If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
We're coming up on the end of the season for OshiBudo, which means it has to start setting up for some kind of big finish. The Budokan itself is still far away though, so the series settles for setting up ChamJam and their fans to attend an idol festival. The major concern alluded to by all parties on this is the idea of the idols and those who love them having to directly compare themselves to others in the entertainment industry. It's an idea that's always been tacitly present but never directly acknowledged by the show's setting and its protective fandom bubble: There's a whole world of other performers out there with their own fans and successes, and stepping over all of them to go onto greater successes is a competition not just of skill but in lucking into that right-place-right-time opportunity for fame. Does it amount to nothing if you and the supporters you perform for never make it to the Big Show? Or is the personal fulfillment of that support and doing what you love enough? The rules change from person to person, to say nothing of the more idealized environment OshiBudo's story occupies.
Because so much of this episode is setup for next week's dramatic festival climax, all that time we've been spending with the idols of ChamJam themselves continues on in their character development we see here. That issue with comparisons to more successful groups is quantified in another idol group Maple Doll, and how our focal group reacts to them. Aya vocalizes the main inferiority complex driving her character we saw a couple weeks ago: With as much as she's worked her butt off to become famous and successful, she's frustrated that Maple Doll, supposedly merely as talented as ChamJam, have found themselves in a much more popular position. OshiBudo hasn't touched on the more cutthroat aspects of show business as much as I'd have expected a pastiche of the industry to, in service of it selling the illusion of the idol dream as much as its celebration of the fans powering it, but here it still touches on how damaging the competitive comparisons it fosters can be. Aya's already dealing with coming up short in her own band due to a difference in naturally-appealing professionalism, so confronting Maple Doll's uncanny success just spurns her into trying harder and pushing the group along with her. In that respect, it's a nice tip of an arc to see a character as generally comical as Aya reach a point where she's trying her darndest to take things seriously now.
The other members of ChamJam are shown grappling with their own inferiority complexes both old and new. Maki is still taking her relationship with Yume as an opportunity to push her girlfriend to reach for bigger and better things for herself. It's a sweet angle but nothing exceptionally new from this character arc. We also get to see a new side of Reo, affected as she is by the lead of Maple Doll being her old bandmate Mei and having a lot of tangled success-measuring emotions and actions working there. Reo's character development still isn't quite as advanced as some of the other members, so OshiBudo seems instead to be using her situation as a measuring stick for the complications this idol festival has everyone dealing with. Reo gets a direct message from Mei noting their coming adjacent performance, but then ends up snubbed even referentially when the more popular idol gets to do an interview on TV. We always knew ChamJam's ‘underground’ status lent them a smaller pool of fame than the ferocious fandom on display in the rest of the cast may indicate, but this episode's machinations make especially clear how small a pond these big fish were really in.
That TV interview lets me segue into discussing Eripiyo's myriad elements of this episode, however. It forms her biggest major comedy segment this week, dragging one of her co-workers to watch it with her just to catch a fleeting glimpse of her precious Maina. And it flirts still more with the question of how Eripiyo will ever recognize what the depth of affection for her fave actually indicates. This bit does the somewhat-expected misunderstanding gag of Eripiyo's co-worker initially mistaking her for seeing someone she like likes on TV, but given Eripiyo's immediate reactions and exclamations, is she wrong? It's a gag that dovetails into a near-breakthrough, as the co-worker ends up devolving into anime-boyfriend fan-worship and points out that Eripiyo is lucky the one she likes even exists in the same dimension as her. Funny as the whole thing is, it seems to register as a real epiphany for our screaming central character, so strongly that she's willing to start using Twitter to express it!
Eripiyo's impromptu Twitter-thread near-love-confession is where I find myself, more strongly than I have in the past few weeks, having to come to grips with how willing I am to engage with OshiBudo on its own terms as a setting and situation. Simply put, these kinds of overt, worshipping fan-ramblings are a dime-a-dozen in our real-world internet culture, and can run the gamut from awkward but dismissable to dangerously obsessive. In other contexts, this is the kind of thing that gets categorized as that borderline-stalking tendency that Eripiyo's flirted with from the first episode. But of course, this deep into the series, we know her feelings for Maina are not only selfless, but reciprocated by Maina, as demonstrated by the idol's reaction to the tweets within this episode! It's why OshiBudo is unable to make any truly impactful real-world commentary on the idol industry and adjacent fans, since it insists on using online engagement like Twitter merely as another medium to communicate that level of devotion and love it's idealizing. At this point we're used to that level of storytelling from the show, so it's merely distracting rather than off-putting if you've stuck with it for this long.
But where OshiBudo has continuously hiccupped on the meta level, it does still know how to sidestep that for emotional impact for characters we're endeared to regardless, and in that respect the Twitter thread is a clever climax to this penultimate-episode buildup. The idea of shouting your feelings into the online void is itself a valid use of a social media account, and makes appreciable use of the modern platform as a way to have Eripiyo do that in a way Maina still gets to see and react to. In an older series Eripiyo probably would have been shouting with Maina coincidentally within earshot, but here she is now just getting tagged in a thread. It's simply sweet, and brings the two's reactions to each other together in a way that satisfies buildup. "She gives me something to look forward to” Eripiyo sends out, another culminating quantification of her dependent selflessness on the idol that sits somewhere oddly between heartwarming and concerning. But we end here with Maina now aware of that sentiment, as well as staring directly into a medium that might let her actually communicate with Eripiyo if either of them can take that next step. Given OshiBudo's track record, I'm not expecting any actual culmination or resolution of this in next week's final episode, but one step forward would be nice.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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