Singing, Lies, Rumours, and Social Media – You’re Always On Stage
Voice of Fox is one of those short anime that comes out that very few people seemed to pay attention to. And it kind of makes sense. The Autumn anime season was full of some amazing titles and you can’t watch everything. A short anime that adapts a Chinese Manhwa about a kid wearing a fox mask and wanting to make it as a singer probably isn’t high on people’s watching priority list. Still, there was something about the first episode that drew me in and I’m really glad I strapped in for the ride. While Voice of Fox isn’t a ground breaking masterpiece that must be watched, it is a solid effort at telling a reasonably interesting story in a fairly short run time given episodes are only around ten minutes long.
Where Voice of Fox works is the tight focus on a very small pool of characters who interact within a larger social setting. With idols and stars making up a large part of the cast, social media and the internet play a huge part in this story as public perception sways and changes with events, rumours, apologies, and performances. While at times the public opinion seems to veer far too strongly too quickly, it is a good look at the pressure of anyone living in the public view and who relies upon fans and an audience for their livelihood. Hu Li also explored the idea of being independent or being part of an agency and the difficulties in getting yourself out there alone vs what a large company can achieve.
Where it falls down is that too many of these characters are either good people with poor luck getting trod on by an uncaring system or they are ruthlessly ambitious with very little in the way of actual human emotions. The characters who are set up as the antagonists don’t get to be anything other than star hungry and while the anime does attempt to give Kong Que (the guy who Hu Li is the ghost singer for) some sort of angsty back-story, it is one of the moments that is a bit rushed and the emotional impact is minimal. It also is quickly forgotten when you realise that despite what has happened to Kong Que he is still pretty ready to throw Hu Li or anyone else under a bus for just a scrap of fame so he’s not exactly a nuanced character.
The story largely focuses on the events around a reality idol show searching for the Rising Star of China, at least for the first half. The filming is rocked by scandals as singers get sick, power outages occur mid-performance and Kong Que is revealed as a fake and Hu Li as the real voice. This section of the story is really quite focused and driven and while there are some comedy moments that don’t quite stick their landing, by and large it is highly entertaining.
The second half, where we explore the characters and their motivations a bit more and wait for their final decisions, is a little less well handled. It does come back to the competition and we do get a satisfying ending, but there’s a little loss of momentum in the second half.
There’s also a lot of singing in this. I really enjoyed the music including the OP and ED but I also really just liked the performances. If the music doesn’t work for you, that is possibly going to be a deal breaker because all of these characters are on stage at some point and singing.
I’d recommend giving this one a go. It was one of those pleasant surprises of the Autumn season and I really wish more people had watched it because it would have been fun to discuss it more each week. Not a perfect show by any means, but one that I could definitely get lost in and just go along for the ride.
Voice of Fox has simply come to an end (or rather it concluded the current crisis and then gave a potential tease at the end for more of Hu Li’s journey but honestly I’m happy enough with this as an ending). Hu Li and Ji Hetian finally face off in the Rising Star of China competition. Everyone watches with some of the more villainous characters of the season smirking to themselves about how they are going to be the next big thing anyway, and everyone else being reduced to tears by a song. It’s a little bit overly simplistic but it fits the story up to this point and to be honest it was kind of nice seeing Hu Li have his moment.
Less nice was realising Hu Li hadn’t figured out who Sky was. Really? I kind of thought that had already been resolved and now I’m convinced Hu Li is actually an idiot. Great singer, nice guy, but complete idiot. And actually that makes a lot of his choices earlier in the season make more sense. He definitely needs a manager to help him make better choices.
The singing was nice, the story is drawn to a close, but really I can’t help but feel that this episode didn’t quite bring the emotions and drama of earlier ones. It really did feel like it was going through the motions and while all the elements were there for a solid emotional conclusion I just didn’t really feel it. Which is a shame given this anime has been one that I’ve consistently enjoyed because of the emotional drama it has carried through.
Anyway, for a short anime, it has done what it needed to do and I really had fun with it. I’ll get to a series review of it and hopefully a few more people will give this one a go. While it isn’t perfect it is certainly a fun watch.
