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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Oshi no Ko Season 2

How would you rate episode 12 of
Oshi no Ko (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.1



What is this?

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As Aqua continues his quest to find his father—the puppet master behind his mother's murder—within the Japanese entertainment industry, he finds himself acting in a stage play based on the wildly popular manga Tokyo Blade. Surrounded by competent professionals— including his friends Kana and Akane—it looks like this will be one of his easier jobs… If only things could be that easy.

Oshi no Ko Season 2 is based on the Oshi no Ko manga series by Aka Akasaka and Mengo Yokoyari. The anime series is streaming on HIDIVE on Wednesdays.


How was the first episode?

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James Beckett
Rating:

Last year, I was among the few who ended up not being incredibly impressed with Oshi no Ko's feature-length premiere. The amount of talent on display from Studio Doga Kobo was evident enough, of course, but the story's protagonists and reincarnation/murder mystery tropes just didn't gel with me. I might not have ever caught up on the first season if it weren't for the ANN After Show, but I am very glad I did because I quickly grew to appreciate the show's strengths.

In addition to the excellent animation and art direction, I loved how the story interrogated the complex and often toxic nature of life in the entertainment industry. I even grew attached to most of the show's cast despite how much I get distracted by those creepy star-shaped pupils that they have.

I don't know if I'd call myself a super-fan of Oshi no Ko just yet; this second season may just be the thing to cement my conversion. The fact that this whole storyline focuses on the production of a stage play adapted from a manga is just 1000% my jam. I freaking love it when stories dig into the technical minutiae of putting on a show, and the crew's production of Tokyo Blade comes with the added benefit of being a "2.5-D Play" that is adapting a mega-popular manga. This comes with all sorts of nifty benefits that I cannot help but geek out over. The way that Oshi no Ko fuses and contrasts the art of the anime with the in-universe art of the Tokyo Blade manga makes for some brilliant shots and sequences, like seeing Kana and her laconic co-lead burst into life during rehearsals to the point where the story of the play is threatening to subsume the “real” world.

The multi-layered industry elements also mean that we get to dive into some of the specific kinds of challenges that our cast members will face. My favorite part of the premiere was seeing Akane deal with her frustration over how her character has changed for the worse compared to her manga counterpart. The scene where she and the play's director and writer break down the reasoning for cutting out so much of that great material gives life to the theater kid, anime critic, and writer personas that all wage daily battle within my soul. I could eat this stuff up for way more than just one season.

As is usual with Oshi no Ko, my only major-ish complaint comes from Aqua himself, who remains my least favorite aspect of the narrative. He's not a bad protagonist, but his cold and calculating persona makes him hard to intrinsically root for. I always feel like I'm suddenly watching a different (and less interesting) anime whenever he takes the spotlight. I'm sure his quest for vengeance will feel more compelling the more headway we make in this story, but at this point, I tend to prefer the parts of the story that focus on basically any other character in the show.

Still, consider this preview something of a mea culpa. While I still contend that the beginning of Oshi no Ko is the show at its weakest — and let's be honest, we could have shaved a solid 15-20 minutes off of that 1st episode — I am happy to report that I get it, now: Oshi no Ko rules. Bring on the rest of the season.


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Lauren Orsini
Rating:

Part of what made the Oshi no Ko season 1 premiere instantly buzzworthy was its totally bonkers premise. It took a trust fall into what seemed to be a full hour of bizarre fetish material to reveal an unsettling, addictive drama waiting on the other side. By contrast, the Oshi no Ko season 2 premiere doesn't have the same shock value. Viewers know what they're in for, and they get it. It's not a bad thing, but it's also not a hot topic. People will probably say something like, "Oshi no Ko season 2? It looks pretty good," and move on. While it was an entertaining episode about the entertainment industry, it wasn't unexpected or unusual. As Oshi no Ko might say, it lacked Ai's star power.

Sandwiching the perfectly acceptable opening (it would have been surprising if they managed to top the banger that was YOASOBI's “Idol,” and they didn't) is an introduction to what I think is one of Oshi no Ko's more middling story arcs, since it lacks the darkness and intensity of the story arcs that precede and follow it. Here, Aqua and his friends are adapting a stage play based on the fictional anime Tokyo Blade, which feels vaguely inspired by Demon Slayer. It also includes one extremely on-the-nose detail: while Akane and Kana are vying for Aqua's affections, they are also playing opposing rivals who are warring to become Aqua's character's romantic interest. It's the same story being told through multiple layers and lends an interesting conceit to their love triangle.

