What’s it about? Perception Art is a newly respected medium in which a combined team of a Grader and Artist create immersive 3D sensory art. Yamanishi Kazuya is entering his first year at his high school’s department to study as an Artist and hopes to reconnect with his estranged Childhood Friend Kyo, a third-year Grader. Unfortunately, Artists and Graders are kept on almost completely isolated tracks, with only one collaboration coming up in time before Kyo’s graduation: the Staircaser Contest.
Nothing bums me out quite like shows with unrealized ambition. Watching along with the first episode of Opus.COLORs, I really get the sense that someone in the creative process had an original idea that they were proud of. You can still see glimpses of it in the smooth, featureless ball of “fine” that the end product (a word I use deliberately) offers, and that makes me sad.
At heart, this is an idol show: duos of handsome boys are coming together to make art, and from the looks of things we’ll see their short performances throughout the series on their way to compete for the Big Prize. The concept of “Perception Art” is a smart way to liven up a genre that can become visually stale if you’re just doing rigged dance routines on a blank stage space. These boys are essentially creating short films whenever they do a performance, which theoretically opens the door to a huge swath of tools unbound by the look of the “real” world the characters inhabit. Unfortunately, the example art we see here (which is supposed to be so good as to blow the characters away) falls somewhat short of that potential.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! managed to make the viewer feel like they were walking into the art through the characters’ imagination when it’s really just pencil sketches. Here, the characters are literally experiencing holograms so real they’re on the verge of being bought out by KaibaCorp, but all the performance gives me is the warmth of watching a neat short film on YouTube. This is a concept that would blossom if it took the approach of an Aoki Jun production, just letting individual animators go wild on a set prompt and tone for a few minutes, transporting the audience before returning to the frame of the artists making the art. The CGI of the Perception art looks stiff, but I don’t think it’s meant to, and that disconnect sticks out rather than being a potential tool for an artist versed in the form.
But that’s not the kind of show Opus.COLORs is designed to be. This is a show in which more boys than there’s time to develop and who are mainly distinguishable by hair color get paired off with big “they certainly are standing next to one another” energy. The backstory of how Graders and Artists function is delivered to Kazuya by his other non-capital letter childhood friend in a monologue that honest-to-God starts with the phrase “I’m sure you’re aware.”
The fact that Graders and Artists are largely separated and contemptuous of one another definitely has roots in real life, where “creative” and “technical” elements of collaborative art often have unspoken tension despite how counterintuitive it might seem to someone on the outside (I was certainly in theater long enough to tell you some stories of actors shooting themselves in the foot by looking down their noses at techs). Like the “Perception Art” idea, there’s a rich vein to tap into there in a show about the act of creating art. In this premiere, however, its main function is to provide an obstacle to keep Kazuya from talking to Kyo. It’s practically a Montague v. Capulet brawl when Kazuya sneaks onto the entirely separate Grader campus, which is both absurd and somehow not absurd enough.
I want this show to flourish. Maybe it will! Maybe it’ll cast off the shackles of smoothly polished marketing checklists and do its own weird, funky thing as the weeks wear on. I will be so happy if that’s the case. For now, I can’t bring myself to recommend this unless you’re already a fan of the idol genre and want something comfortably middle-of-the-pack that’s nonetheless trying to stretch a little visually with its central gimmick.