Oshi no Ko
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Oshi no Ko ?
Community score: 4.4
If you want to survive in show business, you need to JUST DO IT. At least, that's what two-thirds of the protagonist trio of Oshi no Ko learned this week. In “Reality Dating Show,” Ruby, Kana, and Aqua all chose to seek further success in the entertainment industry by leaving their comfort zones behind before they stepped in front of the camera. With well-timed comedy in the form of characters' reaction faces and back-and-forth banter, this was a particularly light episode of Oshi no Ko, but not without its darker implications. As these three young entertainers navigate the Japanese entertainment industry, they learn that it's not raw talent that opens doors but undertaking uncomfortable—and sometimes bizarre—challenges.
Before you read any further, I highly recommend checking out Kim Morrissy's exclusive interview with co-creator Aka Akasaka: How Accurate Is Oshi No Ko About the Japanese Entertainment Industry? It provides a ton of context. For example, the desire to be reincarnated as an idol's child is a “famous joke in Japan.” Additionally, “I have heard that the entertainment industry in the U.S. and Japan are completely different. In the Japanese entertainment industry today, there is no union for talent and writers, there are no guarantees…” I'd argue that fame in the US can also have its downsides, but for sure the news I've heard about the idol who shaved her head for daring to have a boyfriend, plus the violent incidents reported at handshake events are reminders that the life of a Japanese entertainer is no picnic either. Akasaka said that he and Mengo Yokoyari did extensive research into the entertainment industry for Oshi no Ko, and it shows. An especially insightful segment occurs when Ruby and Kana watch Aqua's show from an audience perspective (and make typically S-tier reaction faces about it), followed by Aqua's perspective, peeling back the curtain on the set.
We know Aqua is a master manipulator. His seemingly heartfelt attempt to beg Kana into becoming an idol with Strawberry Productions was a ruthlessly calculated measure: “I just read her like a book,” he coldly explained to Miyako after the fact. That's what makes it so satisfying when we get to see somebody else beat Aqua at his own game. Yuki Sumi may call herself timid, but she is extremely shrewd in manipulating Aqua into revealing his true feelings instead of the other way around. It's fascinating to see the contrast between the finished product that Kana and Ruby watched and the process that Aqua witnessed. This is clearly a serious worksite—Akane even takes notes—but the finished product smooths down these real people into inoffensive caricatures of themselves. The entire premise reminds me of the simplistic reality show Terrace House, and I'd bet rare Ai Hoshino idol swag that it's on purpose.
This is a particularly funny episode of Oshi no Ko. I lost it when I noticed Kana read a book about frilled lizards! That HAS to be a reference to the reptilian-looking Frill! Kana's quick backpedaling leads to two of the best jokes of the episode (Her declaration that “I'll never do it!” bookended with her signature on the Strawberry Productions contract and her abrupt formal manners upon learning just how much money the silly muscle chicken brings in every month). And then, there's Pieyon. He's here to lighten the mood, but I found his jokes to be hit or miss. For one thing, Pieyon's falsetto gets quite grating to listen to after a while. And while I get why the production takes advantage of anime's visual and audio medium to bring Pieyon's theme song to life, it doesn't help that this song isn't subtitled, so English speakers are left watching Pieyon, Kana, and Ruby work out without much dialogue. (That said, I'm confident the lyrics aren't exactly deep.) After an episode full of rapid-fire comedic exchanges, we sit and watch Pieyon flex for a bit, and it's an odd, slow change of pace.
However, just like Aqua is a lot more complex than the bubbly persona he introduces himself as on the dating show, Ruby and Kana's appearance on Pieyon's show isn't all laughs and levity. Like everything else in the entertainment industry, it's a test. Pieyon reveals he had been planning to use creative camera work to make it look like the idols lasted the full hour even if they didn't, and was impressed when they managed the whole thing (even though poor Ruby is breathing into a nebulizer!) “The viewers won't be able to tell, but the people on set sure see it,” he tells them. This is a literal example of the dedication stardom requires, but I also thought their earlier conversation with Miyako about kisses was revealing. When Kana voices concern that Aqua will kiss somebody on the show, Miyako gives her a dose of reality. It reminds her she'll eventually need to be “businesslike” about kissing on camera herself. It's not only physical hard work that she needs to put into her career, like the Pieyon boot camp; she may also need to give away aspects of her emotional inner life, like her first kiss, for the sake of entertainment. “In this industry, if you cling to strict views on chastity, you're asking to get hurt in the future,” Miyako chides. The same industry in which a fan feels justified to murder an idol who has children? Once again, the lie at the heart of show business makes itself known.
Oshi no Ko is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
Lauren writes about model kits at Gunpla 101. She spends her days teaching her two small Newtypes to bring peace to the space colonies.
Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.
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