With one episode to go we knew that things wouldn’t wrap up this week and with the cliff-hanger from episode 10 it was pretty clear that they were planning on one last dramatic push before we could finally get to a conclusion. Still, the way the public opinion whips around in this has gone from charmingly similar to social media waves in the real world to just outright insane as they seem to instantly change their mind about Hu Li based on whatever is said most recently.
What I really wanted to know is how Kong Que and his record company think they will get away with what they’ve just said given the clear paper and money trail that would show them up for lying in an instant. And even if the public does accept their story, how does Kong Que think that will actually help him. All it has done is admit that he can’t sing well enough to debut so his career is dead regardless, unless he wants to try for soap opera actor because he’d be pretty good at that.
Meanwhile Chuyun is also up the creek with her own group member black mailing her with a photo to get the solo debut. Again, I don’t know how the malicious member thinks it will help her in the long run given she’s nowhere near popular enough to get a solo debut. Even if she does debut, and the company still haven’t agreed, it is unlikely to go well.
And just in case all this drama isn’t enough, let’s throw in Hu Li’s mother taking a turn for the worse just as Hu Li has found his resolve to sing in the competition. Next week is going to be full of drama and I can’t help but want things to end well. This story is cheesy as anything and yet it is working and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following along with Hu Li.
Chuyun’s emergency call at the end of last week turned out to be a sick pianist and guess who she has in mind to replace him. Of course, this being Voice of Fox, this is all some elaborate set-up to try to promote Hu Li and have him find his love of music again, but the positive change in Hu Li is pretty extraordinary to watch.
I think what makes this really special is for once the childhood friend isn’t getting shafted by a narrative. Chuyun originally had little presence but now her story and her struggles within her group are every bit as important to the overall narrative as Hu Li’s. These two are great together and for each other and each one of them has inspired the other and helped them when they are down. It is a great dynamic and one that I’ve found really impressive throughout the series.
Also, Chuyun’s song was amazing.
However, when someone rises up there’s always someone who wants to bring them down. It’s too bad that in this case it is Chuyun’s own group members. Another round of dealing with social media fallout later and things seem like they are on track. But there’s another character in this story who has yet to have his last hand played so I guess we’re throwing one more obstacle onto Hu Li’s path and I guess we’ll see how that goes next week.
Episode 10 did however find its pacing again which is good news after episode 9 kind of packed in more than it could actually deal with.
This week finally reveals the accident that put Hu Li’s mother in a coma and gave him the ‘burn’ on his face. I know that is supposed to be a scar but honestly it mostly looks like a tattoo or poorly applied make-up. Anyway, for the first time I really felt they rushed over what should have been a fairly emotional note in the story. And it is no wonder. Given they also crammed Kong Que’s angst-ridden back story into the same episode.
Now both of these things are important given Hu Li has to overcome his tragedy if he’s actually going to take to the stage and that Kong Que is getting involved in some scheme with his father that is sure to be bad news. However, given the build up, the rushed through delivery, while serviceable and getting the idea across, wasn’t exactly getting the emotional impact across with it. Which is a real shame given so far Voice of Fox has done a relatively good job at building up and conveying emotional moments despite its short run time.
Yet if you think they were stopping there, think again. They also crammed in an interview with Chuyun where she essentially gets fans back on board despite her knowing about Hu Li. This enrages her group member, who is more or less just consumed with jealousy at this point and has some really poor reasoning skills, and so a rumour is started on social media that Chuyun is going to go solo. In the midst of the social media fallout from that Hu Li receives a call from Chuyun and then the episode ends.
It’s a lot for an eleven minute episode and a lot of the nuances don’t quite hit their mark this week. That said, I’m fully on board with this story at this point given the build up so far so I’m just hoping this isn’t a sign that they are going to self-destruct in a rush to get to the end.
Even as Hu Li thinks it is all over, a surprise is headed his way when Hetian challenges him in the finals. Caught by this surprising announcement, Hu Li is taken even further by surprise when he is literally carried away in a sack. Once again the drama of this show is slightly ill-balanced against its more humorous moments and Hu Li getting rolled out of the hospital and knocked silly in the process wasn’t exactly the best this show has had to offer, even if it did transition us smoothly to the next part of the show.
