatedly slapped around the face by rabid fan boys and girls insisting that I *must* watch this show, my alabaster skin could take no more and so it was time to relent and finally watch Skip Beat. From my experience, a series that appeals to a wide range of anime fans usually doesn’t have the necessary je ne sais quoi to win me over. The mushy synopsis and average looking screenshots have never particularly grabbed me, but niggling curiosity made me want to find out for myself just what was so special to have set tongues a wagging at Anime-Planet.
One of my biggest pet hates in anime, specifically romantic anime, is a weak female lead - one that unquestioningly follows a handsome guy, who is a complete bellend to her. It may well happen in real life, but entertainment should be an escape that you can enjoy, and the feeble minded frauline that has become a frayed shojo anime stereotype is more likely to make me rage than empathise. Twenty minutes into the first episode, and I’m feeling the anger bubble; Kyoko spends her entire life acting as a servant for Sho, an idol who hardly even registers her existence, and yet she adores him! Choking back the bile, the final 2 minutes come as a pleasant surprise, setting the scene perfectly for the remainder of the show. Our naive little girl has spunk, and plenty of it.
Using the noble excuse of revenge to forge her career in show business, Kyoko doesn’t have things easy and this is one of Skip Beat’s strongest points; she doesn’t become an instant darling of the stars, and her temperamental nature make things even worse for her career but also shows her human side. Although her fury is highly amusing, I found myself cheering for the underdog and really wanting her to succeed. While the introduction of Ren has most sane women drooling, he also gives the female protagonist an excellent polar opposite to bounce off of. With an expectation that our heroine will drop at his feet, it is like a breath of fresh air that she instead continues as a strong and independent personality.
Although Skip Beat is utterly irresistible and forces you to instantly fire up the next of each twenty-five episodes, my expectations of feeling warm fuzzies from a romantic conclusion were dashed as the show simply stops. No resolution, merely the intriguinging promise of a next stage. Sadly, this happens just as the real gritty drama kicks in when Sho and Ren realise they are more than pretty boys and do actually have emotions. I will push my way to the front of the queue if there is ever a second season, but as it stands I can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment at being left hanging.
Looking at the bold characters parade across the screen, my initial gut thought was “ick”. My second reaction to the onscreen chibification was sudden laughter. Somehow, the temperamental animation quality seems utterly perfect for Skip Beat. The bishies are just a little too elongated, Kyoko’s eyes take up about 50% of her face, and exaggerated reactions are ridiculously over the top, but isn’t this the manga way? The show knows exactly what its predominant strong points are: the story and characters.
Although predominantly headlined by the fabulously melodic voice of Marina Inoue and her inner monologues, all of the vocal cast are superb. Ren's deep voice will set knees a trembling as the seiyuu for Haji from Blood+ gives an astonishing amount of depth to a typically stereotyped character.
Although I usually detest fluffy, romantic j-pop bile, the soundtrack found a special place in my heart. Fun and upbeat, the audio is another part of Skip Beat that goes to emphasise the stronger sections of the show.
Kyoko, I love you. Kyoko, I adore you. Kyoko, I want to *be* you. Never before have I felt such empathy as that for Skip Beat's leading lady. Her refusal to simply roll over or bow down to the guy running her life makes a nice change from much of the harem anime to have recently graced our screens. Fun, spunky and very realistic, Kyoko should be crowned a modern day heroine for her ability to deal with beautiful boys without becoming too distracted. I don’t think my resolution would be that strong...
Sho and Ren are the token eye-candy, but prove they have actual substance underneath their delicious exteriors. As the utterly detestable ex-love interest, Sho plays the perfect antagonist. You hate him, and yet his performance in the dark moon arc will have all female viewers wondering if an animated character, of all things, is single. Ren is much more complicated, though sadly was cut off in his prime by the abrupt series finale. His profession that he has never loved anyone else could have produced some serious romance, but I guess those in charge felt this side of him was better saved for a second season.
It’s not big and it’s not clever, but neither does it claim to be. Skip Beat instead presents itself with an open armed honesty that is completely disarming and justifies the loyal following. Simply put: don’t let the overenthusiastic fanboys dissuade you, as this really is an excellent example of entertainment from the twenty-first century. Girls will love the sexy boys and gutsy female lead, whilst guys will enjoy much of the in-your-face comedy and realistic relationships.
All place your hands together and join me in prayer to the anime God to bless us with a second season and beyond...
Kyoko moves to the big city with the prince of her dreams Shotaro; he wants to make it big in the entertainment business, so she works hard at many different jobs to support him as he achieves his dream. However, one day, Kyoko accidentally discovers the horrible truth: the love of her life thinks of her as a 'plain and boring woman!' Outraged, Kyoko swears revenge – she will make it even bigger than Shotaro in the entertainment world. The only question is, how will she fulfill her desire?
As a not-so-closet perv, I love watching anything involving panty-shots, handfuls of cleavage and an innuendo fuelled plot. Although most of my reviews will err on the risque, I also love the obscure, the twisted and things that make you think - drop me a line if you want to discuss any of them!