Chance Pop Session is the field guide to young women who want to become pop stars, giving them a look at both the good and bad of the profession while entertaining as well. Early on, I’d say this is almost a mix of an after school special and an infomercial. And I mean that in a good way.
What They Say
Three young girls, strangers to each other, share an instinctual passion and talent for music. Brought together from distinctly different worlds, they meet by chance at the concert of their idol. The concert strikes a chord in each of their hearts and unites them with a common dream of stardom.
The girls each enroll in the same music school and are brought together again in a special class for exceptional talent. As their voices come together in harmony, the girls realize that they share more than just a passion for song. A mysterious blue stone, a hauntingly beautiful melody... What do these traces of the past have to do with the uncertain future of this gifted trio?
Chance Pop Session retains its original bilingual presentation which is quite good. The original Japanese language track is done in stereo and encoded at a decent 224kbps while the English language version is given a 5.1 mix at 448kbps. The show features a very solid stereo mix that makes good use of the left/right channels for dialogue but also very well for the music, giving it a nice full warm feeling. The English mix provides a fuller sounding piece overall, partially from the volume being dialed up a bit, but it also has a bit more warmth and space when it comes to the musical moments. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we noted no distortions or dropouts on either track.
Originally airing through the summer of 2001, Chance Pop Session is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set takes the original single volume releases and places it in one collection in a 5/4/4 format. The shows colors are lush, backgrounds solid and overall very detailed. The folks from Mad House are behind this production, so there are a lot of similarities in design and feel to another popular shoujo series they worked on. Cross coloration creeps into a few sequences in a very minor way while aliasing is practically non-existent. There’s hardly any issue to be found with how this transfer came out.
The latest iteration of this release is admittedly my favorite when it comes to the cover artwork even if it does really over sexualize a very innocent series. The design is simply beautiful as it features the three girls with nothing on outside of some strips that have musical notes on them. It’s pure skin fanservice and I adore it. I mean, it is official artwork after all! It’s a fun and different side of the girls where they use the connection of the jewelry to tie it all together and I really adore the color design and the way the notes work with it. It’s incredibly eye-catching and it makes you want to pick it up. It made me want to watch it again even knowing that it’s got barely anything like this in it. The back cover is a bit simpler as it focuses on a couple of pages of paper with character sketches and notes on it on which we have the summary of the series. A few shots from the show line below there and the remainder is given over to the usual production and technical information which is very clean and easy to read. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
Definitely in tone with the show and very light and almost airy, the main menu has a brief selection of the opening songs instrumental piece playing along to the image of one of the girls depending on the volume set against moving clouds and falling feathers. All episodes are listed along the musical note page while regular selections are below it. Access times are nice and fast and things are laid out in a pretty standard smooth flowing way.
There’s a good batch of extras here in the first volume to get things rolling for the series. The disc naturally sports a clean opening and ending sequence, though it’s worth noting that the clean opening does contain the original title logo, unlike some clean openings that remove that as well. There’s a great three minute video gallery set to instrumental music that showcases some full color and black and white character designs. Also clocking in just around three minutes is the full color production background gallery which gives a chance to really stop and look at the individual pieces and admire just how much effort goes into them. Also included is a ninety second Japanese promotional advertisement for the show during it’s original 1:30 AM Sunday morning broadcast schedule.
A nice selection of extras makes it onto this volume, with the main new ones being the sketches. There’s a small video gallery for the character design sketches, including a number of initial designs that differ from the end results. There’s also a nice looking backgrounds video gallery that goes over the full color pieces, once again really showing how nice a job they did with it. The opening and ending sequences again come in a textless format, but showing the original Chance Triangle Session logos and there’s also a small section devoted to some of the TV promotional spots.
For the final disc, there’s a decent selection of extras here to flesh things out, though some are what we’ve seen already. The production sketches is a video art gallery that runs just over three minutes, showcasing both black and white pieces as well as full color ones. The background gallery is roughly the same but running just over two minutes with backgrounds relevant to these episodes. The textless opening and ending sequences are presented again here as well as the special end sequence for the final episode. The final new part is the rest of the collection of original Japanese TV promo spots that run about six minutes in length and show the various advertising used for the show and its video releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My first real exposure to anime way back when had the usual key elements that make up a good number of shows. One of the things that separated it from what I had grown up with in watching American cartoons was the music. Not just background music or sitcom style music, but music that affected the plot, was a part of the story and made the whole all that much more of living breathing piece. Since that initial series, I’ve always had a fondness for music based anime and for shows that have a connection with it. So I really intrigued by Chance Triangle Session, renamed to Chance Pop Session for the US releases.
