Show by Rock is a musical adventure sporting everything from simple pop concerts to blasting away monsters from alternate realities through the mighty power of guitar shredding. The surreal story follows a young girl and her newly formed bad as they struggle to gain notoriety and become the best gig in town.
For a show you can safely assume to be based around music, it’s jarring that the intro song sounds like one of those annoying 10 hour loop Youtube videos designed to drive you insane. Main character Cyan isn’t a particularly good singer so we can blast past this in the hopes that the intro theme isn’t supposed to be her penultimate creation. Following it with an Engrish title card didn’t do much to signify a bright future for Rock.
The misdirection level in Rock is huge. We start out following Cyan after school as she chickens out on asking to join the music club. She goes home to lament her shyness and bolster her resolve by playing a game on her phone. Then she–
Really, do we have to? There are so many other series out there.
Then she…gets sucked into her phone and finds herself in an alternate dimension where she’s a CGI cat chibi in a maid outfit. Hnnnghhh.
This is an acid trip that makes Etotama look palatable. It’s the most convoluted way of putting a catgirl into an anime, ever. Cyan’s sentient, talking guitar explains that she’s now in Midi City — a pun probably lost on anyone who isn’t too old to be watching this series. The guitar explains that the town revolves around music, but is on the brink of destruction and she’s been chosen to save it. Chosen by whom? Why her? Save it from what? These and other questions won’t be asked by you as you’re busy wondering what the fuck is going on while a subwoofer monster tries to steal Chaos Emeralds from Sonic or whatever the hell this is.
Generic battle music which seems to have been made with as few instruments as possible plays out through the dark monster battles. Music, naturally, is the way to defeat the creatures. Cyan is on hand to play a really grating, simple guitar riff and get the job done. The bad musical taste isn’t limited to an assault on your ears and astute musicians will notice that Cyan’s hands move closer on her guitar as lower notes play. For shame, Rock.
A couple times throughout the first episodes, Cyan pauses to reflect on where she is and what exactly is going on. Her desire to be in a band outweighs her curiosity and she eloquently sums up her state of homeless ignorance by saying, “Oh well.” Her housing situation is conveniently solved by moving in with the girl idol band that scoops her up out of nowhere, expanding the team of animal girls to four: Cyan, whose name is a play on nyan (cat); Chuchu, whose name is a pun on the sound Japanese people apparently think rabbits make, the golden-haired Retoree (Engrish for “retriever”), and…a space alien sheep girl thing named Moa, which is undoubtedly also some sort of clever pun that we can’t figure out. Retoree instantly develops a lesbian crush on Cyan. If you have a series about four young animal girls and you aren’t pandering to the hentai market, you’re just not a proper businessman in the proud nation of Japan.
There are a few things that are fun about Rock. Cyan’s band, Plasmagica, has a boy-band foil which is intentionally horrible and mocks all the boy band cliches you could imagine. Pop idols being assaulted by dark beings make glam poses right up until their impending deaths. The band’s egg-man boss gets distracted between his ADHD and alcoholism and has to be literally whipped into shape by the BDSM mouse-woman who runs the tavern the girls live in and — wait what the fuck? Does anime even pretend to be for children anymore?
Once you get over the initial shock of being thrown from pure animation to pure CGI, the computer rendering is actually very well done. Since the animation is based off of a Guitar Hero styled video game, this is to be expected. That doesn’t make it any less creepy if you aren’t the highest level of otaku. Watching the vacant, darting eyes of the CGI chibis bopping around through the end credits is a little unnerving. However, the end roll song is decidedly better than the opening. Not by much, though. It sounds like it stole a track from School Rumble minus all of the things that made Rumble fun.
The ridiculous plot is coupled with silly sound effects, bad puns, and lackluster music. Oddly, the horrible boy band is actually pretty amazing when they get rolling and their spotlights are the best tracks in the show. Still, for a series that’s allegedly centered around music, it leaves too much to be desired. Rock tries to be a zany trip down the rabbit hole while constantly reeling us back with Cyan’s worrywart personality. We’re asked to suspend our disbelief while constantly being reminded of the real world outside of this strange chibiverse. The result is that Rock isn’t so much confusing as simply difficult to watch due to its lack of immersion. Music nerds looking for something with more authenticity and an actual focus on the craft should stick to Sound! Euphonium and let Rock die.
Recommendation: Skip it!
Title: Show by Rock!!
Original Source: Game
Source Writer: N/A
Source Publisher: Geechs
Director: Takahiro Ikezoe
Writer: Touko Machida
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi et al
Run Start: 04/2015
Review Date: 05/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01-02