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BanG Dream! 2nd Season Anime Cover

Score: 7.72/10

Synopsis

Kasumi Toyama and the members of Poppin'Party—their high school band—are now second-year students, but with the new school year comes their latest set of challenges: student council duties, cram school, and part-time jobs, among other things. Furthermore, they are now separated into different classes, and as a result, their free time together is shortened. Looking back, their joyful times together seem like nothing more than an unachievable fantasy when their members are too occupied to even gather in Arisa Ichigaya's basement for practice sessions. As the band ponders over the situation, an unfamiliar girl suddenly emerges, unknowingly pulling them into the spotlight once more. In this rising era of girl bands, Afterglow, Pastel*Palettes, Roselia, and Hello, Happy World! begin to make their appearance as well. Each band, comprised of musicians with their unique personalities, illuminates the stage with its performances. As Poppin'Party returns to the music scene and encounters new friends, the sparkling, heart-pounding music starts to play once again! [Written by MAL Rewrite]

With a multimedia franchise like BanG Dream, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. While this may be labeled as the second season, it’s also something of a soft reboot, and intended to be viewable even if you haven’t seen the first season. But at the same time, this season doesn’t include formal character introductions, even for characters who hadn’t been present in the first season, so new viewers may be a bit lost initially. If you want to consume some other material before jumping in, it probably wouldn’t hurt, but at the same time, if you’re interested in the franchise because you saw some 4komas on Twitter or whatever, that’s probably enough.

But if you are going in blind, be prepared to be overwhelmed by the size of the cast. Between the project’s five main bands, there are 25 characters, and this is key to the franchise’s success. At least one of them is likely to resonate with any given viewer, and there isn’t a one of them that isn’t someone’s favorite. Still, it’s a tall order to give each of them sufficient screen time across 13 episodes while still telling a coherent story, and to accomplish this, the first half of the season mostly has the main plot take place in the background while each band receives a dedicated episode. These episodes needed to balance establishing the identity of each band for those in the audience who weren’t familiar with the events of the mobile game with also delivering new content for more experienced viewers, and unfortunately some attempts were not as graceful as others. I think that by the end, every character had gotten at least a few good moments, but depending on your allegiances, you may walk away from this season a bit disappointed.

Once all of the introductions out of the way, the story is able to move the main plot into the spotlight, and this is where the season really shined. The passage of time is glossed over in a lot of anime, but a year has passed in the world of BanG Dream, and the effects of this period are tangible. This means that each group has had sufficient time to settle into a comfortable dynamic and grow as a band, but it also means that the specter of graduation is looming. Some of the bands have members in different years, and while none of them have been separated yet, this threat sets the stage for the main conflict of the season. The time of a high school band is fleeting, and the characters are forced to consider what it means to treasure these bonds.

Anyway, it’s probably worth mentioning that nearly the entirety of the season is animated with CG. A few years ago, this may have been a deal breaker, but by now anime has reached the point where this is a viable production method. If there’s one place where the animation falls short, it’s that facial expressions tend to be a bit stiff. But besides that, the CG is a step above what was featured in the previous season, so I’m considering it a success.

It took me a while to warm up to BanG Dream, but I’m glad I did. I love the sense of community that exists across its cast, and it’s been interesting to see how the dynamics have shifted over time. A third season has already been confirmed for the beginning of next year, and I’m curious to see how the situation with RAS will be resolved, and whether graduation will be explored further. Whatever is on the horizon, I’m looking forward to it.

One thing that I want to note is that you DO NOT have to watch Season 1 of the anime, or have to had played the mobile game (BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!) in order to enjoy this series. But, the full derivation of enjoyment will undeniably be obtained only if you've done the aforementioned. It enables you to treasure the characterization/seiyuu references of the main characters that are scattered throughout the episodes — namely Poppin'Party and a few newly introduced characters. The first few episodes serve as an introduction to the viewers who are unfamiliar with the characters from the mobile game, with the main plot coming in after that. It may feel a little awkward, and even filler-ly if you're a hardcore fan of the franchise. But in order to draw in a larger audience/newcomers, I understand the need to devote the screentime for these introductions. Having to juggle a cast of 30 characters (excluding girls from Glitter*Green, CHiSPA) is no small feat, and this season managed to pull it off well. The CGI used was well drawn and animated, specifically during the live performances. The lighting and movements were amazing and drew me in, replicating the atmosphere of an actual live to a certain extent. Admittedly, I had to watch a few episodes to become fully accustomed to the CGI, and some movements were definitely janky and even robotic. However, they were minor qualms I had, and did not affect my enjoyment of the series whatsoever. As a fervent fan of the franchise, I was pleasantly surprised to hear so many new songs which were first released through these weekly episodes. Bushiroad's been spoiling us fans with this immeasurable amount of content, and I'm grateful for that. The songs themselves are filled with emotion, specifically those of which are tied to the crux of the story. It allows you to understand the joys, hardship, and emotions these girls have toward life's challenges, and the bonds which are intertwined closely between them. It's a beautiful thing to watch and hear. However, one minor gripe I had was that in Season 1, most of the songs were unadulterated; they were pure, and drew realistic vibes from the raw voices of the seiyuus. This was a feature I admired greatly about Season 1 — how they didn't always use the studio versions to present the authenticity of the performances. Season 2 only brought this feature over for a single insert song. But this is more of a personal preference than anything. Here, I would highly recommend everyone to play the mobile game and to watch Season 1 first, before moving on to this. Some actions made by the characters in the series might throw you off, leaving you to wonder why their actions seem illogical/rude at first glance. Getting to know the core of these characters' personalities will boost your appreciation of them, and help you understand the reasons behind their behavior. The characterization runs deep within the cast, but is unfortunately rooted in the other aspects of the franchise. It's up to you to make the effort to unearth and discover more about these lovable characters! Overall, this has been a fantastic season of music and friendship, and I cannot wait for Season 3 which will air on January 2020!

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