by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
“Goodbye to Our World” sees the girls of 22/7 only a couple of weeks away from their story's conclusion without any idea of where to go next – the same can be said for 22/7 itself, which is working overtime to try and get its audience invested in the idols' existential crisis, though the result feels and awful lot like more wheel-spinning. Lately, I've been trying to reconcile what I expected to get from this series from its wonderful opening episodes to what it eventually became, which is a mostly entertaining but largely superficial idol drama, one that is happy to ask the big questions about why young women would ever subject themselves to such an emotionally and physically demanding career without ever providing too much in the way of answers.Why did all of these girls (save for Nicole) join the group, when almost none of them had any actual interest in being a public figure or performer? The initial excuses that each flashback episode provided were all rooted in personal complexes or family issues, but being an idol hasn't actually addressed any of those conflicts in a way that the audience has been able to see. Miu is a little more outgoing now, Akane had that one moment where she let her emotional guard down briefly during a concert, and I guess that Sakura got to connect more with her grandmother's culture. What about the others, though? Akane hasn't made any progress in seeking out her father, so are we just supposed to assume that she's happy with the substitute family of 22/7 (even though she already has a boatload of siblings and a mother who clearly cares about her)? A big to-do was made about Reika becoming the group's leader after her hesitance to do a swimsuit photo shoot, but I can't think of a single moment that her leadership has been properly addressed since that episode aired way back in February. Jun never even had a real conflict to resolve – she was traumatized by her friend's death as a child, yeah, but that character arc began and ended in her episode's flashback, which means her role in the story's present has simply been to keep on doing what she's been doing. Don't even get me started on what Ayaka's purpose in this ensemble is supposed to be – I just covered her story last week, and I still couldn't describe her personality or motivation to you.
The point is, “Goodbye To Our World” suffers because the show has essentially dug itself its own hole, and there's no possible way to dig itself out in the span of just one episode; I don't even know if it can be done by the time the show concludes. Here we have what you might call the climax of the entire story, which is that The Wall has ordered the girls to disband, and this should be heartwrenching. The trouble is that 22/7 has intentionally spent most of its time dwelling on each of the members' pasts, without ever making meaningful, tangible connections to their present lives in 22/7. We're ten episodes into a twelve episode run, and we've mostly been told who these girls were before they became idols, while their time as friends and partners has almost been treated as little more than a frame story.
Here's a perfect example: There's a scene where all of the girls get together one last time before moving out of their shared living quarters. Everyone is sad, Nicole leaves in a huff, feelings are hurt, the works. There's just one thing: I'm fairly certain we never actually saw the group living together as a unit during the supposed year that has passed since the first episode brought them together. Hell, you might not even have known they lived together at all if you didn't stick around for that one after-credits scene that popped up a couple of weeks ago. How are we supposed to feel the pangs of drama and regret that 22/7 so desperately wants us to feel when The Wall carries out the disbanding of the group, when almost everything about their friendship that would elicit those emotions has happened off screen?
Then there's Nicole, who remains as much an enigma as ever, especially since the flashbacks one might have predicted for her based on the recent pattern of episodes don't arrive until yet another post-credits scene. Her whole deal in this episode smacks of a script that either doesn't know how to put all of its pieces together, or can't be bothered. She leaves the group when they bid their goodbyes to the apartment, and then randomly shows up out of the blue again to rescue Miu from some nosy reporters who are understandably confused about 22/7 breaking up (earlier in the episode, The Wall has Goda set up a big press conference to announce the end of the band, only to completely fail to give anyone any kind of information about how or why the group is breaking up, which only adds to the confusion). I was beginning to wonder what any of this was building to, and then the post-credits scene reveals that when Nicole was younger, an exchange student arrived to her class, whose name was…Miu Takigawa!
This is normally where the Dun Dun Dunnnnnnn cue would hit in the soundtrack but, since this is literally the first piece of backstory we've ever received for Nicole, it doesn't really work as a twist. 22/7 has been hinting at some kind of connection between Miu and Nicole for awhile there, though whether Nicole was meant to be a rival, a mentor, a love-interest, or some mix of all three, hasn't ever been made clear. Now that we know the two share a past that Miu doesn't even seem to remember, though…well, that doesn't change or add anything to Nicole's lack of definition. It merely serves as another cliffhanger, as if even the series itself knew that the group disbanding wouldn't be enough drama to hook its audience onto the story at this late stage.
As for myself: I'm still not hooked, which is a real shame. For all of its melodramatic indulgences, somewhere along the way 22/7 seems to have forgotten that cheap narrative curveballs and soap opera styled reveals of secret connections were never what made the series seem so promising in the first place. It all started with the painfully relatable and genuine story genuine of a young girl who couldn't find her place in the world, at least until she met The Wall, and the other girls it stole away from their ordinary lives. Miu's story ended months ago, though, and she's been granted maybe two or three lines in each episode since then. Maybe the show will find its voice again if its most compelling stories can be brought back into the forefront in these final weeks. Or maybe every problem will be solved with a neat little bow once the girls inevitably realize that they do want to be idols after all. Whatever The Wall wills, I suppose…
Odds and Ends
• What's the Score?: No new music at all this week – not even an ED track for Nicole, since she isn't actually the focus of the episode. I can at least shout out Jun being the loveable dork that she is when she's filmed doing an impromptu song and dance number to one of 22/7's singles by herself, outside, in the middle of the night. Never change, Jun.
• Being for The Benefit of Mr. Wall: At some point, we'll need to talk about how silly The Wall's life-changing and almost certainly “benevolent” schemes are when put in the context of having an unexplained supernatural entity manage a media company that runs a single idol group. Sure, each of their missions has related to the girls' personal struggles…kind of…sometimes? Either way, if this disbanding of the group is all in service of fostering some kind of collective epiphany for 22/7, that's a whole lot of manipulative BS for these kids to go through for ultimately no reason. Couldn't The Wall have printed a thoroughly worded memo for the girls to read or, I don't know, hired a counselor to come in and work with the group, or something?
• Pour out a drink for all of the GIP employees who are apparently jobless now. I bet the after-work venting sessions they got into at the local bars were exceptionally weird. “I have three kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, and no health insurance, but I'm going on three months unemployed now, and for what? All so my omnipotent wall-fixture of a boss can teach some teenagers a lesson about loving their work!?”
22/7 is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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