Yumenosaki Private Academy, a school located on a hill facing the ocean. Specializing in boys' idol training, the school has a long history of producing generations of idols for the entertainment world out of the young men overbrimming with talents, like the shining stars in the sky. Due to "special circumstances," you are a transfer student at the school, as well as the only female student there. In fact, you are chosen to be the very first student of the "producer course," and your task is to produce these idols… We hope you will enjoy your journey with the idols you meet at the academy, as well as the vigorous ensemble that together you will make. (Source: Ensemble Stars! Wikia)
Keeping a show’s premise a secret until the end of the first episode can be an effective approach, especially if the story undermines genre conventions in some unusual way. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, though, as the writing and direction need to work together to slowly peel back the curtain and leave the audience guessing what’s really going on until the big reveal. The first episode of Ensemble Stars! tries something resembling this approach by holding back the whole “idol school revolution” thing until the second half, but it doesn’t quite work. Instead of scattering little hints throughout the episode, it just kills time for around fifteen minutes before casually tossing in the rest of the plot.
The first half of the episode runs through some very familiar scenes with some equally familiar characters. It’s possible to guess each of the four main guys’ personality gimmicks after a line or two of dialogue, and they’re nothing new: you’ve got the goofball, the serious one, the shy guy with glasses, and the cool dude from a different class. These introductions are followed up by a yawn-inducing campus tour, complete with the inevitable info-dump about how special the school is. The only truly noteworthy thing in this first half is Anzu, who’s a serious contender for the title of blankest blank-slate heroine ever. She barely has any lines, and what little dialogue she does have sounds like multiple-choice options from an in-game tutorial. You know, the ones where it doesn’t really matter which choice the player makes, because the NPCs are going to have the same reactions either way. It almost feels like a deliberate joke, but Ensemble Stars! doesn’t commit to it enough to get any laughs out of the situation.
All this eventually leads to a rowdy competition between two new idol boys, who kind of sing and dance but mostly just try to beat each other up on stage. This is at least a little amusing, and for a moment it seems like the series has found a good way to add some variety to the usual competitive performance formula. Since the showdowns can basically be anything, one would assume that each on-stage duel could be tailored to fit the performers’ particular gimmicks. Then the student council shows up and conducts a Prohibition-style raid on the whole event, and we finally learn what the series is really about. Unfortunately, the big revelation is just dumped into the viewer’s lap without any fanfare or foreshadowing, and that lack of proper buildup and payoff robs it of its intended impact.
The late twist adds a potential point of interest for the series as a whole, but it’s buried under so much bland idol fare that I can see some viewers giving up before reaching that point in the episode. There’s nothing to stop Ensemble Stars! from being a perfectly decent genre title, but its mishandling of this premiere doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. It might be best to wait a week or two to see what direction the story ultimately takes, because at the moment it’s a bit of a mess. You can also Ensemble Stars! anime watch online and free anime download.