What’s the show? BanG Dream! 2nd Season.
And what’s it about? In a nutshell it’s a slice of life show about five high-school girls who form a band called ‘Poppin’ Party!’ with the goal to end up performing at Budokan one day (Budokan is the largest arena in Tokyo–only the biggest bands can fill a crowd there). But it’s a long road, as evidenced by the fact that the entire first season only got them as far as performing at a local music venue–and only after failing their first audition.
And so does the second season continue on with their rocky road to stardom? Eh, kinda…?
What does that mean? Well, there’s two big differences between the 1st and 2nd season. First and most obvious is the fact that the show utilises 3D animation for its character models (with mostly 2D backgrounds)–but I’ll get into that more later. The (arguably) bigger change is the fact that ‘Poppin’ Party!’ aren’t the only band to get focus in this season. We’ve got five more bands, each with 5 new characters per band that are featured frequently and throughout the season.
*starts counting on fingers* But that’s like 25 new characters?! Why would the show do that to its audience? Because, between the first season airing and the second season airing something big happened in the ‘BanG Dream!’ fandom. Namely, a mobile rhythm game called ‘BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!’ and, unlike the first season, it was a runaway success, becoming a massively grossing product for publishing company Bushiroad. And part of the appeal was undoubtedly the four bands that got introduced through the mobile game; ‘Roselia’, ‘Afterglow’, ‘Pastel＊Palettes’ and ‘Hello, Happy World!’ And it was ‘Roselia’ in particular that helped catapult the series, with the goth-rock inspired band constantly topping fan and official polls as the favourite band with the best songs.
So what does that mean for this second series in particular? It means ‘Roselia’ feature a lot. To the point where they are featured as frequently is as organically possible to the narrative flow of the series and they even have their songs as ‘OP’ and ‘ED’ in three of the episodes an honour ~not~ afforded to any of the other bands in the show. This is what we call blatant pandering and fan service and as a fellow ‘Roselia’ stan I was in heaven every minute of it.
Well I guess now that you’ve ‘outed’ yourself, you might as well explain your connection to the series… You make it sound so lurid! Basically, I watched ‘BanG Dream!’s first season way back before I even knew there was a mobile game and I really enjoyed it. To the point where I made an impassioned (if slightly under-researched) post on my site about why ‘BanG Dream Is Better Than Love Live!’–fuelling a rivalry that pretty much only exists in my head… It wasn’t until the end of 2018 that I found out about the ‘BanG Dream! Girls Band Party!’ mobile game and I was hooked. Not “spending my life-savings”-hooked, but “playing it every day for an hour or so”-hooked.
And how’s that going to skew your overall verdict of this series as far as reviewing it impartially? Right, so imagine a window, this is me throwing impartiality out that window. There will be next to no impartiality here.
Thanks for being honest I suppose… This is a hard show to review for me because on the one hand, the first season of ‘BanG Dream!’ was flawed and occasionally boring–whereas this new season is consistently entertaining and high-quality not to mention smartly constructed. The irlwaifu, who watches most of the seasonal anime with me, was to put it succinctly–not a fan of season 1 she found it dull and boring and took every opportunity to make fun of it. Whereas season 2 made her smile and laugh and sing-a-long and actually look forward to the forthcoming 3rd season–such is the difference between these seasons. For anyone who hasn’t watched or played or been any part of this series it’s hard to recommend a show that has a polarising, first season and make someone sit-through it just so they can get to the awesome goodness of the second season. People drop shows midway through a single episode, can you imagine what kind of critical acrobatics I’d have to go through to convince someone to watch twelve(+) episodes just to get to something they’d find worthwhile?!
Okay, I get it. Then who is this review for? I, uh… I don’t know. Myself, I guess? In a way this is just me signal boosting a series I love and showing how much I love it. I mean, in the 3 months since it’s been out I’ve watched it all through twice and some episodes I’ve watched four times. That might not seem like a lot, but I seldom–if ever–watch a series through more than once unless there’s years between viewings.
That good, huh? The characters and songs and animation is just so unbelievably high quality here. And back onto the topic of 3D animation, well I’ve never been a fan of it until I saw what magic they were capable of here! Never once did the animation fall into ‘uncanny valley’ territory and the 3D animation actually improved upon what was previously done in 2D–as evidenced by some recreated flashback scenes to season one! Not only that the attention to detail in the live performances is immaculate with individual fingering noticeable on guitars and keyboards as well as the overall excellent choreography and lighting of these lengthy sequences.
And what about your favourite episode? No doubt, ‘Hello, Happy World’s’ episode stands out as the highlight from the season. I’ve watched the episode five times already and I never get sick of it (you can find more info on it by reading my single episode review of it here).
But it’s not ‘PERFECT’ right? You’ve gotta have some issues with it, yeah? I mean sure, if you want me to nitpick. The ‘Pastel＊Palettes’ episode was a weak-link–as expected. Likewise there’s an overall sense that larger plot points are being intentionally sidelined for the inevitable 3rd season. And for my liking there’s not enough songs featured per episode as I would like, but these are all complaints that come from me being a super-fan, rather than complaints indicative of the product to the average viewer.
Right, so try as you might I want you to come up with a final recommendation and review for ‘BanG Dream! 2nd Season’–even with all that aforementioned bias. Put simply, the 2nd season of ‘BanG Dream’ not only improves upon everything that came before and caters to both fans of the mobile game and non-fans alike with impressive visuals, catchy songs and an all-round infectious energy. It also delivers a compelling slice of life story, with stellar voice acting and a surprisingly unpredictable narrative despite being a part of an existing product. I’ve had this dream before but it’s all the sweeter now: 93 out of 100.
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