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?
StoryAfter 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.AnimationLooking 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.SoundAlthough 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.CharactersKyoko, 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.OverallIt’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...
Skip Beat is a 25 episode Shoujo comedy anime about actors (the celebrity sort) and initially seems like it has themes of romance… Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? I mean showbiz sounds a bit niche as if it would only appeal to folks who care about celebrities and such. Boy am I glad to be wrong, it’s basically a heavily comedic revenge story, the first episode had my cheeks hurting, despite the theme and intended demographic. Though I was kinda shocked at all the hate and hostility from the characters in this anime. Romance and love are shoved aside for some anger and of course, at the centre of it all is a girl who feels betrayed by such feelings. I will disclose that I don’t like stereotypical shoujo anime and I will also warn you there will be spoilers for episode 1 in this review. But IMO, spoilers don’t count if they are for the first episode. Animation Right off the bat, I felt disappointed by the animation quality. While I did watch it in 720p HD, it most certainly didn’t look like it made the most of all those extra pixels. The visual quality makes it seem more like an anime made in the early/mid-2000s. Maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems, but the last anime I watched before this was a very high production-value movie and this just looked terrible in comparison. They can do better, though thankfully it doesn’t suffer too much from a distance. But wait! There’s more. Not bad news though, since the style was utilised very well. While it does seem to use the typical friendly-faced shoujo art-style, it actually is more a mix of visual styles. One of the characters looked like the moustached dude from Itazura no Kiss and while there were the obligatory, trademark bishounen, one of the characters looked a bit like a character from Kuroko no Basuke, another looked like the kid from Kare Kano. Probably a bad thing if a character design is common, but it helps for what this anime is trying to do. The actual style of the scenes and things is very comedy oriented, the good use of a lot of funny facial expressions. And the metaphors are literally animated; the imaginations of certain characters, mostly the lead protagonist’s, are shown as little Chibi animations for maximising comedic effect. They wanted to go for comedy here and they have it in droves with the way they animate things, it was funny seeing tiny Chibi Kyoko’s running around and panic in a metaphorical maze. Too bad the quality of the animation itself lets it down, though the more one watches this, the less it might seem to bother them. Sound From the get-go the music had me excited, I got the album for the intro as soon as I could after watching the first episode. The intro is awesome, done by The Generous and the outro is decent too. It doesn’t stop there, the anime has a variety of music to suit the various moods and atmospheres during any given scene, some beautiful piano for a serious scene and that comedic ensemble for the large number of funny scenes. Sound design is done rather well here according to my ears. The anime is available only in Japanese, not a problem though I do wonder how it would sound in English? Meh, can’t trust the dub companies to do it well, they’d probably just ask overused voice actors to do the lines or something, no hate on dubs though. What we did have was voiced very well, the main character was on point, so I’m glad they got the most important role right. It just so happens that Kyoko Mogami has the the familiar voice of Marina Inoue, a skilled and experienced voice actor whose roles include Armin Arlert in Attack on Titan, Eve Genoard in Baccano, Kana Minami in Minami-ke (love that character and the anime, so funny), Pheles in Shakugan no Shana, Yoko Littner in Gurren Lagann, Iku Kasahara in Toshokan Sensou (also great and funny), Alicia Melchiott in Valkyria Chronicles (in the games too) and Kobako in Xam’d: Lost Memories. Ren Tsuruga is voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi who voiced Kamina in Gurren Lagann, Akushiba in Xam’d Lost Memories and a whole lot of characters in other anime I haven’t watched and a few I didn’t like. Sho Fuwa is voiced by Mamoru Miyano who had the well-known role of Light Yagami in Death Note, Moondoggie in Eureka Seven, Cilan in Pokemon (ugh, that’s a lot right there), Death the Kid in Soul Eater and whole lot of other roles just like Ren’s VA. Characters Such a lust for revenge! Whooooooooo!?!? (cookie if you get the reference) Being a shoujo anime, the story follows a young female protagonist, who in this case is 16 year old Kyoko Mogami. But wait, doesn’t that mean she’s in high school? Well almost every kid her age would be, but that’s the thing, she graduated from middle school and followed her childhood friend and love, Sho Fuwa to Tokyo to support him as he pursues his dreams of being the coolest and most popular male celebrity in Japan. Because of