Pop Team Epic Episode 10
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Pop Team Epic ?
Last week on Hoshiiro Girldrop, Sosogu's love was finally rewarded with the consummation she'd been chasing since the very first episode. I don't think any of us expected that the show would be so explicit in its depiction of this, but Hoshiiro Girldrop has been nothing if not surprising ever since its premiere. Seriously, who would've thought that this totally generic-looking “my childhood friend is an idol and also in love with me?!” series would prove to be one of the most ambitious and poignant anime in recent memory?
It's no wonder that Daichi wants a break after all he's been through. First his parents disappear while on business selling timeshares overseas, then he has to pay off their mafia debts, and then he finds out that he's the reincarnation of Toyotomi Hideyoshi! Thankfully, the debacle with the mystic pendant was resolved just in time to save Daichi from following Joan of Arc into the other world. After all, that would've made him miss his date with Sosogu, and she'd really be grumpy then. Plus, after this many weeks of buildup, it'd be annoying to push their big moment back for a third time.
But I digress. Daichi really has been through the wringer, so it's understandable that he'd want to take some time for himself. After all, he's still not sure whether Sosogu is really the same girl he met all those years ago – and if she isn't, then he'll have to do some hard thinking on where he goes from here. This dilemma doesn't matter to Sosogu anymore, of course. It's been well-established that she doesn't care whether she's a memory clone or not, she still desires Daichi's love all the same. Frankly, while I sympathize with the feelings of loss and uncertainty that Daichi must be feeling in the moment, I'm solidly on Sosogu's side in all this. A person's memories are what makes them who they are, not the arbitrary purity of their "soul crest". The sooner Daichi figures that out, the sooner that he and Sosogu (or “Soso2,” as the fandom has begun calling her) can be happy. Otherwise, he'll just be falling into the same emotional trap that sealed his fate hundreds of years ago, during his pre-incarnation's relationship with Oda Nobunaga.
Of course, this gets us back into the thematic meat of Hoshiiro Girldrop. While I've already expounded on the show's central metaphor at length in previous write-ups, it's worth repeating that World War II and its outcome dramatically altered the fabric of Japanese society. Sometimes anime has served as a way of processing this cultural trauma, from Barefoot Gen to Grave of the Fireflies to In This Corner of the World, and I'm confident adding Hoshiiro Girldrop to that number. It's a more surreal and metaphorical take on the topic than usual, but directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Shūji Terayama are celebrated for taking that same approach in their treatment of similarly serious topics. In terms of the metaphor's progression this week, Daichi leaving Sosogu clearly represents Japanese disillusionment in the aftermath of the war. Following Japan's loss, citizens (Daichi) were angry that they'd been forced to sacrifice so much for the sake of a national crusade (Sosogu) that amounted to nothing. (This was also reflected by the other Axis powers earlier in Germany (Korona) and Italy (Shizuku), during the school festival arc a few weeks ago.) As I predicted back then, Sosogu's confidence during the event was unfounded, since she was bound to face a similar crisis down the line. The Allies (Devil Volcano) had been gaining ground, and they'd soon overtake Japan on the Pacific Front (YouTube subscriber count). Of course, Pablo the Talking Octopus's significance should be obvious to everyone watching the show, so it hardly bears repeating this week. All in all, Hoshiiro Girldrop remains a thoughtful meditation on the human cost of war, and I look forward to finding out where it decides to land on all these many points of discussion.
That's about it for this week. Honestly, I felt like I had to fall back on reiterating points because this was probably the least eventful episode of the show. Beyond Daichi's departure and Sosogu's resulting sorrow, it was mostly emotional buildup for what's sure to be a bombastic conclusion, when Drop Stars finally face off against Devil Volcano at the school's Battle of the Bands. While the whole thing does seem pretty pressed for time right now, I do still hope that they can squeeze in the chapter from the manga where the two bands run competing hot dog stands before the main competition. While somewhat tangential in terms of the plot, it serves as an important detail in the show's take on the cyclical nature of violence and the oppressive nature of memory.
If nothing else, Hoshiiro Girldrop is an excellent examination of memory as a central aspect of how we define humanity. As Joan of Arc said before vanishing into Hell's Void, in quotation of the great English poet William Shakespeare, “there is no darkness but ignorance” – those who are ignorant of the past are destined to repeat it. But we can't let our pasts define us, lest we become slaves to versions of ourselves that we've grown beyond. We'll find out Hoshiiro Girldrop's final answer to these complicated questions in just two more episodes, so until then, "Fall in love again next week!"
- “I'd recognize the stench of your shitty manga anywhere.” Pop Team Epic versus Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya is pretty great. I do wish that we'd gotten a glimpse of the girls in that art style, though.
- This week's story segment was unusually long and mostly seemed to serve as a tone exercise. If you aren't intimately familiar with Detective Conan/Case Closed, along with a smattering of other Japanese crime procedurals, the references will probably fly over your head (as they did mine before I did some Googling). It's also one of the segments that I'd say definitively has a better version between halves, with the male versions being funnier than the female ones. It's just funnier to hear masculine voices coming out of Popuko and Pipimi dressed as hostesses, on top of their unique improv bits like “you're dying next”. The male seiyuu this week were Rikiya Koyama as Popuko and Wataru Takagi as Pipimi, while the ladies were Sora Tokui and Suzuko Mimori respectively. Both of these combos have experience with anime detective shows, from Detective Conan for the guys to Tantei Opera Milky Holmes for the girls.
Gabriella Ekens went to college, so she knows what she's talking about with this stuff. Bask in her wisdom on Twitter.
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