What’s it about? Before Aimoto Rinku moved away for her parents’ zoological work, she had the chance to attend an open-air concert where she heard a song that captured her heart. On her first day at a new school in Japan, she’s startled to hear that very song from her childhood playing over the PA system. Chasing the sound, Rinku finds herself in the exciting world of performance DJing.
I’ll be honest with you, AniFam: at this stage of the premiere review season, at this stage of the work week, at this stage of the year, I’m feeling pretty tired. But lucky for me (and lucky for you) D4DJ is like a swig of energy drink. It’s fun, colorful, high-octane, and I can already tell I’m going to have Rinku’s beloved dance track stuck in my head for the whole weekend.
D4DJ comes to us from Bushiroad, a brand familiar with franchises about girls and music. Having already covered idols (Love Live), rock bands (BanG Dream), and highly symbolic and theatrical sword fights (Revue Starlight), they’re now trying their hand at a story about DJing. Music and performance is at the heart of this show, and thus far there’s definitely been no slacking off in that department.
The show is animated in a mix of 2D and 3D rendering, which takes a little getting used to but makes the dance sequences smooth and eye-catching. Folks sensitive to flashing lights might want to tread carefully as there are some flickering, flashing colors in the lovingly-rendered, glowstick-filled concert scenes (though depending on your streaming service, you might face a problem where the song lyrics don’t get any subtitles).
The episode features two musical numbers: the fated concert that Rinku (and, it seems, some other characters) witnessed in childhood, and a demonstration in one of the school’s concert halls. Yes, this school is so supportive of the arts and flush with funding that they have multiple concert halls, where they seem to regularly host after-school raves where their students can show off their talents. It’s a glorious vision of an education system.
The mix of music and choreography and lightshow spectacular are genuinely pretty enthralling, and do a good job hyping you up and making you feel like you’re part of the audience in this dark, energy-filled room. When Rinku bursts out of the concert hall announcing that she wants to learn to do that, you can get where she’s coming from.
The school also, of course, has a lunchtime radio program, which is where Rinku hears her beloved song playing. Bursting into the sound booth, she meets Akashi Maho, who is quickly set up as her partner in crime (well, remixing) and her narrative foil. Rinku is constantly high-energy, bubbly, and a bit airheaded, in a way that might be endearing or might be exhausting depending on how you feel about this character type and whether or not she develops across the series. Maho is much more cool and collected, and has the technical knowledge to balance out Rinku’s raw passion.
While the characters seem pretty archetypal so far, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily shallow: it just means you can settle into expectations about what you’re in for, and sit back and watch their unlikely and music-fueled friendship inevitably unfold.
If nothing else, their enthusiasm is infectious, and portrayed in quite a sweet way. Rinku gets lost in the rhythm and dances randomly around the room, since she’s just so full of the joy of music. Instead an animated sequence, the ending credits for the premiere just play over Maho messing around with her remix software, bopping along to her song in the sound booth with a sort of goofy glee.
If nothing else, D4DJ promises to be fun. There’s little of concern in this episode, with no fanservice or leery camera to speak of. One possible thing to keep an eye out for is the sort of casual cultural appropriation that can come with rap music and the associated aesthetics, but there’s nothing too egregious in the first episode. This seems to be more focused on school club antics rather than contests or industry, so it may even get to sidestep the discussion of exploitation in the music industry that hovers over other shows of a similar subject matter.
We’ll have to see how things pan out, but for now I’m definitely settling in for more explorations of the technical business of DJing, more high-energy concert scenes, and more interactions between our two leads that show their love of music. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go find that featured song and listen to it until it gets out of my brain.