More “live” concert, less “Moonwalker” or “Gimme Shelter”.
BanG Dream! Film Live can be quite a surprise to the uninitiated. Those vaguely aware of the film but blissfully ignorant to what it’s about may expect a light-hearted romp of a musical, driven by an endearing plot as a group of teenage musicians face an unprecedented challenge in their dream of becoming a successful live band. Given that the existing TV series of BanG Dream! just about follows this format, it would be a valid expectation.
Studio Sanzigen, responsible for Seasons 1 and 2 of BanG Dream!, returns with its 3D-based CG animation to produce the franchise’s first-ever feature film. It’s quite the cinematic undertaking but is also one that betrays expectations, especially when compared to similar ventures from competing franchises like The Idolmaster and Love Live.
To put it simply, BanG Dream! Film Live offers no real plot for you to follow. Through the entirety of its run, the film carries itself as nothing more than an animated live performance which, oddly enough, eventually proves itself more appealing than the alternative.
Shooting For Your Dreams
The premise is simple. Five music bands, Poppin’Party; Afterglow; Pastel*Palettes; Hello Happy World!; and Roselia are getting together to collaborate for an outdoor live concert. The film begins with a brief graphical introduction to the band members, after which the concert wastes no time in getting underway. There’s a huge crowd present, wielding light sticks and cheering in anticipation, and as the stage lights blare on to the tune of Poppin’Party’s Double Rainbow, they erupt in sheer delight.
This opening act here alone sets the tone for how the rest of the film’s experience will be like. Sanzigen has put the extra effort into crafting an experience that’s as authentic as can be, by matching the band members’ body language, right down to their lips and fingers, to the pace of the music. Their handling of the instruments, from Yamabuki Saaya’s energetic beating of the drums to Hanazono Tae’s effortless guitar solo, is impressively accurate, successfully pushing the illusion that these anime girls are really playing music.
But authenticity is only half the fun. As the girls play their music, the camera expertly shifts between characters and through different angles to weave a little story. Though the girls typically stare forward to address the audience, the film shares their occasional glances between each other, their downward gazes as they try to nail a difficult part of the song on their instruments.
Shots emphasize on characters during their key moments, following their faces as they sing, their feet as they step to the rhythm, and even their hands in perpetual motion.
From these intimate moments, wide shots are peppered throughout to also illustrate the scale of the performances, as the audience wave their light sticks to the beat of the music. The film only has one setting — the live concert, so this well-rounded expressiveness in the cinematography was arguably one of the most important things to get right. BanG! Dream Film Live sticks this particular landing well, ensuring that each performance can stay fresh and entertaining, whether it’s your favourite song or not.
Clearly Made For The Fans
The song eventually reaches a close, and what comes next is also something of an odd surprise. Just like you would expect form performers at a real live concert, the band then engages in a brief conversational interlude with the audience. “Hello! We’re Poppin’Party!” chimes the lead vocalist Toyama Kasumi, greeted by loud cheers from adoring fans.
The band members introduce themselves, and then follow up with funny dialogue, interactions, and recognizable character traits. Although the determination to present an authentic ‘animated live’ shines through here, these segments unfortunately also end in an instant, which may disappoint fans who are hungry for more character interactions.
Making up for these condensed segments are the respectable amount of songs throughout the show. For the hour and a half duration of the live show, the five bands perform up to a total of 18 original BanG Dream! songs. Many favourites, including Roselia’s ever-popular “Fire Bird”, are fully animated with the same unwavering level of detail. Furthermore, the presentation style of these performances constantly adapts to match each band’s own distinct personality.
Pastel*Palette’s image as an idol band, for instance, is visualized through a focus on lead singer Maruyama Aya’s dance choreography, all while her band members play and exchange cutesy expressions with the camera. Meanwhile, Hello Happy World’s songs subvert expectations through impossible movements and situations despite being part of a live performance — a nod to their experimental style of music.
BanG Dream!’s rise in popularity over the years has long been linked to its novel concept of placing an anime music band aesthetic alongside the actual thrill of live concerts. For a long time, the anime look of the game and TV show has more or less remained a separate entity from the on-stage human performers. Being a strictly scripted experience, BanG Dream! Film Live cannot possibly capture the same nuance and energy of some of the franchise’s best real-life performances. However, it does manage to convincingly combine its anime visuals with the concert format, in a way that’s special to fans who not only enjoy the human performers but also adore the animated personas of these musicians.
Happy, Lucky, Smile, Yay!
There’s little doubt here that BanG Dream! Film Live is a carefully curated medium, with subtleties that cater to existing fans of the franchise. Given the attention put into delivering high-quality fan service through this “animated live”, it’s hard to pinpoint much that a diehard fan would dislike. As a concert, it misses the vitality that comes with seeing and interacting with a real band in the flesh, though makes up for it with the precision and presentation of a music video.
To newcomers, the film’s existence as simply a live performance strikes out any need for prior knowledge of BanG Dream!’s story and premise. Instead, key aspects such as band dynamics, music, and overall aesthetic move front and center, making this film an easy gateway to the franchise for those curious enough.
Overall, the film is light and easy to digest, with the clear goal of letting people take their minds off things and enjoy the show’s different aspects as it suits them. In this sense, BanG Dream! Film Live keeps with the light-hearted spirit of the franchise, ensuring that nobody feels left out. Nothing quite exemplifies this more than the sight of the band members, hand-in-hand, performing their final bow as the curtains fall on a successful concert.
1 Double Rainbow – Poppin’Party
2 Happy Happy Party! – Poppin’Party
3 Y.O.L.O!!!!! – Afterglow
4 Scarlet Sky – Afterglow
5 ON YOUR MARK – Afterglow
6 Shuwarin☆Drea~min – Pastel*Palettes
7 Yura-Yura Ring-Dong-Dance – Pastel*Palettes
8 Kyu~mai＊flower – Pastel*Palettes
9 Egao no Orchestra! – Hello, Happy World!
10 Sekai Nobbinobi Treasure! – Hello, Happy World!
11 Egao･Sing･A･Song – Hello, Happy World!
12 LOUDER – Roselia
13 BLACK SHOUT – Roselia
14 FIRE BIRD – Roselia
15 Returns – Poppin’Party
16 Dreamers Go! – Poppin’Party
17 BRAVE JEWEL – Roselia
18 Kizuna Music♪– Poppin’Party
Credits: Jumpin’ – Poppin’Party