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ADV Films presents
Chance Pop Session #1 (2001)

"Many people can sing, but there are only a few of those who can use that talent to move a person's soul."
- Kisaragi (Yu Daiki)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 16, 2002

Stars: Mayumi Iizuka, Atsuko Inomoto, Maria Yamamoto
Other Stars: Mariko Koda, Kana Ueda, Yu Daiki
Director: Susumu Kudou

Manufacturer: MOFC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (ages 12+)
Run Time: 02h:02m:12s
Release Date: December 17, 2002
UPC: 702727031427
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A- D+

DVD Review

What I find really interesting about Japanese animation is the way it is thought of as just another creative outlet in Japan. In America, animation is mostly kid's stuff or something gratuitous and violent like Heavy Metal. Most of the anime that is really popular with mainstream America falls into one of these predetermined categories—goofy children's entertainment like Pokemon or sci-fi robot fare like Evangelion. ADV's work in bringing less "traditional" series to the western shores is greatly appreciated by otaku. Certainly a series like Chance Pop Session would seem very foreign to most North Americans.

The show is part of the popular "pop star" genre, and the appeal to the ravenous Japanese pop-culture diet is clear—in a country where new singing sensations rise and fall daily, a show about a group of underdogs making it big must provide a bit of vicarious satisfaction. Heck, American teens have now watched the same basic thing in live action with American Idol and Making the Band. Chance Pop Session is a bit different than these glossy products though, focusing not on the allure of instant fame and riches, but on the power of music to inspire performer and audience member alike.

Akari, Yuki, and Nozomi are three very different girls. Akari, left by her mother at a church as a baby, still lives with the minister and his wife and sings in the church choir. Yuki has worked hard her whole life to make a living for herself, performing odd jobs during the day and singing with a street band at night. Nozomi is the somewhat spoiled child of a wealthy family who dreams of singing like her idol, superstar vocalist Reika. By chance, these three very different people meet up at a Reika concert, and soon find themselves together, on the road to fulfilling their dreams.

They all enroll in a music school overseen by Reika's manager Kisaragi, a former star herself, who believes that many can sing, but only a few have the true talent to move people through music. She spots something special in Akari, Yuki, and Nozomi, and takes them under her wing personally, the newest members of the "S Class."

Much of the plotting is fairly familiar, as the girls deal with jealous classmates, parental opposition, and innocent romances, and I'm guessing that, though they'll have a few bumps along the way, the fate of this new group will rarely be in question. But I found myself getting interested in the characters despite the familiar story—at least, I did once I got used to the pacing and style of the series. Chance Pop Session is a surprisingly sedate show, totally absent any real humor or action. Director Susumu Kudou layers on the stylistic flourishes, employing filters, intercutting, and nature imagery to create visuals that are themselves clearly inspired by music. Perhaps I've been watching too much Excel Saga, but at first, all of the artistic embellishment seemed someone ponderous and pretentious. Once I'd grown accustomed to the pace, I was able to better appreciate the way the metered visuals suit the subject matter.

I'm not totally sold on Chance Pop Session (I'd like the characters to show a bit more humor and personality), but I do like what I'm seeing in these first five episodes. ADV has done a nice job with the dub, and I had fun trying to place each voice in their troupe of regular voice actors. Quite unlike most anime I've seen, this one is different, but good.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Chance Pop Session is a fairly new program (it aired on Japanese TV in 2001), and the transfer lives up to expectations for new material. The stylized animation looks very nice on DVD, with strong colors that show no obvious signs of color bleed and good black level and detail. Sometimes the film is processed to look foggy or hazy, but the results are intentional and never distract. I did spot some aliasing in a few scenes, but overall, this is a great looking series.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in either 2.0 Japanese or 5.1 English. Both tracks sound pretty good, but at least in terms of creating an enveloping mix, the 5.1 track has the edge. The original Japanese track, preferable to many anime fans, sounds fine. Dialogue is always clear and natural and the front soundstage presents music and effects with good directionality. But the 5.1 mix, in addition to anchoring the dialogue in the center channel, also makes good use of the surround channels, adding support for the score, atmosphere during cheering crowd scenes, and even some front to back imaging with dialogue. Certainly one of the better anime mixes I've heard lately.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sakura Wars, Saiyuki, Wild Arms, Andromeda, Noir, Princess Nine
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Clean Open and Close
  2. Character Sketches
  3. Production Backgrounds
Extras Review: Extras are on par with most releases from ADV these days. There's the expected clean opening and closing animation, some original TV spots, and two still galleries (each with a running time of about three minutes) set to the score.

ADV trailers this time around include Sakura Wars, Saiyuki, Wild Arms, Andromeda, Noir, and Princess Nine.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Chance Pop Session is an interesting little series that's a big departure from the typical anime that's popular in America. There's very little humor, the pacing is quite slow, and the stylistic flourishes occasionally border on melodramatic, but once I got used to the meditative, lyrical pacing, I found I was quite involved with the characters, and I'm eager to see how things work out.


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