Review for Skip Beat Collection
It takes me less than three years to forget what I watched it seems. Next up on the double-dip list is Skip Beat, which I reviewed for this site on DVD back in 2018. I’ve had the Blu-ray crawling its way up my to-watch pile for most of that time now, and quickly refreshing my memory with the original review, I see that I had ordered the Blu-ray before I finished watching the DVDs. I felt pretty good about watching the show again, and eagerly put the first disc into the Blu-ray player to be hit by a “Huh?” moment. Just why did I want this show on Blu-ray again?
Life couldn’t be much better for Kyoko Mogami. After all, she could fangirl all she wanted over pop idol Sho Fuwa, but life was even better than that, as after work she’d go home to Sho Fuwa. The two were childhood friends, raised together in the Fuwa family inn. But when Sho announced that he had no intention of inheriting the business, and instead wanted to be famous, the ever supportive Kyoko left home with him and they both headed to Tokyo. While he worked on his career, she would support them both, working jobs to pay the rent, buy the food, and take care of him.
Then one day she overhears the truth from Sho’s lips. The only reason he ‘let’ her come to Tokyo with him was to pay the rent and feed him, and that he could never be interested in a plain girl like her. From that point on, Kyoko swears off love, and vows her revenge. In this case, revenge means becoming famous, even more famous than him. Revenge isn’t the best motive to join the entertainment industry with, but there’s something about Kyoko that catches the eye of the president of the LME talent agency. He’s willing to take a chance on Kyoko, but he also comes up with a special training regime just for her.
All 25 episodes of the Skip Beat series are presented across 3 Blu-rays from MVM.
1. And the Box Was Opened
2. Feast of Horror
3. The Emotion She Lacks
4. The Labyrinth of Reunion
5. The Danger Zone
6. Invitation to the Ball
7. Princess Revolution
8. Sink or Swim Together
9. The Miraculous Language of Angels
10. The Blue on Her Palm
11. The True Face of the Storm
12. Her Opened Wound
13. The Battle Girls
14. The Secret Stamp Book
15. Together in the Minefield
16. Dislike x Dislike
17. The Date of Destiny
18. Sin Like an Angel
19. The Last Ritual
20. Invitation to the Moon
21. The One Who Deserves to Be
22. The Day the World Shattered
23. And the Trigger Was Pulled
24. The Permissible Encounter
25. And Then the Door Opens
It’s the image that caused me to go “Huh?” when I first put the disc into the player, as the image quality certainly doesn’t suggest HD clarity. It quickly becomes clear that Skip Beat was most likely animated at SD resolution, and what we have here is an upscale. The 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer offers an experience that is little removed from the DVD when it comes to clarity and colour rendition. There is less in the way of compression though, and thankfully nothing as egregious as edge enhancement or post-processing to make it look faux HD. Neither is there that occasional shimmer that cropped up on the DVDs. The animation is smooth, character designs are elegant and conform to the shojo archetypes, and the world design is simple but effective. The animation is heavy on the comedy, so expect plenty of SD transformations and sight gags.
Skip Beat gets DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese audio tracks with optional translated (white) subtitles and a signs only track. The audio options in the menu allow you to select any combination of these, although the subtitles and audio are unlocked during playback. I went with the Japanese audio, which was adequate, if not quite perfect. The problem I had with compression in the DVD is gone, but the problem with the inner monologue is still prevalent. That tends to have a slightly hollow effect to it, compared to the actual dialogue, and since there is so much in the way of monologue, it does begin to overwhelm. I gave the dub a quick try, and wasn’t immediately compelled to turn it off. The subtitles are accurately timed but there is one typo in episode 21, the word fiancé is missing the ‘é’.
You get three discs in a BD Amaray case, with two discs either side of a central hinged panel. The inner sleeve also offers some more character art and an episode listing.
The discs present their content with animated menus, and each disc ends with a translated English credit reel (plus kickstarter backer names).
There is a Marathon Play mode on the discs, which lets you watch the episodes with intervening credit sequences and next episode previews edited out, cutting about 20 minutes from each disc.
All of the extras are on disc 3. The interviews are as follows; Caitlin Glass (Kyoko) 2:57, Robbie Daymond (Ren) 2:15), and Cristina Vee (Erika/Producer/Casting Director) 4:19, Mela Lee (Maria/Exec Producer) 4:33, Taliesin Jaffe (ADR Director) 3:21, and Christian La Monte (Script adaptor/Guest Director) 2:15. These interviews are short, but are interesting to listen to.
You also get the textless credits, two of each, and the Clean Previews for the episodes which run in total to 9:32.
There’s a Behind the Scenes Video which lasts 2:31, and is presented in the form of live action and photo slideshow.
The same is true for the Behind the Beat Video (3:20), which looks at the re-recording of the Japanese songs with English lyrics.
There is a Behind the Scenes Photo Slideshow (8:50), Behind the Beat Photo Slideshow (3:10), and an Honorifics Presentation Slideshow (48:00). This content was just presented in galleries on the DVD.
Annoyingly, each of the interviews ends with a disclaimer that you can find the full versions and more at the Skip Beat website. And at the time of writing, the skipbeatanime.com website is dead.
One thing is universal. Collectors love to categorise things. We like our possessions in neat and tidy brackets, no matter how blurred the lines may actually be. Like any entertainment medium, manga and anime can be split into genres, but it’s somewhat unique in entertainment in that it can be split by gender of the intended audience, shonen and seinen for boys and men, shojo and josei for girls and women. When it comes to manga, it’s pretty much a fifty-fifty split on the shop and library shelves, but when it comes to series adapted to anime, shonen series outnumber shojo series by a big margin. That margin increases when shows are licensed for the U.S. and it increases even further for shows brought to the UK. On top of that, it’s the shonen series that get the long running anime that run for hundreds of episodes, whereas a long running shojo manga will be lucky if it gets a 26 episode run; just a taster of the story.
