What’s it about? Tiara, an apprentice witch, journeys from the town Bristol to the metropolis Mamkestell, home of Flora Girls’ Academy, a school named after the Dawn Witch Flora, to become a student. It’s there that she quickly finds that she truly has the latent ability to become a proper Witch, with a bright future ahead of her: a future that will include joining a group and helping her new friends avoid failure.
Lapis Re:Lights is being handled by Yokohama Animation Lab, a relatively new studio (founded in 2015) that’s done in-betweening for a wide range of series, including Carole & Tuesday, Mob Psycho 100 II, Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These, and more. However, this time, they’re not the in-betweeners: Yokohama Animation Lab is producing Lapis Re: Lights, which is their second full production to date. (The other being Miru Tights, which was an original net animation.)
Honestly, because it was only their second in-house production, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Lapis Re:LiGHTs, though let me be upfront: I really, really like idols and I really, really like idol anime. That being said, no reviewer can survive on liking idols alone. Thankfully, Lapis Re: Lights offered me enough in terms of enjoyment and content to hopefully be a symbol of good things to come. It’s also a rather nice show to look at.
Lapis is directed by Hiroyuki Hata (known for Kamichu!) with music by Satoshi Hono. Additionally, Hajime Asano (the author of Mayo Chiki!) and Kasumi Tsuchida (of Nekopara infamy) are serving as writers for the series, with Taro Ikegami (who has worked on other idol series like IDOLM@STER) serving as the lead Character Designer and Chief Animation Director.
Additionally, the anime is the first of what is planned to be a multimedia franchise. KLAb and Kadokawa Corporation have plans for Lapis to include a smartphone game, a manga adaptation, novels, physical CD releases – fitting for a series about a lot of idols and even live events. Already, goods are slated to release in Japan on July 7, a mere three days after the official premier airs around the world.
Now, speaking of premiers, let’s get into episode one.
The first episode of Lapis follows Tiara, our main character, as she finishes her trip to the magical city of Mamkestell, which is home to Flora Girls’ Academy, the school for witches. Admission is easy: anyone who can become a witch is welcomed within Flora’s hallowed halls, which is how Tiara finds herself a brand new student at the school. Quickly, Tiara meets a gaggle of students, all properly color coded with unique hair and eye colors so we know who’s special and who’s just a background character.
It’s shortly after this that the viewer starts to notice more characters who stand out. It’s also at this point that I want to say that this series has a lot of idols: like… there’s twenty different characters that make up the various groups and I get the feeling we’ll be seeing every single member over the course of this cour. In fact, episode one is a visual crash course of sorts: you see pretty much every idol character in the franchise. But like I said, they’re all thankfully distinct enough that you’ll never feel confused, though I am worried about how twenty different characters will be balanced over the series’ run.
Thankfully, that quickly got pushed to the back of mind as I really started to enjoy the premiere episode. Honestly, the setting was instantly charming, and pulled me in: Mamkestell is a nice blend of late-18th century style with a general magical setting. It’s not anything new, nor has it done anything particularly new with the world-building we get in episode one, but it serves as a solid base for a new spin for an idol anime that’s billing itself as “magic meets idols.”
However, what does put a unique spin on things is the magic: it’s activated by whistling, which while not necessarily ground-breaking, fits a series where music will be playing a major role. My hope is that we’ll get more world-building around the magic, and it won’t just fade into the background as a “once in a while” thing. After all, this is at a school for witches.
While my overall first impression was quite positive, I do have to take a moment to talk about Japan’s actual idol industry. While I really, really love idols, something that I kept thinking about – even in this first episode – was Japan’s own idol industry, which currently includes over 10,000 idols actively entertaining across the country. Included in that are the more than 3,000 idol groups and units that also perform and entertain.
As much as I enjoy idols and idol media, the reality of the lives of idols is always on my mind: while idols certainly can create a positive effect, it often comes at the cost of their own comfort, autonomy, and even their safety. It comes with continual sexualization, purity culture, and shaming. Truly, it’s a poor exchange for simply wanting to do a job you like or even love. Idols deserve far better treatment, simply because they’re people. They have a right to be fully realized individuals.
However, Lapis Re:LiGHTs avoids all of this by having the idols in a world that’s distinctly not Earth: they’re idols-in-making in the sense that it’s clear music will be a major theme, but they’re also students and witches. The nastier, crueler side of Japan’s very real idol industry just… isn’t something you have to consider in this world, though it’s something I’ll continue to reflect on through the first three episodes. After all, while the girls of Lapis might be animated, their voice actors – who are also the actual members of the units – aren’t: they’re performers moving through the idol industry.
Ultimately, Yokohama Animation Lab has delivered a solid first episode for Lapis Re:Lights. It’s charming enough, and honestly, has the foundation for a very charming idol series. While Lapis isn’t doing idols in a completely new way, it’s doing them solidly, offering up a pretty base for what could be a very charming series, if Yokohama Animation Lab invests in growing the plot.
While episode one is admittedly very basic, I really do think Lapis could find its stride and be better than most idol anime usually are. Episode one was really well executed: the world of Mamkestell is interesting, the animation looks very nice, and the magic system was intriguing enough that I want to know more about it. I’m already looking forward to episode two next week: maybe we’ll see how the idol aspect of the franchise fits into this world.
Truly, I’m really rooting for Yokohama Animation Lab. I think I can solidly say that I’ll be following Lapis Re: LiGHTs with high hopes that it goes from charming to really great.