If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
I've articulated some complex feelings I've had to sort out on OshiBudo and its portrayal of the idol industry and its fans. Heck, the first half of this episode is taken up by a rose-tinted look at the beginnings of ChamJam that idealizes their entire experience in the entertainment industry even as we know from other entries that it hasn't been nearly that easy. But for all that, this episode also draws a very clear line that I'm all too happy to support it in: When Motoi experiences a crisis of fandom faith because he thinks his fave Sorane might be dating some guy, all the other characters and the narrative itself coalesce to ruthlessly clown on him about it. As romanticized as so many other aspects of idols are here, at least OshiBudo has no interest in giving concerns over purity culture the time of day.
That Sorane subplot is just one of a few elements revolving around ChamJam's most blue member this week, as the fan-vote story switches anchors yet again. Being the preferred member of one of the ostensible main character fans of the show (though Motoi has thankfully always gotten less screen time than Eripiyo and Kumasa), Sorane's been one of the more recognizably ever-present idols, but we haven't gotten any real insight into her until now. I thought she'd been projecting a pretty cool, confident aura, but she turns out to have one heck of an inferiority complex, never having seen herself as cut out for idol-ing and only being spurred into it at the behest of others. Showcasing her origin story leads into doing so for the whole of ChamJam itself, that rosy flashback I mentioned.
It'd be easy for me to dismiss the overly-idolized idols as shown in this backstory bit, but where it's making it seem like the girls' rise to thus-far middling stardom came a little too painlessly, it does do a very nice job of endearing the remaining ChamJam members more than they have before, and convincing us of their appeal as much as the fans in the show already know. I can't believe I never really picked up on what a delightful little troll Yuka is, and if we thought Maina was too withdrawn in the present day, it's remarkable to see how far she's come since her initial entry into showbiz. The real bullseye hit in all this though is the other character we're working on as framed through Sorane's gaze: Reo. As the mass-market center of the group, Reo had always come across as safely pleasant to me, and in this flashback she's shown being way more uplifting and overly friendly to her band-mates than I might have expected, almost to a suspicious degree.
I'd initially written that overt encouragement off as part of OshiBudo's general optimistic tone, but that wasn't giving it enough credit, it turns out. There's an extremely well-constructed moment of realization the audience gets at the same time as Sorane: That Reo's behavior is out of a desire not to have ChamJam break up the way her old group did. That's a layered effort in emotional storytelling, which sits right with OshiBudo's outlook while not denying the ups and downs of more complicated feelings that must come in this industry. And it lets Reo have that likable appeal while rooting it in a more personal character element. Finally, it completes the hat-trick by being a demonstration of why our point-of-view in this section, Sorane, ends up falling so hard for her. That's right, as if it wasn't perfectly obvious already, OshiBudo can firmly cement itself as The Gay Idol show now, crafting cute couples for us to root for within the group while we're not screaming at Maina to just tell her number-one fan how she feels about her.
And what of our damningly decompressed lead duo's relationship arc? This episode continues to play off of Maina's fears that Eripiyo could be switching faves, but with even less movement on that front, the show opts to just make the antics surrounding it as entertaining as possible. Obviously Eripiyo's always been tasked with being ‘the funny one’ in the dynamic, but this episode shows off Maina's comedic potential as well, mainly by embracing the point that she...just isn't very bright. It's great, because her dense, panicky attempts at winning back Eripiyo's affection end up working as a counterpoint to the whole bit about Motoi's dejection over Sorane. Even as incremental as it is, Maina shows some progress, noting that her love for Eripiyo might have led to her taking her fan's affection for granted. There are perhaps some aspects of that particular fan/idol dynamic that could be unpacked, but I think that was at least addressed decently last episode: When the characters can stand on equal footing, their potential romance becomes that much more easy to encourage. It's probably no coincidence that the times Maina and Eripiyo's feelings have been closest to reaching each other is when they've met out in public, with no trappings of idol shows or meetups. Then again, sometimes they can only tell you what you want to hear as a fan: Eripiyo's hilarious rapid-fire reiteration of her feelings for Maina during a handshake isn't anything either of them hasn't heard before, but it is exactly what Maina needed in that moment, and it's a relief for one of these lunkheads to make a good communicative decision like that for once.
It's an idea that OshiBudo hasn't quite interrogated yet, but at least is reflecting on: What our favorites do for us as their fans and what kind of support they should expect from us. Sorane's dwindling popularity ranking and empty handshake line in the wake of a relationship rumor about her speaks to the fickleness of less-idealized fans than the ones we follow in this show, but those people don't get to be acknowledged as characters by the narrative. Motoi, for all his other ills, at least finishes the episode by getting over his own worries about the situation and renewing his ‘faith’ in Sorane as a performer whom following gives him some sense of fulfillment. And Reo gives Sorane the encouragement she thinks she needs to hear in that moment (much as Eripiyo did for Maina) even if her chipper ‘I love you’ may have landed a bit differently than she expected for her troubled junior. For all the wistful languishing on some aspects, this episode was just generally nice. While I've had misgivings over the past few weeks, this one did well to sell me on the conceptual possibilities of this more idealized idol story.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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