If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 12 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
Here at its final episode, OshiBudo almost seemed to have made this one specifically for me. Even as I've questioned the show's priorities and attitude towards its subject matter over the past season, I've still always certainly appreciated it and all it gave me to discuss. But the points addressed in this finale particularly lean into some of the questions I've repeatedly raised about its ideas. This means that what is thus-far the ending of OshiBudo as an anime, lacking as it does any real closure to its story, still delivers a feeling of payoff to everything it did up until now. That's fair to the series overall, of course, since it's regularly found ways to deliver meatier dramatic concepts with its signature silly, fluffy execution. Yet there's still more of a sense of completion this time, of delivering answers to questions posed and feeling like it's moving onto a new stage.
One element of that is a literal new stage, of course. As promised, this episode sees ChamJam performing at an idol festival, among dozens of other acts and throngs of enthusiastic attendees. The scale of the event and what that means for our beloved underground group is demonstrated pretty strongly here, thanks to OshiBudo's always-excellent use of backgrounds in its setting and layouts. I've never been to an idol festival myself, but that same atmosphere of a huge event like a music festival or even your standard convention comes through, and they bring us in further by focusing not mainly on Eripiyo and the other fans taking it all in, but on ChamJam themselves being near-overwhelmed by the scale. Yuka and Aya get to do the majority of the wild takes and reactions, which is fine by me since I love them, but everyone's showing it to some degree. The most dramatic aspects come through in Reo and Maina, and from them the key functionality of why this episode works so well for me spins out.
For Reo, the meaning in this event (and it turns out, the series as a whole) manifests in the appearance of Mei, her old group-mate. I mentioned Mei's fueling of Reo's inferiority complex last week, but it turns out her affect on the girl is even more consciously malicious than that. Mei pops in just to interrupt ChamJam's pre-show huddle, cruelly neg Reo, and flaunt her own success seemingly in an effort to undermine her former co-star. It's harsh in ways OshiBudo has never been before, and it paints such a distinct portrait in such a short amount of time in pursuit of making me realize I might have been wrong about this show all along. That is, my accusation that OshiBudo was flippantly idealizing idols as a way of glorifying the entertainment industry. Reo's current band-mates immediately come together to comfort her and turn that assumed narrative on its head: The vicious veneer of show-business was always skirting at the edges of OshiBudo, but it was doing so in the ‘normal’ groups, like Mei's Maple Doll who have already found massive fame the ‘easy’ way, and broken up scores of other aspirationals and become cruel players of the game along the way. ChamJam, by contrast, are the good guys of this idol world, striving to achieve their goals while staying friends and having fun.
That leads directly into the ongoing analysis of how much ChamJam really appreciates their focal fans (who haven't been carrying the show quite as much since the idols themselves really started utilizing that spotlight). Late in this episode we get little scenes between each of the main fans and their best girl, and while we're already privy to, say, Sorane's savvy successes with hopeless romantics like Motoi, that previous demonstration of their earnestness lets me regard the whole exchange with a bit less cynicism. At least Reo I can buy as truly grateful to Kumasa, because her whole journey as an idol to this point has been about how she learned to believe in and rely on others who did the same with her. It lets the star/fan dichotomy feel like just a bit more of a two-way street than I gave it credit for previously, thanks to this clarification that ChamJam is an exception, not the rule, to the musical marketing machine.
But we're not really here for Sorane and Motoi or Reo and Kumasa now, are we? Even before this last episode's revelations, Maina and Eripiyo had effectively danced into a distinct demonstration of the fandom give-and-take. From a story perspective, the audience was fully aware of Maina's genuine love for Eripiyo, with Eripiyo coming tantalizingly close to quantifying that her own appreciation for Maina was romantically reciprocal. That Twitter thread last week was a culmination of that, given an allusion here as Sorane points out that of course they'll write stuff about you on their blog if you were really their fave. But the mutual support motivating their not-yet romance gets one last clarification into the ideals of fandom itself with the two's big moment this episode: Eripiyo's cheering helping Maina find herself and perform on this new stage. It's apart from any romantic tension or teases, no, it's a genuine demonstration of mutual support and drive between two people whose existences power each other. As ChamJam are revealed as an ideal of what idols in the industry could be, Eripiyo and Maina posit what a fan relationship, apart from any merchandise-buying or romantic overtures, could look like at its best.
Eripiyo tells Maina she'll love her forever towards the end of this episode, but in-context it's hardly a confession or the most important step of their relationship. Even Maina initiating the handshake-conversation leading to them truly talking with each other for once isn't the real big moment here. It's right in the middle there, with an outer-stage idol's biggest fan helping her find her center in a massive moment. OshiBudo stamps out serious meaning with its focal relationship in this episode apart from its two leads' character arcs, and that marks this as a major success for me even as it totally lacks closure for the story it was just starting to tell.
It becomes apparent that I could talk forever about all the things this episode surprised me by doing so right. For one I can't believe I never made a chance to talk about the rock-solid dancing animation and choreography in this show, with this ending sporting a strong performance number itself. And all the humor was still on-point, including a terrific post-credits gag of ChamJam making their way to the wrong Budokan. But the best quantification I can highlight of this finale's success comes after that big concert number, as Reo exclaims that they definitely took a step forward. ‘A step forward’ was the one thing I asked for at the end of my review of last week's episode, and all the dynamic reframing and culminating articulation of its themes confirms that this absolutely delivered for me. As a piece of ideas, I'm delighted with the arc OshiBudo took, and can at least leave it at this point satisfied.
That said, if If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die made it to a second season, I would die.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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