MAGE: Rising Stars!
Opening theme: Hoot by Girl's Generation
Ending theme: Let me be your star from SMASH
A young girl from the slums named Meruru receives an invitation from the Chairman to attend the legendary Mage Academy, a school known for its talented pupils and commanding influence in the entertainment industry. Not believing herself to be particularly talented in any way, she found the invitation a bit strange but accepts anyways out of curiosity...
Ep.1 Welcome to Fame
Surprised to find the academy located in a quaint and isolated town, Meruru spends her first day getting herself acquainted with school grounds and the surrounding areas. On her stroll, she meets an odd boy named Xiang, who is also a student at the school. He warns her that the school is not what it seems, and the path she has just begun is one filled with danger. Thinking his warning rather silly, Meruru accuses Xiang of trying to scare her away from the school so that he would have less competition. Annoyed that she would think him so petty, he pushes her into the fountain and leaves.
Meruru is fished out of the fountain by a friendly girl named Roku, who gives her a warm welcome to the town and simply tells her that not everyone at the school will be nice to her simply due to the fact that they are each others' competition. Noticing the young girl's visibly glum spirits, Roku invites Meruru to a preview the following evening of the school's next big show put on by the older students. She points out talent scouts in the crowd during the show to Meruru and leaves during intermission to practice for her gig. Awed by the older students' performances, Meruru stays for the entire preview and at the end meets another girl who had recently arrived named Peri.
Ep.3 Lessons Missed and Learned
The two girls quickly become good friends. However, after learning about Peri's wealthy background, Meruru couldn't help but become somewhat jealous and feels even more like a nobody in this school. In order to help pay for her expenses, she takes a job running a food cart around town while trying to avoid becoming more bitter towards her friends who are already well-off. She's having a rough time fitting in especially especially given her insecurity when Roku pulls a prank on Peri and her, sending the two on a wild goose chase in the woods during class time. Eventually, Meruru confesses to Peri that she's been jealous of her and their classmates when Peri points out that no matter what, Meruru had received an invitation from the Chariman which makes her equal to all of the other students. Meruru grudgingly accepts Peri's argument and they make their way back to the school.
Soon, it is announced by the school to help introduce its lesser-known students, the academy will host a matsuri and invite many outsiders to the town to participate in the festivities. Students are put into teams to compete for adoration points by earning votes from new fans that they gain during the week-long festival. As the winning team's students are guaranteed spots in the school's next big-budget production, there is a lot on the long. Meruru and Peri are put on the same team as the latest arrival to the school, a girl named Eisha. The three decides to run a mask booth and hand out souvenirs as they greet outsiders. During the festival, however, Meruru notices that many older students are sabotaging each others' booths and performances and mentions this to Peri, who replies that it is only logical given the competition and that they have been spared simply because they were not viewed as a threat. Annoyed by this but also driven to work harder, Meruru asks the two other girls to just do their best.
Ep.5 Enter the Boys
The results from the fan voting are calculated and to her surprise, Meruru and her friends had placed third in the contest. It is also revealed that the school's next big budget project was a sequel to the original Tricore film they had released a year past, in which now Meruru, Peri, and Eisha have all earned small parts due to their growing fanbase. The starring roles, however, were given to the trio of boys named Lee, Ruzai, and Theo who had placed first, and the second place team Sion, Lyca, and Icar their understudies. The girls admire the winners from afar during the award ceremony and gossip over the boys.
Ep.6 Heart of Darkness
A week after the festivals, a student is expelled for breaking school rules and Meruru learns of the hidden shrine at the back of the school where messages are left for students past. Sneaking her way there at night for a look and discovering an informal ceremony of farewell, she encounters Xiang again. He points out some of the less heartfelt words left by older students and gives her another warning, stating that fame is a monster. She ignores his dark remark and asks him instead for the point of the ceremony. He replies that many attend simply to pray that they will not meet the same fate, as expulsion from the school meant the end of their careers. Blurting out that she simply does not share Xiang's cynicism, she leaves a heartfelt letter for the student she had never met and wishes him better luck.
Ep.7 Two, Three, Four...
During pre-production days, Meruru is assigned to help the quiet technical producer Two with preparing the sets for the sequel film Tricore - Niflcorheim. Peri is assigned to Three, the movie's director, to help with deciding the rest of the cast while Eisha found herself with Four, the stunt director. The three discuss everything they are learning during lunch and Meruru gladly shares that she had met a new friend while working with Two that she had nicknamed Furball for his bushy hair. Given the names of their perspective teachers, Peri concludes that logically there should be someone named One as well, but a search in the school database reveals that while there is also a Five, there is not a single person named One who has ever been a part of the school's records.
