Mana Shikimiya has just transferred into Marehoshi Academy, a school which requires each of its students to join one of the many sports or cultural clubs. After a quick tour of most of the clubs by the Student Council Vice President Minori Hasegawa, Mana stumbles upon the Lyrical Tradition Dance Club. There she meets its sole members: Mizuha Ichikishima and Sayu Tsukisaka. Drawn to their singing and dancing, Mana joins the club and together they work towards their dream of winning the Prism Stage—a national competition to determine the top idols of the country. However, before Mana and her new friends can worry about the Prism Stage, there is a more immediate problem at hand: the club is about to be disbanded by the student council! Without enough members or any notable achievements, the club will be shut down and the members' dreams will be over before they've begun to pursue them. It's up to the three of them to find the additional club members they need and become an idol group strong enough to qualify for the Prism Stage and to win it as well. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
The idol genre is a pretty crowded field, and so expansive in its styles that you could easily break the genre down into a variety of discreet and highly distinct subgenres. ReStage doesn’t necessarily reinvent the form, but it combines an understanding of dramatic fundamentals with a willingness to buck genre convention, as well as a strong central cast. From its altogether reasonable animation to its satisfyingly character-centric focus, ReStage offers our first strong idol-centric contender of the summer season.
One of this premiere’s greatest strengths is its ability to split the difference between traditional idol drama and more atmosphere-focused slice of life material. For the first half of this episode, I wasn’t entirely sure it was an idol drama at all; early scenes’ focus on Mana Shikimiya’s integration into her new school felt fully slice of life in their appeal, and the club dynamic between her, Lyrical Traditional Dance Club president Mizuha, and third clubmate Sayu is endearing right from the start. ReStage’s confidence in slice of life fundamentals also lent its ultimate shift towards idol drama a uniquely grounded platform – Mizuha’s club actually felt like a believably ramshackle enthusiast group, and Sayu’s dreams of dancing on stage felt genuinely ambitious, given her current club’s humble circumstances.
That sense of believable amateurishness carried through into this episode’s performance segment, which was both reasonably animated and endearingly low tech. The animation wasn’t exactly beautiful, but the fluidity and synchronization of movement made it easy to see how Mana was actually a natural, and how both performers reacted positively to having a partner on their wavelength. Mana’s ultimate reluctance to join their club then smartly paid off the show’s earlier slice of life character building, as all three leads revealed new sides of themselves in the leadup to Mana joining the club.
ReStage’s production values aren’t the best – this episode’s major performance felt a bit stiff in a manner more reflective of jerky animation than amateur dancers, and the background art is mediocre on the whole. But the character designs are cute and expressive, the show’s sense of humor is charming, and the narrative consistently struck a clever balance of slice of life and idol drama appeal, with each of its two modes elevating the other. If you’re looking for an idol show this season, ReStage seems like a fine choice.