Lapis Re:Lights is a distinctly Japanese flavour of anime – it’s part of a multimedia franchise, folds in bubblegum fantasy with idol music groups and uses the power of love and music to defeat armies of monsters.
Lapis Re:Lights focuses on Princess Tiara who has gone against the wishes of her family to attend the prestigious Flora Girls Academy for young witches to-be. She aspires to be an amazing wish inspired by her elder sister’s adventures and is surprised when her impromptu visit to the academy results in her being accepted into the school. The catch is the group she’s assigned to, an assortment of young girls with less than stellar academic performance, are on the brink of expulsion. This means Tiara not only has to catch up on lessons she’s missed but also needs to bring the girls together as a group to raise their standing in the school to keep their enrolments viable. Her journey sees the group of friends work against the odds to improve their performance in class, but also explore the broader social structures in the school and society, including the highly competitive idol group singing performances.
Oh, and try and save the broader fantasy world from hordes of unintelligible monsters which threaten everyone’s existence.
It’s a very odd combination of elements and I didn’t have much of a pre-conceived framework of what to expect. The scenario clings pretty hard to its roots as a media exercise with the oddball mashing of contemporary idol group jpop music with musou-esque fantasy battles in an all-girls high school. There’s a big selection of music sung by the cast members, magical concerts, fan service and all things friendship and sunshine amongst the backdrop of learning how to be a witch in a weird boarding school setting.
The good news is that if bubblegum pop and slice of life high school stuff is something you find interesting there’s something worthwhile here. There’s more than a little bit of magic girl tropes hitting the story and it seems to make genuine efforts at times to try and do some world building, something likely explored a bit more in the mobile games that form part of the whole Lapis Re:Lights project.
The production values are nice with good character designs, nice animation and huge lashings of bold colour. The characters have distinct personalities, troped as they are, and the super-happy friendship stuff is engaging.
The thing is, the good stuff isn’t quite enough to elevate it from feeling a bit like an exercise in corporate creativity. The variety of songs and the inclusion of the concert mechanics means there’s a slew of music to promote via other media, the fan service in the all-girls high school setting is a bit on the nose and the inclusion of the conflict between a faceless horde of bad guys ties it a little too closely to its gaming roots.
It’s not that Lapis Re:Lights is bad – it’s actually quite fun on the whole – but it certainly feels like an extension of a multimedia production rather than it’s own legitimate thing.
My major gripe with the production was the use of fully CG rendered concert sequences – while the animation and cel shading are impressive, just like the recent Sakura Wars anime, it comes off feeling like I’m watching an in-game cut scene on a console rather than watching an anime. Realistically, this was the only way the team would have been able to achieve the idol pop concert sequences within the scope of the budget given how many of them are dotted throughout the series, but it’s a shame when musical numbers like those in Haruhi (or Interstella 5555) are so great to watch and this feels flat and lifeless in comparison.
For the local release of Lapis Re:Lights, Madman have brought across the Region A release from Funimation and it’s a very complete package. In addition to all the episodes (in Japanese only, there’s no English audio in this one) we have separate music videos for the concert sequences, promo and preview videos as well as the expected ops and eds. The inclusion of all the music videos is a nice and convenient way to enjoy all the musical sequences to save running through all the individual episodes, so on the whole it feels quite complete as far as the supplementary materials are concerned.
Lapis Re:Lights is an anime that achieves quite a bit despite its trappings as an extension of a wider media franchise. While tropey, the characters are likeable and the whole thing’s just silly enough to be engaging if you’re happy to go pretty far down the anime rabbit hole. It’s probably not for everyone but it’s worth looking into, especially if you’re into jpop idol groups.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.