Ai Narata, a quiet girl who hardly ever smiles, was popular as a "cool" member of the Idol Singer group JTX48, but recently had to leave it. Hating attention from fans, she resolves to start a new life as a student in the Kouka Music School, where girls study to become actresses of a magnificent theatre company that is totally not the Takarazuka Revue. She meets and is assigned as roommate to the loud, outgoing Sarasa Watanabe. Initially, there's friction between the polar-opposite characters, but eventually, they will forge a road into the starry sky together.
A manga by Kumiko Saiki, originally serialized in the Seinen magazine Jump Kai from 2012 to 2014; however, in a rare move, the manga was restarted in the shoujo magazine Kiss in 2015, where it is still ongoing. The manga got adapted into an anime in the Summer-Autumn 2021 season.
Not to be confused, but inevitably to be compared, with Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight, seeing as both franchises take inspiration from the Takarazuka Revue. Kageki Shoujo is considerably more realistic, and does not contain massive underground stages, sword battles, or a talking giraffenote . The amount of yuri hints among the main cast is also considerably lower, in line with Takarazuka's official disapproving view of such relationships among its actresses; a likely schoolgirl lesbian appears in a backstory part of an episode but she never joins Kouka. Kageki Shoujo is not an "answer" to Revue Starlight, as the manga was created a few years before that franchise.
The anime and manga contain examples of:
- All-Loving Hero: Sarasa is pretty close, consistently supporting everyone around her, including Sawa Sugimoto when they became rivals for a role.
- Apathetic Teacher: Mamoru Andou, "The Phantom". Previously a good actor, he had to retire from acting following an accident and now is... not that good at teaching other people to act. He tries to teach the Stanislavsky System as pure theory, which is guaranteed not to work; because of a student suggestion, he finally lets the class act, but does not provide much in the way of support. Later Sarasa learns key ideas of the System from Ai (who heard them from her actress mother); only then does Sarasa remember that Andou-sensei "mentioned something like that". Eventually Andou takes a level in jerkass to the point of taking a lead role in a student audition skit and playing it so forcefully that the student participants are thrown off course.
- Cut Short: The anime, as its ending appears to be "okay, we ran out of allocated episodes"; the end of the first year of theatre school is not reached. The manga is ongoing, into the second year as of 2021.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Hijiri Nojima. The official English subs actually use the word "bitch" for her at one point.
- Does Not Like Men: Ai Narata, because her mother's partner sexually abused her as a child.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Ai Narata's hair is quite short at the start of the series and grows episode to episode. This shows both the setting of time and a very gradual personality change.
- Furo Scene: The main cast are shown in a common bath of the dorm in Episode 11. The scene is done in a decidedly pure way.
- Fictional Counterpart: JTX48 is clearly AKB48, and is located in Akihabara.
- Hero of Another Story: Satomi Sei. She is the number two otokoyaku (nibante) of the Winter Troupe at the start of the show, and becomes the top star of the troupe following the last show of the previous top star (which the main cast watch in Episode 5). While she is a supporting character in Kageki Shoujo, inworld Kouka fans would see her as the big figure of the year. Lampshaded in Episode 10, where Sarasa does the right play to let Sei-sama shine for the audience.
- Ice Queen: Ai Narata, at least externally.
- In-Series Nickname: Ai Narata had the nickname "Naracchi" in JTX.
- Limited Animation: Appears throughout the anime, most notably in Episode 10, where a sports festival is covered mostly through panning stills.
- Master of None: Sarasa is very good at copying other people's theatrical performances. She learned this in Kabuki Theatre as a child. While her imitation skills instantly wow her classmates, this eventually earns her the criticism of her instructor Ando. Ando mentions that simply imitating performances of past actors will not allow her to become a great one herself.
- Meta Casting: Nanami Hiroki as Satomi Sei. Not just a real Takarasienne voicing a fictional counterpart, Satomi seems to share some of her characteristics with Nanami herself and others, including the plot-relevant role of Tybalt, with Ouki Kaname, with whom Nanami closely worked.
- In on-screen Kouka shows, characters tend to be voiced by former Takarazuka perfomers.
- Moe: Discussed in Episode 13, where a senior teacher, Ohgi-sensei, explains how a Kouka performance appeals to the audience. For a Western audience, this is a significantly different "moe" from the one they are used to, because this is the "moe" in playing a male character for a female gazenote .
