Skip Beat!

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, September 9, 2013

Since getting back into anime a few years back, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy drama, slice of life, and romance the best. Although I’m always game for a solid action show the storylines of these genres have been what have stayed with me the most, and as a result I’ve started to dive further into shoujo and some of the other romance variants. One of my recent finds was Skip Beat!, a manga that has been ongoing since 2002 and was adapted into a 25 episode anime by Hal Film Maker in 2008. It’s currently only licensed for North American audiences via Crunchyroll and doesn’t have a home video release, but does it have what it takes to make an impression?

Skip Beat! revolves around Kyoko Mogami, a sixteen year old girl who dropped out of high school to live in Tokyo with her childhood friend and pop idol Sho Fuwa. While the first episode initially leads you into believing that this might just be another sappy romance story where the main character is hopelessly devoted to the man she loves, things take a turn in a very different direction about halfway in. By accident Kyoko discovers that Sho considers her as nothing more than a housekeeper and been dishonest about his true intentions, and rather than running off crying her first instinct is to try and attack him and declare that she will get revenge. That’s right, this is an anime with a strong female lead and it had me hooked from that point on. To put things simply, because of his increasing popularity Sho tells Kyoko that her only way to truly get revenge is to enter show business and take him down idol to idol, and this is where the show’s plot kicks off.

Kyoko’s immediate goal is to get into a talent agency and she ends up at LME, which coincidentally is the agency of Sho’s self-appointed rival Ren Tsuruga. As you might expect, this doesn’t come easy and there are plenty of roadblocks along the way and she ends up in a newly formed section called “Love Me”, where the primary goal is to help members regain their love and compassion for other people as this is a necessary component of being a celebrity in the eyes of LME’s president. I’m not going to spoil the specifics as the finer details are what really made Skip Beat! enjoyable to watch, but instead will briefly go over the arcs that make up the 25 episodes. Each of the scenarios after Kyoko has made it into the agency revolve around her tackling different challenges, but the common thread is that she is heading onto the actress path and even lands a role in a television drama in the final arc. Throughout each situation she remains a strong lead who is able to adapt to the issue at hand and come through with some surprisingly top notch acting, all while continuing to develop as a person. The acting scenarios are realistic, and Kyoko is always able to come through with a solution to each challenge that the viewer may not have initially anticipated. However, there’s one major flaw with the storyline and it’s one that is common for manga to anime adaptations. Skip Beat! is currently up to 32 manga volumes and is ongoing, and the anime ends after 25 episodes which means that it just barely scratches the surface of the overall storyline and doesn’t have a true ending. Hal Film Maker didn’t even try to make a partial ending either, as the final episode just ends in the middle of the arc and leaves just about every plot thread open. This might prove to be too much for some people, but I enjoyed the storyline and characters up to this point and still found Skip Beat! a compelling watch.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe the characters really help to make this show more than just your average shoujo series. Initially it seemed like they might all end up being stereotypes, but as the series progressed it was able to add depth to many of them. Kyoko may just be one of the strongest female leads I have seen in years, as she always seems up to a challenge and gives it her all in every situation. What’s particularly interesting is that she went from the singular focus of complete dedication and servitude to the man she loved to a desire for revenge. Over the course of these 25 episodes Kyoko has grown significantly and she has been able to maintain functional relationships with others and gotten away from some of her previous faults, and it was great to see her truly progress. The supporting characters also went through some of this development, particularly Ren Tsuruga. He started off as an antagonist who disapproved of Kyoko’s reasons for joining show business, but over time their relationship has evolved and he has become more friendly and even a potential love interest (though this is just starting to take shape as the anime ends, so if you’re hoping for a more traditional romance you won’t find that here). Even his cool and calm demeanor that fit into the “perfect male actor” archetype had started to break down, and he was given more depth and background than I had anticipated. I’m interested in seeing where the manga takes this, as we were just starting to get a look at his past towards the end of the anime. The other characters all fall into the likeable category, ranging from rival turned friend/companion Kanae to the quirky and eccentric company president. Overall, Skip Beat!’s cast helped to pull me further into the series and made me want to watch it in quick succession to see what would happen next.

The only other show I have seen from Hal Film Maker was Uta Kata, which was fairly subdued animation wise. Skip Beat! goes for an almost 50/50 mix of normal character designs and exaggerated/chibi designs, putting it more in line with the old-school romance/shoujo aesthetic rather than some of the modernized looks from studios like P.A. Works and Kyoto Animation. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I recently had the chance to read the first volume of the manga and it appears that Hal Film Maker has made a perfect adaptation as the manga had this same burst of chibi and exaggerated elements to showcase Kyoko’s inner thoughts. Overall, I don’t feel that anyone would regard Skip Beat! to be one of the best looking anime they have seen but it stays true to its style for the entire 25 episodes and doesn’t seem to be cutting corners and relying on repeated scenes when compared to some of the other series out there.

Marina Inoue voices Kyoko, and prior to watching Skip Beat! I had been familiar with her role in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai as Yozora. As Yozora Inoue gave a gruffer pitched, sarcastic performance and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was able to give life to such a versatile character like Kyoko. She really nails every element of the characters, as Kyoko has sweet, subdued moments as well as moments where she comes off as downright scary in her quest for revenge. I also find it fascinating when shows features characters that are actors, as I imagine it must be a challenge for a voice actor to not only play a role but then have the role they are playing act as someone else in a fictional television drama or film. The rest of the cast did a fantastic job with their roles, and I felt like they were really able to capture their respective characters and provided performances that made them feel like real people. As far as the music goes, I liked both sets of opening and ending themes but the second opening song “Renaissance” really stood out the most as it seemed to give the series a more stylish feel. I don’t remember much as far as background music as my focus was often on the voice acting, but there wasn’t anything that seemed out of place or unsuitable for a particular situation.

For some viewers, the lack of any kind of resolution may keep Skip Beat! from standing out as a truly top notch show. But I personally enjoyed what the show had to offer despite this, as Kyoko’s a truly standout character and the plot managed to stay interesting and offer enough development to move beyond the genre stereotypes. It’s hard to say whether or not more of Skip Beat! will get the anime treatment, as it has now been over four years since the first season finished airing, but I do hope that this remains a possibility as the series could become one of the best in the genre if given the opportunity to reach a conclusion.

Leave a Reply