Owen, a.k.a. Furball, is seen carrying Meruru to the nurse's office. While she is being tended to by Nurse Felicity, Owen is seen chatting happily with a sick boy named Eon and telling him that there had been an accident while Meruru was testing some of the stuff on set. He leaves soon after to go back to work after learning that Meruru had broken her arm to inform Two of the bad news. Eon calls for Meruru's attention and tells her quietly to be careful. Finding his words oddly nostalgic and realizing that they sound very much like what Xiang had said to her, she questions his motives as well and he reveals that he had lost friends too many friends at the school because of 'accidents' to see the same thing happen to her. Confused and telling him that it had been just an accident, she turns around in her bed to go to sleep.
Soon, Meruru finds out that she had been fined by the school for breaking Two's movie set, and also demoted from her role in the movie due to breaking her leg. Now no longer involved in the inner circle, she spends much of her time working at her food cart and also meeting the extras cast for the film. A humble boy named Kohl helps her move around much of the time, and they become fast friends after sharing with each other their mutual sentiment of not fitting in particularly well with the talented students of the academy. The two finds some dandelions and make wishes together to be something more one day.
Ep.10 The Movie Star
With her leg still healing, Meruru stands on the sides as she watches the filming of the movie and notices that Peri seems more stressed than usual. A quick conversation on the side reveals that Peri had helped Three cast a girl named Tarot for a certain role in Niflcorheim, but the young starlet had asked for Peri's role in the movie instead. Three had left the decision up to Peri, almost as a test. Finding it rather cruel, Meruru tells Peri that she should keep her role and that the starlet can take what she was offered or leave it. After all, she had earned her spot and it was hers by right. Peri simply nods and returns to the set. The next day, however, Tarot arrives and takes over Peri's role.
Ep.11 What is a Name
Noting Peri's absence on set, Meruru leaves to go find her friend in her room. Instead, she finds it completely empty and it was as if Peri had never been there. No one seems particularly bothered that she was gone except for Meruru and an older boy named Leon, who had been close to Peri before her disappearance. However, unlike Meruru, he seems to know why Peri had disappeared and is rather distraught by it. Disliking the fact that Peri had been so easily replaced, Meruru goes to the shrine to leave a message for her friend saying that she will wait for her return to the Academy. When she voices her concern for Peri's disappearance to other students, they tell her that she will forgotten in no time and that Peri will just be another name on the wall.
Ep.12 Sunny Side Up
With Niflcorheim's filming finished, the project moves into the post-production phase and the students are given some time off before new assignments. Meruru spends the majority of time working at her food cart and rehabilitating her leg by training with a new girl named Lait, who is mute but has shown herself to be one of the best dancers in the school. Tarot, who often trains in the studios, sees the two girls and mocks them for their weakness, saying that they have no place at the academy. Meruru throws a punch out of anger and is easily thrown on the ground by Tarot, who claims that the Chariman made a mistake when he invited Meruru to the school and that she would be better off working at her food cart for the rest of her life.
Ep. 13 Making a Splash
While the star cast of the movie is sent off to a promotional event, Meruru, Kohl, Owen, and a few others are pulled for a small project modeling in a children's catalog and travels to the beach. On set, Meruru meets a younger boy named Jousuke who likes to carry with him a fox plush named Kaguya, given to him by his deceased parents. She finds out that he also works on the town in an ice cream parlor and instantly feels a connection with the younger boy. Another accident happens however and Kohl takes a hard blow to the head, waking up to vision loss in his right eye.
Ep. 14 The Burden of the Gifted Few
Meruru continues her dancing training with Lait, who seemed to become more and more depressed as time went on. She finally admits that more than anything she wished she had a voice so she feel like a normal girl. A few days later, Lait falls down a flight of stairs and breaks her arm in several places. Now no longer able to hold her balance and practice her only talent, Lait breaks down in the studio. Later Meruru finds out that Lait had withdrawn and, like Peri, left without saying farewell.
Ep. 15 Promises
Once again back at the hidden shrine, Meruru looks at all of the notes she had left for friends no longer present and reflects on the events in the past few months. Once again, she wonders why she is at the school and the Chairman had invited her. With half a mind to withdraw herself, she recalls her own promises of reunion with her friends and realizes that they would only be actualized with the power of fame and fortune in her grasp. Deciding to stay and work more vigilantly, she returns to the empty studios and practices alone.