- No Communities Were Harmed: Kouka is very obviously the Takarazuka Revue, complete with the building and the street it is on (Hana no Michi). It is transplanted from Takarazuka City into Kobe, in a possible Shout-Out to the 1957 movie Sayonara where the Fictional Counterpart to the Takarazuka Revue is also located in Kobe. The internal system of the theatre and school is re-created in painstaking detail, with some notable exceptions (the Takarazuka Music School uniform is not a Sailor Fuku). Troupes Snow, Flower, Moon, and Star are renamed to Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn; the recently-created fifth troupe, Cosmos, does not exist in this world.
- In the anime only, it also appears that the theatre was founded several years later than the real one, as the centenary is approaching, but Ai is mentioned in the anime as still being an idol in 2018; the Takarazuka Revue celebrated its centenary in 2014. This is probably a change made because the anime was released in 2021; the manga uses original dates, with the theatre being founded in Taisho 1.
- Oblivious to Love: In Ayako Yamada's backstory in episode 12, Asuka Yano basically confesses to her and cries at the rejection, masking it as laughter. Ayako realizes this for the first time a year or more later, in Kouka.
- One-Gender School: Kouka Music School is an all-girls school. Since the school is based on the real life Takarazuka Music School, which is also girls only, it only makes sense.
- Set Behind the Scenes: As this is a work about theatre, the trope applies to the entire story. For example, the girls get a full tour of the backstage in Episode 2, complete with Sarasa wandering onto the Grand Stage itself. In Episode 10, we get a glimpse of theatrical thinking behind a sports festival that Kouka puts on just once in a decade.
- Shout-Out: A weird Genki Girl with twin tails, naive, assertive, exceptionally physically strong, who always speaks up and solves problems in a forward but smart way - sounds like Pippi Longstocking.
- Shown Their Work: Kumiko Saiki evidently knows a lot about Takarazuka Theatre, with the setting very closely resembling it and some characters being "mash-ups" of stories and traits of different actresses. She also understands Kabuki Theatre and the difference between the two is a plot point. It appears that she researched idols, too.
- Show Within a Show:
- In a work about theatre, this trope comes with the territory. Notably, The Rose of Versailles, in which Sarasa wants to play the role of Lady Oscar one day, is basically the Real Life Takarazuka Revue show.
- Kouka's production of Romeo and Juliet utilizes a translation of the original Shakespeare text, while the version more often performed by the Takarazuka is actually the musical by Gérard Presgurvic. This is most likely a homage to the 1999 Flower Troupe production of Romeo and Juliet, which did the same thing, or several other Zuka adaptations of the same material.
- Kabuki shows are also seen (more prominently in the manga) and referenced in plot-relevant ways. The translator of the anime and manga documented some references on Twitter.
- Stalker with a Crush: Subverted. An unkempt young man, a fan obsessed with Ai, appears near the Kouka school and scares her to bits, causing Sarasa to march to her defense. It turns out that seeing Ai on TV rescued him from a Hikikomori lifestyle and he came only to apologize, because his behaviour set off the events leading to Ai being forced out of JTX. Moreover, he later helps Sarasa find a depressed Ai just in time to rescue her from some riff-raff.
- Technician Versus Performer: This comes into play between Sarasa and Sawa when both audition for the role of Tybalt. Sarasa is considered the natural prodigy at acting while Sawa is the hardworking Ascended Fangirl of Kouka. Sarasa ultimate wins the role although both auditions were considered equal. Sawa and the viewer learns that the deciding vote came down to Sarasa managing to edge her out on the basis of potential audience appeal in her performance.
- Variations on a Theme Song: The ending, which is a Takarazuka-style song (unlike the peppy "typical anime" opening). In episodes focusing on characters other than the protagonists, the ending is sung by these characters and has different lyrics and modified visuals; the melody stays the same.
- Wall Pin of Love: Satomi Sei, a Top Star otokoyaku, does a "kabedon" to Sarasa in Episode 10, while helping get her out of a daze as to how to act as herself at the sports festival. She was explaining how even she often "plays the role of top otokoyaku", and the kabedon is a typical otokoyaku stage move.