Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 Review

This is review number three hundred and ninety four. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup, and it’s called Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49. No, it doesn’t have 49 members and also no, this anime isn’t really that good. Let’s just read on and get this over with.

Story

The anime follows five male idols as they try to make it as a successful idol group. They were given a chance to continue the legacy of Shounen Hollywood, a group that was popular fifteen years ago, and they’d have to do their best to make their predecessors proud.

Taking the Pants Off

This anime is apparently a “mixed media” project, and that means everything you see in the anime is just a product. The anime itself is a product, because mixed media projects are basically a very thinly veiled practice of consumerism. I’m salty about the entire thing, because I have experienced a mixed media anime before. Super f*cking Sonico is an anime about a vocaloid wannabe, and the entire show is just a big advertisement for the songs and the character herself. The annoying thing about Shounen Hollywood is that it is inspired from a novel, and novel adaptations are always some of the best anime you can watch. This isn’t a novel adaptation though, since the anime is an original idea fifteen years after the novel’s story. What the hell is this? Why couldn’t you just adapt the novel itself? It’s from the same author, so good gawd, why opt for an original screenplay?! Why abandon an already established story with a full script and well-handled character arcs just to pursue an original venture? I don’t understand. Interestingly though, I cannot track down the novel that inspired this anime. When you search for Shounen Hollywood, a lot of stupid things pop up. I’m guessing the novel didn’t do well, so this mixed media project is also a sneaky way to sell the actual book. It comes full circle, I guess.

This is a very original anime though, and I mean that in a bad way. It sports the usual awful-ness you’d expect from an Original Screenplay. The story is bad, the characters are dumb and there is potential just quietly wasted in its thirteen episode run. This is honestly my first taste of a male idol anime, but I am very much familiar with idol anime. You can go two ways with it. You can go the Love Live approach and basically capture the ideal image of an idol, with bright songs and happy dances, as it celebrates the idol culture. You can also go the Wake Up, Girls route and feature the dark side of the idol culture, and sh*t can get incredibly dark when you scratch beneath the surface. Idol anime comes in these two flavors, and Shounen Hollywood just had to f*cking choose one. I think it tried to do both, and actually be realistic about it. Since the story focuses on startup idols, the show is a bit realistic but also offensively positive, if that makes any sense. I guess you can say the show played it safe. It had to choose between two distinct flavors, but decided to use both. The resulting flavor is basically just vomit inducing, and the audience is going to endure thirteen episodes of that.

The anime’s problem boils down to two things: the story and the animation. Yeah, two major problems actually so let’s take a closer look. In terms of story, the show doesn’t really have one. It adheres to the lazy practice most original anime does: the short sighted storytelling. Basically, the overall story is not properly presented because the show is more focused on the story in an episode. This results in a not cohesive plot structure, directionless storytelling and the absence of conflict and climax. There’s really no value to the story, because every episode stands alone. This is bad, because the anime is about the journey of five young pretty boys trying to break into the idol industry. For f*cksake, Love Live has a more cohesive story than something INSPIRED BY A GAWD DAMN NOVEL!!!!! The anime does feature the typical standard idol stuff like the characters practicing and the saccharine ideals that drive the idol industry. What is the most important thing an idol must do? Smile *teehee*. It’s a bit awkward, since these are male idols doing the familiar idol poses and cute soundbites, but you do get used to it. Have you seen Korean boy bands? They look like girls, and I feel like I should be locked up watching a music video of a thin boy acting like a girl in full pretty make up. Seriously, the entire world needs to stop spinning because it’s going out of control.

Despite being directionless and random, the story can still be divided into two parts. There is the stage play part, and there is the Christmas live performance part. The first half of the anime focuses on the male idols attending practice to do a stage play. Of course, the anime doesn’t actually follow their trials and tribulation leading to a satisfying stage performance. No, that takes too much effort. Instead, some episodes introduce the five male characters. Each of them has their own character arcs, which are badly mishandled, and these arcs make up majority of the first half. Jammed between their practices are individual stories about the characters, so the audience can get to know them better. The character introductions would’ve been fine, but the show shoves some force conflict to the episodes. These conflicts doesn’t really have any weight to the actual anime, and you can tell it’s just a little plot device that will eventually vanish after the episode ends. Some of them are incredibly grating though, because the author is kinda masterbaiting with the script giving us deep meaningless lines about life and the meaning of existence. Like seriously, some characters would have these profound lines that sounds smart but actually comes off as dumb and pointless. There’s one character trying to find “a special place”, and the episode ends with the character realizing that the special place is actually in his heart. Oh gawd, the script writer had a novel published. Let that sink in. The problem with this is that the character was just a goofy happy go lucky person in the previous episode. So the conflict suddenly comes in forced as f*ck, and it’s too sudden to really take seriously.