paying his rent and essentially being a housewife, she has to work 2 jobs to maintain the rent for their expensive apartment and lifestyle. Turns out he’s a real jerk, thus she gets swallowed by rage, anger and revenge as she realises her feelings of love have been naught but crushed, almost as if love isn’t real. Thus she decides to trade her life for fortune and fame, cuts and dyes her hair changes her name and becomes a big rockstar, hey hey I wanna be a rockstar! and goes into showbiz to crush him and prove him wrong about her. She becomes an eaily angered person, capable of easily tormenting and annoying people and she seems to lose her ability to give a shit about others. Her desire to be successful in showbiz is driven by her feeling of revenge and she attempts to join the agency where Sho’s rival Ren Tsuruga is working at. Turns out her hate for Ren Tsuruga from when she supported Sho remains, she gets along okay, but only since she sees it necessary in order for her to reach her goal of humiliating Sho. She is also very protective of her precious blue rock, which she looks at to make herself stop crying, it was given to her by a boy she met when she was little. Next up is the coolest and most successful man male actors in Japan, in a poll of young women voted to be the sexiest man in Japan… it’s 21 year old Ren Tsuruga! Seriously, that poll thing is actually in the first episode. Tsuruga Ren is hated by Kyoko from the start as he is Sho Fuwa’s biggest rival, but soon she find her own reasons to hate him as she feels often provoked and easily played by him. Of course, he’s a bishonen and seems like he could be buff, but most important is his personality. While he is an actor working with the LME agency, he takes a more central role working with the people there to get the best out of their employees and agents. He takes showbiz even more seriously than LME’s president. He’s actually a very positive individual and believes that people need love and care, as well as guts and determination (Kyoko has that in spades) to do well and to be worthwhile in the industry. He doesn’t like impure motives like seeking fortune or in Kyoko’s case: revenge. He wants people to get along as that helps them do their best and while he may seem harsh at times, he’s really just trying to provoke people into giving it their best. But as perfect as he is… even he has flaws including the fact that he doesn’t honestly open up to anyone. For you see, there’s one thing he isn’t very good at… Shotaro (Sho) Fuwa is the 17 year old son of a hotel owner and an up and coming celebrity having debuted in an amateur band. His fan base is already significant and he seems nice in front of other people. But he has a dark side. Or more like that dark side really is him, he doesn’t seem to appreciate people and wants to go off and do his own thing with nobody to tie him down. That includes Kyoko, who he sees as a mere housekeeper. He cares more about superficial things like looks and popularity, he absolutely loathes Ren Tsuruga who has more popularity than him. There’s not much else to Sho, he’s kinda a one-sided coin. He seems to have a thing for his manager, an older woman who is admittedly kinda hot (though the director of one particular shoot is even more of a MILF - the closest thing to fan-service this anime has). Kanae Kotonami is an up and coming actress of a similar age to Kyoko who aspires to be the best actress in Japan. She first comes across the heroine (in her first scene) during an audition at LME they are both applying for. She has a talent for being able to memorise scripts very quickly and pull off the lines with great vigor and talent. She is a very skilled actress, being able to fake emotions easily. Were this anime a bit more realistic, she’d be an actor in no time. But it turns out she lacks something. Feeling (much like Kyoko) since she’s actually a harsh person and can be a bit of a mean, horrible individual. Which is not something that LME as a talent agency desires, but they see the potential in her. She also has a history… a certain other malicious girl is trying to crush her very dreams (watch the anime to find out) Without spoiling too much, she and Kyoko become very well acquainted, dare I use the word: friends? There are various other characters like the strange president of LME, Lory Takada. He is always dressed up as something new, he is often doing weird stuff in weird themes and he recognises talent when he sees it. He also believes that a person’s ability to love others is important and he forms the Love Me Section in the company, for those folks who show promise but lack the love to work such a job. As weird as he can be, he’s a really nice guy. He has a granddaughter Maria Takada, via his only son, who is a mischievous little girl (definitely no older than 12) that gets attached to Kyoko and refers to her as big sister. She dislikes her father, who is never around to look after her as he is abroad working and she doesn’t have a mother anymore. She’s quite a strong personality for her age and reminds me a lot of Tsubasa Shibahime from Kare Kano. Yukihito Yashiro is Ren’s manager, a man who is only a bit older than he is. Unlike Ren, he is a tad less cynical and a bit more human. Yet even he has his moments, his hands are murderers