Skip Beat – an enchanting blend of romance & comedy

Argggh…winter is here and I also saw the first snowstorm of this season. I’m so disappointed with the cold weather that has suddenly shrouded down the beautiful colors of fall. Well its going to be like this atleast till March so I am looking forward to have a good pleasant long weekend outing with “M” in Jan and watch my fave past time of some cool Japanese animation series (although there are certain other pending tasks that I need to concentrate on…umm…will talk about it some other time).

Recently I have also gotten into this addiction of reading graphic novels, to be specific the famous comic rage from Japan “MANGA“. This Manga reading addiction of mine started after watching one of the best romantic-anime comedies (that came out in fall of 2008) among the Japanese animation series – SKIP BEAT. The first season ended in the summer 2009 and has taken many animation lovers (including me :-D) by surprise. I’m right now (and all Skip Beat fans) are praying for the second season of this anime to be out.

~ The Plot

At first glance, Skip Beat may even look like just another Shoujo Manga-based anime (such as “La Corda D’oro Primo Passo”) but that is where the relation with a typical romantic anime ends. Even if romance plays a major part in this series (there is a love triangle also) still, there are certain “bizarre” but “catchy” elements that will make any ardent anime fan crave for more. Here are the things to check out in this anime. The story focuses on the main protoganist Kyoko Mogami, a 16 year old girl whose life, love and everything imaginable centers around just one guy Sho Fuwa. Just like any romantic girl she also dreams about fairytales, life living like a “Cindrella” with her “Ojisama” alias Prince Sho. But life had something else enstored for her when she discovers that her “dear heart” and childhood friend only keeps her around to act as a maid and useful caretaker who can pay for his living expenses, like paying rent of their expensive apartment. Sho is a selfish brute, a self-centered person who is adamant on working his way up to become Japan’s top pop idol. Furious and heartbroken, Kyoko vows to get revenge by beating him in show business. How she manages to do that and what new adventures, encounters she faces in the world of Showbiz (including a love interest) is what this anime is all about.

~ Main Characters

The main protagonist Kyoko Mogami is already entitled to a unique character representation “Kyoko devils”. But in the anime its not just her mood swings but her “sheer gusto” that will make you fall in love with her character. Her experiences in the showbiz have a very realistic edge, for instance, how she handles her first hand showbiz experiences in the “talent auditions” of the L.M.E. agency; her confrontations first with famous actor star from her agency Ren Tsuruga and then with rival turned best friend Kotonami Kanae/ Moko. The author has beautifully churned out Kyoko’s character of a cute, joyful and full-of-purpose girl who has also got shades of crazy, unexpected behavior. Skip Beat is Kyoko’s journey from a rookie to an upcoming talented actress, her trials & tribulations in show business and the recognition of her own true value and talent.
Next comes the second main character of Ren Tsuruga, who on outside appearance is a “very nice guy” and polite actor, but his true self only comes out when he is with Kyoko. At first, Ren’s reason for showing dislike to Kyoko was her “revenge plot on Fuwa Sho”. IN the start you will see that Ren is carrying this prejudice in his mind and in his own way tries to sabotage Kyoko’s showbiz journey. With his teasing/taunting behavious towards Kyoko, Ren tries to make her realize that her reason to be in showbiz and pursue a career in it are totally wrong. But as the story progresses, and one of the flashbacks of Kyoko’s past is revealed – where Ren is the “fairy prince – Corn”, Ren starts to look at her in a new light. But the present Kyoko is too dense to connect the dots of her “Corn” with the present Ren (alias Kuon/Corn) and the feelings of love that he harbor for her. In someways Ren reminded me of “Darcy from Pride and Prejudice” and his personality has some shades of Darcy in it too, and I guess that’s what makes him so awesomely scrumptious character of the animation world.
Last but not the least the man who completes this anime love triangle – Fuwa Sho/Shoutaro – the selfish ex-boyfriend who breaks Kyoko’s heart and awakens her desire to standup for herself. Sho keeps his real name hidden because he considers it old-fashioned. No one in showbiz knows the real background of Sho (except Kyoko).He does not regret anything about using Kyoko for his own self interest and has got even less regrets when Kyoko discovers the truth about him. Later on in the series, when he encounters the newly transformed Kyoko and her being a part of his rival talent agency L.M.E., Sho starts to understand Kyoko’s perseverance to be successful in showbiz and to take revenge on him. He also starts to realize his feelings for her.