The anime bothered to give each character an arc, so it baffles me that it didn’t actually see things through. Most character arcs develop as the show progresses, and we could’ve been treated to a visual experience of the guy actually realizing his “special place” is in his heart. It didn’t need to end in the episode it sprouted in. There were individual stories that are really well done as well. My favorite character arc is the one about the former childhood star. His relationship with his mother is warped, because her expectations back when he was young turned him into messed up teenager. The mother is aware though, so she tries hard not to put too much pressure on him now as he tries to be an idol. It’s a really good story, and the anime had no f*cking idea how to properly tell it. There’s also a really good one about one of the members being a true musician. He loves music, and he wants to write songs. He is stuck being an idol though, and he soon feels weighed down by his choice to be one. It’s not that simple though, since he later realized he is really just a narcissist, and he wanted to an idol for the attention he’ll be getting. It’s a really wonderful character arc, and the entire thing is just badly executed. This is the frustrating thing about this anime. It has potential to be amazing, story-wise, and it just doesn’t really want to do it.

The best story arc in the anime would be the Shounen Hollywood arc itself. Some of the characters of the novel appear in the anime, so the old Shounen Hollywood would cross path with the new Shounen Hollywood. This is honestly a different kind of flavor I’ve come across with in an idol anime. These shows would be about following your dreams and the power of friendship overcoming adversity. Even Wake Up, Girls does that, since an idol anime is supposed to be inspirational. We get that same tired bullsh*t from the young Shounen Hollywood doing daily practice and experiencing new things as they try to break into the idol scene. But then there’s the old Shounen Hollywood. Their story has ended, their journey has come and pass, and they basically broke up. Each member is doing new things, and the entire experience is so bittersweet. We hear idols say things like “follow your dreams”, or “never give up”, or “I want to be an idol forever”, but then there’s real life knocking behind them. They eventually grow old, their passion dies and they move on. Life moves on, and that’s a reality this anime is trying to present. It’s not heavy handed with this little subplot, but it appears from time to time. The heroes of the novel is eventually passing the baton, but you can’t help but feel a bit sad knowing the harsh reality of life is just around the corner. I’d smile though when the new meets the old. Some of the character arcs would feature a meeting of an old Shounen Hollywood and a new one, and the old would often give sage advice to the new. The dialogue is comfortingly real, and it’s some wonderful advice from one idol to another. I really wished the anime polished the story, because there’s so much good things here not properly utilized.

The anime really screwed up from the start, since it didn’t give us the premise from the get go. The anime is about one of the old Shounen Hollywood holding onto his dream of being an idol, so he recruits new young blood to keep his legacy going. If the anime focused on the old guy recruiting the new guys, then we could’ve achieved a proper story. Every episode focuses on a new recruit, and each recruit has their own character arc related to their journey as idols. It’s easy writing, so you can really tell a lazy attempt at selling a product when you see one. Super Sonico is blatantly this lazy as well, as it tries to sell the Super Sonico brand. Miss Monochrome is honestly just like these soul-less projects, but you can at least feel the people behind Monochrome is actually enjoying themselves. It’s a stupid anime, but at least the audience is in on the fun. Speaking of, Miss Monochrome actually appears in this anime. It’s a weird cameo for a weird anime.

The second half of the anime is about the Christmas live performance. It’s a tradition that the old guys used to do, and the brand new Shounen Hollywood is now continuing it. The anime picks up from here, since it mostly geared itself towards its planned ending. Sadly, there’s really not enough stuff to work with to build into a climax so a lot of weird things happen along the way. Some of the boys’ forced conflicts resurfaced, and the anime even employed the original anime trope of forcing a bad guy. Since the show featured random sh*t all throughout its run, the anime tried to make one of the characters into an antagonist seemingly being a giant d*ck to the rest of the group. It is awkward as f*ck, since you know nothing will come off from his antagonist behavior. It’s not like the band will break up. We’re honestly just wasting time here, and the second half feels like it. I don’t really buy their journey to becoming popular idols. They just announce they’re performing, and then they just perform? That’ll automatically make them idols? Love Live did the same actually, but it was a ragtag group of stereotypes joining an online contest. Shounen Hollywood had a stage, and that’s it. Since they have a stage, they have a place to perform in and that’s it? That’s all you need to be a popular idol? The anime never really sold us the idea that the characters have a chance to be idols. You can never really root for them, and their journey is bogged down by a directionless plot and lack of cohesion. But, you just need a stage? Really? They’ll have fans and an established following just by performing on a stage? For all of its bittersweet elements of reality, they really half-assed the most important thing in an idol anime: the journey to becoming idols. Heck, Idolmaster had a convincing story and I rolled my eyes while watching that. It really doesn’t come together. This isn’t really an anime.

