Transfer student Rinku Aimoto finds herself back in Japan at Yoba Academy and meets Maho, whose passion for DJing proves contagious. Suddenly inspired, Rinku forms a DJ unit with her new friends and aims for the high stage with pulse-raising music!
Traditional yet unique D4DJ manages to both follow the tropes and traditions of the CGDCT (Cute Girls Doing Cute Things) genre incredibly close and at the same time feel refreshing and unique in a way that makes it stand out compared to many shows that might at first sight look identical. Story & Characters - Sticking to the formula“A young girl transfers into a new school, where she discovers a new passion and forms a group of friends to pursue it” Incredibly original right? The storyline is where this show follows the formula the most, with most of its strengths and weaknesses fully intact. If you watched any other CGDCT you will easily be able to tell how the entire plot will go and if you will enjoy it or not. The tone is mostly light and positive with the occasional heartfelt emotional highlights because of light interpersonal drama that end up contributing to the nice pacing of the show. For the characters, the main cast is introduced more slowly (compared to the usal CGDCT where you mean almost all the characters in ep. 1) and by the end of the show they actually end up being developed and interesting. Especially nice to see is how all four members have something of value to contribute to the group, and it simply wouldn’t be the same without even one member. Sadly the supporting girls get the usual “idol treatment” aka “generic stock archetype”. Out of the 15 or so supporting characters that are part of the other Idol/DJ groups only 3 or 4 get enough screen time to make me even consider them as real characters. And between those few none are interesting or do much outside of merely existing. Sound- Style and IdentityIt’s with the sound and music that this show starts to carve out its own identity from the mold it's based on. While the music genre of the show is indubitably J-pop, they still experiment quite a bit within those boundaries introducing elements like rap, music mashups, some dubstep and plenty of electronic elements and effects. While we mainly focus on Happy Around!, the other two groups have their own distinct style and we get to see them perform as well.Speaking of the performances and how they help this show stand out… Visuals - Full commitment to its visual aestheticPlenty of the most famous idol shows (like Love Live, Aikatsu and AKB0048) have settled for having traditional 2D animations and switching to CG animations during the performances of the songs. For a long time I found this choice to be extremely jarring, the switch never felt natural and often the art style didn’t translate well enough so some characters end up looking weirdly different. Not to mention that very often the CG animations itself fails to reach satisfactory standards (although that is recently changing, the latest season of Love Live for example had great CG performances) D4DJ fully commits to the CG animations, and while I won’t claim that it looks as good as Beastars, I still find it one of the most visually pleasant full CG anime I have seen and that is due to how they utilized it. All the characters are extremely expressive, with the models having expressions that were clearly created just for one particular scene. They take full advantage of what the technology allows them to do and have the characters constantly do stuff and move around while someone is talking (as opposed to the perfectly still blank soulless stares that low-tier anime made us used to). And going back to the song performances, not only they feel more natural since the characters we know are performing them (instead of a weird 3D CG model alter-ego) but also because the show opted to put a focus on the visuals of the presentation by having one member of each group be a video-jockey. So all the lighting and visual effects that we see on the stage are the deliberate choice of one of the characters. A cool consequence of this is that the performances of the other groups not only sound different but also look drastically so. If you hate Idol/CGDCT shows I highly doubt this show will change your mind, but if you can appreciate them in any capacity I would recommend giving this show a chance. It’s free on YT after all, both subbed and dubbed.
(Spoiler Free Review) A diamond in the rough per se. Definitely an under watched anime, but enjoyable nonetheless. I ended up watching the whole story in one night. I recommend giving this show a watch. The anime is set-up as the friendship of high school girls and their shared interest in acoustics. I didn't know the effort that goes into becoming a DJ and mixing music. Its plot is continuous from start-to-finish and has a clear goal in mind (that is a important to note, because many recent animes do not have a clear goal in mind). Another benefit is that this story progresses at a steady pace, it's not too fast or too slow. Albeit, sometimes the dialog is too fast. All of the characters are what really makes this show. I must give high marks for excellent character development and growth. You can really feel attached to these characters and see how they change right before your eyes. Rinku Aimoto is so cheerful, kind, and optimistic; a truly wonderful character. I do want to make a note about the voice actors. Most of the voice actors for the main group are up-and-coming and do not have many previous roles. As all things come with experience and practice, it will be nice to see how their careers will progress from here. Something else to point out is that the voice actress Karin Kagami plays the role Maho Akashi in both the Japanese and English casting. It was clear to see that English is not her primary spoken language, but I still think it is incredible to be cast in both languages for the same character. As the story revolves around music, therefore the audio quality is top-notch. Standard CGI animation which is sometimes good or bad. However, CGI animation opens up a lot of potential for the future. (Next time you watch a non-CGI animation, look at the character hands. Hands are incredibly hard to draw, therefore many shows compensate by closely joining multiple fingers together.) In fact, the dance choregraphy was inspired by real concerts. If you got the time, then give it a chance and you'll see the potential.
