Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live: First Impressions

Reconnaissance Report by By Skie
Progress: Episode 1

Pretty.Rhythm-.Rainbow-promoI picked up this anime not expecting a whole lot from a show about rainbows, dancing, and singing featuring a thirteen year old.  Set in modern day and very much geared for the pre-teen or teen demographic, Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live (PRRL) is a show blending the magical girl and music idol genres with a bit of a twist.   It’s bright, it’s happy, and it’s fun, but it lacks much depth which means one must be content with the what-you-see-is-what-you-get sparkles, copious amounts of rainbows, and numerous hearts.

Naru Ayase is a stereotypically happy, carefree, ambitious young girl with two creative parents and a dream to work at a fashionable store headed by a famous Prism Star.  She gets the opportunity to explore that dream when she answers a job posting for a ‘middle school manager’ at a new boutique.  The core of the show, however, centers around something called a Prism Show, a chaotic blend of ice skating, dancing, singing, and fashion, which apparently is so huge of a source of entertainment that even Physical Education classes in school offer training in the art.  Describing the concept as chaotic is a generous statement – the sequence showcasing said Prism Shows had me going ‘okay so it’s a dance competition’ to ‘now it’s an ice-skating competition’ to a bewildering ‘now it’s a singing and dancing while playing an instrument AND skating one man show with rainbows’ that left me chuckling at the ridiculousness of the entire thing.  Why a company wants to know if their manager-to-be can do all this is beyond me, regardless of the fact they want a teen for the job. The talent bar that has been set for any ambitious Prism Stars, and apparently managers, is something referred to as ‘mastering four Prism Jumps.’ What exactly a ‘Prism Jump’ is isn’t explained, so I’m left to assume from the sequence in which Naru performs that it’s a reference to the Axel technique in Figure Skating.  A little research reveals that no skater has yet to perform a quadruple Axel in real life competition and so the show draws on this as its standard for how awesome a performer is.

Beyond this entertainingly absurd stew of girls’ dreams is what appears to be a magical girl named Rinne and her companion Pikkoku, who glide together along rainbows in a dimension not our own singing and bringing the ‘Prism’s sparkle’ to worlds in need of its enlightenment.  But when she heads off on her rainbow road towards a world in need, the dimension breaks and vast shards fall away and she’s stripped of her sparkly wings to fall into the darkness.  She next appears for no discernible reason when Naru performs (also, incidentally for no discernible reason), so as for what role she plays, I have no idea – perhaps Naru’s synesthesia where she sees songs as colours causes Rinne to manifest?  It’s all very unclear, and all the sparkles and hearts that accompany Rinne don’t help matters any.

What I will give this first episode, however, is that it leads to some interesting observations.  First, the idea that a world is in need of a ‘Prism sparkle’ related to music has me intrigued.  What is the Prism and why is its sparkle important?  It evokes a sense similar to the ‘story’ of the Final Fantasy game Theatrythm, where the light of a world’s crystal is restored through music – I wonder if this is something PRRL is after.  Second, the Prism Show seems to be a Virtual Reality experience where the performers use crystals to select outfits and perform on a special stage.  It’s an interesting tweak to the idol concept and introduces opportunities for magical-girl transformation sequences.  And third, Naru seems to have some sort of synesthesia where she experiences music and song as colours.  This is the first time I’ve come across this concept in any anime I’ve seen so it’s a unique and refreshing concept in an otherwise generic set up.  Fourth, there are penguins – three if the opening credits are to be believed – that are remarkably similar to the trio from Penguindrum, and their purpose appears to provide a rare collectible outfit for their respected partner to use.  The toy tie-ins are obvious –  collect all the Prism hearts!  And finally, the animation reminds me of Madoka at points when it comes to the style and mannerisms of the characters.  Indeed, I wonder if someone saw the success of Madoka and Penguindrum and wanted to capitalize on their quirks.

The audio is very important in an anime that focuses on performing song and dance and the music is pleasant enough.  It’s vibrant, it’s happy, and it’s performed well.  I found myself bobbing along with the music at a few points so I will definitely give Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live points for that.  However, the story telling is fractured and chaotic, there’s little discernible rhyme or reason to events and the characters all seem very flat in personality and design.   It’s bright, it’s dazzling, and it’s full of happy music and sparkles, but thus far it’s generic, fragmented, and baffling.  If you’re looking for fluff then this is it, but the first episode doesn’t promise much more than that.

Score:  6/10