Despite having some good moments here and there, the anime is both a boring and cringe worthy experience. I mentioned the anime had two problems: the story and animation. I’ll rant about the animation below, but these two awful elements actually come together to give us a boring and cringe worthy experience. With its lack on any meaningful content, a lot of the scenes in the anime are just downright boring. There’d be boring dialogue littered throughout the show, and I honestly wonder away from time to time because nothing really happens in the anime. For an Original Screenplay, I am amazed at how much it doesn’t really give a f*ck. Most original anime goes balls out featuring Nobunaga Oda in a space opera, so this anime is really underwhelming. Nothing really happens in the episodes, and I’m mostly picking out the concepts behind the story as I write this review. I can’t even spoil anything, because nothing here is worth spoiling. No, there’s literally nothing to spoil. It’s just a boring mess. Idol anime would often cut through the boring elements with some decent CG heavy dance scenes, since these are idols. Unfortunately, the animation is atrocious. With its boring story that lacks any cohesion and awful animation, we’d have an episode where the characters sing their lines. It’s cute, but it’s really really cringe inducing. It’s so bad that it makes my skin crawl. I hide my head in my pillow in absolute shame, because it’s just that f*cking bad. There’s one scene where the characters fight over shopping baskets, and I think to myself why exactly does it have to be shopping baskets? There are also the character introductions, but I think they were meant to be awful. I still cringe when I hear character says “your universe is my universe, and my universe is your universe. Oh gawd, make it stop.

In case you’re wondering, most of the episodes seem to come from the songs in the mixed media project. They’re good songs, and that’s basically the product the anime is selling. I think it works too, since we got another season of this crap despite being so very very very underwhelming. It’s a low budget crappy anime with no story, and yet I think there are some fans of Shounen Hollywood. It’s a decent franchise now, and it blows my mind how simple it comes off. Do you really don’t have to do much to break into the idol scene? I’m honestly interested at how the idol culture works, since I also shrugged Love Live as a so-so idol group and yet it’s a massive franchise now. It’s a weird feeling. I’m interested in the process, and yet I feel a bit annoyed at the people buying into the craze. This is just my personal feeling behind this, and I do what to understand better. I think there’s a lot of factor that makes an idol group work, but I am seriously dumb founded at how some groups make it big. I guess this just means that we’ll get more male idol group anime in the near future, and hurray(?).

The anime is brought to us by Studio ZEXCS. This is the studio that worked on Diabolik Lovers, so they have a track record for featuring bizarre works. I guess you can expect this studio to be different, since they also gave us Aku no Hana. In fact, rotoscope is a common animation technique in this anime. Yeah, so that’s scary. I’m honestly curious at the new shows this studio has done though beyond 2014, aside from the second season of Diabolik Lovers, of course. Oh gawd, I’m going to review that show. I’ll also review the second season of this anime, so that’s a fun time for me. I do like this studio though. They’re different, in both good and bad ways, but I like a studio that breaks the norm. It reminds us that anime is a different kind of experience, and ZEXCS definitely gave me some of the most memorable ones. The anime is directed by Tomohisa Kuroyanagi. He directed Sukiite Ii na yo, and you can tell he just lacks talent for directing anime. He has good background being episode director, story boarder and even key animator but he just can’t f*cking tell a story. The visual storytelling is lacking in his works, but maybe he’ll improve. I don’t know. I see no signs of growth, or even a small glimpse of what he can actually do as a director. For a boring lump of wood like this one, I would’ve expected the director to give us something. Sadly, effort is really lacking. It’s funny, because the script had glimpse of brilliance but the directing clearly does not. Even Super Sonico had some choice episodes where the directing shines, so it’s sad Tomohisa didn’t take advantage of his awful situation.

