Vanilla Series: Spotlight -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Critical Mass Video
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Vanilla Series Collection

Vanilla Series: Spotlight

By Chris Beveridge     April 17, 2004
Release Date: May 25, 2004

Vanilla Series: Spotlight
© Critical Mass Video

What They Say
From producers Shiyuuta Biwajima and Chikara Niki (ENDLESS SERENADE / MEIKING / GIRL NEXT DOOR) and with original J-pop themes from artist Yoshi Etc. (CAMPUS / HOLY VIRGINS) comes a twisted tale of lust and betrayal, set in the glamorous world of pop-music idols!

What would you do for fame?

Saori is cute, perky, and dreams of being a star! Along with the beautiful Yuna and the striking Erica, Saori is part of a new female pop group named Twinkle ? and this hot little group is ready for their big debut!

But this tantalizing trio is about to discover that the music industry is ruthless and demanding of its female artists! First, band manager Masaki decides to give Yuna and Erica a special session in pleasure and pain... Then, as lead singer, it's up to Saori to get the band past Kijima, the shady don of the entertainment business. Using his position to fulfill his wildest desires with all of the hot
new pop idols, he'll never even consider giving anyone a chance at a big break until after his carnal desires have been satisfied. Saori's mother knows this all too well; to get Twinkle noticed, she's already given in to his erotic demands.

Meanwhile, a rival pop group, the Lovely Ladies, is determined to win Kijima's favor first! They're three buxom starlets, training hard in all of the don's favorite sensual techniques ? and they'll do anything and anyone to win! It's become a race of lust...will Saori give up her body for one chance in the spotlight?

The Review!
Whoever would have thought about crossing the world of pop music idols with hentai? While not a bad idea, it's one that can go disastrously wrong if you? let them sing.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. If I want to hear women moaning in English I've got more than enough porn for that. The show has a very basic stereo mix with the bulk of things being very center channel based outside of the music-oriented moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues during regular playback.

Originally released to video in 2003, Spotlight is one of the better looking digital hentai shows of recent memory with rich vibrant colors all over. There's a lot of variety to the colors and they all maintain a good level of solidity, even with the numerous partially colored walls throughout the show. Cross coloration is virtually non-existent and there's just the slightest moments of aliasing during some panning sequences. Much like a lot of other hentai, this show makes out well from large bands of vibrant colors and a low episode count on the disc letting more space go towards the video.

Titles in the Vanilla series generally have really good artwork and this one is no exception with a shot of the lead singer on her back on the stage with her outfit all around her while the spotlight is most definitely on her. Add in a few chains around her wrists and it plays up some good fetishes well, never mind having really good artwork. The back cover gives you a performance shot of the trio together on stage and some skin as well in another shot while providing a rather detailed summary of the plot. The discs features are fairly clear and all listed together. Due to this being an early review copy, no insert was included.

The main menu is a simple piece with full screen animation playing various sex scenes from the show with the selections lined down the middle leading up to the logo. All of this goes on as the brief vocal piece from the show and it's instrumental section play before looping again. Like another recent Vanilla release, you aren't able to STOP in the main menu; you have actually start the program to do that. That continues to be a problem and an annoying one at that. Other than that, the layout is pretty standard for Critical Mass releases and is quick and functional.

The only included extra of note is a minute long art video gallery that shows off various scenes from the two episodes here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Idols and hentai have a long history together so there isn't a lot that's terribly creative about it anymore, but it can still be done well. Spotlight does this for the most part by having a fair amount of story to its thin plot.

The center of the story is Saori, a young woman who wants to become a pop idol star. She's in luck at the moment since her mother, Emiko, owns a production management company that she took control of after her second husband had passed away. He left her the company (and a huge debt) along with his son Masaki. Masaki is madly in love with his step-sister Saori but keeps it in check since it's not allowed really. Emiko is determined to make something of the company for her dead husband but also to ensure her daughter is successful as well. Masaki's not keen on Saori being in the music business since it's pretty rough and he's not sure she's got the talent.

Everything has the potential to change though when a popular show is set to add a musical number to it. First Masaki ends up bringing in two other girls to help shore up Saori, but Yuna and Erica dislike the fact that they're already somewhat established and have to back up an amateur and start to bully her. Before they get too far though, Masaki takes them aside and really gives them a lesson by tying them up and forcing himself on them with toys and some amount of pain. Of course, the two girls end up getting a crush on him and want it even more, but not as rough, they'd rather see the softer side?

One of the main hurdles that the group has to surpass to get the spot on the show is to meet with the 'don' of the entertainment business, an elderly man named Kijima. He's had his grip on things for quite a long time now and continues to exude power. Masaki's group, Twinkle, is set to become the group for the show but they have to win over Kijima before their competition, the Lovely Ladies, do so. To ensure their victory, the manager of the Lovely Angels takes all three of the girls to Kijima to try and use their sexual nature to win him over. Knowing this, Masaki's unsure of what to do but Emiko knows that she has to send her daughter there to really pull it off. But can Saori really do it since she's a virgin?

The show highlights the "fun" of the entertainment business and how the casting calls really work. There's lots of scenes between the both sets of trios and other guys and Emiko gets her fair share of fun as well. There's the classic scene you know will happen where Emiko goes after her stepson, Masaki. Of course, this is after he finds out about the huge debt she gained through the company, so how else can she relieve all that stress after being visited by the yakuza? That's right, bed her stepson. She even says afterwards that she was thinking of her late husband. And he takes it as a compliment, glad that she's so in love with his father that even when having sex with someone else that's all she can think of.

What made this show priceless for us though is Kijima, the behind the scenes money man of the industry. He gets to bed a few people here, so be prepared for the geriatric sex scenes. Nothing like a 60+ gentlemen with the body of a 30 year old. So he gets to sleep with Emiko and makes some moves with the younger crowd and has the Lovely Ladies used and abused in front of him. But what makes it priceless? He sounds like a Japanese Yoda in the Japanese language track. And once you get that little tiny thought in your head, it's all over. Every scene with him is priceless. Just having a Yoda-like voice doing general porn lines works well, never mind it being in Japanese as well.

In Summary:
Spotlight has some rather good character designs and animation without too many repeating moments. There's some good detail and quality to both and it generally shows through here. The plot is paper thin as expected and it's just comical without being intentional ? though they do provide some comedy relief in a few places that you don't normally expect. The sex scenes are generally enjoyable though there are a few where there's some domination and control going on so those that dislike the non-consensual stuff may dislike parts of this. Spotlight turned into an accidental comedy on us mixed with some decent sex.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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