Picture this: Seisho Music Academy, a prestigious school with nearly a hundred years of history, is now the home of two very important, talented young women: Karen Aijo and Hikaru Kagura. It's a beautiful, ornate school that's home to tons of female performers. Stage performers, of course. And they put on some of the coolest shows around, which translate to this anime series perfectly: It's called Revue Starlight, and it's one of the best anime you'll see this year – especially if you're into yuri anime.
Yuri (literally "lily" in Japanese) is a genre of manga, anime, video games, and other content heavily featuring and revolving around lesbian relationships. It's also referred to as "girls' love" or "shoujo ai." If you've ever heard of yaoi, which focuses on gay relationships between men, it's basically the same thing. It's solely focused on women falling in love, maintaining relationships, having sex, and plenty of flirting.
Notable titles include the classic Dear Brother, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Maria Watches Over Us, and Aoi Hana. Some are sticky sweet and adorable, and some are downright raunchy, but every one of them has at least some elements of women being linked romantically. Revue Starlight falls in the same vein, even if it isn't always classified as outright yuri.
Unofficially based on the Takarazuka Review, a Japanese all-female theater troupe famous for extravagant Broadway-style musicals and other productions, Revue Starlight takes a colorful cast of female leads and throws them into magnificent roles. Assuming center stage is the aforementioned Karen Aijo, a young woman who first attended a performance from the very same theater troupe when she was young along with her best friend (Hikari Kagura).
At that moment, she makes up her mind the world of theater is the one for her. While Hikari takes to England to study abroad, she eventually returns to Seisho Music Academy to attend alongside Karen, and together they work steadfastly to make their showbiz dreams come true. Hikari promises Karen that one day they'll stand on the very same stage as performers, which is a promise she intends to keep.
The class is working to perfect the annual play Starlight, which is the ultimate end goal. We see plenty of auditions, camaraderie between the young starlets, and the hardcore and intensive training they must undergo if they want to be able to put on a competent production. And that's all pretty normal, right? You've got to work hard if you want to make it in show business.
But oh, no, that's just the beginning of it. There's some bizarre stuff going on behind the scenes with Revue Starlight auditions, as the girls must face off against each other during on-stage battles to emerge victorious as the top stars. We're talking gorgeous setups with perfectly choreographed shows between girls, like the majesty of Revolutionary Girl Utena crossed with the lighthearted Kaleido Star.
Then there are the yuri overtones, which permeate practically every facet of the show – a few near-kisses there, some obvious girl crushes here, it's absolutely dazzling, with a talking giraffe thrown in for good measure. The surreal stage battles, weapons, and magical lilt to every single facet of the show. It's as if you took a sword fight and imbued it with the most romantic aspects of a flamboyant stage show. It's practically teeming with beautiful, pure, and sometimes romantic relationships between the numerous female students, and it's an absolute joy to watch.
The yuri genre has gotten a bit stale as of late when it comes to newer anime series, and while Revue Starlight isn't overtly cemented in typical tropes, it's flavored just enough to be palatable for those looking for that kind of thing as well as magical, surreal wonderment. If you've ever enjoyed shows like Kaleido Star, Keijo!!!, or Utena, you owe it to yourself to jump into the Revue Starlight fandom yesterday. This series is going to be one you want to keep your eye on for the distant future.