It was really hard for me to start watching this series. The 1984 version of the series was really bad, and I wasn’t looking forward to the same bad execution for 51 more episodes. Still, I’m glad that eventually I did give this series a chance. This isn’t simply a case where the new creators improved the show at certain areas. What we have here is two versions of the same story, where one of them is utter crap, while the other is downright awesome. This really shows what good execution can mean for the overall quality of a story.
Especially when you’re making an anime about a talented actress, you need to be extra careful to fully understand what you’re adopting. The creators of the 1984-series clearly didn’t, and turned the lead character (Maya) into some sort of hopelessly over-acting Mary Sue, and they failed to emphasize that Maya was just a frail little girl, and that her talents came not from being incredibly talented, but rather her one-mindedness and ability to completely shut herself off from the outside, which was perfectly portrayed in the 2005 version.
The new voice actress also really helped: Masako Katsuki as Maya was one of the biggest miscasts you could imagine (think in the order of magnitude of putting Norio Wakamoto in the role of a young school-boy). Sanae Kobayashi however, does a much better job at portraying Maya, and that’s an understatement. Both when she’s on stage and when she’s herself, her voice captures the right nuances and makes for a believable and captivating actress.
The biggest strength of this series is its cast of characters, and then especially Maya and Ayumi full well-rounded characters at the end of the series. The rivalry that develops between the two of them is definitely memorable, and a unique take on the “hard work versus talent” theme: for once, it’s the lead character who is the talented one and the main rival who achieved her successes by working very hard. This series has 51 episodes, and they make optimal use of this long length to fully develop the bond that develops between the two of them.
But also the rest of the cast is great to watch. With perhaps the exception of some of the very minor side characters who are jealous of Maya’s successes in the beginning perhaps, every character has a clear purpose, and evolves along with this series. My only complaint here is Tsukikage, and especially her heart problems, which feels like a simple plot device. This is up to the point where you find yourself able to predict exactly when her next heart attack (or whatever it was that attacked her) is going to happen.
For a 2005-series, the animation of this series isn’t anything special, though I do want to applaud the creators for going with down-to-earth character designs, rather than the overblown shoujo-ones of the 1984 series. Especially Ayumi’s character-designs changed from the look of a stuck up princess to someone with simply good looks, nothing more and nothing less. And while most of the animation of this series isn’t that much to write about, the show does have a number of very artistic and good-looking shots of the different characters. The soundtrack for this series is also awesome, but this is where I’m really biased, since the composer also created the soundtrack of Mahou Shoujotai. ^^;
Overall, I’m glad that I listened to Hashihime and the other fans of this series, because the 2005-version really makes up everything where the 1984 version went wrong. After watching this series, I’m definitely going to look at acting in a different way, and that’s something that should be the case with every anime that’s about such a focused subject as this one.