Meet Rin, an energetic country girl living in the kingdom of Neunatia. She loves singing, a hobby that runs in the family. As she ventures to The Capital to work on her singing talents, she meets Finis, a beautiful yet very clumsy young girl who has the ability to sing Spirit Songs, which have the power to manipulate the four elements and bring about miracles. It seems these two spirited girls were destined to meet due to their joint love of singing, but with war looming in the kingdom, can their singing save the people and the world they love so much, or will the songs they sing carry nothing but misery and pain?
Lost Song originally aired on Netflix Japan on March 31st 2018, followed by a TV airing on April 7th, lasting for 12 episodes through until June. Written and directed by voice actor Junpei Morita (Naruto, Black Jack, Space Battleship Yamato 2199) and produced by Liden Films (The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Terra Formars, Love & Lies) in association with Japanese media corporation Dwango and MAGES, Lost Song is a charming combination of fantasy anime and musical, with an original score by Yusuke Shirato (The Ancient Magus Bride, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card). But I’ll say this early on in this review though: Netflix have not translated this show well.
The premise of the show itself is good, even if it is something we have sort of seen before. Rin is a bored country girl who loves singing, but is forbidden to by her strict adopted grandfather. In time though, we learn that there is a good reason why he has an issue with her singing: it is because the songs she sings have powers that are not just magical but potentially tragic and dangerous. Her foster siblings Al and Mel encourage her to chase her dreams, and when tragedy comes to the village she lives in, she has little choice but to escape to the Capital, where she meets a fellow magical singer, Finis. Her position is just as awkward though: while she sings to the people of the Capital to bring prosperity (eg. when a dry spell happens, she sings to bring water), her betrothed only has war on his mind.
The first half of the show is fairly predictable, and is something that can be seen far off. I had no issue with this though, as I got to enjoy the plot and like the main characters, especially the clumsy airhead Finis, who appears to have the weight of the Capital on her shoulders (more so than the warmongering Prince she is supposed to be marrying). It is only halfway through the show when things decide to take a different turn; Lost Song almost does a 180-degree turn, and the story goes in a different direction totally – one I didn’t see coming at all. Of course, I won’t spoil what happens, but it really is worth it.
Liden Films (Terra Formars, Love & Lies, Hanebado!) have already developed a bit of a reputation for delivering some unexpected scripts. I reviewed both Love & Lies and Hanebado! for another blog I write on, and was quite surprised at the direction they both went into, even if it wasn’t always for the better. For example, in Love & Lies, the trailers all led us to believe that it would be a sweet little romantic drama about two childhood crushes; it’s only about halfway through when we see how conflicted all of the main characters are, and how they are supposed to live up to high expectations from the government who has, effectively, arranged their future marriage. It goes into a very mature direction, and even though it ends on a rather disappointing note, it was very refreshing to see school romantic dramas turn serious for a change. The plot twist in Lost Song, however, is a turn for the good, and I’m glad I stuck around to catch it.
Music is the main theme in Lost Song of course, and will be the main draw for potential viewers, with the war between these two kingdoms as the side-story that acts as a glue to the rest of the show. There is, unfortunately, one major issue that you notice straight away when you begin watching. In the subtitled versions of the show, Netflix have decided to translate both the script and the song lyrics at the same time, meaning the two clash on-screen frequently. This is something I colloquially call the “HIDIVE mistake”. When Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight came out on the streaming service HIDIVE in the summer of 2018, the same thing happened, leaving subtitles to cover half of the screen at some points and confusing the heck out of the viewer. This could be something that can potentially turn off a lot of people, which is a shame as Lost Song is, otherwise, a good show. And the music is something that will attract a lot as well. Musical anime shows on Netflix are a bit of a rarity, with Forest of Piano out too. Both Konomi Suzuki (Rin) and Yukari Tamura (Finis) are both very talented and experienced voice actors and singers, and were excellent choices to voice our two main protagonists and to sing the songs that feature heavily in the show…even if we have to watch a lot of translated text at the same time.
Okay, enough talk about the heaps of text on-screen. Moving on to the English dub, the best way I can describe it is corny. Really corny. Voices all stick out like a sore thumb, and it really does sound like a translated script, almost copied directly from the English subtitles. I’m sure that Netflix are obliged to provide voiced translations for all their shows, but sometimes you wish that, for once, that they don’t, and that they just leave the Japanese version as it is. The opening theme is “Utaeba Soko ni Kimi ga Iru Kara” by Konomi Suzuki, and the ending theme is “Tears Echo” by Yukari Tamura.
Here’s the Japanese-language trailer Netflix used to promote Lost Song:
As I said, the show looks good – very good. And the music is wonderful to listen to. One could be forgiven for thinking that Lost Song could have made a great JRPG, considering its setting, its script, and the drive that both Rin and Finis have to make the world they live in a better place, and to stop any war that threatens to destroy them. The plot twist develops all the characters even further too, with our protagonists becoming more likable, our antagonists even better and any plot holes that we notice are all wrapped up by the end of the show.
But maybe this could be seen as a learning lesson for the folk at Netflix. For anime shows that have songs featuring heavily in them, they need to be taken with care. Sure we love to hear them, but not all of us are too bothered with the translation of them on-screen, especially when there is meant to be dialogue taking place at the same time. Aside from that, Lost Song is worth watching, as the music itself, along with the world design and plot, is a marvel to see and hear.
The world-building is awesome, and the music is a real treat to listen to. But Lost Song is a show that Netflix really ought to have handled much more carefully. Their own translations (both speech and song lyrics) clash, which can put people off an anime that is both very charming and very haunting.