D4DJ: First Mix is a lively story reminding one of the BanG Dream! saga which passed through three seasons (maybe more, we may hope) where friendships formed around music and the competitive spirit which matches performance teams against each other for ... well, that I haven't figured out yet. But girls having fun is ever so neat to watch. Characters are a strength in First Mix, featuring a team of first years at Yoba Academy, a high school which excels in the performance arts. These four girls have a dream, or at least Maho. She is a master of mix at the soundboard, and she hopes one day to perform on the Sunset Stage, the pinnacle of musical excellence at Yoba. Maho is unique in her seiyuu, Karin Kagami, who does the subbing and offers the English dub. Granted, it gives Maho more of a Brazilian accent, but that is part of the character's charm. She is knowledgeable in the art of the remix, and while her teammates lose focus at times, Maho drives the group forward. Rinku is somewhat of 'The Natural,' gifted as a dancer and singer, but unwary of all the complexities of the music biz. Actually, being on an African island with her zoologist parents took her out of the stream of things for several years. Clueless ... fer sure! But think of her as the infectious smile attached to perky young feminine figure. She is easily the soul and heart of the group. Muni is gifted in the visual arts, and she once was Rinku's best childhood friend before Rinku's move to Africa. In constant need of approval, she is an internet artist with limited and unappreciative followers. She wants more, and Muni comes to the rescue by pointing out all the artistic flaws in Maho's proposed flier for their upcoming concert. The creative consultant soon becomes the VJ, the person bringing in the visual background for the performance. So much a girl in need of attention that Muni resorts to always wearing rabbit ears to bring out her special cuteness. Other than that, she is easily ignored. Rei is a pianist following more of a subdued classical style, and she would have been the last person to join a DJ performance group ... except the girls need a person to compose original music. Rinku tries to teach herself piano, and you have not lived until you listen to Rinku slaughter 'Hot Cross Buns.' Rei comes along, plays the piece with warmth and elegance, and before long, she becomes the group's lyricist ... and dancer ... and singer. Rinku, with all her enthusiasm gushing about, can be very persuasive. One quick point about character design before moving on. There is an art of familiarity with the characters in D4DJ. / Muni looks so much like some fusion of Ako Udagawa of BanG Dream! and Nico Yazawa of Love Live! SIP. Maho reminds me of Ran Mitake of BG’s Afterglow. Other viewers might find other comparisons. One must learn to take each girl on her own merits and the personality she wishes to exhibit. Really, in First Mix, the joy of the story is the subtle changes in character. The four girls form the group Happy Around, named for RInku's habit of spinning about whenever happy. This happens often and is very contagious. Happy Ara's style is upbeat and hyped, but that is because the group centers on Rinku. But Muni has a knack for rap. Work that in. Rei creates a song that is muted and subdued, not like Rinku at all. But Rinku explains that Happy Ara is more than one girl, so Rei sings the song in a crucial contest. It's this flexibility that makes Happy Ara unpredictable, and a hit with the fans. This makes them a viable opponent for the other groups that Yoba Academy has fostered, like the undisputed best girls performance team Peaky P-Key. Their style is miles higher than Happy Around’s and challenging them for dominance in the DJ circles would be a daunting task. Then there is Photon Maiden, a professionally scouted group that has made waves in the entertainment world and now are back at Yoba assuming normal 'high-class rocker status' and just now gaining fans at Yoba. Their entrance into the storyline is forced, but Happy Around needs competition. Photon Maiden is totally prepackaged performance, using the stylings and music of the entertainment company which formed them. They would be the classic 'image vs. substance' enigma until it becomes important for them to develop their own music and style. Breaking away means improvement for them. Of interest was HIDIVE's Episode 6.5, which combined live performance wedged into a recap episode. Here we encounter the D4DJ franchise under construction. Think of the Bandori concept game … up-and-comers Poppin’ Party strives to reach the heights attained by super-star groups as Roselia. In this case D4DJ is an anime/live performance/game conglomerate which develops along the styles of six different DJ groups. In short, D4DJ: First Mix begs for a second season to introduce new groups and new styles. The animation was well laid out, though I thought it would be better for the final episode where the Sunset Stage competition demonstrates how far Happy Ara had gone ... and how much farther it can go. The moments of comic verve were played out, including the 'humiliation scenes' where Rinku commits a faux pas expected from one freshly back from the remotest lands to civilization. And the music ... wow! ever changing up as one learns the art of taking melodies and remixing the beat, tempo, pitch, sliding from one melody to the next. And, if you argue that the characters were the basic 'seen them elsewheres,' you can't diss the music. So many varieties from electronic to battle rap. Keep the ear to the ground. You might hear the coming of season two. If then ... it will be a celebration of sound.
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