Girls Band Cry Is Over And Basically I Have Nothing To Live For Now


Girls Band Cry (ガールズバンドクライ) is a 2024 original anime series by Toei Animation. Originally conceived as far back as 2021, GBC sought to create a real band backed up by an anime series. This was before Bocchi the Rock's Kessoku Band spawned something similar, but in reverse, as I understand it. The manga came first for Bocchi, then the anime production facilitated the need for some level of real band. You can see them play on THE FIRST TAKE. Some music videos for Togenashi Togeari started coming out a full year before the anime debut, featuring the same characters that would star in it.

GBC came out swinging, with shockingly smooth and fresh 3D animation, outstanding voice acting, middle fingers...and also tripped over its own feet by being unlicensed in most of the world. No Crunchyroll, no Hulu or Disney (hooray!), France got it on ADN, which I hadn't ever heard of. In a way, though, it was like a little blessing. Watching the series every week with a tight knit community of those who had discovered it brewed a special feeling, like we had all discovered this secret, amazing anime that we weren't supposed to see. Speaking anecdotally, I have not felt that way in years, if ever, to this extent. Once we got over a bit of MTL/stolen subs drama (yet another echo from the past), some generous folks started delivering quality subtitles in a timely fashion. Thank you, Nakayubi and SobsPlease.

Nina Iseri strikes out on her own in Tokyo after struggling with her family back home, and getting bullied in school. Alone and anxious, Nina clings fondly to the music of Diamond Dust, whose songs changed everything for her and gave her strength. After meeting Momoka Kawaragi, the world's oldest 20 year old and original leader of Diamond Dust, Nina's life turns upside down as she sings with Momoka in the rain...

Nina is brutish, with emotions always running hot. Momoka swears that Diamond Dust is behind her, playing cool and distant, but Nina sniffs out otherwise as the two grow into making music together. Along the way, they'll meet Subaru Awa the daughter of a famous actress who really wants nothing to do with it. Tomo Ebizuka and Rupa join up later, and together they become Togenashi Togeari. True to the title, though, GBC goes for a dramatic, rock-and-roll storyline with some real emotions in it for the characters. This has some heavier themes not usually found in your average, fluffy slice-of-life romp. For something apparently designed to sell us CDs and concert tickets, there was an awful lot of thought put into weaving this story. But why shouldn't there be? Stories are important, even in the most cynical and commercialized anime, which I simply could not ever reasonably accuse this show of being. It's that damn good.

Part of what made it so good, naturally, was the animation. I was rethinking everything I thought I knew about 3D animation in Japanese anime productions. Traditionally, I would laud 2D animation above all else, and for me personally, nothing has exactly the aesthetic qualities of pre-digital cel animation. Girls Band Cry often chooses not to mimic 2D animation, instead opting for perfectly smooth movement that much more closely resembles a high quality pre-rendered video game cutscene. There's no shortage of frame cutting for cartoony effect, or other anime iconography (sweat drops, angry veins, etc), but the modus operandi is buttery smooth. This somehow adds a sense of realism to the show. Clothes are finely textured (check out Subaru's turtleneck here), eyes scan around the scene in natural motion, white material glows in the sunlight, so on and so forth. You can pick out most shots from the show and find something interesting, even backgrounds clearly based on real photographs have a certain look.

...At the same time, there are a lot of 2D elements at play! You may be familiar with the opening, which is about 50/50 between 2D and 3D characters! Minor characters or particular scenes will be in 2D. One of my favorite episodes in the series, 7, features flashbacks with Momoka that are only 2D. This lends them a sort of nostalgic quality, which I don't imagine was entirely intentional, it was probably not economic to make a young Momoka model. But it plays so nicely with the story that it makes you wonder!

Sometimes, this kind of thing can be a distraction and call potentially unwanted attention to the production, rather than the story. Here though? It's a smooth ride! Maybe not seamless, exactly, but I found it extremely charming. A few art switch-ups never took me out of the realistic immersion the show works to create. Funnily enough, I think it's because 2D elements come up often enough that it's a lovable feature rather than obstruction.

Because the story ended up being so interesting, how about some SPOILER TALK! You have been warned! Do NOT hover over or tap the spoiler text if you want to watch Girls Band Cry blind! If you have seen it or just don't care...well, here comes some nitpicking!

*deep breath*

Girls Band Cry, in my humble opinion, was very willing to resolve stories and plot threads in unexpected ways. Now that the show is over, it seems like this may have been a consequence of a short thirteen episodes to cover a decent size cast. An extremely lovable, engaging cast that felt a lot like they could be real people, but all the same I shall express my thoughts. Let's give some examples...

