Winter 2020 Anime: Official Info, Airdates & Trailers
Keep warm this winter season with the latest anime info at MANGA.TOKYO!
Finally, after all this time, Ensemble Stars! is finally on air! When I went to see the first two episodes at a preview screening, there were tears in the house! This isn’t because of the emotional content or anything, but simply because us fans have been waiting far too long since the original announcement 3 years ago.
So what is Ensemble Stars? That could be a whole article in itself. Let’s just say that it’s a multimedia franchise revolving around a card-collecting smartphone game first released in 2015. Although there are more 2D idol smartphone games that you can shake a stick at these days, EnStars is arguably one of the most iconic thanks to its beautiful art, constantly expanding story and, perhaps most importantly, its eclectic cast of characters.
I’ve been playing Ensemble Stars! since mid-2016, so I’m actually also one of those fans that was pretty emotional at the preview screening! I’ve been to a few events during my time as a player, such as exhibitions, themed cafes, concerts and more, but it’s still kind of surreal to finally, finally be watching the anime. I may as well admit this now, but I’m a MASSIVE fan of Kanata Shinkai from Ryuseitai to the point that some people may think I worship him (I mean, I’m not going to deny this). In fact, my desk here at the MANGA.TOKYO office is adorned with Kanata merchandise, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m also very proud to say that I have every single Kanata card in the game… and that did NOT come easily (or cheaply…) Anyway, Kanata doesn’t make many appearances in the main story, so it’s likely that he won’t get to speak much in the anime. But don’t worry (!?), I will be fangirling and squealing here in the reviews for every split second that he appears. Puka puka!!
Anyway, onto the episode!
Our story takes places at Yumenosaki Academy. As the name – ‘blooming dream’ – implies, it is a school where dreams come true. Or perhaps not.
The very first line in the anime is spoken by legendary voice actress Maaya Sakamoto. That was it; in that second I was almost in tears. This one second had so much meaning to it. 1) ‘This is it! The anime has started!’ 2) ‘That voice must be Anzu! Anzu is in the anime!!!’ 3) ‘Maaya Sakamoto is Anzu!!!’, and then as Anzu finally appeared on the screen there were whoops and cheers from the cinema where I was watching the episode. Up until the airing, we actually had no idea whether Anzu (who is the player character in the game) would be appearing in the anime at all. To add to that, this is actually the first time we’ve ever seen her face in any official art. It was truly a big moment, as a lot of us fans have really fallen in love with the quiet and hardworking Anzu during our time as EnStars players. Although she is more-or-less designed as a self-insert as with most otome games, she has a very distinct personality and I think a lot of us truly respect her as a character in her own right. I hope the anime viewers will also get to understand her charm as time goes on.
The first episode was a lot of fun! I think the character designs are okay (not brilliant), but the animation is a little disappointing. I thought this back when the trailer aired, but the dancing is quite awkward thanks to the anatomy. Even in the opening sequence there are some really strange shots, in particular of Trickstar dancing at the end. I do appreciate how difficult it is to shoot a series that has so much dancing in it, but I’m not going to hide my disappointment here. It seems this animation company is putting all its animation efforts into a certain *other* anime this season. Despite all this, I love the brights colors and the backgrounds really do look exactly how I imagined Yumenosaki. The soundtrack is also excellent. You may remember that I praised the Idolish7 anime for its OST, and I have to say the same for Ensemble Stars, which is actually done by the same composer. I just hope that the OSTs don’t end up sounding too similar…
The game has a tendency to set the characters off on very long-winded deep monologues, which may be seen as one of the game’s strong points, but it would make for a boring anime. So far it seems that we have a good balance between these game monologues and speeches that are suitable for anime. Take Hokuto’s dialogue near the end of the episode as an example. Luckily the original scenario writer for the game is acting as series compositor and screenwriter for the anime. (Something related to the series delay, but we won’t go into that here).
Right from Episode 1 we had a lot of gag-like comedy, such as the on-stage battle and that absolutely GLORIOUS ‘eurgh!’ from Anzu as Koga so kindly used her as a landing mat. Some other highlights for me were the flying items (including frying pans) as Tetora was talking for too long on the stage and the yankee look Kuro gave Anzu the first time her saw her. Sadly Tori (the little sh*t with pink hair) didn’t have a stun gun like he did in the original story, but I don’t advocate violence!
The first episode of the anime had quite a few characters appear, but it wasn’t to the same extent as many other anime adaptations of otome games, which try to cram all the characters into the first episode. We’ve had a light introduction to the school and to one of the main themes of the story: revolution.
All-in-all, I think we got off to a strong start as far as an adaptation goes. However, it is a little frustrating to know that some people will drop the series here despite having not met some of the most memorable characters nor come across some of the deeper parts of the story. I hope you can at least stick around and give this show the 3-episode rule!
– Anzu. Class 2A. The player character from the game. She is very quiet, but has a hardworking personality. (Although this episode she was probably thinking ‘what’s with all these crazies’).
