Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task ?
Community score: 4.0
After writing itself into a thematic briar patch, Heroines Run the Show makes a dash towards a happy conclusion, but it can't help stumbling over the nettles. On the surface, this is a pleasant ending that wraps up a confrontational final arc on a high note that leaves everyone in a better place than where they started. Good, right? And it does kinda work as a way of tying a bow on what has been, for the most part, a breezy series about a pair of dysfunctional idols and the friends they made along the way. However, the complications, caveats, and consternation brought on by Chizuru's role in the scandal don't lend themselves to such a tidy resolution.
I think the most egregious mistake of this last arc isn't a matter of how it talks about fandom; it's that it focuses on fandom in the first place. Heroines, up to this point, wasn't really a show about idols. It was a character piece about Hiyori wrangling her new large teenage sons and the issues that inevitably arose from this weird under the table gig. The idol stuff was colorful texture, and it made for some eye-popping musical scenes, but it was ancillary to the personal dramas and the intrigue of finding out what made them tick. Even if these weren't especially rich characters, they each had stuff going on behind the scenes, and their rapport together was a lot of fun.
This scandal arc, then, worked as far as putting pressure on the relationship foundation that Hiyori, Yujiro, and Aizo had forged. Once the cast started making sweeping statements about fans and fan feelings, however, they became mouthpieces, not characters. I don't think it's necessarily wrong either for Heroines to branch into more ambitious and more contentious territory, but the writing and direction have to rise up to meet that level of abstraction. I already talked about the confused framing in last week's episode, and while this week is more consistently bubbly, it can't help but feel too treacly given the degree of harm done and trust betrayed.
I've also been pretty laissez-faire about the whole top secret idol manager thing, because improbability aside, it was just a vehicle for getting these characters to butt heads in fun ways. That leniency flies out the window when Hiyori's confession ends up being the thing that finally convinces Chizuru to reconcile with her friend and forgive herself. If that's all it took, it undercuts the drama of the entire situation, and it makes the arc look more frustrating than compelling. This season took pains to highlight all the work both idols and their managers have to put in, yet this disaster boils down to gross managerial negligence that unwittingly allowed resentment to stew for the sake of pointless secrecy. And rather than address this in any way, the characters instead spew platitudes about being good idols and being good fans.
This episode feels rushed on top of everything else too. I really thought we'd get at least a morsel of additional context for Chizuru's behavior, but there's nothing here that even attempts to explain her stalking. Instead, she and Hiyori make up with minimal friction so the cast can rush to the big concert and watch the boys strut their stuff on stage. The epilogue is also full of stuff that really should have been in the show proper, not the least of which is Hiyori discovering that Mona was an idol this whole time. We could have gotten an episode or two out of that, and I guarantee it would have been more fun than this dour stalking business.
I honestly didn't intend to spend so much of this review complaining, so I do want to highlight the parts I did like. Aizo and Yujiro's performance, while not as flashy as the midseason one, still impresses if only for the show's refusal to use CG animation. Their scenes with their respective brothers are both also nice to see, even if I wish the show had spent more time developing these relationships and their points of friction. Hiyori busting a move in a panda costume is a very cute note to end on too. I am glad, in the end, that while the boys know how to weaponize their charm, a Hiyori romance was never the main thrust of the series. That might've helped focus a rather scattershot season, to be fair, but I think the lack of rigidity was a net positive for Heroines.
It's always a shame when an otherwise good show decides to end on its worst arc. I wish they'd done almost anything else with Chizuru's character, or if the creators where that gung-ho about it, I wish they'd devoted more consideration to both her psyche and the surfeit of thorny real life issues surrounding fandom. But overall, I definitely enjoyed Hiyori's misadventures. While this sour taste in my mouth will fade with time, my affection for her formidable spirit and equally formidable eyebrows should stick around for a long time.
Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a world-renowned golf expert and commentator, but if you just want to read his thoughts on anime and good eyebrows, then there's always Twitter. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.
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