I take a look at my collection, which is pretty extensive at this point, and when it comes to anime released in the UK, of the hundreds of titles, shojo is pretty weakly represented with titles like, Fruits Basket, Gravitation, Ouran High School Host Club, My Love Story, Vampire Knight, Princess Jellyfish, Hakuoki, and Usagi Drop, most of it blurring the lines to appeal across demographics. I’ve imported most of the stronger shojo and josei titles in my collection, shows like Chihayafuru, Honey & Clover, Nana, and Ristorante Paradiso and had accepted that shows like that just wouldn’t get a UK release, that I’d have to settle for the manga instead. And then Skip Beat shows up, as pure a shojo title as you are liable to get, and it is fantastic.
Another sweeping generalisation is that in shonen, the story drives the emotions, and the reverse is true in shojo. That is the case here, with protagonist Kyoko Mogami driven to revenge by her ex-boyfriend (at least she thought he was her boyfriend) Sho Fuwa. She gave up her life to join him on his quest for fame as a pop-star in Tokyo, supporting him by working to earn rent and food money while he got his foot on the first rung of the fame ladder. But when she learns that he’s only ever thought of her as a glorified maid, the previously mild-mannered and compliant future housewife dies a quick death, to be replaced by a vengeful, rage filled woman, who swears to get her own back by beating Sho at his own game. In other words, Kyoko will become more famous than he ever will. She begins by ditching her frumpy image, and camping outside a rival talent agency to Sho’s, until she gets her foot in the door.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and we get to see a lot of Kyoko’s fury in the show. Skip Beat is a comedy anime, which relies on plenty of deformed character moments, changing their appearances to enhance the gag, and one gag is Kyoko’s rage signified by little demon Kyokos erupting from her like Medusa’s snakes.
Skip Beat is a look at the entertainment industry from the point of view of the aspiring stars, in this case Kyoko and the people that she encounters. Sho already has a degree of success as an up and coming pop star, but Kyoko is starting out. It’s clear that tenacity and determination is essential, given the degrees that she goes to just to get an audition at the LME agency. She practically stalks an agent until she gets an audition, without even considering just where her talents lie. It’s the desire for revenge that makes her stand out, for all the wrong reasons. For one thing, it annoys everyone else who’s at the audition, who think that she’s not taking it seriously. The second thing is that in an industry where you’re supposed to present yourself to the public, to engage with an audience, such a self-centred motive means a lack of empathy which would isolate you from any would-be fans. On the other hand, Kyoko’s determination, and adverse motivation catches the eye of LME’s president, enough for him to give her a chance.
He starts the Love Me Section, especially for Kyoko, putting her on a unique training regime. Everything that she does while in the company will be appraised by those around her, and she will be graded on how ‘lovable’ she is. She’s forced to engage with the people that she works with, and revive that empathy that Sho Fuwa stunned with such brutality. Of course, rehabilitating Kyoko isn’t an overnight process, and the demons aren’t lurking far beneath the surface through the series.
It’s also Kyoko’s off-beat approach to fame that not only brings her much antagonism, but also positively affects the people that she encounters on her climb up the ladder. Her first real friend is a girl nicknamed Moko, who she encounters at the audition, someone who wants to be an actress for all the right reasons, and can’t countenance Kyoko’s lack of commitment to the art. But it turns out that Moko has issues of her own to resolve, and winds up alongside Kyoko in the Love Me Section, allowing their rivalry to grow into friendship as they learn from each other.
Kyoko also winds up helping Maria, the president’s granddaughter, a precocious prima-donna who everyone treats with kid-gloves, and who also thinks her road to fame is assured. Kyoko’s the first person who treats her as a normal person, and once again she winds up helping her through her issues.
Of course this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without some romantic interest, and that comes in the form of LME’s biggest current star, Ren Tsuruga, the hottest idol actor in the business, and one who is instantly offended by Kyoko’s motives. But providence keeps throwing the two together, and Ren gradually learns to respect Kyoko’s talent and commitment. It quickly does become clear that Kyoko has talent as well, with a career as an actress beckoning. It’s a bumpy road, serving first as an assistant to established actresses, as well as doing time in a chicken suit as a TV mascot, before landing her first real screen role in an advert. That’s enough to get her noticed by a music video director, only the music video is for a Sho Fuwa song, a job that threatens to throw her back to square one.
I love Skip Beat, and not just because it’s a rare shojo anime title in the UK. It really is one of the best such anime to come out here. It’s got a delightful and engaging story, great characters, and a perfect blend of comedy and drama. It’s thoroughly entertaining, and I knew halfway through watching the DVDs that I was going to own this on Blu-ray. I hardly ever do that. Am I happy to have double-dipped this to Blu-ray? Absolutely! But I can’t for one minute justify that joy. It’s a straight up upscale, which looks much the same on Blu as it does on DVD, and while the compression issues might have been resolved, it’s not a show that will make any audiophile grin. I simply wanted to own Skip Beat in the best quality possible, and I’m happy with an incremental improvement. If you have the show on DVD, that will serve, but if you’ve never seen Skip Beat before, get the Blu-ray.
The reason Skip Beat is not a ten out of ten is because as I mentioned, like many shojo anime it’s finite. The manga is still ongoing at this point in time, volume 41 and counting. The anime only adapts around the first ten volumes or so, and it pretty much stops unceremoniously. It’s not a cliff-hanger, nor is it a satisfying conclusion that offers closure for a character or story arc. It’s just left hanging. After some 9½ years, I suspect that it won’t be picked up again at this point. However, that is the only disappointment with Skip Beat.