Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Oshi no Ko
Gorou is an OB-GYN at a remote rural hospital. Four years ago during his residency he became a fan of idol Ai Hoshino when a young, terminally ill patient shared his enthusiasm, so it's hard to hide his shock when sixteen-year-old Ai shows up, twenty weeks pregnant with twins. Gorou's efforts are for naught when an obsessive fan of Ai's kills him, but his story isn't over yet: he's reborn as one of Ai's twins, and his sister may also be someone he once knew!
Oshi no Ko is translated by Sarah Neufeld and lettered by Abigail Blackman.
Warning: of necessity, this review will contain some spoilers not covered in the book's back copy.
If you pick up Oshi no Ko based solely on the back copy and expecting the cute story of an obstetrician caring for his favorite idol during her pregnancy, you are bound to be disappointed. What's described on the back of the book is in fact only the first chapter, and it leaves out the important detail: that said obstetrician is murdered at the end of that chapter and subsequently reborn as one of the twins his favorite idol is carrying. The majority of the book follows him in his new life, and while it definitely has its funny elements, the story as a whole is not a light and happy one. While it doesn't go into the depth of something like Perfect Blue, it does still have some very dark moments about what it means to be an idol and the sort of constrained life that they have to live in order to not risk disappointing or “betraying” their fans. By the end of the volume, it is clear that the story is struggling to balance these themes with a lighter touch, and whether or not they can pull this off will definitely need another volume to ascertain.
We do get some hints of the darkness fairly early on in the book. Gorou, the obstetrician in question, is introduced to his passion for idols during his residency by a young patient with terminal brain cancer. Sarina expresses a wish to be an idol in her next life, and wonders what it would be like to be born as the child of a famous idol. Sarina's words haunt Gorou in the years after her death, and are something he thinks about in his own dying moments, which may or may not lead to what happens to him after his murder. But any story that starts with the death of a child is sending out some serious warning signs, and those are worth paying attention to. Also something of a warning is the fact that Ai appears to have gotten deliberately pregnant by an unknown (to us) man in order to have the family that she lacked growing up. Ai was raised in a group home following her mother's stint in jail and subsequent abandonment. As we learned throughout this story, Ai struggles with the concept of love and family, and becoming a mother is a deliberate act on her part in order to attempt to understand them as concepts.
This is part of the overall theme of the book, and quite possibly of the series as a whole. In Ai's mind, lies are the ultimate foundation upon which the entertainment industry is built. She doesn't love her fans and she isn't a pure and perfect paragon of fantasy girlhood – she's someone with a talent and a job. This may be the absolute most subversive thing about the entire volume, because it is effectively trampling on the idea that sells so many idol stories: the idols, whether boy or girl, are impossibly pure and overflowing with true love for all of their fans. Ai's frank acknowledgment of the fact that this is all just a big lie that people tell themselves lays the foundation for what her son will do with his life: use a job in entertainment to fulfill another goal.
The story isn't all doom and gloom, however. When Gorou is reborn as Aquamarine, he has all of his intellectual faculties perfectly intact, and he has to really work at not using them in front of others. The same is true for his twin sister Ruby, and eventually they have to take someone else onto their confidence, which they do by pretending that they are spirits sent by the gods of entertainment who have blessed them with unusual and unnatural powers. By the time they reach the age of four, their precocity is a little less bizarre, but watching it throw the adults for a loop doesn't get old. One of the best scenes in the book is when the babysitter takes them to see their mother's live performance and the two start doing a choreographed light stick dance from their stroller, because it's just the perfect combination of bizarre and the way adults might interpret children waving their hands around.
As you may have noticed, the art for this volume is provided by none other than the creator of Scum's Wish. Apart from the freaky star-shaped lights in Ai's and the twins' eyes, it really works, and they have a particular knack for the chubby cute toddler stage. I probably shouldn't have to mention this, but it is also worth noting that the breastfeeding scene is completely devoid of sexual overtones, something that isn't always a guarantee. The art on the whole feels much less tonally uneven than the story does, which is definitely something that helps the cohesiveness of the volume overall.
Oshi no Ko's first volume may not be what I was expecting, but it's clearly setting up for something that should be worth following. It appears to have something to say about the lies perpetuated by idol fans and made necessary to the industry, and watching that unfold will be interesting.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Solid art, clearly has some interesting things to say about the entertainment industry. Very thorough translation notes.
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