Studio Bones is one of the most popular animation studios in the anime sphere. Even if you're not familiar with its name, you'll be familiar with its work, as Bones is the studio behind such hits as Mob Psycho 100 and the anime behemoth, My Hero Academia. However, one of the studio's more surprising hits was made in collaboration with Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty. While Sanrio is most famous for its mascots and the multitude of media featuring and starring them, the company is always trying to branch out into new markets.
Show by Rock!! first started as a mobile phone game in 2013 and was Sanrio's first attempt at reaching older teenagers. The game's mixture of rhythm-based gameplay, customization and virtual pet elements meant that it quickly proved popular enough to get an anime adaptation. Studio Bones was brought in to animate this adaptation, and the show launched in 2015. The show was licensed by Funimation, which dubbed and simulcasted the show in America. The first series followed Cyan Hijirikawa, a first-year high school student with a love of music. Although Cyan is a talented musician, especially on the guitar, her lack of confidence prevents her from capitalizing on her immense skill.
However, while playing her favorite rhythm game, things change. When Cyan acquires a guitar called the Strawberry Heart in-game, she gets sucked into the game world, landing in Midi City. She ends up at a concert by the band Trichronika. However, when an evil monster attacks and attempts to corrupt the band, Cyan successfully drives them off by playing the Strawberry Heart. Once the monsters are gone, Maple Arisugawa, the CEO of Banded Rocking Records, approaches Cyan and asks her to sign with the label. Cyan agrees and quickly joins up with the band Plasmagica, and the group sets out to become the best band in the world. Of course, along the way, they need to solve the mystery of the dark monsters, and Cyan needs to find her way back to her own world.
The anime proved popular with both fans of the game and those new to the franchise. The show effortlessly mixed its isekai story with traditional magical girl and idol aesthetics. The show also struck an unusually good balance between idol drama and magical girl action. The show often touches on the struggles and perils of the music industry, especially the interpersonal drama that such an environment tends to create. Sanrio's influence is unmistakable, as every girl has a unique design that is cute and cool, and both Cyan's band and the other bands Plasmagica encounters are themed to then-popular musical trends. This includes Shingancrimsonz, a band based on the Visual Kei genre, and Tsurezure Naru Ayatsuri Mugenan, a band inspired by several popular traditional rock fusion bands, like the Wagakki Band.
Studio Bone's work really shines during the series. The show is packed full of epic set-pieces, colorful characters and unique environments, and the whole package is topped off with some very expressive and fluid animation that sucks you into the world. The show feels like much more than a quick mobile game tie-in and is worth watching for the musical sequences alone, as they're all catchy and stylish. The show was so popular that it spawned a spin-off, Show By Rock!! Short!! It also got a second season called Show By Rock!!#, both produced by Studio Bones.
However, despite its popularity, Bones was replaced at the end of season two and the third series called Show by Rock!! Mashumairesh!! was animated by Kinema Citrus instead. However, despite this change, the franchise is still popular and a fifth season called Show By Rock!! Stars!! is coming in 2022. Show By Rock!! seamlessly fuses three genres and creates a fun hybrid franchise. While Studio Bones and Sanrio might seem like odd bedfellows on paper, both companies have a knack for giving the audience exactly what they want. Even if you're not a fan of rhythm games, Show By Rock!! will keep you dancing throughout its entire runtime.