Meet Sarasa Watanabe, aspiring otokoyaku - actress who plays only male roles - in renowned all-female musical theater academy Kouka, a tall energetic girl with a heart of gold. Pair her with cool beauty with a tormented past Ai Narata, and you’ve got the core of Kageki Shoujo!!, an anime series about the lives of the talented and ambitious students of Kouka Academy. They all want to become the next big stars on stage, but will they succeed?
We have been waiting for this season’s classic shoujo drama. With a soft and dreamy color palette and adorable characters, it’s easy to think that Kageki Shoujo!! is a lighthearted anime series about girls working towards their dreams. Well, it partly is, but, Kageki Shoujo!! follows classic shoujo dramas of the past, like Oniisama e… (Brother, Dear Brother…) or The Rose of Versailles, both by mangaka Riyoko Ikeda,, and more recent ones like Fruits Basket, where there is a strong focus on character development, big emotions, and clashes among the young cast. It’s actually darker than Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight, another popular shoujo set in a musical school, once you pass the two-episode mark. So, we are here to give you our first impressions. Let’s take a look!
Just Like the Takarazuka Revue..?!
Kouka is a prestigious all-girl musical theater school, originating from the Taisho era, and only a select few manage to enter every year. The otokoyaku train to play the male roles, and the musumeyaku the female ones. This is just like Takarazuka Revue, the famous theater troupe that produces lavish, Broadway-style, musicals, with lots of devoted fans, mainly women. Even the names of the different troupes within Takarazuka are the same, alluding to the four seasons.
We even get references to real Takarazuka adaptations, like the Rose of Versailles, Romeo and Juliet, My Fair Lady, to name a few of the classics. This is definitely an anime catering to fans of the Revue and fans of musicals.
The setting might be catering to Takarazuka fans, but the focus is on the heroines and their personal development. Sarasa and Ai have the common anime dynamic of “genki girl meets aloof beauty”. The pleasant difference is that it works, it’s written well, and doesn’t feel forced. Even if you are an introvert and can’t stand energetic and extroverted people like Sarasa in real life, her character is well-rounded. We get hints she has her own struggles and regrets, but instead of giving up, she has taken on a positive outlook in life, which inspires Ai as well, to open up.
Similarly, Ai is not just another cool blue-haired anime girl. She starts off like that, but we soon learn that she cannot control her fear towards men, which led to her removal from her former idol group. Ai’s motivation of passing the Kouka exam just to avoid men as much as possible in an all-female school sounds gimmicky at first, but her backstory of childhood abuse in the hands of her mother’s boyfriend at the time is deeply unsettling, and we get to see the lasting effects of such trauma on her.
And Some Trauma in Our Drama...
Moving on to the trauma part, we feel that Kageki Shoujo!! takes its characters seriously. It could just play up the shoujo drama tropes, but we do feel that Ai is treated with respect, and we get to see how she grew up without support. She is coping the best she can, after being assaulted as a little girl. These are of course heavy topics, so be warned that Kageki Shoujo!! explores issues that might act as triggers to the audience. The result is not exploitative and we hope to see Ai recovering.
Ayako Yamada, a side character who’s more of a Plain Jane, gets put down harshly by the dance teacher in front of the whole class because she gained weight. Sadly, such treatment is still in practice in competitive fields where looks are important, such as theater and dance. Kageki Shoujo!! explores the effects of bullying and peer pressure, and we see Ayako struggling with her body image and self-confidence, resulting in episodes of bulimia. Thankfully, in all stories so far, there is some sort of resolution, or temporary relief: a kind teacher in Ayako’s case, or Sarasa’s support towards Ai. We hope that the dark tone is balanced out by rays of sunshine for the rest of the show, too.
Kageki Shoujo!! is an anime for shoujo, drama, and slice of life fans. We hope to see a live performance by the budding actresses soon. We keep our fingers crossed for Ai because she deserves healing from her past trauma, and we root for Sarasa in becoming the next Oscar from The Rose of Versailles! What did you think of Kageki Shoujo!! so far? And, who is your favorite girl? Let us know in the comments below and keep watching anime!