If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
For all the grief I've given OshiBudo over its tacit endorsement of exhaustive overwork to the point of injuries, or surrendering all your funds to a consumerist marketing machine, it makes a strong case this week that there are far worse things, like visiting nosy, judgmental family members! Following on from Christmas is New Year's, as Eripiyo makes a pilgrimage to see the rest of her (surprisingly large) family, who immediately accost her with prying questions as to their perceived quality of her life. It's funny, actually, as I've made no secret of my analysis of Eripiyo and her Maina-worshipping ways as being ‘broken’ and a sign of some other underlying unfulfillment in her life. Yet here, the inquisitorial barrage from her relatives and the judginess behind their interrogation ended up flipping me far more into sympathy for Eripiyo's situation. Perhaps it's the disaffected millenial in me talking, but there's something cynical about a person's immediate relatives implying they won't find meaning in life without a ‘normal’ career and societally-mandated romantic relationship. As Eripiyo internally elaborates, at least what she's doing now is to make someone she loves happy, selfless industry sell-out such as it is.
That family-visit freak-out is only a small part of this week's episode, otherwise a collection of New Year's-themed vignettes, but it makes a good example of the position OshiBudo has staked out for itself over these past nine episodes, whether the audience is fully onboard or not. For whatever their reasons, doing everything to support their favorite idols is what makes these people happy, and allowing them to have that is more fair than imposing on them the productive predilections of society, man! The series doesn't so much question the supposed selflessness of the act as it does merely bring it into focus, making us consider how ‘selfless’ supporting our faves is when we're doing it for our own proxy happiness. It's an odd variation on the canard of whether doing good things for the self-satisfaction rather than the genuine good of others is technically virtuous, and while I presume that, like most things in OshiBudo, it really isn't that deep, it still gets you thinking.
There's a moment in this episode where Eripiyo, so desperate to not spend New Year's alone that she calls up Motoi, of all people, confesses that she didn't even think to spend a wish at the shrine on her own wellbeing, sending all her good vibes Maina's way. Motoi and Rena are galled at the level of self-disregard on display, and the moment is mostly played for laughs, of course, but it still syncs with the ongoing question of Eripiyo's true underlying character motivation. After punctuating the very first episode, her titular declaration that she would happily die to see Maina make it to the Budokan comes back in full force as her way of greeting the first sunrise of the new year. This time, instead of contemplating the possibility that Eripiyo had some tragic underlying reason she had nothing else to look forward to in life, her brush with her family's life-demands for her made me consider that she'd simply achieved a zen-like lack of other desires. She's found fulfillment in pursuing the happiness of someone she feels she's in an entirely one-way relationship with, even noting Rena's point that the idols they're worshipping likely don't think of them outside the moments of fan events.
But of course this is OshiBudo, so we get to wheel around to another shrine for the dramatic irony that Maina is absolutely thinking about Eripiyo on New Year's, even wishing for her safety and wellbeing herself. Interestingly, the ongoing unspoken-love angle doesn't intrude being as much of a tease as in previous episodes, instead providing mere background noise to the contemplative slices of their lives we see the ChamJam idols living this morning as they prepare for a month off. That's really the only thing resembling conflict or a source of tension in this episode, by the way: Eripiyo in distress that venue renovations will make her miss out on a month of Maina, including her birthday, and worry that their last meeting was overly-awkward even by her standards. It's still more window dressing on this otherwise fairly easygoing episode, with Maina's segments having her nonplussed about Eripiyo's antics apart from worrying about her wellbeing.
Instead, the member of ChamJam getting the most focal development for this episode is Yuka. Yuka's proven to be pretty entertaining in her snippets in the show so far, as the most outwardly-trollish of the group (she mines some terrific reactions out of Aya), and her personality and relationship with her fame is expanded on interestingly here. A spin on the perspective of selfless fan-love this series runs on, Yuka reveals that she absolutely revels in the admiration and attention the fans give her. It's to the point that she initially dismisses the growing desire among the group to make it to the Budokan, but ends up internalizing it as her own after hearing all her fans actively rooting for it. It's not necessarily dark, but it is a heavy perspective to be articulated, the idea of Yuka filling some emptiness inside her with the love that the fans provide as an outlet to fulfill their own emptiness. Self-love seems to be in short supply in OshiBudo characters in general, and Yuka emerges as one of the more clear, serious examples of that yet.
It's a lot to consider in this episode, even as it does less to reach a concrete thesis statement, more providing different reflections and perspectives on OshiBudo increasingly fragmented view of fame and the fans that provide it to their faves. ‘Fragmented’ also describes the overall feel of this episode, jumping around as it does between characters and tones. Some of it is extremely funny, like Yuka and Aya's wry New Year's messages alongside the more standard cheer of the other idols. Some of it is more engagingly sincere, like Eripiyo asking for a more personal, name-given message from Maina in hopes that she'll see her 'not as a wota, but as a person'. Even as we've cottoned that the central ‘romance’ probably isn't going anywhere in this cour, it's both engaging and frustrating to see them getting so close, regardless. And the themes that do come up in this episode let it reflect on those ideas of fulfillment and our own defined happiness, even as they're broken up into scattered vignette form. Can I truly judge an episode of OshiBudo for being itself after I took issue with Eripiyo's family for doing the same to her? The answer is that I have to, and my call is that this one was true to its themes in ways that made me further consider them, but had the same issues with pacing and momentum that have dented my enthusiasm for the show before.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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