Blu-ray: £49.99; DVD: £39.99
The entertainment industry is a tough industry to get into and even harder one to be successful in, yet for Kyoko Mogami she makes it her new life goal. A goal motivated by revenge against her childhood friend and the former love of her life Sho Fuwa. After being raised in his home (a traditional inn) from a young age Kyoko is whisked away to Tokyo by Sho in order to be his support, while he works to become a professional singer. Whilst Sho is working at being a singer, Kyoko is busy working three different jobs in order to pay for the upkeep of the apartment they share. Kyoko is rather content with this life until one day she overhears Sho have a conversation with his manager, stating that she is nothing more than his personal maid. The resulting confrontation leads the two to break things off, and for Kyoko to swear revenge by joining the entertainment industry herself and vowing to become more famous than Sho. This in turn leads Kyoko to join a talent agency that creates a new division for her, after the chairman realises she has natural talent but is lacking the ability to love others or to allow others to love her. This new division is dubbed the “Love Me” division which has the sole purpose of having it's members do various jobs for people, in order for them to love the work they do and thus make the members learn to love in return. Thus begins Kyoko's venture into the entertainment industry where she will learn the skills necessary to thrive and reclaim the emotions and feelings she once had.
This release of Skip Beat uses the masters from the Kickstarter, that was successfully funded in April of 2016. The Kickstarter was setup to give the show a US release, with an English dub. Hence MVM are using those same masters for their UK release. There are quite a few interesting things to note about this release. First of the amount of audio and subtitle options, which consists of: Japanese with and without English Subtitles, English Audio with English subtitles for everything, just signs and songs or none at all. It is a rather comprehensive list of subtitles that is a refreshing change from the usual Japanese with English subtitles or English Audio only options. Furthermore theses discs have a play all, episode list, and a very convenient marathon play mode. This mode plays all episodes but only plays the opening and ending sequences once and skips them on all other episodes. If the set is being watched with the intent to binge it in as short a time as possible then this is an incredibly useful feature, cutting the overall viewing time substantially. However, when using this feature it did throw up an odd error where it would return to the main menu after the end of the disc's first episode, but selecting the option again and skipping back to the end of the episode fixed that. Also tied into this release are a host of extras focusing on interviews of the production team and American voice actors, answering questions from Kickstarter backers. There are a great range of questions on offer that tie into general questions about anime production and working in the industry, to specific Skip Beat questions regarding favourite lines, moments and adapting the script for the dub.
Onto the show itself: Skip Beat is a shoujo romantic comedy that is very much character driven. The main thrust of the show is seeing Kyoko progress in the entertainment industry and develop both as an actress and as a person. This is done through the various jobs Kyoko undertakes which cause her to interact with certain people and recall her past. At times using it to help in her current role or reflecting on it, realising certain aspects about herself and the situation she was in. The jobs are broken into arcs that last a few episodes or so, giving way to some dramatic moments which also involve quite a bit of comedy. The main point of comedy comes from Kyoko herself. Providing humorous observations and cut away moments showing her different negative feelings, represented visually by imaginary demons. Each has a distinct voice and they speak what Kyoko is currently thinking. This is tied into the situations Kyoko finds herself in and leads to some great moments that show Kyoko's strong points, as well as her weaknesses. Parts of her personality even tie into aspects of the plot that other characters pick up on, and in some cases take advantage of for their own means.
This series has a rather eccentric and fun cast of supporting characters, comprised of fellow actors and workers in the talent agency. These characters play off Kyoko really well either by being the straight man to her comedic moments or being a driving force for her to succeed, by offering advice and support. As a drama and comedy the show holds up really well, providing a fun watch. One thing that lets the show down slightly is its visuals. The show first aired in 2008 and, while our review copy is the inferior DVD version, some of the visuals look really outdated. The show itself does a few tricks to hide its budget issues, such as: changing characters into a super deformed version during the comedic moments and replacing the backgrounds with colour and zoom occasionally. When the characters are on model the show looks pretty decent, but somehow the show’s general presentation makes it seem older than it is. The last thing to note regarding presentation is the show's dub. Created from the kickstarter it clearly shows that a lot of effort and care went into this. The dub has a great script filled with some subtle pop culture references, great comedic dialogue and performances that truly suit the characters. Special mention needs to be given to Kyoko herself who, throughout the show speaks a multitude of different tones including: one deep and serious, another high pitched and cute, and even one where she pretends to be male. All of which are natural and skilfully executed. I was very impressed by the dub, it clearly shows that all involved in had a love for the series before working on it, which it shines through in their performances.
Overall Skip Beat is rather good. It has a great cast of characters led by a likeable and endearing lead, which makes for a great series filled with drama and comedy in a well presented set. Its a great story about an underdog taking on a new way of life and trying to discover who they are whilst trying to learn new skills to compete in a cut-throat industry.