Show By Rock!! is an anime based around a phone rhythm game of the same name. Created by Sanrio and guaranteed to be cute, this series focuses on Cyan Hijirikawa, a shy guitarist who is pulled into Midi City, a land ruled by music. Once there she manages to join the band Plasmagica and Show By Rock!! delves into their lives as well as the darkness hiding behind all the smiling faces.
Just so you know, Sanrio has dabbled in anime before. And when I say dabbled I mean they have created more than a handful of children’s shows. Show By Rock!! was their first official step out of the land of children’s anime and basically into the land of moe anime. I’m not saying that Show By Rock!! deserves to be treated like one of those series solely made to cash in on the ‘cute girls doing cute things’ popularity but man sometimes it is just that: cute girls doing cute things. Oh and there’s a story somewhere.
Said story happens to be one of dark monsters and an evil Jellyfish (thing?) who wants to be a millionaire. In this world that is accomplished by making great music. He has everything planned out: kidnap the world’s greatest musician to create a song for your new evil band to sing and then kidnap the greatest talent you can find. Cyan just so happens to be a talent he wants and needs so desperately that he pulls her from another world. However Cyan is steered away from him and instead finds herself at a Trichronika concert.
Trichronika is perhaps the most popular band in Midi City. As such it is the perfect target for a Dark Monster to attack. Cyan manages to get herself caught up in the fight between the Dark Monster and Trichronika and even more surprising, she beats the monster with the power of her guitar. Shocked by her skills Maple Arisugawa recruits her for his female band Plasmagica. From there the story follows Cyan and Plasmagica’s journey to be the best as well as the secrets of the Dark Monsters that keep appearing.
This show has a lot of characters. It is important to know that the citizens of this world take the form of mummons which are stuffed animal like creatures. Therefore everyone in this show has a sort of animal motif minus Maple who’s an egg. The obvious place to start out character talk is Plasmagica, a girl band made up of four members and the center of our show. Lead singer and guitar player is ChuChu a rabbit mummon who seems really friendly but also holds back emotions. Bass and backup vocals is Retoree, a golden retriever, who joined the band to make friends and takes a quick liking to Cyan. On drums and another backup vocalist is Moa who is a sheep-like alien in the midst of investigating Earth; she is friendly and sweet to the core. Last but not least is our main character Cyan. Cyan gets turned into a cat mummon and somehow manages to easily adapt to her new strange lifestyle. She didn’t have a whole lot of friends before joining Plasmagica and so attempts to dedicate herself to her new friends and band. She’s pretty sweet and overall it is adorable to watch her try hard.
Next up is the band ShinganCrimsonz who is an all boy band under the same label as Plasmagica. As such you will see these guys a lot and trust me they are the highlight of the show. Starting out we have Crow the leader who plays guitar and does vocals. Crow, despite his name, is a hedgehog mummon and my personal favorite character. He’s brash and angry but deep down does care about his bandmates. Next up we have Aion, a lion mummon, who thinks he is a god. This guitar player has a tendency to cover his face while talking even when he gets in fights with his bandmates. The bass player of ShinganCrimsonz is Yaiba, a fox mummon. Yaiba believes wholeheartedly in the ways of the samurai and is a much more serious guy than the others but still winds up fighting them. Rounding it all out is the drummer Rom. The next best character in the series, and also a leopard mummon, Rom is a business man by day and a hot-blooded guy by night. Rom shows a level of understanding the world that impresses his bandmates to the point of admiration. He doles out advice on a daily basis and proves to be the general brains of this group of misfits.
