If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
Ah, my eternal nemesis, Off-Season Christmas Episodes, we meet again! Seriously, setting aside my usual overplayed annoyance at holly-jolly dissonance, the prospect of this one's placement represents a loaded situation for OshiBudo: It's that most romantic of times in Japan, and our leading potential-couple has made pretty much zero progress on the front of actually getting together. So would that just leave OshiBudo with more insubstantial pining, but wearing a Santa hat this time? Or would there be a possibility of some honest-to-god advancement? The answer is unsurprisingly unfulfilling, but ends up not mattering in the grand scheme of this episode's appeal anyway.
As has been the case for several episodes so far, Eripiyo and Maina's contractually-obligated portion of the episode ends up feeling the most low-stakes. Eripiyo dreams of seeing Maina in a cute Santa costume for the season, and shenanigans conspire to give her that and then some as they're brought nominally closer together. But perhaps it's just the atmosphere of this most wonderful time of year, but the proceedings around this predictable practice feel a bit more good-natured this go around. For one there's an interesting spin on the regular merch-buying angle, as Eripiyo specifically goes in on forking over her hard-earned cash (represented this time as her being dressed for way too many jobs at once) because she presumes the extra money will allow Maina to purchase that coveted Santa suit. The joke of course is an immediate admission that Eripiyo isn't sure the sales amounts actually work that way, followed by an acknowledgment that they probably don't, but the sentiment is still a solid one. In the world of music especially, the act of paying for your favorite artist's hard-worked content is the core of the transactional nature of supporting them. It's not always hoarding merch for handshake tickets or voting in polls, but as a simple admission of “You earned this from me, by making me happy.”
You could definitely argue that the ol' Idol/Fan relationship comes off a bit too idealized by what transpires in this episode. However, with how long OshiBudo has been building up Maina and Eripiyo's connection, and the leaps they do make this episode, I'd say that between them it feels a bit more personally functional, less about aspirational fulfillment. Eripiyo, for her part, still doesn't seem to fully recognize what her feelings for Maina actually are (in spite of having to ask herself what Maina was to her last episode), possibly even as a subconscious mental block to avoid going off the fan-romance deep end like Motoi. Nevertheless, the coupling characterization of Christmas motivates her to make a pretty serious confession to Maina about how devoted she is to her. Were Maina herself a more initiative type, it would almost be cause to ditch the idol trappings altogether and run away with this girl who clearly loves her back. As-is, at least these two are opening up to each other. And the second half of the episode gifts Eripiyo not just with her vision of an adorable Santa version of her Best Girl, but an opportunity for her goofy predilections to save the day for her and the rest of ChamJam. Eripiyo the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a hilariously cute sight-gag, but perhaps more importantly, it signifies that an eccentric like her has plenty to offer in Maina's life. So instead of a simple silly punchline as usual, Erpipiyo gets a real happy ending this time. It's a Christmas miracle!
Also the OshiBudo production team are clearly having a blast animating Eripiyo in the festive atmosphere of this episode. She bounces around with palpable glee to her body language, infectiously happy character acting punctuated with her making excited noises and timed to silly Super Mario sound effects. It's an adorable display that's almost worth watching this episode on its own for.
But romantic antics aren't all this two-months-late Yule celebration has going for it, as elements of the Sorane plotline persist, and I get to discuss the more dense thematics of OshiBudo. And Aya is there too, Merry Christmas to me. Apart from early-episode escapades of Motoi unwittingly tanking Sorane's popularity again, we get immediately back to her popularity woes, played a bit more for comedy in that initial instance than the previous drama. The new interjection into this storyline is how Aya gets dragged under the fandom microscope along with Sorane, the public perception of their feud causing problems for their performing image. There's a mild subtlety in the setup of this plot that I don't ordinarily associate with OshiBudo, overt fan-reactions and timed “Aha!” moments as it gets by on. Sorane makes a barely-offhand remark that she knows why Aya doesn't like her, and it's absorbed into the larger whole of their contention. But then the subject is brought up the next time we see the two directly interacting, and the writing uses it to cleverly tie into the issues of Sorane's popularity we've been following for weeks now.
The different kinds of appeal idols have and what kinds of fans they thus attract has been idly remarked on a few times in this series, such as the possibility that fans like Eripiyo only like low-popularity idols like Maina for the novelty. In Sorane's case, Aya directly calls out her charm points being the types to win the hearts of followers who genuinely fall in love with her. It spins out of that aforementioned already-known issue Aya has with Sorane: Aya actually worked hard to try to build up her appeal and popularity with fans, but Sorane's naturally-lovable tendencies mean she rose to prominence more easily than Aya did. It's a fervent devotion that Aya's jealous of, but she as well as us recognize it as a double-edged sword, since those kinds of fans are the ones who will abandon you the fastest if they perceive you as ‘unfaithful’. It's a frankly interesting analysis of the different kinds of fame a performer can court, contrasted strongly just this episode with how we see Aya and Maina handle their popularity, or lack thereof. As well, it ends on another unambiguously positive note with a burgeoning true friendship between Sorane and Aya. OshiBudo's been a bit stronger since it made time in episodes to really explore interactions between the members of ChamJam themselves, and this is a good example of that.
And this whole episode is a good example of how sweet OshiBudo can be absent its semi-cynical celebrations of consumerist fandom or slapstick otaku dunks. Perhaps it's the expected tone of the season this episode should have aired during, but the feeling was overall more romantic than usual, extending to making me feel like a happy ending for our hapless leads may be in sight even as they still didn't really get anywhere in orchestrating a relationship with each other. It's a feel-good story, and on Christmas or any other time of the year, that's something I can appreciate now and again.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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