Chance Pop Session basically gives me everything that I had hoped for. The series is essentially about the people that make the music, that get up there and use their vocal instrument to move people’s minds, hearts and imagination. I’m not one to listen to a lot of Japanese pop music on its own, but there’s a good reason that I do, even though I can’t understand a lick of it. Without the understanding of the lyrics, you become more attuned to listening to the voice as more of an instrument to the rest of the physical instruments, allowing your mind to pull in its own images and sometimes words for it. In a way, I got to experience it with this show, as the subtitle track for the full translation only provides the lyrics when the characters are singing, not the translation. Thankfully, there are translations on the secondary subtitle track, so worry now.
Chance Pop Session is the tale of three women whose lives are at that point where they’re going to all change, but only if they all work together for it. Each is out of school and doing their own thing with their lives, but all yearning for something more. Akari, ostensibly the lead character, sings in the church she was raised in. After being given a pair of tickets to see super popstar Reika in concert, she decides to sign up for the private academy that Reika’s manager has, and to try and take her voice and her passion for song to the next level.
Yuki is the kind of woman whose really self-made, having spent time out of school doing all sorts of odd jobs from waitress to traffic officer and to being a roadie of sorts for several large scale concerts. She’s got the passion to sing as well, but has spent quite a good deal of time making her life what it is, living on her own and being all she can. Having worked on Reika’s concert, she decides to try out for the academy as well, but her luck doesn’t go quite so well; a thief steals her purse with her registration and her large sum of money for admittance, causing her to miss out.
The child of the group comes in the form of Nozomi, the daughter of a well off couple who looks to not have worked a day in her life. She’s not a spoiled child in some senses, though she does have her own attendant in the form of Jeeves, the man who makes sure her life goes off without any problems. Jeeves provides a good deal of the comical moments throughout the episodes without it being forced, more so just by his presence or what Nozomi has him do. Nozomi also ended up at the concert, and decided to sign up for the academy as well. It’s here that she meets Akari, and the two sort of hit it off a bit. Add in an earlier encounter where Jeeves nearly ran over Yuki and you have the thread that begins to connect all of them.
Just the coming together aspect of the show takes almost three episodes to get done, but it’s not until the fifth episode that we’ve got them all fully together and working as something of a group. Chance Pop Session works slowly and methodically, much like an after school special, but also with a wonder and a respect for the process of music itself. The opening song from the show is the main piece used early on, as we see how Akari and Nozomi work together, as their school partner in the special class they end up in has no desire to work with others. This is all the shake-down period, where the school’s headmistress, in the form of Reika’s manage Akiba Kisaragi, picks out students she sees something special in and places them in a class where she will personally manage them.
This comes at a transitional time for Akiba, as she’s severed her ties with Reika, telling her that she must now go and become who she truly wants to become, to shine like she can only by doing it herself and with her own choices. Akiba turns her focus on finding her next talent, while we get to see Reika go through a later phase of discovery in her musical career. She does end up offering some advice to the new people though, in a rather surprising moment when she refers to the trio as her newborn sisters. Reika’s journey is more of a background one, but one that provides a nice balance to the story of the trio, as well as a middle ground to the long spanning career of Akiba, who also has a strong musical past.
The relationships Akari has changes fairly radically throughout the show here. During a casual time with Yuki, she notices that the earring that Yuki is wearing is very similar to a pendant she has, that when the two get back to her place and compare, they realize that they’re pretty much identical. This leads to a simple and quick piece of grilling of Akari’s Father, who essentially reveals with little issue that he had found the two of them and a third girl all huddled together on a beach years ago with no sign of their parents. He recounts the efforts into finding them, but they had no luck. So Father kept Akari and the other two went their own ways.
Akari and Yuki take very well to the news and are just glad that they’ve found each other again and that there’s some actual real blood relations in the world. This goes particularly stronger for Yuki based on her upraising and background. But she also has to turn in a role of support, because all good news must come with bad news. Not long after a semi-date with Kaito, Akari learns from Father that Kaito has been killed in a traffic accident. The news just goes right to her core, a Kaito was really the first person she truly opened up to outside of her immediate circle and revealed a number of her secrets. Having lost him utterly crushes here, and does so at the most critical time of their rehearsing as well.
