If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 1 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die ?
Ah, fandom. I think it's fair to say most of us anime nerds are familiar with the ins and outs of it, the feelings we delve into as an enhancement or distraction of our more typical day-to-days. In a primarily character-based medium, picking out faves who we rally for is an integral element of the fan experience. Sure, times and technology has changed, but while some of us are no longer hosting character shrine pages with guestbooks on Angelfire (ask your parents), we still like and share art on our preferred social media outlet. Anime fandom has always intersected with Japan's idol industry and those surrounding stars as well; singers and voice-actors being every bit subjects of otaku affection as the characters they portray and perform openings for. The blurring of the lines has only increased with the uptick in idol-group based anime shows, and now all that coalesces into this: An anime series specifically about obsessive fans of idols, entitled (*inhale*) If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die. I'll be calling it OshiBudo for short.
As evergreen as the idol trend seems to be, it means most people, whether they want to be or not, are at least somewhat familiar with the more unsavory elements of the whole idol ‘system’. That means OshiBudo starts out walking a mighty fine line already. Given the focus in this show on the fans themselves, a power trio of them making up our main characters, it would be all too easy to fall into the trap of idolizing, as it were, the unique power dynamic between those fans and the performers they worship. An unhealthy amount of obsession and dedication is shown off just in the first episode, specifically on the part of leading lady Eripiyo, implied to spend virtually all her disposable income on merch and events for her Best Girl, Maina. The show's narrative gleefully (if somewhat satirically) skips through rites of passage for superfans like these, like waiting all day in the hot sun to be first in line for an event. And running as a counterpart to that is its portrayal of the reactions of these idols to their fans, including implications that the likes of Maina's affection is something that could be ‘deserved’ through Eripiyo's purchasing power devotion.
It can lead to some uncomfortable analysis of whether the overt behavior of these fans (particularly Eripiyo, whose antics a couple of times stop just short of stalking) fall especially into the ‘creepy’ side of things or remain merely self-deprecatingly goofy. Personally, I think it's a narrow needle the show just manages to thread, by way of its tacit admission in these first couple episodes that these are fundamentally broken people we're dealing with. The one short scene we see in the first episode of Eripiyo at her factory job conveys an empty melancholy, the sort of exhausted adulthood many of us have reached, and perhaps know people (or even ourselves) to have filled with fandom engagements because it's all we had. There's a bit in the second episode where an old idol-fan friend of Kumasa (who for what it's worth, seems to be the most decently-adjusted of the fan trio) chats with him about the pursuits they're still engaged in, remarking without a trace of irony, "I'm glad to see we're both living our best lives". OshiBudo isn't necessarily out to shame or punch down at the people its main characters represent, but it recognizes that obsessives generally have some deeper reasons for being so.
With regards to Eripiyo, there is also the question of the show's presentation, and if her lifestyle and personality would be less appealing if she were a more stereotypical male character rather than a conventionally-attractive anime woman. The show, to its credit, directly calls out that standard, via Eripiyo herself no less, following up by demonstrating she has the same lack of confidence at appearing an otaku at social events that Kumasa does. In particular, Eripiyo is someone we clearly don't have a full picture of yet, with more deep-seated reasons why she may have latched onto Maina the way she did possibly waiting in the wings of character development. It means her distinction as a ‘unique case’ of idol otaku could be more than simple appeal to this show's target audience.
It also presents a debatable twist on another contrivance of this show: The celebrity as love interest. The complications of idols dating in Japan's industry is alluded to in the second episode, at the same time it throws all pretense of subtext out the window in a flurry of blushing in wedding dresses at fashion shows and imaginary love-confession notes. It's contestable, since 'What if my favorite idol was secretly in love with me?' seems too transparent a fantasy for the lifestyle this series is otherwise satirizing, and threatens to turn the show from a frank analysis of fandom into a will-they/won't-they romantic comedy of errors. The girls-love angle is a distinct one for the show, and one it clearly plans to utilize more (two more girls, Maki and Yumeri, idols from ChamJam themselves, are also shown to be in a relationship), but will OshiBudo actually tackle the sociological issues of that positioning, or just use it as mere window dressing? As with its use of the inherent sadness of the otaku lifestyle, at this point that's unclear.
What isn't unclear is the visual appeal of the show. The gorgeous backgrounds are the first thing that jumps out, ever-present and varied to communicate the right moods. This is especially apparent in the first episode, which combined with the direction clearly illustrates the melancholy inherent in the lifestyles of the main characters. Things feel a bit more procedural in the second episode, with some character shots seeming rougher, but the show still pulls off some evocative emotional scenes when it needs to. As unsure as I am about the developing romance angle, the shot of Eripiyo's Tanabata slips for Maina pouring out a window still induced some pangs in me for that missed connection. The direction is also extremely adept at portraying the anxious idiosyncrasies of the characters, perhaps too well. That is to say, if you're a viewer that has trouble with embarrassment in fiction, this series will be absolute agony for you to watch. Not just the nerdy fan characters, but the idols themselves are portrayed as experiencing severe issues with anxiety and social appearances; It well utilizes little touches like Reo's strained shudder at not being recognized at the fashion show. It befits the humanizing aspects it's attempting to bestow on all these characters, but as with other elements of the show, probably won't be to everyone's tastes.
Like I said, OshiBudo is walking a fine line, and as of the second episode, also feels like it could end up pulled in too many directions at once. I like that we get scenes between the idols themselves, developing them as people, as they should be allowed to be. But finding just a few minutes for them between the otaku means I'm still learning to keep track of all them. And between that, the questions of Eripiyo's character development, the romance angle, and other elements, I'm not quite sure right now where this one is trying to go. But I find myself intrigued by it all the same. It's not on the same level of Eripiyo's devotion to Maina, but I definitely see something potentially special in OshiBudo, and I want to support it if it does turn out to go somewhere good.
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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