by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
22/7 has been together for an entire year? This is presented as an obvious and predictable reason for The Wall to order an anniversary concert be held for the girls this week, but I had to double-back and recheck the subtitles, because it does not in any way feel like this crew has been at it for a full 365 days. If you'd told me they'd been working together for six months or something like that, I could have gone along well enough, but it feels like they were only trying to figure out their very first publicity shoot just a few of episodes ago, and their first major solo concert. There was even that post-credits scene just last week that showed all of the girls moving in together, which was treated like an afterthought and a big deal all at the same time, though it doesn't even get mentioned here.
What's funny is that a year isn't actually that long to be working to get a foot into the music industry, and the timeline shouldn't stick out as much as it does. I think the problem is both the show's strange sense of pacing – the first three episodes cover the span of a week or two at a pace that is easy to follow, but then whole months will pass in between episodes without comment – as well as the general lack of conflict an momentum in the group's journey. Even though every episode has presented a major struggle for one of the girls to overcome in the life of an idol, they've all been very internal conflicts, and all of them have been resolved without impacting the group as a whole. Though each of its members will probably have loads to say about how hard it is to be an idol, from what we've seen of their work, 22/7's climb to national success has been remarkably easy. The songs have all apparently been hits, even though we never see them practice or record any of them. The concerts have seemingly been smash successes too, given that we've only seen two and a third of them, and the biggest issue that was ever presented was when the speakers went out that one time, or when their stage banter was a little awkward. It turns out that it is difficult to gauge the trials and tribulations of a musical group when the most complicated stuff -logistics, fundraising, marketing, etc. – is handled by an omnipotent glowing slab. Believe it or not, I miss the days when the manager was just a generic self-insert character.
I haven't even mentioned Ayaka yet, even though she's the ostensible focus of the episode. That's because, while a lot of the girls' flashbacks haven't necessarily felt as strongly linked to the present-day stories as I would have liked, Ayaka's is the first to have a backstory that just straight up doesn't matter. It's so superfluous, in fact, that it is technically two different stories about Ayaka's past that barely connect to each other, much less the story of 22/7. The first story is about Ayaka and her two sisters, Ayane and Ayana. When they were little, they would fight all of the time, until they came together one day to scare off a bunch of bullies, and then they didn't fight anymore. Later, we learn that Ayaka was something of a manga prodigy, so much so that she was able to live independently as a high-schooler. She also got bullied a lot in high school. Now she's here in the group, though she tells her sister that she doesn't particularly care about being an idol at all; she only took the job because she thought it would make for interesting material for a manga.
What does any of this have to do with the Wall's order to got take a hot-springs vacation and prepare for their concert? Search me. There's a very cheesy moment where, when all of the other girls start to bicker over a card game, Ayaka starts singing the titular “Lullaby of the Stars” to distract them and diffuse the tension, which is what her mother did with her sisters as kids. So, are we supposed to see that the girls are close enough now that they might as well be sisters? The stuff at the hot-springs is cute and all, but 22/7 as a show has been so focused on all of these flashbacks that we haven't seen enough of the group together for that feeling to come through. When Miu attempts to reach out to Ayaka, she says that Ayaka is the one she is the least close to, and I simply had to take the show's word for it, since all of these girls feel more like friendly co-workers to each other than anything else (except maybe for Miu and Sakura, though they've each had all of four or five lines in as many episodes).
This leads to the episode's cliffhanger, which I would call artificial and manufactured, if that weren't literally true within the universe of the show itself. The Wall orders the group to disband, just as they've begun to truly feel at home in the work. Since this is purely an act of emotional manipulation on The Wall's part, as literally every single decision it has made has been, I can only assume the point of this maneuver is to get the girls to realize that they want to be an idol group together of their own free will, Wall or no Wall. We'll just have to see once Nicole gets the last of the flashback episodes next week. Seeing as she's the only one who got into 22/7 specifically because she wanted to make it as an idol, I suppose it makes sense that her character would be the one to realize that the real idol group was the friends she made along the way. Okay, yes, that would have been true regardless of the band breaking up, but you know what I mean.
Odds and Ends
• What's the Score?: Ayaka gets a very strange, seductive number for her ED sequence, complete with her being done up in a silky black dress with searing red nail polish. Is this because she's the most “mature” of the girls? Is she some kind of femme fatale? There was an odd throwaway joke at the end of her chat with Miu that made it seem like Ayaka was coming on to her, so is she supposed to be a seductress? It's a fine song and all, but I remain confused.
• Being for The Benefit of Mr. Wall: I already outlined The Wall's two orders this week, but I couldn't help but laugh at how the script even had Miu proclaiming that the wall has only ever done good things for them just seconds before the “Disband” order slid down the chute. It undercuts any sense of mystery about what The Wall is, since there really isn't any reason to suspect its intentions at this point, and it also ruins the suspense of whether or not the group will truly permanently disband, since I can't imagine any version of this show that doesn't end with the girls all realizing that being in 22/7 made their lives inarguably better.
22/7 is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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