Subaru is first introduced in episode three, but she has her episode in four. She's an absolute joy through the whole series, mind you. Nina ends up going to Subaru's house where Subaru explains the pressure she's under to pursue acting, she's even named after her still-popular grandmother, Tendo Awa's most famous movie, Subaru. All this is really good! Nina encourages Subaru to tell her grandma that she's ready to drop acting. Momoka and Nina later visit Subaru and Tendo during a shoot, and then they...drag Subaru away before she gives Tendo the quitting speech? Tendo gives her own spiel privately to Momoka and Nina, which gives the impression that Subaru quitting would absolutely break her heart.

Later, as the girls rehearse, Subaru rightfully chews out Nina for ruining her moment to confess. Nina blames Subaru(!), in generic terms, for not thinking about how her grandmother feels, to which Subaru gets even more upset at Nina. After throwing a fit, she calms down and says "How's that for acting?" before being fine with the idea of telling Tendo later. Uh, what? It's a deflating, emotionally confusing ending to what is otherwise a great episode. This didn't ruin the characters or anything, but it was definitely a stumbling block, of which there were a few more in my eyes.

Nina's struggle with her emotions, her trauma, music saving her life, and general existence are endearing and well done aspects of her character. To everyone who sees some of themselves in her, you are precious. I have nothing wrong with a protagonist who gets angry, has issues, and is sometimes her own downfall. All that said, your mileage may vary with her. I was a little shaky with her at first. She's insistent on Momoka and everyone getting together to beat Diamond Dust, but I found myself generally agreeing with Momoka that it wasn't important. Later on, Momoka has an emotional breakdown with Nina after visiting a Diamond Dust show. Once that happened, everything fell into place for me. It was an outstanding moment for both characters. It's a complicated set of emotions that drive these two girls to each other, and they don't mince words or make it easy. Momoka sees herself in Nina, and it hurts. I don't think the show totally closed the thread that amazing episode created, but it more or less works out from there.

Sometimes the sense of realism in Girls Band Cry is its greatest ally. Characters have flaws, things don't work out sometimes, and "villains" aren't purely evil and out to get our girls. Nina's father was so grounded in traditional parenting that it almost seemed like he was in the wrong anime. This is a compliment of course! On the other hand, the realism is a bit at odds with traditional storytelling, or at least that's the lens I view these story hiccups in. It's realistic that Togenashi Togeari's single under the label would flop, but it feels a bit weird as a viewer that they sort of "give up", after all the drama. It's not nonsense though, taking the episode in full, it's very good and you do see how it gets there with everyone's goals and group dynamic mixing in. I'll admit, I might just be weird there, but it was an emotionally satisfying ending regardless, and bringing in Hina one-on-one for a sit-down with Nina was just perfect. Hina is an interesting character who I wish were featured a bit more.

It's a shame that Girls Band Cry might have to stay with the more "underground" anime fans. From a business perspective (the worst perspective), I can see why an original anime series, not connecting to any existing IP, promoting a Japanese band, wouldn't make it over to most places. Still, I feel that helped to create an engaged, passionate community. I know I was foaming at the mouth every week for Girls Band Cry Friday. This aspect of the fandom and response to the show mirrors the story of the anime, in some aspects. TogeToge is an underrated, unknown band who can seriously rock. In our real world, Girls Band Cry is a sleeper hit that grew from word of mouth, and was unnecessarily difficult to watch, for many folk. I can't help but wonder if the parallel inspired the passion, here.

It seems the real life TogeToge has been successful, but the future of the anime series is unclear. There has been mention of "the story will continue", but that could mean almost anything. The girls have been Live2D-ified and made appearances that way. Is that how we'll be seeing them going forward? Wouldn't a season two benefit their next tour or something? It's hard to say.

I'm going to pray and maybe buy some merchandise off CDJapan, because that's about all we can do right now. Without an official release to support, we're stuck. If season two does get made, I will be there. Until then, though, let's raise our middle fingers and prop up this unique gem for everyone. If you've seen all the recent music anime but not this one, I implore you to seek it out!

For folks who watched it live, GBC has left a special mark. It surprised with its us look, intrigued us with character depth and drama, and left a gaping hole in the heart from being far too short. I have one less thing to live for now that it's over, but the hope for seeing these girls again will keep me going.

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Rupa! :3

- James