Sight and Sound

Character design is done by Kei Tsuchiya, and he sucks at it. He didn’t really do a design, but he mostly did some key frames for the anime. The design themselves isn’t that impressive, since it lacks detail and a more subtle color palette. The design is stiff and lifeless that it really doesn’t help you get through an episode. Love Live and Wake Up, Girls had moe, despite being offensively generic, but Shounen Hollywood is just lacking overall. Aside from hair color, the designs don’t stand out from each other. The body builds are the same, despite being of diffeent height, and there’s too much work done in the faces. The eyes look dead, and the mouths are awkwardly drawn in. Can you believe years of reviewing manga designs have helped me properly critique sh*t like this? The outfits are also lacking, but the show clearly has some typical male idol costume on hand. It didn’t pop, and it isn’t as grandiose as you’d expect from an idol anime. The washed out colors and boring color palette also makes the design unimpressive to look at. Honestly, the owl had more details in his design than the entire cast combined. I do like some of the hairstyles, and I’m talking about characters not actually performing in Shounen Hollywood. The main characters suck tremendously, and the rest of the cast overshadows them at times.

qtyefai

Awful character design can still shine though, and it mostly falls in the hand of the animation. Sadly, this is the second worst part about the anime. The animation is so limited that the awfulness of the design permeates. Our director would often just animate the mouth, and the eyes would just be there looking dead. Several scenes had the same frames, and you’ll always notice the eyes not blinking. Sure, some scenes call for a character to close his eyes but it’s never a normal thing. Small details like this makes or breaks your show, and the director clearly didn’t know that. Or maybe he just didn’t care. Simple scenes like walking and talking looks awkward in the anime. Some scenes are given a shortcut by cutting away through a large wide shot that barely makes out what the characters are actually doing. It’s a cheat in animation, since little space is needed to be animated when you go for a wide shot. The anime also has some “cute scenes” that delivers comedic moments, and they are boring as f*ck. The transition to these scenes is awkward, and the execution is just awful. The animation is so bad that I even notice the hack job the voice actors did in their roles. It’s bad all around. The anime doesn’t feature any idol dance scenes until the very end, but even the practice dances look robotic and flat when you watch it. It is really soul-less, and it’s honestly hard to do something this bad. Animation is already a practice in pouring effort into your work, so giving so much effort to make a show and yet not giving enough to make it good takes some special kind of awful. The only time the anime shined is through that one weirdly rotoscoped episode where the characters performed in a Music Station-like variety show. It’s a standout episode, but the animation still looks sloppy.

I do like one thing about the director’s work. It ties in with the script, but I like how dreary the anime feels. It has a very sleepy atmosphere, and it’s poignant given that these are nobodies performing on a dusty stage. I especially love the announcement that the characters will be performing as the new Shounen Hollywood, since it’s announced in an empty stage. Only seven people, and an owl, hear the exciting new and the excitement is drowned out by silence. I like it, but it isn’t really enough to make the show good. It actually makes the show even more boring in some areas, since it’s paced like a slice of life show. No, not those comedy/slice of life. Just straight up Slice of Life, like Absolute Boy or Binchotan.

The anime’s OP is “Hello Sekai” by Shounen Hollywood [Kakeru Kazama (Ryota Ohsaka), Ikuma Amaki (Tetsuya Kakihara), Kira Sakeki (Daiki Yamashita), Daiki Tomii (Shouta Aoi), Shun Maiiyama (Kensho Ono)]. This is a fairly standard idol song. I personally don’t like it, but it does grow on you. It has a catchy beat, and the voices are very good. The lyrics are extremely cheesy, but you don’t have to know them, really. Just listen to the overly sweet pop male idol song accompanied by a very generic OP sequence. The anime is so under budget that it doesn’t even have a dance scene in its OP. It didn’t even try. It just features the characters going to practice, and I’m sure it beats any impressive dance routine. Gawd, this anime sucks.

The anime has a lot of ED, and I should point out that I do love the songs. I won’t go over each one, but I like them all. Some of the characters perform solo, and it also ties in with their character arc, so some of the songs have a cute novelty to them. The songs are really good, and each character really gave something different to each one. I personally love the acoustic version of their cheesy famous song, because the songs have a range the anime clearly doesn’t have. The ED sequences are also different, and you can actually see some artistic effort in them. Some are just cool montages of the solo characters, but others have different animation style to them. If the anime’s goal is to sell the songs, then I think it works. I want to buy them, and I think you would too. Go try searching for them on youtube, because they are really good.

Overall Score

3/10 “It’s a half-baked show with even half the effort and half the experience to deliver. It’s underwhelming of the very worst kind.”

With a boring story, awful characters and a lack of dance scenes or other impressive idol elements, the anime doesn’t really have much to offer. It’s a massive waste of time to even watch this, but you are welcome to try. The animation can be hilariously bad at times, but there are some moments of brilliance. Save yourself the torture though, and just listen to the soundtrack instead. This is a really awful and boring anime experience, and I just don’t think it’s worth the time. It lacks a lot of good elements, and it’s laughable to even call this an idol anime. This is just a blatant marketing tactic to sell a product, and I don’t really think you should give effort to something that clearly didn’t even try. I do not recommend it.

5 thoughts on “Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 Review

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