by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
As I suspect will be the case for the foreseeable future, “Just Flip It Over!” is another introduction episode that focuses on the 22-7 girls that haven't gotten much screen time yet. Sakura got the lion's share of the story last time, and this week is Miyako's time to shine. Where Sakura's episode had the rest of the girls playing distant supporting roles to Sakura's flashbacks, “Just Flip It Over!” does a much better job of tying its central character's backstory to the present-day conflict. This week, the Wall has given his usual last-minute order for the girls to participate in the Idol Tokyo Festival, but the girls falter on stage when asked to share fun group anecdotes of their friendships. The stress and embarrassment of the moment cause the girls to regress into bickering, but this is where Miyako comes in to save the day. She grew up in a poor household as the oldest of seven half-siblings, you see, and she's got plenty of experience in forcing a group of disparate personalities to not only get along, but to like it too.
It also helps that Miyako's flashbacks are rerefreshingly down-to-earth compared to Sakura's cloyingly sweet dead grandma story. Sure, the “headstrong big-sister that basically runs her family because the single mom is unreliable” is its own kind of cliché, but it speaks to experiences that feel just a little more lived-in and real. What I especially appreciated was the way the show didn't look-down on Miyako's mom for being four-times divorced, or for struggling to cope with life as a single, overworked mom. She's still there for her kids; Miyako is just good help in picking up the slack when necessary. She clearly knows her daughter is holding back on pursuing her dreams – Miyako always gives joke answers when asked about her career plans, even though she really wants to move to Tokyo to be a fashion designer. When the Wall's tell-tale calling card arrives, and Miyako brushes the invitation off as impractical, her mother rallies and ponies up the cash to fund the trip. She mistakenly believes that being an idol is Miyako's real dream, but she doesn't hesitate to support it, even if it would make her and the other kids' lives a little rougher.
In reality, Miyako joined 22/7 because she believed that, were the group to become famous enough, she might track down her deadbeat dad and mend the broken threads of her family life, if only even a little. This is in keeping with the running idea that all of the 22/7 girls have ulterior motives in pursuing the idol life (except maybe for Nicole). Miu needed to support her own family, Sakura wanted to connect with her deceased grandmother's culture, and now we see Miyako yearning for a paternal connection. I don't think Miu's voice-over needed to put such an obvious point to it at the end of the episode, as the formula of characterization has been rather obvious, but it is effective nonetheless. Last week, I honestly couldn't have told you who Miyako was from amongst the group, but she's acquitted herself well as a heroine worth following.
My only major complaint for this week, outside of a slight but noticeable dip in artistic quality, is the fact that the present-day 22/7 material doesn't feel urgent enough. It's better than last week's major conflict of “The girls have to go on a hike and take cute pictures in the rain”, but “The girls aren't quite chummy enough, so they have an okonomiyaki party” is quite the step up I was hoping for. So far, their path towards becoming legitimate idols has felt rather easy, especially now that Miu's internal conflict has apparently been resolved. Their first concert had a couple of technical issues, but it turned out fine. Their first photo-shoot got delayed on account of rain, but turned out fine. Their first big festival suffered from a dip in group chemistry, but then they all made food together, and it turned out…well, you get the idea. It's even pointed out early in the episode that the girls all basically get along fine already, they just don't have many specific anecdotes of the time they've spent together, so it isn't even an emotional conflict; it's a practical one.
The show was this close to scratching the surface of a much more interesting issue, which one of the girls (I think it was Nicole?) makes note of when she says that its awful silly for The Wall to just put seven random young women in a room and expect them to act like best friends for their fans. That is a rather silly notion, yet that heightened performance of “friendship” is exactly what so many idol group fans fall in love with, isn't it? Especially in groups like 22/7, where each of the performers isn't even operating as themselves, but rather fictional girls that exist only as two-dimensional drawings. I would have loved to see the show interrogate this friction between the real women that perform as idols and the idols they perform as, but alas, 22/7 opted for a cleaner, easier route. I liked this episode overall, but I continue to worry that this pattern of taking the path of least resistance is going to be 22/7's M.O., and that all of the potential demonstrated in those first few episodes will remain untapped.
Odds and Ends
• What's the Score?: Again, the show conspicuously skipped over the in-narrative performances, with Miyako's character song being the only real tune of the week. I really liked it, though – the high-energy beat mixed with the traditional Japanese percussion and shamisen sounds reminded me of the DDR tracks I used to fail at completing in middle-school.
• Being for The Benefit of Mr. Wall: The Wall is as benevolent and mysterious as ever, though the girls are at least continuing to question the hows and whys of its rumbling innerworkings, and I can't help but read Miu's voiceover at the end of the episode as being at least a teensy bit foreboding.
• I can't decide if the crowd going wild at Miu explaining what it was like to be “booped” at the okonomiyaki party is ridiculous, stupid, adorable, or a mix of the three. Also, is it just me, or is Miu getting hit on by all of the other girls at this point? Has 22/7 been a yuri-harem anime in disguise this whole time?
22/7 is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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