What’s it about? Artist Republic Performers, also known as ARP, is made up of four of Japan’s best singers and dancers. They aim to bring male idol groups to the global stage with their high-energy, interactive performers. The four members, Shinji, Reiji, Daiya, and Leon, talk about how they came to be members of the group.
Watching the first episode of ARP: Backstage Pass, I had the distinct feeling I was missing something. It eschewed a typical narrative in favor of a mockumentary format, starting off with the characters complaining about having to record an interview straight after a concert. From there, it largely takes the form of interviews and narrated flashbacks, interspersed with CG concert footage of them singing and dancing.
So, I looked it up and I was indeed missing something. It turns out, ARP: Backstage Pass is the latest addition to a huge multimedia performance, with interactive concerts, augmented reality videos, the works. ARP, which can also stand for Augmented Reality Project, seems to be a cross between the holographic Hatsune Miku concerts and VTubers like Kizuna Ai.
I doubt ARP has the level of fandom in the US that it does in Japan, so I doubt it’ll gain any serious traction here. It’s not helped by the fact that if you’re not already a fan, the anime is not that interesting. The boys just don’t have that much personality. Shinji is sad because his dad is disappointed in his violin skills. He also has glasses, bleached hair, and has an ugly dog. Reiji and Daiya used to be in a rock band based in Yokohama. Leon likes to dance.
Also, I’m not surprised Shinji’s dad is disappointed in him, because he never learned not to touch the horsehair on his bow. DON’T TOUCH THE HAIR. YOU’LL GET THE OILS FROM YOUR FINGERS ON IT AND RUIN IT AND HAVE TO REHAIR IT. DAMN IT.
Sorry, where was I?
Oh yes. ARP: Backstage Pass. Ahem.
Joking rants aside, it really is hard to find much to say here. It’s like watching Behind the Music for a band you’ve never heard of and don’t care about. If you’re into boy band idol music, maybe you’ll be inspired to look into it more, but like many similar series, it seems more like an infomercial for a product.
I will give it this: probably because it has its roots in VTubers, the concert scenes did have some of the best CG I’ve seen in an idol show. While most shows have stiff, awkward rigs that move unnaturally and universally look terrible, ARP looks… actually pretty good. The rigs are expressive and move smoothly and naturally, with a lot of articulation.
But then the episode ends with (I guess?) the voice actors riffing in a studio, and their CG selves are superimposed over them against a live-action background and it’s riiiiiight back to looking super awkward.
This review is short, but I really am out of things to say. ARP: Backstage Pass is a niche within a niche, a very particular phenomenon restricted almost entirely to Japan that English-speaking fans will only have extremely limited access to. Which is fine—anime is under no obligation to cater to a Western audience—but it doesn’t leave me with much to say. I don’t even really have anything to snark about.
If it’s your thing, it’s your thing. If it’s not, it’s not. That’s all there really is to it.