I like shows that mess with the formula of their genres instead of rehashing the same old stuff; it helps them to be more unique and memorable. Such a case is Skip Beat, which I came to view as a shojo with balls.
The twist comes from the very beginning, when the story begins right where almost any shojo usually ends; the hunk in the series has already admitted his love to the heroine and they are now beginning a steady relationship while living together. They even left high school and are now working for a living. Following their archetype, the hunk becomes a fashion model in order to make use of his mangaka inborn given gift, while the heroine becomes a minor worker and a housewife. Because that is what ideal women do. Anyways, tragedy strikes when the heroine finds out her lover boy doesn’t really love her and just tolerates her because she cleans and cooks for him, notions that are beyond his bishonen understanding. He even goes as far as saying he did her a favour since she is too useless to be anything other than his sperm dumpster… Ok, he actually said “maid” but he might as well have said the other thing. It’s not hard to imagine an erotic maid “servicing” you anyway you like, is it?
The twist comes again when the typical shojo heroine, instead of starting to cry and beginning a long story full of heartbreaking drama, tears and misery until she finds a new love and purpose in life… gets all furious and vows to humiliate him in his own game: By becoming a fashion model even more famous and lovable than him. Well thank goodness he wasn’t working as a gigolo because that would be too much…
After this more than unorthodox beginning, we now have a show that is in a way a monument to feminism. Instead of the frail heroine who can’t stop crying, living in a kitchen and being in constant need of a prince to save her, we have a dynamic woman who vows to grow bigger balls than her ungrateful chauvinistic pig and show him who the real boss here is. Nice going missy! I will never want as a wife a neurotic shemale like you, but nevertheless nice going!
After that comes yet another twist as she seeks to become a pop idol with her only motivation being vengeance. I must say this is far catchier than the overused “because it is what I always wanted to do all my life” type of excuse all motivational shows have. It is just too distant and impersonal to get attached to it. Earthbound, carnal, petty driven emotions on the other hand are far easier to understand and sympathise, such as in this case where the protagonist doesn’t want to be the best in the world “just because”. She wants to become the best so she can go S&M on the chauvinistic pig’s ego. Nice!
For some reason this anime is like a combo of pop idol show biz with fighting shonen. It is still about the harsh road to fame and glory with hard guts and training, with revenge being the ulterior motive, like in most fighting shows where the hero wants out of spite to surpass his father or elder brother. Only in this case it’s a pig of a man’s ego. OINK!
Anyways, this is mostly a comedy than a social drama of hard reality and as such one should not expect to see a very realistic plot. It makes fun of shojo stereotypes and is full of puns and metaphorical imagery around disappointment, misery, and vengeance. The amount of detail and colours is good although it overdoes it with the SD looking characters, as almost half the show finds them looking chibi and silly, doing some allegory in a dream state. Not bad but surely overdone to the point it feels like they are trying to save money and dumb down the plot as much as possible. The soundtrack is also nothing amazing; just nice pop songs you will hear a few times and forget by the next day. Pop music has that effect.
On the other hand the comedy part is good, provided you are fond of the specific type of humour it implements. It is always following a theme and revolves around the heroines’ neurotic temperament, supreme determination, forward attitude with zero pretence, and her dead-set aim to succeed in the name of making mince meat of the guy’s genitals. It also shows how she still has her frail side, how she only wanted a simple life with her dearest and how her entire upbringing prepared her for a lifestyle that rejected her despite not doing anything wrong. I mean she left her family and friends and even sacrificed her school diploma that would help her find a better job in the future just to help the guy she loves in his aim to become a fashion model. She threw everything away for him and THAT is how he treats her??? I must say I could feel her pain and even excuse her despair that led to her attitude. Do you know how it’s like to write a half-a-million word sci-fi story for years and have it being rejected by everybody just because they don’t read books or don’t like the genre or no publishing company is willing to pay for the printing expenses because of the economic crisis? Yeah shemale, show them what you got and write hundreds of anime reviews that mock the fandom!
… Oh, kinda drifted off to my own problems, didn’t I? Hm, shows how well the heroine managed to make me identify with her worries. And that is why I like her so much. I will even call her by her name hereon just to show my respect for her despite being a shojo protagonist. Her name is Kyouko.
Unfortunately, this is a one man (or better say one woman) show; it can only keep you interested for a certain amount of time. Only Kyouko is a great character while all the rest are almost caricatures with simplistic personalities which to the most part are used only as plot devises to stomp or aid in her goal. The plot is also very easy going and it is even full of convenience, as she keeps bumping into the most improbable scenarios that end up helping her take the next step, even when her attitude seems to be completely inappropriate for a pop idol or anything that has to do with public image in general. She is just too cranky yet they keep forgiving her and giving her extra chances or secondary means to move forward. Well I am not into show biz but I know well how hard it is to be accepted into anything unless you are super beautiful or have some big shot as a relative. Why is Kyouko, a girl with zero connections and who didn’t even finish high school been given all these chances? Despite the attempt to show how the bizness people are fond of her strong character and get emotionally motivated to help her, I ensure you that in reality critics and judges and firm members are highly cynical and apathetic. If they weren’t, their company would be overrun with mediocrities and they would flop. I couldn’t convince myself how she kept on having the Devil’s luck or how she kept making everybody around her to like her so fast even when she acted all clumsy or neurotic. But then again this is a shojo story and it is rather granted that the heroine is supposed to be the incarnation of Buddha that manages to bring joy and hope to everybody around her just for being… her. Furthermore, the story is ending up outlasting your interest from a point on as the initial feeling starts to wear off and the plot slows down or makes circles. Furthermore a whole season worth of episodes later, the anime ends openly and I hear the manga is five times longer further on. Well how the hell can that keep you interested when one season was already stretching it more than it should? They overdid it there.
Anyways, it is not a bad shojo and I recommend it to all the fans of the genre. It’s just that the story will most likely disappoint everybody and the support cast is very passable. Did someone like me who is not into shojo enjoy it? Yes, for awhile. I even loved the heroine. Her name is Kyouko. Yet my interest was progressively lowering because of the almost aimless plot and the open ending. It is not a masterpiece as the ratings will probably make you think but it is still an above average show.
… and her name is Kyouko.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (typical)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (crazy Kyouko fantasies)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 2/2 (perky and dynamic)
Personality 2/2 (well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 2/3 (famous as a shoujo)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 3/4 (nice twist to the usual formula)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 0/1 (looks typical)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (good idea but light presentation)
Characters 2/4 (the heroine is great, the rest are passable)