Here’s a guest post by @Seele000.
Writing is literally impossible, and this is no different. I’m still in shock that Rainbow Live actually ended, and recovery might take me weeks. I probably shouldn’t have heeded @NotDolphy and @Radiosity7’s words, and avoided watching it altogether. Still, the deed is done, I am in tatters. I write, hoping that no one else may stray into this dark and endless path of emptiness.
Why is Rainbow Live so damn good?
Pretty Rhythm: Rainbow Live is the third and final installment of Takara Tomy’s Pretty Rhythm series, before being succeeded by PriPara. It starts out like your usual little kids’ show: a mysterious girl is traveling dimensions but is suddenly sucked into one. Then in a totally different scene we have our (seemingly synesthetic) middle school main protagonist who ends up running a fashion store as its main manager and image girl idol after passing an audition. Then it goes like your usual happy idol anime right?
Before I start on the good points of Rainbow Live, let me vent out the things I didn’t like so much (because they are inconsequential):
- the ending theme songs (except the third)
- the opening theme songs were a bit lukewarm
- there is no more Rainbow Live
Those are the points I didn’t like; they’re not even points I really disliked. But saying “these are the only low points” doesn’t amount to much, does it? What makes this show, a show fundamentally no different from other shows catering to the same demographic, so compelling? What makes this show special enough that I found it necessary to move my hand and write about it? What makes it a classic in the genre of idol anime?
Rainbow Live didn’t really do anything new to the genre of magical idols. Girls and boys transform in stage outfits; singing, dancing, and ice skating (standard in the Pretty Rhythm series) to music. Idol competitions. Even a save-the-world plot line. It doesn’t make up some other gimmick that would separate it from the two other Pretty Rhythm shows or even most magical idol shows for that matter. Its edge is not in its content, but its execution.
Common are shows these days where either a story is amazing or a narrative’s characters are amazing. Dime a dozen are shows that do poorly in both. Rainbow Live ties its story and characters so tightly that they’re inseparable. The overarching story is only great because the characters are so great, and the characters are great because the story drives them to be so. The main story arcs involve all the characters one way or another, whether it was Bell’s catharsis, Ito’s family circumstances, or June’s tragic love story. All the story arcs can be considered as character arcs as well, developing each character over the course of the show, without their development feeling rushed or out-of-place. The pacing is just right, allowing the story to breathe without losing important points that all the characters have attained. One notable example is Otoha’s transformation from a shrinking violet pushover to one of the strongest and yet still most feminine characters of the cast. Her innate character never changed, but instead it was shown that she always had it in her. Another example is Hiro’s advance from petty plagiarist to a troubled and ultimately triumphant hero. Everyone in the cast has this strength, and Rainbow Live is not afraid to unleash this to its fullest potential. Not a single development is dumped straight onto a character; everyone grows at their own pace, even if they have to endure hell for it. You cannot dislike anyone by the time you reach episode 51 (except Norizuki Jin, he’s a real asshole).
Rainbow Live runs heavily on the themes of love, friendship, and family. Most especially family. Their protagonists’ parents are all characters, and they are all central to the narratives of Ann’s, Bell’s, Wakana’s, and Ito’s character arcs. All of them tackle their family issues differently, and interplay it with the other themes to allow the other characters to connect. Their moms are strong women (WAKANA’S MOM) that act as guides, caretakers, and even liaisons for their daughters when their dads are too stubborn. Of course, not all the moms always have it nice (WAKANA’S MOM), but the dads are known for having it worse. To compensate, they’re given tremendous character development that makes them better people overall. Ito’s character arc is the prime case-in-point: two families embittered over a single mistake reunited because of the love shared by their children and the deep bonds of friendship the parents once had. It was probably the fullest character arc in the show, as it is the most spread out.
There are also several sub-themes spread throughout, some of the more important ones being freedom and, as a theme central to Bell and Bell alone, excellence (this resonated hard with me). The narrative isn’t the only vehicle for the show’s themes. Even the performances, from the songs down to the Prism Jumps, embody the ideas and wishes carried by each character. This connection provides an additional layer of emotion, that their Prism Shows are not merely a display of talent, but an expression of their person, their whole being as performers and as people. This is what completes Rainbow Live: it is a vivid representation of all it has to offer through and through.
So I’ve answered my first question, and probably half of my second. Still, what would compel me, esteemed writer Seele, to write about a little girls’ show? I mean, sure it has all the hallmarks of a good anime, but my reviews are characterized by endless raving about one or two characters or ideas. Where is my endless praise for one or two elements of the show? Well okay fine, if I need something to rave about incoherently, it’s how good the characters are.
The characters are rooted to the narrative, but on their own they’re still amazingly charming. Naru is this energetic little critter with amazing bed hair. Ann is the sweet and hardworking girl-next-door and essentially perfect. Ito is the cool rocker with a kind side. Bell is Miss Perfect++. Wakana is the plucky and energetic girl and essentially perfect. Otoha is the kind therapist that knows what needs to be done. And these are just the main characters. Literally all the characters are more than what you can ordinarily describe them at face value. Have one or two of them interact and their personalities get even more complex (Ann-Wakana is the best dynamic to cite). Add them all up and you get the full experience of Rainbow Live. Some of the best exchanges though are made a bit outside the main plot, at times when there’s actually not much going on and they’re just there to fool around. These episodes are few and sown at select spots to allow them to interact freely, and to remind us of how much they’ve bonded over time. Call them filler if you want but some of the best parts of Rainbow Live were the episodes filled with reaction faces, as I will show now.
Bell’s reactions are very precious gems.
Okay, so I put out the personal reasons for why I like this show. But in the end, why would I consider it a classic in the little kids’ idol show genre? Surely I can’t make such a ready claim if my experience in the genre is limited to three shows, counting this one. Well, that answer lies in the criteria that I laid out regarding how to judge a work (I made it like a year or two ago and I no longer remember where I posted it). To repeat though, a great work fulfills the expectations of its genre and elevates the standards, but a breakthrough fulfills beyond that and creates a genre of its own. Rainbow Live is certainly not a breakthrough; it is, and always will be, an idol show targeted to little kids. But it is a great work, and it sets an excellent standard of narrative consistency in the genre. I think that, in that aspect alone, Rainbow Live is a cut above the rest. It’s a young show, too young to be considered a classic as of this generation. If it stands uncontested in the years to come, it surely will become a classic that I will constantly look back upon.
(I wanted to write about the more technical aspects of the show but I don’t really find it necessary given how invested I am in its story component. Maybe some other guy like deepbluejeer would care to write about that.)
Rainbow Live is fantastic, and you should watch it. You’ll probably regret watching it too. 100% Märchen.
This is a guest post by Seele000. You can find him on his Twitter account here.