We’ve finally been given a motive for Sky’s actions as well as the reasons for certain other characters acting suspicious. The one thing we don’t have is clear confirmation as to who Sky is, though the suspect list is pretty low at this point in time so I’m kind of thinking my earlier thoughts are correct. I’d happily be proven wrong but I’m pretty sure we’re out of time for another twist in this story.
However, in order to take up Hetian’s challenge, Hu Li is going to have to get over his sense of inferiority and that idea that he doesn’t deserve to be on the stage or live his dreams. It might seem pretty straight forward but Sky was not the only ghost haunting Hu Li and a lot of the drama that has unfolded has been entirely of his own sub-conscious-es making. I’m hoping he does get over it because Voice of Fox has taken me on an emotional ride and I really want Hu Li to have his moment even if he doesn’t win.
That said, Hu Li isn’t the only character with ghosts to face. Kong Que is coming to terms with the fact that it was he who needed Hu Li and that without a ghost singer, he might as well be a ghost, and he isn’t taking it well. It certainly sets up a rocky future and I’m thinking this isn’t the last we’re going to see of the now dumped idol.
Still, the preview for next week looks like it is going to delve into the past of these characters and I’m hoping that then clears the way for a final run to the end with more singing and less angst. Not so much because the drama hasn’t been fun, but more that I’m ready for these characters to get a little bit of happiness and want them to get a happily ever after. Or at least an ever after.
Last week saw the dramatic conclusion of Hu Li’s career as a ghost singer when his presence was revealed live on TV. This week, idol fans do what they do best in this sort of media (and unfortunately occasionally in real life), they went a little crazy. Threatening to beat him up, stalking him on social media, and generally being as unpleasant as humanly possible, Hu Li is driven into a corner thick and fast.
And does the company who hired him do anything resembling damage control? Yep. They fire him, charge him for damages, fire the actual performer too (and I’m guessing he’s the board of director’s son or something from that exchange), and pretty much hang them out to dry. But that’s cool. They have a plan. Hu Li will be desperate for money so he’ll come back and write music for them again.
Of course, that’s assuming he doesn’t take a header off the roof and as we return to where the series began you seriously wonder if he will or not. What I liked was that he wasn’t feeling excessively sorry for himself. It was more he felt like he was causing trouble for those around him, including his friend Chuyun, and he had run out of options to improve the situation. So while it might be accused of melodrama, Voice of Fox feels like its built up to this moment sufficiently to carry the scene.
And then, because it isn’t the end just yet, Sky sends Hu Li another message (why Hu Li keeps talking to Sky or paying him any attention is beyond me at this point). Of course, this is where the episode ends leaving us wanting the next part of the story as they intended and I don’t really know that this is needed at this juncture. I’m hooked. I don’t need these to be continued baited endings to keep me coming back.
Still, this one remains one of my surprise hits for the season and while it may not be able to go toe to toe with some more notable titles, it remains fairly impressive for what it is.
There was a moment somewhere during episode 6 of Voice of Fox, and it probably came close to the end of the episode where the titular ‘trap’ was revealed where I realised just how into this anime I actually am. Yes, there have been coincidences and silly moments peppered along the trail, but at its core, Voice of Fox has been driving to this climatic moment since episode 1 and it delivered it with an emotional weight some other anime series couldn’t have mustered even with twenty minute episodes by season’s end.
Six episodes of barely over ten minutes each and several moments lost entirely to comedy (which has mostly worked in an eye-rolling kind of manner) and singing (which has been glorious and can we please have more). In just the time left, Voice of Fox (or Kitsune no Koe) has made me love Hu Li and feel dearly for his predicament. We still don’t even know the full story behind said predicament but we know enough to care, and boy has this anime made me care.
With the fake out reveal of Sky, Hu Li’s desperation, and then the final reveal this week, all beautifully rounded out by the devastating silence and then isolated sound of the fox mask hitting the floor, every part of this episode did exactly what it needed to in order to carry the audience to that moment. It genuinely hurt to watch and the desperation to give Hu Li a hug was very real as was the desire for the next episode right now.