Whew. That’s a lot and we still have three more bands to cover. Trichronika is as mentioned the most popular band in Midi City. Led by Shuzo an enigmatic guy who shares a past with Rom. The other two members of Trichronika are a pair of twins. On bass is Riku, the shy younger brother, and on drums is Kai the much crazier older brother. Our next band serves as a rival for Plasmagica. Despite being made up of middle school students the band CritiCrista is a force to be reckoned with. Guitar and vocals is Rosia who acts as the leader of the group. She spends her time obsessed with being the best and has a definite evil side. We don’t learn much more about the rest of the girls so I’ll just list their names. Keyboards and vocal is Tsukino, bass and vocals is Holmy, and the drummer of the group is Jacqueline. Our last band is a band from the Far East, Tsurezurenaru Ayatsuri Mugenan. This band has come from another place to spread their music which turns out to just be a very enka inspired band. The guitarist and bassist, A and Un respectively aren’t super important. Who is important is their master, the drummer Daru Dayu. Daru Dayu is a big talent and the experienced member of the group. She leads the entire band and could be accredited for their popularity. Rounding out the cast we have Maple, the president of Banded Rocking Records, Angelica, Maple’s secretary, Strawberry Heart, Cyan’s talking guitar, and Dagger the villain of the series.
You will find yourself surrounded by great shots of Plasmagica and ShinganCrimsonz but lacking in the other bands, despite their importance to the series. Personally though I think it was for the best. Generally you get just enough to know who they are and then we move on. The only thing I had a problem with was the lack of detail in Rom and Shuzo’s past. The two make a huge deal about it and yet we never truly find out what happened. The story also tends to meander around. We end up with four to five episodes of band introductions before the true story starts and that’s really hard to forgive. If it wasn’t for ShinganCrimsonz this show would have been a lot less enjoyable.
On the bright side the art is fantastic. Whenever the bands perform you are treated to them reverting to mummon form (rather than the human forms they normally take) and the scenes are in CG. Some people really didn’t like the CG but I was a definite fan. It managed to blend the CG transition in well and even though their change was random it wasn’t hard to get used to. Plus I thought it looked nice. The art looked good the rest of the time too. I don’t remember finding any flaws in the animation or art which is pretty rare. Normally I’m able to point out at least one time when someone’s face looked funny but I don’t remember having that problem at all in Show By Rock!! As for the sound side of things there is a lot of variety. By including bands such as ShinganCrimsonz (Visual Kei) and Tsurezurenaru Ayatsuri Mugenan (Enka) we got a lot of diversity in the soundtrack that we otherwise wouldn’t have. Plasmagica and CritiCrista both play pop songs and Trichronika is just the boy band version of that. Nevertheless each song is unique and fun. All of the performances were a joy to listen to. I also found the opening and ending to be pleasantly catchy j-pop songs. The ending was better in my opinion but they were both good.
I will also mention that Show By Rock!! had fantastic background music. There is this one particular track that was reserved for bad moments and the villain that was my favorite. It started with this amp feedback that always kind of puts you on edge before moving into a seriously nerve-wracking tune. The rest of the background music was good but that song was the best.
After reading all of this you may be wondering how I really feel about the show. I’m not sure I’ve fully conveyed my feelings yet. So I’ll make it clear: I liked Show By Rock!! It isn’t the most amazing show but it is definitely enjoyable. There are definite flaws with its setup. Cyan is the main character and her relationship with Plasmagica and the way they fight the dark monsters is the point of the show but most of the time ShinganCrimsonz stole the show. They were my absolute favorite part and I wouldn’t like the show if they weren’t there. The ending is also disappointing. It has this crazy buildup that winds down in an all too quick spiral. Cyan defeats the villain by herself for gods’ sake. And then there is a vague scene after the end credits that basically puts us right back where we were at the beginning of the show. It hurt but I couldn’t think of a better way for it to end.
Even with these flaws I still think Show By Rock!! is a good show. Average for sure but if it gets an English release I will buy it. I’ll even buy a limited edition if it is lucky enough to receive it. So go into Show By Rock!! knowing that you are getting a supernatural slice of life about a girl band. Expect them to be overshadowed by their company’s fellow band and know you are watching a show built on comedy and cheap drama. Knowing this will really allow you to enjoy the show for what it is: a cute little musical romp. It will look good, it will sound good, and it will be fun, albeit sadly average.