Chance Pop Session Vol. #1 (of 3) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, November 17, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2002

What They Say
Three young girls, strangers to each other, share an instinctual passion and talent for music. Brought together from distinctly different worlds, the three meet by chance at the concert of their idol, the glamorous and sophisticated prodigy of an illustrious music school. The concert strikes a chord in each of their hearts and unites them with a common dream of stardom.

Following their love of music, the girls each enroll in the 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? Will the Angel of Music smile upon them and fulfill their dreams... Or will the challenges of music school tear them apart forever?

Includes 5 complete episodes!

The Review!
Chance Pop Sessions 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.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. 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. 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 looks fantastic. 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.

Similar in layout to the menu, we get a great image of Akari set against the blue sky with wispy clouds, feathers and musical notes floating about. If you feel good just looking at this cover, that’s what the series itself is going to feel like. The back cover provides a few paragraphs worth of summary while showing several animation shots. The discs features and production information is also clearly listed. The insert for this release is actually an eight page booklet on “How to be a popstar”. The booklet really does go over all the basics, from make-up to skin care. Also included in the first pressing run is a limited sticker sheet that highlights Reika and Akari.

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 Akari set against moving clouds and falling feathers. All five 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.

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 was naturally very much looking forward to Chance Triangle Session, renamed to Chance Pop Session for the US releases.

The first volume, with five episodes, 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 peoples 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.

One part I was interested in seeing how it was handled was whether the songs would be dubbed or not. I’ve enjoyed a good number of dubbed songs in the past but they opted instead to just keep with the Japanese vocals for the dub. This isn’t a bad decision, since it keeps things in mind of just where all of this is happening, and then there’s always the factor of someone rarely sounding like they do when they sing as they do when they talk. It’s a bit awkward at first, but it doesn’t take long to get into it. For those who hate Japanese vocals though, just be forewarned that there’s a lot in here since it is a music show after all.

In the end, I think my main disappointment with this release is that the soundtrack isn’t included. It’s not so subtle in that this is something that Avex has pushed, since they’re a partner in the shows creation, they’ve got their music in it and the songs likely sold a fair amount of singles. That’s where the infomercial aspect I mentioned at the top came in, because it just seems like Avex is using this show as a primer of how to get into the industry, but with enough of a temperament to say that you’ve got to have a real deep seated love and passion for it, that you have to be serious about it.

Barring that minor quibble, this is a top notch production that’s going to please most of those who get into it. The music is great, the characters are solid and the storyline is enjoyable. I’m hesitant to say this, but if you liked their release of Princess Nine, you’re likely to find this enjoyable for many of the same reasons.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Sketches,Production Backgrounds,Clean Credit Animation,Original Japanese Promo Spots,"How to Be a Pop Star" Printed Guide,Chance Pop Session Sticker Sheet

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Chance Pop Sessions