Speaking of layers, the premiere never lets you forget Oshi no Ko's meta-premise to explore the dark side of the media industry while being part of the media industry. The scene in which a scriptwriter accounts for his choices in adapting the play differently from the Tokyo Blade manga would feel almost like a justification for this episode's adaptive choices if that scene weren't taken beat for beat from the manga. It's a fascinating exercise to listen to Oshi no Ko explain how adaptations alter a manga's source material while witnessing the way this episode does and doesn't veer from its source material. The key difference from the manga is a vibrant, anime-only take on the rehearsals—the strongest scene in the premiere. Here, the actors are depicted in a single color, each against a monochrome backdrop, splashing each other with the colors of their performances like they're inklings in Splatoon. It's a bracing reminder that Oshi no Ko is well aware of its tightrope when navigating such a meta premise. By altering the original material in an episode that heavily discusses why scriptwriters might do so, the audience is on high alert to look out for exactly those changes.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

It's good to have Oshi no Ko back. While I never totally fell in love with the first season – outside of that laser-targeted assault on my heart that was the premiere – I always found its odd mix of tone really interesting. While all the idol baby reincarnation stuff made for a solid hook, the more mundane exploration of the truths and lies of show business was always the most unique angle. I'm glad to see this return immediately focusing on that.

For one, seeing a depiction of the rehearsal process for those anime stage plays I'll never get to see live is pretty novel. The opening minutes of this episode even go so far as to show us the dramatic, screen-enhanced spectacle of the play entirely from the audience's perspective, in another one of the show's impressive directional choices. It acts as a great tease for the final product before taking us back to the early rehearsals and really digging into the creative process behind this whole thing. I also like that the play is a more considered adaptation than the drama Aqua and Kana took part in last season. There's an art to adaptation into a new medium, and getting to see the writer and directors' reasoning behind changes and their concerns about how those changes affect the overall production is exactly the kind of thing that lit my brain on fire back in season one.

It's also nice to be back with this cast, especially Kana and Akane, who were easily the strongest characters in season one. Their (doomed) rivalry over Aqua's affections isn't all that engaging. However, seeing Kana let loose when paired with a top actor or Akane driving herself crazy over how to get into her heavily altered role does more than makeup for the love triangle nonsense. Also, the visual metaphor of Kana and her co-star going all out is fantastic and perfectly captures the energy of a truly electric performance. While the rest of the episode is mostly standard, it still looks good and captures both comedy and drama with the same solid hand as always, and they're still doing YoriMengo's designs justice.

This is Oshi no Ko working at its usual level, which is pretty damn high. It's not the most electric return, but it's proof that the series still has all the confidence and staying power it promised last year.


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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

The premiere of Oshi no Ko's second season was an episode more or less like any other, which automatically garners it a solid four stars. The only notable creative choice was to make the episode's first two minutes a single unmoving, uninterrupted shot of the opening of Tokyo Blade, the 2.5D play-within-the-show, zoomed out to show the full proscenium arch and the backs of the audience's heads.

It's a clever move on a couple of levels. For one thing, it gave me a sense of what a “2.5D play” is. As far as I know, the term is unique to Japanese otaku culture and refers exclusively to plays based on anime, manga, and light novels. It's a young art form, only a couple of years old, and distinct from more traditionalized theatrical arts, meaning even avid theatergoers outside Japan wouldn't know what it involves. While the episode only gave us a taste, I already feel I have much more perspective from that shot replicating what it's like in the audience.

Plus, it creates a sense of the stakes for the characters. We now know the end product of what they're working on, represented in a way that would be difficult to envision based on them rehearsing in workout clothes in a big, empty room. Watching a play come together from the first time the actors pick up the scripts can be magical as, bit by bit, the performances, costumes, and sets come together. That magic has only started forming, so having a sense of what it will all look like gives us something to look forward to.

And other than that, it is just a new arc of Oshi no Ko. It focuses on the performing arts rather than unlocking the mystery of Aqua and Ruby's father, examining the difficulties of adapting the story and characters of one medium to another. It's also told primarily from Akane's point-of-view since the character she's playing has been significantly altered. Ruby doesn't even show up…


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Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

Welp, as advertised, that was an episode of Oshi no Ko—and a rather average one at that. As often happens with continuations of an ongoing series, the premiere episode is typical. Last season, it ended with the casting of Tokyo Blade and explicitly set up the rivalry between Akane and Kana by giving us Akane's point of view on the whole situation. This episode continues right on from that.

We are given the setup of working on Tokyo Blade. It's got a cast of talented professionals on stage and a solid backstage team. The actors enjoy their jobs—and even if they can't make it to every rehearsal—they put their all in whenever they are there. So everything looks like it will be smooth sailing—well, except from Akane's point of view.

Akane's core issue is the same as the one she had on the reality TV show: she's a method actor. She needs to become the character—to build a complete and realistic personality that allows her character nuance in any given scene. The problem is, in Tokyo Blade—specifically in this stage play version of the story—her character is a one-note villainess. It's challenging for Akane to play such a shallow role—something made doubly difficult to accept thanks to the fact that her character in the source material is more than just a battle-crazed maniac.

Thanks to Aqua's help, she comes to learn why her role has been changed from a technical and writing standpoint—that even when only adapting a single arc of the manga, the story is too big for the runtime, and cuts and abridgment need to be made. Her character, as a less popular one, just happened to be hit the hardest.

Of course, right after she accepts this, our last-minute cliffhanger throws a wrench into the works. Apparently, despite being almost a week into rehearsals, the original author wants to do an entire rewrite. As it seems the author has creative control over this production, it looks like things are going to get incredibly chaotic.



Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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