If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
Episode 3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 3 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?

Last week's preview had me thinking that this episode of OshiBudo may focus on Motoi, the thus far least developed of our trio of wota heroes. That ended up not being the case, but Motoi and his distinct attitude still factor into the cold-open setup for this episode's explored ideas: Far from admiration or strong support, Motoi is apparently genuinely in love with his chosen fave, Sorane. Even amongst the idol superfans, that's understood to be a dangerous line to cross, a sign that even an obsessive is reaching beyond the bounds of the fantasy these performers present. Given how OshiBudo has already dipped its toes into the subject of idol romance, it stands to reason that outing this mindset should set the stage for this episode to examine the lines between idols, their fans, and how their feelings around each other can be formed.

Such as it is then that the majority of the matter of this subject rotates rigidly around Eripiyo and Maina. The trick is that while the tone of a lot of their interactions depicted here is basically the same as it has been since the first couple episodes, there's stark character-based contrast now. Eripiyo seemingly on-board with the idea that you aren't supposed to actually fall ‘in love’ with your favorite idol runs counter to the behavior we continue to see her exhibit. It begs the question of how conscious Eripiyo actually is of the feelings for Maina we've seen her express all this time. To herself, most of the wishes she projects on Maina would seem to be of general, unselfish support: Wanting her to become popular, succeed on her own, and make it to the titular Budokan. But the unspoken feelings, like her reaction to seeing Maina in a wedding dress last week, make it clear that more is actually going on.

I previously described Eripiyo as among a cast of people who are ‘fundamentally broken’, and with this episode's romantic antics I believe I'm getting a clearer picture of the exact ways in which that may be. Eripiyo finds herself with very little room for emotional self-reflection- To her, everything is a selfless act for her Best Girl because she's jumped headfirst into making that admiration the only thing she has. She doesn't consider the potential interpersonal implications of what she does: She writes Maina a brick of Tanabata slips and cobbles together a makeshift costume of her ‘ideal guy’ because those are things she knows Maina asked for. Even at the end of this episode, where she finds herself spending just a moment on a train with her, Eripiyo excuses herself out of perceived inconvenience and simply gushes on the way home about how much she appreciates Maina's mere existence. It's an effective articulation of the unhealthiness of single-minded fandom, especially when you're actively stopping yourself from viewing the real person who is the object of that as someone you have to actually engage with; Hyperfixation on an idealized other with the express purpose of neglecting self-reflection.

To her credit, Eripiyo at least becomes more dimly aware of this in this episode. A key moment partway through actually has her come to grips with the revelation that idols are ‘real’ people, who ultimately hold the decision to like or dislike their fans on a personal, individual level. It's a bleak blow to the fluffy worldview our idol-cheering heroes had previously let themselves occupy, but it's an important one for them and the viewers. Eripiyo already had concerns that her extreme behavior was alienating her from the person she loved at the expense of herself, and now she's understanding that Maina's world can't possibly revolve around her the same way.

That concept gets embodied in a new character introduced this episode: Motoi's younger sister Rena (she happens to bear a striking resemblance to her older brother's idol-crush and hoo boy do neither we nor the characters have time to unpack that). Rena's a rare fellow female idol-fan alongside Eripiyo as well as another one with Maina as a fave. This should be great news for someone supposedly supporting Maina as strongly as Eripiyo does, but our ferocious fanwoman finds herself oddly contentious of how well Rena seems to get along with the idol. It's probably the darkest side we've seen of Eripiyo's fandom depths, becoming oddly possessive for an ugly few seconds that would threaten to overtake the tone of the show if she didn't let the feeling pass quickly. Instead, Rena becomes another example of the selfless fan-devotion that Eripiyo has allowed to run her life, bonding with this new friend over having the same favorite to gush about, more extreme levels of it notwithstanding. Maina, for her part in all that, portrays an extremely uncomfortably funny couple of seconds where she's clearly concerned that Eripiyo is pursuing an uncouth relationship with this young girl she met at an idol concert.

Besides that, Maina's ongoing role in all this is the one I continue to find the most contentious in this series. In spite of the episode's opening hinting at an agenda of interrogating the line between admiration and actual romantic love for an idol, Maina's presentation too neatly skirts those issues for a delivery of simple fantasy. After last episode, the cat's out of the bag as far as the audience is concerned regarding Maina's feelings for Eripiyo, so every interaction she has with her #1 fan now has to be drenched in the dramatic irony of that unspoken love. Personally, it does beg me to examine if I think this is a genuinely undesirable place for this story to go, or if I simply want a more reflective examination of the idol-fan lifestyle as opposed to the half of a romantic comedy the show is giving me. What's less subjective, I think, is the point that OshiBudo isn't making terribly great use of that format anyway. All the scenes of Maina suppressing her feelings for Eripiyo have already moved straight into the phase where I'm yelling 'Just tell her!' whenever the tension is present on the screen. Shallow wish-fulfillment or no, if the show insists on this being a component, it at least needs to find a way to make the most of the element beyond repetitive missed connections and misunderstandings.

Scattered as its messaging and plot beats continue to be, OshiBudo is still getting by just fine on presentation and amusement value. I haven't commented on it yet, so I have to state how much this show is worth watching for Ai Fairouz's vocal performance alone. She lets herself go crazy with some truly inhuman noises punctuating her goofy tirades, and makes the potentially-uncomfortable Eripiyo feel more relatable simply through sincere energy. She's only had a few major anime roles so far (including Hibiki Sakura, another favorite of mine from last year's How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?) but this has turned out to be a great one to demonstrate the sheer range she could have moving forward as a performer. There's also terrific comic timing and some delightful sight gags here like Eripiyo's stilts-and-mustache getup. It all adds up to an episode this week that's at least plenty of fun to watch, even as you shift in uncertainty about what it's all actually saying.

Rating:

If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.


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