It's about an all-boys musical theatre school. Pretty boys, needless to say. They sing! They dance! They get picked by the campest student council member ("boooys") to be part of a five-man band of dysfunctional misfits to compete in the Ayanagi Festival!
It's aimed at a female target audience, obviously. It's a standard "overcome your differences to achieve showbiz success" show, but it's also quite good. I enjoyed it.
The characters are fun. None of the five main heroes is particularly deep, but they bicker entertainingly and they all have some kind of issue to overcome. They're fine. They do the job. Hoshitani, the protagonist, is an optimistic go-getter who can lift the room with sheer enthusiasm, but he's also far less experienced than everyone else and at times a bit of a millstone with his lack of training. Nayuki has stage fright. Kuga is poor and has to do part-time jobs. Tsukigami has a complex about his big brother being one of Japan's top stars. Tengenji is already a professional kabuki actor and treats everyone else like dirt.
It takes Hoshitani a while to win around all those problematic personalities. They didn't choose each other. The whimsical Otori chose them as his Star Team, to the horror of some of his more strait-laced fellow council members. Otori's actually one of the show's deeper and more interesting characters, along with his opposite number on the student council, Hiiragi. Ep.9 is one of the strongest episodes thanks to their backstory. Otori's problem is that he doesn't really fit at Ayanagi Academy, so he has a pattern of apparently self-destructive behaviour that I think, on closer examination, is generally the best option for him. I'd have done the same. They're not bad people, but you're going nowhere with them. Cut your losses and wish them all the best.
What's particularly satisfying is that neither side of the argument is wrong. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, for instance, covered the same debate and came down hard on the opposite side. Doing what your teachers tell you is generally the best way to learn, but you'd have to be some kind of freedom-hating Nazi to deny that Otori has a point too. Unfortunately the student council has one of those.
The show has one entertaining quirk. It's a musical. See the title. Each episode has songs, not just as part of the showbiz school setting but as an expression of the show's chosen genre. It's like musical theatre. Characters bare their souls through a musical number, then the plot restarts again. This is different, at least, and I quite enjoyed it. I can't remember seeing it before in Japanese animation, although of course it's normal at Disney.
One thing I appreciated, incidentally, was the dance sequences. They're not CGI! Watch little girls' idol shows (or even something like Go! Princess PreCure) and you'll struggle to find a hand-drawn dance sequence. Here, no. This can paradoxically make them mildly interesting on a technical level, if you're into animation for its own sake, despite the blandness of their content. Well, for me, anyway. Mileage will vary on this, but that's how the dance scenes were liable to strike me. Boys dance. It's not even memorable dancing. It's the kind of boy band stuff you'd see from the singers in a pop group.
There are romantic hints, of course. It goes with the genre, although the show hasn't as yet had any mutual declarations of love as boys fall into each other's arms. (Give them time. There's still Season 2, due in spring 2017.) Hoshitani-Nayuki is set up pretty loudly in ep.1, but then Nayuki becomes a background character since he's kind, gentle, feminine, never makes trouble and is loved by everyone... so of course it's easier to build episodes around abrasive gits like Tsukigami and Tengenji. The show's mostly not doing much gay tease, but then ep.11 comes around and you've got Hoshitani-SPOILER being played so heavily that SPOILER asks Hoshitani to his face if he's looking for that kind of relationship. After that, Hoshitani-Nayuki have a scene that builds up to Nayuki actually telling Hoshitani that he loves him... and of course Hoshitani doesn't quite get it. It's possible to argue that Nayuki might have meant it platonically, but the scene could hardly be more romantic in its framing.
Oh, and there are two girls! It's unexpected in this genre, but there are. They only appear occasionally and they're certainly not love interests or anything like that, but they're cool. They're Nayuki's sisters, they're twins and they made me laugh.
One slight downside is that the finale is a bit inconclusive. It doesn't really resolve anything, bar the obvious thing of "will our heroes get to do their show". If they hadn't managed to get a Season 2, that would have been a weak ending... but fortunately the show will go on! One might also argue that perhaps they didn't go far enough with the musical thing. The songs aren't as integral as they might be. Remove the songs from The Little Mermaid and you'll have torn great bleeding holes in the storytelling, but this show's songs aren't woven into the episodes quite that tightly. They're fine. I enjoyed them and I admire the conceit, but I think they could perhaps have been done better.
I liked this show. It's quite amusing. This genre isn't normally my thing, but I enjoyed it and towards the end was even happily watching consecutive episodes. It's also a bit more realistic than some such shows, with Ayanagi Academy being fairly ruthless in its judgement of what's good enough and what can afford to be sacrificed. Our heroes' triumph isn't a completely foregone conclusion and it's perfectly possible that they might get their stage slot cancelled by the bastards in charge. I'm quite looking forward to Season 2.