Otaku USA Magazine
BanG Dream [Review]

Sugary sweet with a rock edge

Many of us fantasize about one day joining the music industry, but hardly anyone just wakes up one morning and decides to go for it. That’s kind of the premise of BanG Dream, however, which begins with an important sight from childhood and the drive to follow your dreams. This Bushiroad media franchise is all about doing just that, and while it’s admittedly not the most original narrative involving music or a band (K-On!! and Show by Rock come to mind) it’s definitely worth a weekend watch.

Protagonist Kasumi Toyama is dead set on finding the “sparkling” sound she heard as a child while stargazing: the “Star Beat.” During her first year of high school while trying to decide which club she should join, she happens upon a star-shaped guitar at a classmate’s family’s pawn shop. She realizes when she sees it that this could be the end of her search, and starting up a band could help her find the sound she’s sought all her life. Just like that, she decides she’s going start up a band, and nothing can stop her.

Except Kasumi knows nothing about playing guitar or anything of the sort, and she barely knows anything about music. She spends time wandering all about town to find a place to play the guitar and, eventually, some bandmates to do it all with. This doesn’t affect Kasumi or her can-do attitude, though. She’s got a dream she wants to carry out, and she’s going to do it, one way or another.

Eventually she sweeps up four others into her lifelong dream of finding the Star Beat, including Rimi Ushigome, Arisa Ichigaya, Tae Hanazono, and Saya Yamabuki, each character with their own personal reasons and obstacles in life to overcome before dedicating much of their time to joining a band, which eventually receives the name Poppin’ Party.

Arisa Ichigaya is the sarcastic friend who plays much of a tsundere role, while Rimi is the bass player who’s massively shy around others. Guitarist Tae is a lot more like Kasumi, and Saya is the drummer who works with her mother at her family’s bakery. While many of the characters tend to share characteristics with some of the other “band”-docused series out there, it’s easy to get caught up in their infectious desire to form Poppin’ Party and start performing as a real, honest-to-goodness band.

As such, there are several musical numbers all performed through CG moments via Poppin’ Party. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s watched shows like Love Live! or any of the other idol series out there, but they don’t look particularly great—that’s just one of the pitfalls, unfortunately, with shows like these that involve a copious amount of musical numbers. But know that, despite the fact that these scenes can be a bit bereft of good-looking animation, they’re still enjoyable in the context of the show. The tunes themselves are sugary sweet with a rock edge, but uplifting and fun, just like you’d expect them to be. That’s one of the most important aspects of a show like BanG Dream, after all.

BanG Dream isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but it does have a lot of heart. If you’ve ever chased your own dream, you’ll find plenty of familiar breadcrumbs here, but if you’re just looking for an inoffensive musical adventure, there are more inspired choices out there.

Studio/company: Sentai Filmworks
Available: Now
Rating: Not Rated

This story appears in the June 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.