This is an anime that hasn’t gotten anywhere near enough attention this season. I’m not saying it will work for everyone. It is idol focused, it is a short form anime, the animation isn’t amazing and the story is hardly a work of art, but it is a seriously competent effort and what it has delivered has been consistently good and right now I’m really feeling that last episode.
Hopefully the conclusion can be as good as the build up to this moment was because so far Voice of Fox has managed to be a surprising delight.
Kotaro as the manager is doing a good job at fighting with Haiji from Run With The Wind for gaining the title of most obnoxious character of the season. Haiji at least has his good moments in between being a blatant manipulator whereas Kotaro here is just obnoxious in every single scene he is in. It is almost a shame that he’s voiced by someone so recognisable because I’m honestly never going to be able to hear that voice again without seeing this smirking idiot screaming into the faces of the zombie girls or being unbearably smug about doing something fairly lame.
And the reason I’m fixating on that is because very little else in this episode gained my attention. The girls are all about working together to overcome their doubts and actually practice to become idols (meanwhile they have this touching heart to heart while shirking practice to take in some sights). We get a performance that goes better than most of their shows so far and then we get dumped into what I guess is more traditional zombie horror territory but here it is played for cheap laughs and to be honest it wasn’t so much amusing as it was just a little mind boggling.
Still, I guess episodes 3 and 4 have at least established the idol tone this show is going to take, I’m just not so sure I’m up for a whole season of this. The character dialogue between the girls is very flat, the music isn’t really getting any better, and even though the girls are zombies they clearly have no interest in exploring the horror element of that, so I’m just not sure what is left for me to enjoy here.
I’ll probably give this another episode but I’m fairly certain this one is going to get a mid-season drop because I’m just not feeling it and unlike other titles that aren’t exactly nailing it for me, I’m not even overly optimistic that this one will improve as time goes on.
As much as the first episode made a splash and instantly grabbed my attention with its zany and hard hitting first scene and a follow up that was fairly surreal mostly because the audience didn’t see it coming, episodes 2 and 3 had an uphill battle to maintain that. Firstly, the surprise is lost. We now know what this Zombieland Saga is about and so far there hasn’t been anything added to the plot beyond that initial zombie girls forming an idol group to somehow save Saga. So without surprise and without any kind of overall plot we’re left with a group of zombie girls who intermittently practice and perform slightly improved routines becoming more and more idol like interspersed by Kotarou (the manager and supposedly the guy who brought them back from the dead) shouting at them or generally being fairly incomprehensible in both his motives and actions.
Needless to say, this isn’t going to be enough for this to stretch a whole season riding on the shock enjoyment of episode 1. While meeting the now awakened rest of the girls is reasonably done, and the scene where they were essentially playing catch with Tae’s head while attempting to perform a concert and it ended up being a rap battle was amusing, and even the bad CGI actual idol performance in episode 3 kind of served its purpose if you are attempting to mock idol culture and idol anime, there just isn’t enough in this show to offset the lack of direction and the generally bad writing that even the most enthusiastic Mamoru Miyano (of Steins;Gate and about a zillion other anime fame) cannot seem to elevate beyond slightly eye-brow raising.
Not to mention, any pretence of this actually being a horror got thrown out the window once we started to meet our zombie crew. In the first episode, Sakura was alone and scared and neither she nor the audience knew what was really going on. It really worked as both horror and comedy. With no suspense left, nothing lurking in the shadows, and zero atmosphere to speak of, episodes two and three suffer horribly as they need to be carried by the momentum of the actual story (which we already established isn’t up to the task) and the character interactions (which might get better but certainly aren’t amazing here).
Now it isn’t bad enough yet to declare dead in the water, but without an injection of some serious chemistry between the characters or some fantastic plot direction, this one is going to end up wallowing in its own inadequacies before someone finally puts it out of its misery. A few good and eye-catching moments aren’t enough to hold an episode together and they certainly won’t hold a show together for a whole season without something sitting behind them.
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