The show turns inward for a while, allowing Akari to try and figure things out, and in the end provides a very touching and well done “dream” sequence of sorts to song. Yeah, it’s all after school special in style, but give me a kick in the beanbag for liking it and liking how it was laid out. But everything does get to the point where the stage is set for the girls to all move into the real field of being singers as Kisaragi (who I’m laying odds is their mother!) gets them an audition that’s being done live for a very well known event.
So it’s off to the time in their careers where failure means not going any further forward. There’s lots of fun things going on during this segment, such as the clothes, the excitement of being part of the show and also dealing with the entire Jun situation. We also get some really interesting pieces on Nozomi’s family once she starts working harder in her practicing, as her father continues to feel more and more left out of her life. There’s some great secondary plot stuff going on here as well with certain people starting to date at this point.
As is the case with a lot of series of this nature, the third act of four episodes, it’s pretty much a rush towards the end with the expectations to be met. After their past successes, things open well for them as they get to actually enjoy becoming popular and dealing with all the singing engagements, press and other fun aspects of it. The hard work is alluded to, but for a lot of this it’s just time for them to really enjoy what all their effort has led them towards.
Once that’s dealt with, things start to focus on the past as we get to see the rise and subsequent fall of Akiba Kisaragi. With her debut in the 70’s, we see what she was molded into by those who controlled her as well as her discovery of a first true love. This newfound love changes her over time and her priorities become different, to the point where she essentially vanishes for a few years with her man, and they raise their children in a far off location in Hokkaido. Knowing what we know from past episodes, this does not end well, and we see the effects of this relationship on both Akiba and her three children.
Though it’s all quite easily foreshadowed, these are very somber and depressing scenes. Disturbing enters into it as well as Akiba deals with her loss in ways that many will find impossible to understand. I myself can’t imagine the mindset that it would require for such a thing to occur, but such things do happen around the world. Akiba’s reflections on her past come from an interview with a reporter, a reporter who manages to tie some information about the two sisters of R3 and the fact that they were found in an orphanage in Hokkaido.
While this may seem, well, blunt, for Akiba it brings back a recollection of other memories. It turns out that it was the same orphanage where she eventually went to meet Reika at and where the two of them started to bring each other to life again. Through this recollection we see the reasons behind how the two of them relied upon each other and how their relationship was built up from that to the way they interact as adults. But there’s always that edge of depression about Akiba, and it’s certainly understandable.
The bulk of the remainder of the series focuses on Nozomi and her relationship with her parents, particularly her now overly eager to help out father. There are of course very obvious reasons for the way he acts and why her parents are as nervous as they are about her success, though equally proud and excited about it. A lot of the tension that comes out of their encounters is due to the pampered life that Nozomi has had, so that when she actually starts to assert herself it ends up being even more hurtful to her parents, especially with what they’re going through.
But as all the revelations come out, much like they do at the end of a murder mystery drama, it just rolls along and it all comes spilling out. The final half of this volume is a real pleasure to watch, again, even knowing exactly how it will all play out. The final moments of this show are extremely satisfying and provides one of the better endings to a series, even as sappy as it is.
Chance Pop Session has been a fun show to watch. I had no real expectations of it after I realized the basis of it and simply instead just enjoyed it for what it is. This is the kind of show that I can easily give to my own daughter to watch as she grows up as it’ll teach her things in addition to entertaining her. Because it is in the end entertaining. There are drawbacks of course, the biggest of which is the overly heavy reliance of the opening song as the main song of the R3 girls to sing. Now, I will give that most new bands really hit it big on one song and then eventually break out from there if they’re destined to have any life to them, but in a TV series like this is just gets very overwhelming. When we get the rare Reika song, it’s like a breath of fresh air.
The show also manages to throw up things out of the blue at times that just sends it spiraling into a new direction. The death of Akari’s potential love interest in the second volume is a prime example of such a thing. But once you get past those problems and just get into the groove of the show, it’s very enjoyable and kept me smiling. It doesn’t have the genre crossing ability of a show like Princess Nine, but it’ll definitely appeal to a large number of those fans. I’m definitely glad that I’ve seen it and still wish it had gotten a soundtrack release in the US.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, All original extras
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.