Meaning of her name: Anzu’s name means ‘apricot’ in English, but actually comes from the first and last syllables of ‘Ensemble Stars’ in Japanese (Ansanburu Sutaazu).
– Subaru Akehoshi. Class 2A. The Ensemble Stars! poster boy. He loves shiny things and giving strange nicknames to people.
Meaning of his name: ‘Subaru’ is the Japanese name for the constellation Pleiades, relating to the stellar theme of his unit and also has the meaning of ‘unity’. Akehoshi means ‘bright star’ and the ‘ake’ is often used in a way to mean ‘start’.
– Hokuto Hidaka. Class 2A. Cool and serious but can be quite airheaded. Love his grandma. Subaru’s nickname for him is ‘Hokke~’, which sounds like a type of fish.
Meaning of his name: ‘Hokuto’ is the Japanese name for the Big Dipper, again relating to the Stellar theme. Hidaka is written with the kanji for ‘ice’ and ‘hawk’, which perfectly matches his cool personality and sharp eyes.
– Makoto Yuki. Class 2A. The tech geek with a lack of self-confidence. Has experience in show business but doesn’t like to talk about it. Subaru’s nickname for him is ‘Ukki’, which is similar to the sound a monkey makes.
Meaning of his name: ‘Makoto’ means ‘truth’ or ‘sincerity’. ‘Yuki’ is written with the kanji for ‘play’ and ‘tree’, but probably represents the ‘planet’ as opposed to the stellar themes of Hokuto and Subaru. Yuki is also a homophone for the Japanese word for courage, which as you will see throughout the series, is an important theme in Makoto’s story.
– Mao Isara. Class 2B. The hardworking treasurer of the student council. Subaru’s nickname for him is ‘Sally’, like the titular witch from a 1960s anime.
Meaning of his name: I’m not 100% sure where this name comes from, but ‘Isara’ written backwards means ‘to change clothes’, which makes sense as he is constantly working as both a member of Trickstar and as a member of the student council. So, I personally think his name is meant to represent change. ‘Mao’ is written with the kanji for ‘truth’ (the same kanji as Makoto’s name, in fact) and a second character which has many meanings including ‘beginning’.
– Tetora Nagumo. Class 1A. Belongs to Ryuseitai and the karate club. His dream is to be the manliest of men. Respects Kuro Kiryu to the extreme.
Meaning of his name: Tetora is written with ‘iron tiger’ to match the strong and masculine personality he is aiming for. I’ve also seen a theory floating online that it refers to a tetrahedron, so it shows how he balances out Ryuseitai (I’m not completely buying that one though). Nagumo means ‘southern cloud’ and I’m not sure where it comes from. At first I thought it referred to the Four Protective Deities, but the White Tiger is the deity of the west… if anybody knows then give me a shout!
– Koga Ogami. Class 2B. A self-proclaimed lone wolf who loves rock. Subaru’s nickname for him is ‘Gami-san’.
Meaning of his name: Ogami is written with the kanji for ‘great deity’, but also makes one think of the word for ‘wolf’, which fits in with his lone wolf image. Koga is written with ‘daylight’ and ‘fang’. Can you imagine having ‘fang’ in your name…
– Kuro Kiryu Class 3A. The head of the karate club and said to be the strongest student at the school. Kuro speaks in extremely rough and masculine Japanese, so he can be a little scary when you first meet him.
Meaning of his name: ‘Kiryu’ contains the word for ‘dragon’, matching Tetora’s tiger. It also contains the character for ‘ogre’, matching his scary exterior. Kuro is written with the character for ‘crimson’ followed by a character which is typically added to boys’ names. his name also sounds similar to the Japanese word for ‘black’, perfectly matching his black and red theme.
– Keito Hasumi. Class 3A. The overly serious vice-president of the student council. Has many pairs of glasses.
Meaning of his name: Hasumi contains the characters for ‘lotus’ and the snake of the Chinese zodiac. Keito means ‘respectful person’. Once you know that Keito’s family run a Buddhist temple, his name starts to make more sense. It’s also possible that the ‘snake’ is meant to relate to the dragon of Kuro’s name.
– Tori Himemiya. A spoiled little rich-boy and secretary of the student council. I like to call him Momo 🙂
Meaning of his name: ‘Princess’ ‘Palace’ ‘Peach’ ‘Plum’. ‘Nuff said.
– Cherry Happy Stream. This song by Trickstar is about the birth of something great, and at concerts everybody turns their penlights pink to turn the audience into a blizzard of cherry blossoms. This song was on the first Trickstar CD.
– Riot Wolf. This is Koga’s solo song from the Undead album! It was pretty awesome to listen to it with all the male audience members cheering in the background.
– The cards shown on-screen before and after the commercial break are actually based on real cards from the game which appear at that point of the story! This week we had Tetora and Koga.
– The pasta that Kuro was eating was a dish called Napolitan. Despite the name, it’s a Japanese dish which flavors the pasta with ketchup, and contains fried green peppers. (I hate it.)
Keep warm this winter season with the latest anime info at MANGA.TOKYO!
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