of mobile phones, if he holds a phone in his bare hand for just 10 seconds, it will break. He also knows Ren inside and out and often teases Ren as Ren tries to deny things. He also seems to ship Ren and Kyoko together for some reason. Finally there’s the head of recruitment, Takanori Sawada who is weak when it comes to Kyoko, he has felt her determination and is kinda scared of her. He’s a comic character, who arranges things for the other characters. Story At the start, Kyoko Mogami is a girl in love working two jobs to pay for her expensive apartment where she live with her man Fuwa Sho. Why an expensive apartment? Because Fuwa Sho is both an up and coming celebrity and is very picky. He treats her like shit and she doesn’t initially see it. But after hearing him talking shit behind her back, she realises her true potential. Instead of being a lovely and overly kind individual who is easily forgiving, she becomes a demon, powered by fury, hate and her eternal grudge against the man who ruined her life: she couldn’t have any friends, (since all the other girls hated her out of jealousy) she didn’t go to high school and gave up education and most of all, she wasted her live devoting herself to him. This anime is about Kyoko’s attempt to try and get back at Sho. It involves the mysterious new ‘Love Me Section’ at LME and attempts to tide Kyoko’s never-ending cynicism and hate. This anime is made has various themes and references, but the things that stand out the most is the comedy and the work in showbiz setting. While mostly realistic, the comedic effects are ramped up to max for good effect and we have Kyoko’s vengeful spirits slapping people around and her rage affecting the very atmosphere in her location. Of course, these are no superpowers, just comedic effects and in that respect this is more like a cartoon. As far as the completion of the plot goes, the anime does what it sets out to do, but towards the end it turns in a slightly different direction. And right at the very end, it feels a bit rushed and squished together. Perhaps it would have been better with one episode since it did give me a wishy-washy feeling, though I realised that the anime did complete it’s promise. It’s just that it seemed like there was going to be a little more on in that new direction… almost like …a Phantom Pain. The big theme here is love and compassion for others. Kyoko throws it all away for negative feelings which fuel her enthusiasm. It’s almost like the anime is trying to say that feeling such things and wanting vengeance is a bad thing, in that respect Ren Tsuruga is like the inner voice of this anime. And then there’s the issue with the work depicted in this anime, people make mistakes, but it is pretty damn harsh in the world of actors and celebrities. They’ve got to give it their all, but if they’ve already got that high status they seem to be able to get away with things which the folks just starting out cannot. There’s almost a tinge of hypocrisy, but of course Ren is not a part of this, he has another issue. I guess he isn’t the omnipotent one though, since his character is one similar to my own personality, there is a certain thing he is incapable of (clue – one of the main themes of this anime). Even Ren himself finds something to struggle with and it ties in to the whole theme of this anime. He does tease Kyoko, but only because he wants her to learn the error of her ways, if they can even be called errors. To err is to be human and to quote a man famed for peace (guess who said it): “It is better to be violent if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence.” Long story short, if futility fills you with hate, it’s best to release it than to keep it bottled up. An interesting concept from this anime. Conclusion So being a shoujo anime, you’d expect for me to recommend this to only teenage girls? Guess how surprised I was when my teenage brother (who is very vocal about any anime he feels is too weird, even if I watch it), barged in and watched it with no sound (I was using headphones) and liked it. Not that surprised honestly, the shoujo genre of this anime is irrelevant. I feel like this is an anime that can be enjoyed by a wide range of audience and even more-so because of the interesting themes at hand. While it is the story of an average Japanese girl punching above her weight and reaching for the stars, at heart it’s a more relatable story about peoples feeling and relationships… by which I mean hate, revenge and grudges. Watch this anime if you like comedy, because it is definitely funny, on multiple occasions it made me laugh out loud. Not only was it funny, but it was interesting, my eyes were peeled and I did not feel the need to look away and do something like fiddle with my phone. While the animation quality is a bit sub-par, the good story and characters are key here and the good music helps that along. Give it a go and get ready to cheer Kyoko along on her cynical path to vengeance. I seriously didn’t to expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 Erm… a lot of hate and also a few complaints about figures, this is showbiz after all (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
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.
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