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.