Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: D4DJ First Mix

Original Run: October 23, 2020 - January 29, 2021
Number of Episodes: 13
Genre: Music

***The following may contain spoilers for D4DJ First Mix. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

At Yoba Girls’ Academy, inspiration can spark at the sound of a single beat.

Having just returned to Japan, the happy and energetic Rinku Aimoto (voiced by Yuuka Nishio) falls in love with the music being played over the school’s broadcasting system. She rushes to find out what the song is and meets Maho Akashi (voiced by Karin Kagami), an amateur DJ.

Rinku shows an innate ability for rhythm, and Maho thinks this is a chance to make it on the academy’s prestigious DJ scene. The two form a unit, but they realize they are missing some key elements. Thus, they recruit visual artist Muni Oonaruto and music prodigy Rei Togetsu (voiced respectively by Haruka Mimura and Kanon Shizaki) to give their sound a special kick.

Together, the four form the group Happy Around. They are now well on their way to becoming the most popular DJ unit in Yoba Girls’ Academy history.

Series Positives

If you start watching this series, the first thing I need to tell you is, “Look past IT; it does grow on you.”

Assuming most of you have no idea what I am talking about, don’t worry; I’ll explain in the review’s Series Negatives section.

The second thing I need to say is, “D4DJ First Mix (D4DJ) is not a re-skin of Love Live.” Granted, this series is eerily similar to most other idol anime. Simply replace ensembles casts, large concerts, and dance numbers with mixing boards, DJ remixes, and occasional dance numbers, and you’re pretty well in familiar territory.

And thirdly, go into D4DJ with a willingness to give it a chance. Should you do so, you’ll be surprised by how good this show turns out to be.

To expose my ignorance, before this series, I never appreciated the work of a DJ. Or, at least, I never thought their job to be all that difficult. I had always assumed the extent of their effort went no further than pressing the PLAY button. I did suppose it took a keen ear to build a well-balanced playlist, but I felt even I could do that.

I must also admit; I still think an average DJ does this. I’ve been to enough clubs to convince me of it. However, before D4DJ, I had lumped all DJs into this viewpoint. Thanks to this show, I now realize that a good DJ has to juggle a lot more to ensure the party never goes into a lull; there is a lot more artistry in the craft.

Despite the inescapable manufactured feel associated with multi-media franchises – ideas used to market tie-in video games, television shows, and merchandise – D4DJ, the anime, was well-told, and it kept to a strong focus – its music.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the sound of D4DJ more than any idol anime I have seen (and I have seen plenty that were much better executed than this show).

Regardless of if you enjoy the music or not, the result is the same. This series spent much of its time developing the members of Happy Around (a name I find to be incredibly stupid by the way). Early on, you got a real sense that everyone took what they were doing seriously. They had pride in their efforts, and the payoff was great.

I also thought it was smart of this show to have Happy Around put more effort in bettering their set and getting their name out instead of aiming straight for the top. There were plenty of instances where they came up short; they faced setbacks. It made the times when they did win more meaningful and more well-earned. The group established themselves as an up and coming force to be reckoned with, which, in turn, makes the prospects of a second season interesting (though I have heard nothing about a continuation).

As for the members of Happy Around themselves, they were D4DJ’s secret weapon. Rei Togetsu, being from a classical music background, was trying to break out of the strictness of upbringing; her unit’s artistic freedom allowed her to breathe. Muni Oonaruto, the group’s VJ, had plenty of confidence in her work but had difficulty taking any form of criticism; her getting up on stage took away the barrier she sometimes clung to when posting her art online. Maho Akashi’s knowledge of the DJ scene served as the foundation of Happy Around’s success; she knew what the team needed to do to take them to the next level. Rinku Aimoto (my favorite of the four) was energetic and pushed her friends to cast away their doubts; she saw Happy Around for what it was – a way to have fun.

I also want to point out that this series helped illustrate my biggest gripe with the Love Live franchise. With only four main characters to highlight (as opposed to Love Live’s nine), it was simpler for D4DJ to grow its cast. Plus, any supporting characters were never at risk of overloading this show. In other words, it was easy to keep track of who everyone was.

For a series that could have quickly become a hollow shell, D4DJ had far more personality than I ever expected.

Series Negatives

The animation is bad. The animation is SOOOO bad.

When I first started D4DJ, I thought I made a terrible mistake. That is why I said earlier that you need to look past it. The story is good, the characters are interesting, there are things to like about this series. But the animation is not one of them.

It’s kind of a joke in anime when the main characters are starkly apparent. A scene starts in a room filled with people, most of whom look indistinguishable from everyone else. Then you come across someone with the most flamboyant hair, outfit, or both. Sure enough, guess who we’ll be following for the rest of the show?

D4DJ took this to an extreme.

This series also thought it was a good idea to include all the stereotypical anime reactions. Unfortunately, it was not considered how this made the already bubbly CGI characters look even more awkward.

For better or worse, D4DJ left an impression. I’m inclined to believe it was the latter, and it would have been had the rest of the show not stepped up its game.

Aside from the visuals, you need to take this series as it is. You’ll need to accept the existence of a highly advanced high school dedicated to all forms of music that is willing to shell out the money for several rooms filled with soundboard equipment, multiple concert halls, and insanely well-funded festivals. At least in Love Live, one school would be represented by a single idol group. In D4DJ, though, Yoba Girls’ Academy was the launch platform for Japan’s up and coming DJ units.

I have seen shows with more ludicrous setups, so it wasn’t too much of a leap to accept D4DJ’s universe. And yet, for some reason, it came off as incredibly silly.

Luckily, this show’s more questionable elements did nothing to take away from the bigger picture. D4DJ remained incredibly fun and enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

I feel I must reiterate. Be willing to give this show a chance. It might not look like it right away, but there is quite a lot going for this series.

Yeah, the setup is a tad absurd, and the animation isn’t great, but where it matters, things do come together.

The focus of this show remains firmly on its characters and the music those characters make. As a result, the story comes out strong and well worth watching.

D4DJ First Mix has earned a recommendation.

But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise D4DJ First Mix? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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