Chance Pop Session – Episodes 1 to 5

September 2, 2004 on 10:24 pm | In Chance Pop Session | Comments Off on Chance Pop Session – Episodes 1 to 5

Chance Pop Session (AKA Chance Triangle Session) is sport anime. Except instead of sport, we’re thrown into the bitchy, feel good, cut throat, exhilarating world of Japanese pop music! Everything, in the end, boils down to sport. The thing that I love about sport anime is the raw emotion and occasional over dramatics that go with it.

It is said that only those upon whom the Angel of Music smiles have the true star power to survive in an industry. Each year, young girls are lured into the light to see if they have what it takes to make it. Three such girls happen to meet at the concert of their idol, Reika. The three of them are inspired to sing for different reasons and they all decide to enrol in the singing school owned by Reika’s manager as a result. Being a chance meeting, they don’t make anything of it. But because it’s all about chance, they’re of course drawn together once more, eventually and inevitably at the school.

The three characters are from different backgrounds; Akari is the ward of a priest who doesn’t approve of her following a pop career (unfortunately, all of the Footloose jokes have been expended), Nozomi the spoiled rich girl and Yuki the self made woman.
The first major refreshment is that all three of them don’t actually get into the school. Yuki has her tuition money stolen on the way and instead builds a following as a member of a street band. The way that she chooses to stop her worrying and take action is somewhat inspirational rather than the self pitying or stoic paths she could have taken. The three aren’t actually together until episode five of thirteen.
They’re significantly different enough and have drives: Nozomi’s is the most directionless as she only wants to be in the school to meet Reika, her true idol. In this ambition she is aided by Hikoza, her flat topped butler/personal assistant who brings much comedy to the program by his presence and unwavering loyalty. The images that are conjured as he makes his gambits are frequently memorable, and there’s nothing suspicious about his frequent excursions to a school populated by bright young things. Akari wants to lift people’s souls and Yuki … just wants to make something of herself whatever way she can.

Chance Pop Session showcases the internal contradictions of the industry (always referred to literally as “this world”, but subtitled as “this industry”), that works despite itself. At the same time, the music companies want to promote conformity among their talent while also trying to make them breakout artists. Yuki’s independent streak is stifled as she is put into a uniform. There’s nothing wrong with “unity”, as such, and that is something good to go for in a band. But this series is about inspiration of young women, each whom are supposed to find their own voice. This idea of a production trio of singers makes even less sense in consideration of Kisaragi, who has set Reika free to manage her own career. While there’s no doubt that these singers need someone to help shape them, Kisaragi is simply repeating herself.
This is not a criticism of the program so much as it is the industry itself, and this program is more realistic in some areas than others: the real problem most perceive is that the singing school is not just a scheme to make quick money from impressionable girls – some of these academies have to be genuine, and no one ever questioned a dance school. The most correct thing portrayed is the horrible, horrible bitches who work within the school. There’s really no other word for them; if one was feeling charitable, they might be “ambitious”. Jun isn’t bitchy so much as singleminded, but there’s a clique of three. You can tell they’re no good because they’re always scowling. It’s the light and dark; every rose has its thorns, and so forth. They will probably be put in their place.
The uniquely Japanese part of the experience must also be taken into account: it’s easy to get a sizeable fan following in such a densely packed population. Yuki had more than 85,000 hits on her fansite, and through this she got noticed. Of course, idols’ flames burn bright, but that means they can fade into obscurity all the easier. This series therefore seems to offer a precarious balance between reality and fantasy; it shows the harsh possibilities without trying to scare off any young hopefuls, for this was also used as a kind of promotional material.

The visual style is interesting; the main characters have “frog mouths” that become unnoticeable after a while, there’s a lack of black “definement” around characters, giving them a sort of brown finish, and some characters have double lined hair. Kisaragi is a decidedly harsh looking woman, almost always shown in profile. She was an idol in her youth, so this might be showing that beauty is fleeting. The effect given is like a minimalistic sixties’ French fashion illustration: she’s an image of almost grotesque glamour. The singing school in some regards makes no sense whatsoever: most of the girls just wear normal clothes but Akari seems to get around in a swimsuit and Nozomi in a leotard. It’s not clear what possible purpose this could serve, and seems quite uncomfortable.
There are techniques involved that made me cry out with joy “Yes! I can’t believe they did that!”. The two most prominent examples are Jun, the selfish member of the S Class, suggesting something terrible and then highlighting her with lightning and later on Reika being revealed as standing in the shadows, in time for the rain to stop and bathe her in glorious light. I love a well employed visual technique; when used correctly, they’re not cliché. There’s more than a share of subtlety reserved for this program, however; particularly nice were some of the comments left on Yuki’s site.

The music is good, as one would hope it should be, but those who don’t like J-Pop need not apply. The only problem is that there’s not enough of it. Reika has one song. An artist can’t make themself successful on the strength of one song. Would you go to a Men At Work concert and expect them to play Down Under and then leave? Admittedly, you wouldn’t be able to name any of their other songs, but you’d expect a bit more of a show. Of course, that can be left aside when it becomes obvious that Reika is at the History stage of her career: that is, she has worked long enough to be able to release a compilation album. The girls are asked by Kisaragi to sing a song, and it turns out to be the OP. That’s cheap, that is. Or deep, not quite sure which. They’d better have some insert songs, however, or there will be disappointment.

The voice cast is peopled by those who can actually sing, which is quite handy. The darling Iizuka Mayumi plays a sweet Akari, the frequently unpopular Yamamoto Maria plays a deliberately annoying (but still good) Nozomi and the relatively unscathed Enomoto Atsuko plays a strong, empowered Yuki. Kouda Mariko is a nice Reika learning to perform for herself. She was Hanako-san, so she’s just dandy. Kumai Motoko, probably best known for her role as Li Shaoran in Cardcaptor Sakura is completely unrecognisable in the role of Otoki, a nice old woman. There’s not much to complain about on this front. The series may have aired at 1:30 AM, but that doesn’t mean no effort went into it.

Chance Pop Session is easily on the road to inspiration. Unfortunately it hinges on something so subjective as music, so if you’re not a big fan of J-Pop and have too realistic a view of the industry it might not work. Also, for a series about music it doesn’t actually have very many songs. Hopefully the characters, and as a result their repertoires, will expand. It is almost undoubted that they will.

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