A lot is happening in the Paradox Live The Animation Episode 1, “Club Paradox.” This music-driven drama series is set in the near future, and with that futuristic setting comes many rules to understand before processing the characters and their upcoming conflicts. Burdened by some truly cringe-inducing songs and a convoluted setup, its shortcomings don’t distract from some of the bigger highlights of the series, from engaging, fluid character designs and an intriguing mystery — even if it takes too long to get to the initial pull.
Produced by Avex Pictures, the series follows a new development on the music scene, “The Phantom Live.” Rappers in the elevated hip-hop scene can use metals, “phantom metals,” that have been embedded in their accessories to create illusions (phantoms) linked to their emotions. Of course, there’s a negative side to this chemical reaction. However, we’re only given a hint of what’s to come in the ending sequence when one of our protagonists suffers a physical and hallucinogenic response.
The main story in the setup revolves around the musical group BAE, made up of Allen, Anne, and Hajun. The best part of Paradox Live The Animation Episode 1 is how the series depicts and builds up these three characters so that we’re relatively invested in their success by episode end. There’s not too much to go by yet, but just enough that makes us want to know more. Hajun comes from a rich family with significant and powerful ties, dubbed “Prince Hajun” due to his looks and popularity. Anne isn’t explored too much, though. From their rooftop meanderings, we gather they also have their own troubled past. Meanwhile, Allen fits within the main protagonist tropes, overly eager to succeed in his dream and happy to sacrifice his health for the sake of his dreams.
The world expands further when Club PARADOX is introduced and, with it, the revival of the mysterious Paradox Live Battle. It’s been ten years since the club disappeared, and carries a substantial amount of notoriety. Four bands, including BAE, are invited to participate in the challenge in which they’ll compete for an enormous cash prize and the chance to challenge legendary rapper unit Buraikan. The three other groups, The Cat’s Whiskers, Akanyatsura, and cozmez, promise similarly interesting backstories, though the twins that make up the group cozmez are the most intriguing. Each group has its motives and stations in life. Still, while BAE can arrive at the opening show via helicopter, the twins are seen living in a decrepit building. At the same time, one promises the other that, with the prize money, they’ll be able to find treatment for an unmentioned ailment.
What’s immediately worrisome are two aspects, and both relate to the stage the characters will be depicted on. The first is the truly troubling music. Not every song needs to be addicting, but the series comes on the heels of a few shows where the songs created for the series are remarkable. From Season 1 of Given and Mafuyu’s song in the penultimate episode to this year’s earworm “Idol” in Oshi No Ko, there are examples of songs in anime worthy of exhaustive replay. Similarly, the stages are given an odd, stilted cadence, using a mix of 3D animation that is jarring in execution.
Based on an existing mixed media project between Avex Pictures and GCREST, the project prior to the anime existed mainly through CDs, which included both songs and, at times, voice dramas. There’s little surprise then that the songs aren’t given as much attention as they already possess a fan base, but the part of the series deserves greater improvement.
Otherwise, the mystery revolving around the phantom metals, what’s happening to Allen at the end, and Nayuta’s struggles remain engaging enough to bring new fans to the series. Paradox Live the Animation Episode 1 isn’t the most visually stimulating series, and it has some serious rough spots that need fine-tuning. Still, the characters are charismatic with distinctive designs, which helps balance the uneven premiere.
Paradox Live The Animation Episode 1 is available now on Crunchyroll.
Paradox Live The Animation Episode 1
Paradox Live the Animation Episode 1 isn’t the most visually stimulating series and it has some serious rough spots in need of fine-tuning, but the characters are charismatic with distinctive designs which helps balance out the uneven premiere.