Ep. 16 The Ball of Loons
At the school's social event of the season, Meruru glues herself to Kohl's side, fearful that he too would leave soon especially given his recent injury. Noting her strange behavior, Kohl asks if something's wrong. Meruru asks him to promise to stay at the school. Some of the older students get in trouble with the Ball's hosts, and Meruru is left to observe their reckless behavior from the sidelines.
Ep.17 Good Deeds
Students are reminded that they should still be responsible citizens after the Ball and are sent to the town for a cleaning day. Meruru is happy to mingle with the townspeople alongside Jousuke given that many of them already frequent their respective businesses. However, she also finds herself working side-by-side with Tarot, who maintains a standoffish attitude around Meruru but it seen to be rather fond of Jousuke. Meruru asks both what they think of the school at the end of the day and if they are happy to be there. Tarot asks Meruru if she was happy instead, and points out that even if she were unhappy, there were no alternatives for the like of her.
Ep. 18 Money, Money
On set of a new music video production, Meruru meets some of the school's graduates who are now idols and shadows them in their daily lives for a week. She gets a taste of what a life of fame and fortune is like and thinks back to her life before the school in the slums, wondering if it'll be possible for her to go back even if she wanted to. A scandal breaks out, however, when the young woman Meruru was shadowing is discovered comatose in a hotel having overdosed on drugs. Thinking perhaps it's not so different after all, Meruru returns to the school and evaluates her own future.
Ep. 19 The Penpal
A few months has passed and Meruru has started taking more advanced classes in the performing arts. However, she has discovered a talent for drawing and is compiling a secret book of memories with drawings of her friends and events. Some of the pages are torn off and left at the secret shrine. A few days later, Meruru returns to find that someone else started leaving drawings there as well in reply to her own. The two communicate through drawings left behind, and eventually Meruru discovers that her secret pen pal is none other than Owen. They talk about how the shrine is a special place to them and will always treasure the friends that they have lost over time.
Ep. 20 Foulplay
The school infirmary is filled with students down with the flu, Meruru as one of them. It's there that Meruru hears whispers of another student being hurt and discovers the school's unofficial tradition of hazing newer students. Her conversation with Xiang and Eon from the beginning of the year comes to mind and she wonders how many of her friends have been hurt because of this tradition. She asks the other students why they do this, and they point out that it's just a taste of the difficulties they will face once they graduate. If new students can't even deal with some harmless pranks, then they will never be ready for the outside world.
Ep. 21 "I told you so."
Working at her food cart, Meruru is surprised to see that Xiang has come to visit her. She asks him if he knew about the school's tradition of hazing new students, and he laughs at her before reminding her of his warning. He points out that nothing is more dangerous than the students themselves and that the school's system is completely rotten as it encourages dangerous activities like that. Meruru in turn asks why he didn't just tell her, and realizes that she would have never believed him without experiencing it herself.
Ep. 22 Gladiator
After speaking to Kohl and Owen, Meruru announces that she wants to challenge the school's system and the kind of toxic environments students have created. After all of her friends who have left, she declares that she wants the Academy to be a school where all of the students can be friends and support each other, and a place where you would want to stay forever. Immediately, she sets to meet the newest students of the school and encounters three girls named Mari, Verspera, and Evelyn. Tarot catches her as she introduces the girls to the school, having overheard her conversation with Kohl and Owen and mocks Meruru for her naivete.
Ep. 23 Shots Fired
Frustrated that Tarot continues to look down at her, Meruru challenges her to a dance-off to not only earn respect from the other girl but also their classmates. She prepares and suddenly doubts her own course of action the night before the dance-off, wondering if she wanted to humiliate Tarot rather than earn her respect from this small contest. In an attempt to build a better relationship with Tarot, she reaches out to the girl and asks to resolve their differences in other ways instead. Tarot rejects her offer, thinking that Meruru has only changed her mind out of fear of losing.
Ep. 24 Gadri'annis
The day of the dance-off, the school's end of the year performance is leaked. To make the stakes higher, Tarot points out that the loser should not audition for any parts. Meruru agrees, and their dance-off commences before a small group of their classmates at the secret shrine. Meruru shows off some fancy foot work, and is announced the winner. However, not wanting their relationship to be tainted, Meruru asks for them to be friends from now on and both audition for the end of the year show. The two girls are shown on stage closing out the performance of Gadri'annis, fighting side-by-side.