First Impression: Stella of the Theater: World Dai Star

Kokona has big dreams but not enough self-confidence to pursue them wholeheartedly. Good thing her best friend, Shizuka, knows how to say exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment to fill her with courage! As a result, even though Kokona doesn’t have the Sense, a special acting ability that sets the world’s greatest female stage actresses apart from all others, she still manages to develop her acting skills enough to qualify to audition for the famous female troupe Sirius, based in Tokyo’s theater district, Asakusa. As Kokona rises before dawn to catch the train into the city, Shizuka is there, cheering her on. As they wait for the train, her faithful friend critiques her Romeo and gives a stunning rendition of her own. (Shouldn’t Shizuka be auditioning too?) Once in Tokyo, the pair come across a snooty German girl who, it transpires, is also auditioning. She comes from an old theater family and doesn’t think much of Kokona’s abilities which she catches a glimpse of along the way. She also quite rudely ignores Shizuka completely, but the feeling is mutual. Tsundere face-off! Finally, it’s time for the audition and it is a massacre. The lead actress, Hiiragi-san, seems determined to shred the hopes and hearts of the aspiring actresses lined up before her and proceeds to intimidate half of them into silence or worse, tears, and throw the other half off their game completely. Only the German girl can hold her own. Then it’s Kokona’s turn. Hoo boy. Will a miracle happen, or will the perky pink-haired hopeful’s dreams be dashed once and for all?

Yup, she can hear ’em…

Guys, guys, guys. Ok, I know this sounds pretty…familiar. After all, every year we tend to get at least one Takarazuka Revue-inspired series about the cutthroat competition and rigid regulations that the aspiring actresses of this unusual little slice of Japanese performance culture—the all-female stage revue—must navigate. And it makes sense too, considering that the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka himself, was inspired by the Takarazuka Revue, and shoujo as a genre owes a debt to the company for both its stylistics and storytelling. But before you skip past this one as too derivative to bother with, or too short on idol choreographies to excite interest, let me present two things for your consideration: first, there are some wonderful moments of performance here from studio Lerche, initially when Shizuka presents her Romeo, and again with the German girl’s audition. Not only is the voice acting really strong in these moments (and with Kokona’s final performance as well), but the character acting—that is, the animation—is so vivid, almost as if there are more frames per second, with attention to small gestures and micromovements. Reminds me of The Glass Mask and its attention to the craft of acting. Second, and this one is the kicker, the final shot of the episode turns everything—and I mean everything—on its head!!! I don’t want to spoil it, but trust me, give the episode a try, look out for that final shot, and then tell me you’re not intrigued and you didn’t exclaim aloud at your television or computer screen. Go ahead, I dare you! Go enjoy this little gem about aspiring actresses. I think it’s going to have a few surprises in store. 

Shizuka is a ride-or-die kinda friend!

Stella of the Theater: World Dai Star is streaming on Crunchyroll.

4 thoughts on “First Impression: Stella of the Theater: World Dai Star

    1. Great question! If you’re new to this corner of Japanese performance culture, then there are two other series that I would recommend ahead of this one. For the sheer brilliance and vision of the animation, check out Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight (HiDIVE). It’s outlandish, wildly creative (talking giraffe), and stunning! (kViN over on has some fantastic breakdowns of the episodes and series.)

      For a more “realistic”, emotionally engaging story, check out Kageki Shojo!!, from a couple summers ago, which both Twwk and I wrote about at the time. It’s a great training/school dramedy (Crunchyroll).

      If you’re more interested in the acting side of things, rather than the musical theatre, I’d recommend Glass no Kamen, which dives deep into acting styles, the cost of method acting, etc, and is a foundational work in the sub-genre (Glass Mask, the 2005 version, Crunchyroll).

      That’s my two cents at least! This one is fine, but after a couple episodes, I can’t say that it stands out in any of the ways that these other series do. 😉

Leave a Reply