Revue Starlight

Alt title: Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

TV (12 eps)
3.746 out of 5 from 1,118 votes
Rank #2,723

After receiving a mysterious invitation to audition for a coveted spot with, Starlight, a popular musical revue troupe, star-struck contestants begin honing their talents and competing against each other for a chance of a lifetime. Among the hopefuls are childhood friends, Karen and Hikari, who once promised each other that they would take the stage together. With each contender working tirelessly hard to win, it’s the girls’ passionate dedication to their lifelong dream that’ll truly transform their performances as the curtains rise.

Source: Sentai Filmworks

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Revue: a type of multi-act musical theatre that combines music, dance, and sketches. Starlight: a play that our two leads, Karen and Hikari, watch as kids that influences them so much that they promise to one day stand in the same stage, together. Revue Starlight as an anime is a revue set in Seisho Music Academy (a prestigious academy for theatrical productions) where 9 “Stage Girls” fight and struggle to become stars as they prepare to put on a play of Starlight. StructureAs mentioned, the overarching storyline is about trying to get the lead role in the Starlight they are about to put on stage by participating and competing in auditions. This is a succinct and truthful summary that however misses all the carefully crafted emotions that are at play, this is not a mere competition for our cast. A revue being multi-act, we can view each episode as its own act. So how does the typical one play out? Most episodes are set up with their protagonists, one or two of the girls in our cast living their daily life as they train and spend time with friends. These sketches of happiness however fail to truly hide the real problems of each character fairly quickly as we transition into seeing the struggle and pain that the world of theatre they live causes them.  The reality of the world they live in is that they are all rivals. They are competing, and things get personal and emotional. In order to become the best, to become the top star, you have to surpass others. And this is not something the show ignores, but rather shines a spotlight on. As it is said in every episode: “Aim to become the Top Star, sing, dance, and fight to win.” The competition between characters is then played out in revues, metaphorical dream stage fights, as the stage girls sing, dance and relentlessly try to be the best and overpower each other. Each revue features lyrics and staging completely suited and built around the conflict and character that star in them, and each one culminates in personal realisations, reaffirmations or readjustments. Every element of the anime working together, visuals, audio, and writing,in incredibly crafted scenes that are endlessly rewatchable. Cast dynamicsEvery character is paired up with what is both their biggest friend and rival. Rival in the truest, most idealistic sense of the word. A rival is someone you clash with, someone you are trying to catch up with or that is trying to reach you, someone on the same road for the destination only one can reach. An equal that you can relate to, a friend but an enemy. The victory of one demands the loss of the other. In addition to all of that, Revue Starlight not so subtly equates rivalry with love. Someone that supports you and pushes you to be better, someone that can motivate you, the only one you can count to be your equal even when trying desperately to stand out. Trying to describe all the dynamics in the anime at once is impossible of course, as already mentioned each one is filled with friendship, rivalry, love (be it romantic or platonic) and of course, the individual issues that each one brings to the table. Every character is complex, and they are defined and define the people around them. The complexity at play is what also makes the fact that the characters are blatantly screaming their feelings at each other in song form still work and not seem too simplistic or cheesy. That and the fact that every song is masterfully crafted. ThemeThe Top Star concept and everything surrounding it is toxic. This is not me saying it, but something the anime acknowledges in the text. Everyone knows that a stage production is the fruit of the labour of so many people between actors, stagehands, writers and directors yet the glory of the Star of the show remains. It would be wonderful if everyone simply supported each other and everyone was happy that way, but alas that’s not how we view the world. Whether we are ourselves striving for glory or not, the instinct to acknowledge the best still remains, and that creates competition for said spot.  Our cast of characters manage thanks to the care of their friendrivalovers (amazing neologism I know) manage to build themselves up and grow stronger but some people in their class did end up giving up the previous year, and who knows in which condition they did so.  Despite the characters shining brightly with passion in such a dark harsh environment, the act of becoming the best is both glorified and criticised as sinful. After all, to be so passionate about being the very best, you must be selfish and self absorbed. And in this entire process, the audience itself is far from innocent, as we are after all captivated by the competition itself and fuel its flames. Revue Starlight offers no moralistic message about the toxic and beautiful environment; it is just an exploration of how the cast get more and more obsessed with shining on the stage. In the typical debate of talent versus hard work that one would expect, t instead chooses commitment. The best ends up being whoever is more committed, in a more emotionally, almost spiritually and or obsessed way. Whether it is all worth it or not is up to you to decide. As the giraffe that so clearly embodies the show itself says, its only interest is in seeing where it all leads up. PresentationEverything regarding the presentation is ostentatious, self-assured and theatrical. This is most clear during the revue scenes, with the setting being a stage that adapts to whoever is on it, their emotions and the powerful lyrics they are singing. Symbolism and visual metaphors are aplenty, not to mention the literal spotlight shining on whoever is winning, or rather, the winner being shined on by the spotlight, like a star should.  Speaking of Stars, I’m sure it didn’t escape anyone the obvious parallel between the characters aiming to be Top Stars and the main play being Starlight, and everything regarding that which was its fictional text. The self referencial elements and parallels between Revue Starlight and its fictional Starlight are so intertwined in every character and every situation that the relation between the two becomes hard to grasp. Are Karen & Hikari paralleling the story or is Starlight so impeccably fitting that it’s practically written with them in mind? This question of course becomes redundant when acknowledging the true nature of Revue Starlight also being a fictional work. The anime borders on self glorifying with how much it’s in love with itself at times, but this ends up being part of its charm as it is applying the same that its asked of its characters, complete commitment. And nobody can say that they didn’t fully commit to the aesthetic and narrative of theatre with every aspect of the production.  Love is what permeates everything in Revue Starlight. Love for oneself, for each other, for the stage and everything in it. Love is also what I feel for this show, I hope it came across.

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