The show's concept is eye-rolling, the title makes you think it's pornography and the animation is so cheap that even I noticed, but it's surprisingly good.
The plot's built around an idol contest. Girls sing. The best singer wins. However while singing, the girls will also be remote-controlling giant robots and trying to pummel each other's avatars to scrap in a virtual reality world. The best fighter wins. No, wait. I don't get it. Is this a singing contest or a giant robot battle? How do they link up? Does that make any sense whatsoever, or is this yet another implausible anime jamming two popular but incompatible things together on the grounds that no one's ever done it before? (Hint: it's the latter.) I don't think I ever bought that premise, or even felt I'd been given a clear idea of how it worked.
I also have no interest in either mecha battles or idol contests. This was a bad start. Fortunately, though, ep.1 also had some likeable characters and surprisingly serious writing, so I stuck with it.
Then we have the animation. I think it deteriorates, with ep.6 looking the worst. The show also tries to compensate for the lack of visual quality with fanservice, so almost all the women have big boobs and wear tight and/or low-cut tops. (The only girl who's not buxom has a stage outfit that's basically Nazi fetish lingerie.) Occasionally the animators don't seem to understand the female form. The art isn't even consistent (e.g. the amount of cleavage Eriko's showing might change from shot to shot) or accurate (e.g. someone orders vodka in a Russian-speaking country and the barman pours him what's clearly red wine).
The story, though, is pretty good. Eight girls have reached the quarter-finals of Venus Project Climax, which isn't what it sounds like. What's more, all the main characters have troubled histories that give force to their drive to win. Eriko Hara was raised in an orphanage and even now spends all her free time there. Almost all her friends are children who only come up to her waist, although in fairness those are very good friends. Miu Ureha is a lonely rich girl whose mother treats her like an employee and has given her a harsh ultimatum if she's going to keep up this silly idol life of hers. Finally Ruka Sovagasky comes from Mazushistan (the English equivalent of which would be Povertystan or Dirt-Poor-stan) and has two military minders with the job of making sure she wins this contest, or else.
Thus the idol contest is meaningful. It has real stakes. The right people don't always win. Sympathetic characters can quit the industry or even die. (In some ways, this can be almost harder on the survivors who beat them.) There's also a pattern with the girls' coaches: relatively supportive female assistant to a hard-ass male bastard.
The show succumbs to some extent to the usual myth in this kind of show that hearing a pop star sing can be a life-changing experience that refreshes the soul and makes the birds sing in the trees. In fairness, though, it almost was like that for Eriko, Miu and Ruka. They were down pretty hard, each in their own way, when they discovered the Venus Project.
Eriko eats stupid amounts of food. How has she kept her figure? Does it all just go to her boobs?
The show's part of a small multimedia franchise, by the way. There's a PlayStation Vita game, this anime television series, a short-run TV variety show and possibly also a web comic.
I wouldn't call this a sophisticated show. Knockout competitions are a well-worn story structure, especially in connection with something as ever-present in anime as idols. There's nothing here that I'd call noticeably clever, while I don't think the show really gains from elements like the giant robots or the boobs. Nonetheless, though, I think it works. The storytelling has force. There's a ghost, to delayed emotional effect when you eventually realise what it was. There are a lot of doctors with bad news. On top of that, it's even fun. It's a positive experience, with positive, optimistic characters who support their friends and never give up. The finale has bittersweet elements and perhaps leaves us slightly unsettled, but it's the right ending for our heroines and you believe they've made the right choices. I enjoyed the show.
"At first I believed that mum would come back."