animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Chance Pop Session Vol.1
Format: bilingual DVD, 5 eps., 125 min.
Production: ADV / Aves / AMF / Tiangle Session Production Committee
Comments: Well-written characters and a slow-moving, yet strong storyline come together well to create a very pleasant viewing experience.
Animefringe Reviews:
Chance Pop Session Vol.1

Thanks to some insane sales over the holiday season, I found myself with more anime than I know what to do with (and less money than I wish I had), and the first installment of Chance Pop Session happened to be one of my newest possessions. I suppose it was an appropriate title to balance out shows like Devil Lady. This is a quiet show set in the real world and populated with very lifelike characters. Despite the fact that it will most likely appeal to female audiences rather than more masculine viewers, I found the show to be quite engaging. There are no explosions here, not much fan service, and there's a lot of singing and searching for dreams. Nonetheless, I'm eager to see what comes next.

Most of the show's charm rests in its solidly written storyline. This was called Chance Triangle Session in Japan, and it is essentially about the reuniting of three girls who each share a forgotten past. Akari, Yuki, and Nozomi - a choirgirl, street musician, and aristocrat, respectively - each run into one another while attending a concert performed by mega pop idol Reika. Soon other seemingly random circumstances bring them together once again in the advanced class at the very school Reika trained to become the excellent singer she is.

The first five episodes do little more than introduce the characters and establish the setting, and if one reads the description of the series on the back of the DVD case, then he would discover that the majority of information presented there is only known by the end of the fifth episode. In fact, nothing specifically says that the three have a shared past, but rather hints at it subtly throughout the show. Each of the three characters is very likable, and one can't help but cheer them on as they try to attain their dreams. The world presented here is very pure; there isn't much conflict save for the internal stress the protagonists undergo as they each try to begin a career as a singer.

Still, even though lacking action-packed fight scenes, this show kept me interested as more and more of the story was revealed. Many series try to keep viewers watching by hiding so much information about what's really going on that anything can happen, since nothing solid is presented until the end (see Betterman for an example of this). Chance Pop Session does a respectable job of keeping the mood mysterious while not concealing every scrap of useful information. Information is revealed with care for proper timing, and it all works rather well.

Somewhat reflective of the plot, the overall look of the show is soft and warm. Character designs are distinctive, yet simple, drawn with very simple lines and minimal accessories. That's not to say that it isn't a good-looking show. In fact, it's animated rather well with some beautiful backgrounds and judicious use of computer graphics to make everything even smoother looking. However, it's not the look of the show that draws the most attention so much as the actual content of the series.

The show's music is far more important than the visual aspects of this particular series, since each character has natural musical inclinations. The songs in the show are all very catchy, and luckily they are easy to listen to more than once, since you'll find they're played frequently in the background as well as when they're performed. As the new title would suggest, all of the music is in the style of modern Japanese Pop (or J-Pop).

I'll always prefer the original language of a series to any new recording, but this disc possesses quite possibly the best dub I've ever heard. The tempo of the actors is great - they don't sound too slow or too fast. The voices match the characters quite well, and they do a good job of getting the emotions of the girls across to the viewers. This is pivotal in a character-driven series such as this one, as the emotional state of the characters is pretty much the most important thing that changes as the story progresses.

The most bothersome aspect of the dub would be the frequent changes to the original Japanese script. For example, in Japanese, Nozomi calls her faithful butler Jeeves or some variation thereof unfailingly while in English, she and her family address him only by his first name. It's also slightly odd to hear some characters with British accents, but this is just a nitpicky detail. Those who are bothered by it can just watch the subtitled version and be content.

There's a good collection of extra content here, and with five episodes on the disc, this is a better value than most DVDs. The extras include character sketches, production backgrounds, the original Japanese promotional spots, clean opening and closing credits, and an 8-page printed guide on How to be a Popstar. The booklet is the first in a series of three - one with each DVD release. It's cute and has an attractive illustration of Reika on the cover. The disc also came with a sticker sheet featuring Reika and Akari. The cover does a good job of displaying the generally soft nature of the show and the back contains all of the necessary information any disc should display. It's a very solid package, and what I've come to expect from ADV.

So, allow me to reiterate. This soft, kindhearted show is perfect for a quiet night with your significant other. It's undeniably girly (to use a technical term), but everything is so cute I can't help but want to watch. If you're looking for a series with strong characters and a story that unfolds slowly but steadily, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this title. As corny as it sounds, it's a great show for anyone who may be pursuing a dream.