If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
OshiBudo is irrevocably into the pacing of a romantic comedy at this point, spaced out as it is on drawn-out misunderstandings and lack of communication. It's ironic that so much of its leads' interaction is rooted in handshake-ticket facilitated meet-and-greet conversations, as it's become obvious how many of their issues would evaporate if they would only legitimately talk to one another. That naturally applies to the overall will-they/won't-they plot between Eripiyo and Maina, but it's especially applicable to the particular phase they start going through this week. It's the sort of writing that makes you aggravatedly question how long these people can wistfully internalize their feelings in order to drag things out. On the other hand, at least as that's happening, OshiBudo found itself being pretty funny again this week.
My personalized, outsider-based misgivings about the extents we saw Eripiyo go to in the previous episode are somewhat walked back by the characters' outlook in this one. Sure, Maina still won't say anything alleviatingly personal to Eripiyo's face, but we thankfully learn through internal monologue that she neither wants nor needs her #1 fan to work herself stupid for the purpose of buying merch or voting in the popularity contest. It's a small thing, and it hardly resolves the hardships Eripiyo has already put herself through (symbolized as they are by the surprising continuity of that broken leg she was struck with last episode), but I'm happy to take it as acknowledgment by the narrative that it ultimately isn't glamorizing that kind of self-sacrifice. It's kind of a sigh of relief towards the presentation that lets me as an audience member just relax and laugh at this week's jokes at Eripiyo's desperate, desperate expense.
That's OshiBudo's tightrope-walking trick, I think. It can be harsh in its satire of idol fandom, but works less when it tips too far into mean. The dunks have to feel more earned and less punishing, like the inciting incident of this episode's drama: Kumasa talks Eripiyo into relaxing at a maid cafe, only for it to turn out A-ya works there, and the hijinx of a fan's cheating heart ensue! A-ya's revealed herself as something of a secret weapon within OshiBudo's ensemble the past couple weeks, alternately snarking her way through these contrived rom-com proceedings and serving as a goofy punching bag for the narrative when it calls for it. Here she's party to one of the episode's best punch-lines, Kumasa and Eripiyo remarking that "An idol just blackmailed us". It also has the unique status of being one of the very few places in this show so far where the idol and fan worlds have intersected at a level that feels halfway genuine. A-ya's personality is probably to thank for that too.
At a base level, this all serves to set up a misunderstanding with a pretty compelling concept: What if Maina became concerned that Eripiyo didn't want to be her fan anymore? It's a natural place for this story to explore, and the writing brings up several scenarios that might drive such an action in the ‘real’ world: Eripiyo was only a fan of Maina for her low-popularity novelty, she's switched to A-ya as her fave because they had a real world in-person interaction, etc. They're compelling concepts that could be explored if only the characters would really sit down and do so. Instead, Maina can't bring herself to even begin to ask Eripiyo if anything's really going on, and Eripiyo wanders blissfully unaware that her favorite even has these concerns, herself mostly worried about how she's going to come up with more money for Maina merch. It's a dragged-out misunderstanding with only baseline drama that hasn't even properly resolved itself before the episode's run-time finishes, frustrated further by a whole scene where Maina realizes she needs to talk to Eripiyo, tries to practice doing so, but decides she'll just have to wait and see instead. As will we.
There's so little movement on the Eripiyo/Maina front that OshiBudo actually finds time for a more robust sub-plot than usual, centered as it is on secondary couple within ChamJam, Yume and Maki. These two's relationship has only been a light garnish on the story so far, but with that popularity vote in swing, the show sees fit to use them to explore other elements of it. I did feel this secondary story came off like it was treading water through much of the episode as well, however. It's lots of pining back-and-forth on Yume's worry about her success in the vote skewing her relationship dynamic with her girlfriend. The payoff is pretty terrific though, dually delivering on getting to see Yume dancing up-front for everyone, and the amazing reveal that Maki was the one who bought all the tickets to give her that chance. It's an adorable little resolution, and puts forth an interesting spin on the connection between idols and their fans in a situation where they're one and the same. If anything it seems to be trying to mitigate the power dynamics that overshadow Eripiyo and Maina's relationship: Even for Maki, buying merchandise of her favorite girl is just how you show someone you love them in the rules of this idol-centric universe.
That spin on the idol/fan relationship is the thematic standout that lets the Eripiyo/Maina plot still power forward. Her concerns over Eripiyo not being available to her anymore make it clear that Maina has something of a ‘fan’ appreciation for her as well. It's highlighted by Maina specifying that she doesn't need Eripiyo buying anything for her as I mentioned earlier: She's happy just having Eripiyo being in her life as she is, a neat parallel to Eripiyo's repeated declarations (including in this episode) that she's happy just to know Maina exists. Now if only they could tell each other that.
That's some decent thematic work dragged out with too many missed connections for my taste, but it's all presented nicely and in pretty funny ways this go-around. The bits at the maid cafe feel just amusingly biting enough towards our hapless fan-cast, and for all the issues I took around Eripiyo's desperation last episode, it's played off well this time. Her practiced prostration to her mom is an especially delightful highlight. And it's all tempered with sweet moments like that one between Yume and Maki or Maina getting Eripiyo's dango gift. This stretch continues to be OshiBudo at its most uncertain, but like a desperate fan or a low-popularity idol, it seems to be trying, anyway.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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