The supporting characters of SB are also well matched with the main cast.

Kotonami Kanae the rival turned friend of Kyoko was at first all set to kill Kyoko’s confidence to be successful in her first audition in L.M.E. But as most of female characters in the Shoujo series Kanae also starts softening towards Kyoko and becomes her first true friend. Although Kanae tries to show a very strong front in front of others but actually she is very self conscious of her self and does not get along with children. She is also the second member of “Love Me” with Kyoko.

Lory Takarada, the L.M.E president is the most flamboyant character in the series. He loves to show-off but he is also a very good judge of character. He is one of those first few people who sees a great promise in Kyoko of being an outstanding “star” in showbiz, and because of Kyoko’s lack of understanding the “love” emotion creates the section “Love Me“. He also has a grand-daughter, Maria, who admires Kyoko.
Maria Takarada, is a bit pampered yet adorable grand daughter of Lory, but facing the ghosts of her tragic past. When she was five she lost her mom in a plane crash and the ironic thing is that Maria was the one who asked her mother to be with her on her birthday. Her mom Rina was a famous Japanese model and when she died almost everyone blamed Maria for her mom’s death including her own father. Only her granddad was her supporter who also confronted his son to stop blaming his daughter for something that is just a cruel joke of fate. Even if a kid, Maria is very instinctive and observant of adult behavior, that’s why she understands all the people around her with their pretentious attitude (I say she’s quiet a smart nine-year-old kid). Because of her cisrcumstances she develops a rebellious attitude, much to the regret of her granddad Lory. The only person who can tame the rebel Maria is Ren (she has a huge crush on him), but the one who actually understands her emotions and heals the pain in her heart is Kyoko (who herself has a history of a sad & painful childhood). And that’s why Maria idolizes Kyoko and calls her “oneesan“.
Yukihito Yashiro, is Ren’s manager who at first looks like a very capable person in balancing Ren’s busy work life, but in the later half of the anime he provides quiet good comic relief too. As the anime progresses, Yashiro’s character develops with the development in Ren and Kyoko’s relationship. Infact Yashiro is the one who plays cupid between Ren and Kyoko, by constantly pestering Ren about his dealings with Kyoko and how his behavior is changing gradually with Kyoko from dislike to love. As a person, Yashiro has a very genteel personality (in the Manga its explained that Yashiro is a very dedicated and strict manager one of the reason why Ren is never late on a job) but he’s very bad with electric gadgets that’s why he always wears plastic gloves while using a cellphone and he doesn not know how to drive.
~ Devil Kyoko’s/Grudge Kyoko
Devil and Angel characters aren’t new in animations but the major difference in SB and others is again a new presentation technique, which is Kyoko’s imaginative world (which is similar to a fairytale or Alice in wonderland). The Kyoko devils first appear as a part of a “Pandora box” that gets open when Sho dumps Kyoko. The plotting of “Kyoko Devils” is cleverly done by the author and brings out some of the most hilarious scenes whenever Kyoko is in an angry/scary/depressed mood. Sometimes you’ll also even see the “Kyoko Angels” appearing, which our heartbroken heroine mercillesly kills with her imagination. The moments where Kyoko gets a reminder of her past, about Sho or her Senpai Tsuruga Ren are the some of the best anime scenarios I have recently seen in any anime series.
~ Background score/soundtrack
Music or background score often goes unnoticed in an anime. But then that way one can focus more on the story and how the character development is done in it. Skip Beat isnt having any traits of peppy music, but the score still stands out and its impresses in every way. I basically loved the main theme of the anime, but then the ending song “Namida by 2BACKAA is one of my fave.
Although I can mention many other elements of Skip Beat that are really hard to miss, but then there are many who havent seen this anime and I’m not the one whose going to spoil anyone’s fun factor. As mentioned before, don’t take this anime series as just another romantic comedy, it has got some well crafted romantic moments and gives a good insight of the entertainment world. It also shows a very unique and different perspective of love/friendship/relationships from the eyes of every character. Last but not the least, my recommendation is to watch this anime with English subs as there’s no substitute of the voice actors who have done a marvelous job by giving their voice to these characters.
P.S. Skip Beat is available online for “free” at crunchyroll.com
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