by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Revue Starlight ?
The first draft of anything is usually pretty bad, but it's also an exciting well of potential. It's rough yet tangible proof that you've created something new, and no matter how much work lies ahead of you, there will be an outline that you can follow. The girls react similarly as they get hold of the first draft of the 100th Seisho Festival's performance of Starlight. It'll certainly be changed a lot by the time the actual performance rolls around, but this isn't the time to dwell on that. It's a time of collaboration, and theater is especially collaborative, with everyone including the actors, writers, directors, stagehands, musicians, and beyond having to work together in order to make the performance work. One person, however, is left out of the air of excitement that permeates the room, and that's our good Banana.
Despite being defeated in battle by Hikari, Nana still clings to the 99th Festival's performance of Starlight and holds out hope that she can still make her repeat performance continue into infinity. But it's too late for that, and it's been too late for a good while now. Her script is tattered. Her Starlight is no longer framed with an otherworldly brilliance. It's now contained in a small, dark room full of abandoned props gathering dust. Her struggle is futile, but it's also sympathetic. A brief glimpse into her junior high years reveals Nana alone and abandoned by everyone in her theater club, which she never even planned on joining anyway. A performance cannot be sustained by one person, no matter how much drive and passion they possess. That's why she valued the community she found at Seisho so much, and so much that she couldn't bear to see it fractured even the tiniest bit. As long as she could be together with her friends forever, that'd be enough. It never had to be Starlight; it just happened to be Starlight. The experience of working to put on a musical is one that expands leagues beyond the words in the script. Starlight was Banana's anchor, but her motivations were always more complex than that.
We do finally get a look at the complete story of Starlight, which has been told in enough bits and pieces across the previous episodes to have already gotten the gist of it. The leads Claire and Flora are every bit the archetype of star-crossed lovers, brought together and torn apart by fate. What's almost laughably obvious now is how much their story aligns with Hikari and Karen's. Similarly, the goddesses' various sins also line up neatly with the actresses who play them, from Mahiru's jealousy to Nana's despair. Karen's sin, interestingly, is arrogance, which certainly does match up with how she threw herself into the Auditions and continues to declare that she and Hikari will, without a doubt, perform Starlight together. Starlight is a tragedy, and its ending foreshadows a conclusion that leaves our leading ladies separated for eternity. But that'd also be too neat and simplistic, and it's important that we only get the full story in this episode that happens to be about change, growth, and the mutability of a script. The 99th Starlight has been stuck in a cycle of despair thanks to Nana's wishes, but the 100th Starlight represents the hope that even something as huge as an ending can change for the better.
As Nana retreats inward, she lays the blame for all of this cycle's changes not on Hikari, but on Karen. It was Karen, after all, who had the arrogance to jump into the Auditions as the ninth member of an eight-person troupe. This action ran directly counter to Nana's script, and the script of the Auditions that enabled Nana's repeat performance in the first place. Thus, Nana takes her fight to Karen, and the result is not a duel as much as it is a venting of her frustrations, which get communicated through the weight of her blows and the anger of her revue song. Nana's tragic flaw is that she believes she's protecting everyone from tragedy, so she cannot fathom why Karen has such an attachment to as sad a story as Starlight. But Karen understands that sadness can give birth to happiness, and it's the transience of a performance that makes it so beautiful and valuable. It can't be repeated or replaced, but it can stay with you and fuel more and better performances. It's a swirl of emotions that can never be recaptured, and it's proof that the future can always hold exciting and unexpected experiences. That's the future Karen chooses, stepping deliberately out of Nana's repeat performance, cutting the clasp from Nana's cape, and bringing the curtain down permanently on the 99th Starlight.
I've been stressing for the past couple episode write-ups that Nana, while misguided, is not a villain; in fact she's a character I empathize with a lot. So I'm pleased that Revue Starlight agrees with me, because her arc doesn't end with her defeat, and the person who finally helps her escape her cycle of despair is Junna. Junna's arc, way back in episode 2, was about her accepting her failures as another part of her growth, and that the future of a Stage Girl is full of multiple possibilities, not just a single make-it-or-break-it moment. So it makes sense that she'd understand Nana's fear of letting go of a perfect past for an uncertain future that will undoubtedly have moments of loss and failure. But the future will hold brilliant things as well. Junna tries to comfort Nana with a handful of famous quotations, but it's her own words, hokey as they may be, that truly reach Nana's heart. They share a moment that has never happened before, and could never have happened without Hikari and Karen's interference, and Nana finally realizes the value of that. She even admits that she couldn't help but change each of her repeat performances slightly each time. It's human nature to want to try new things and improve, even if they're scary. She and Junna can only grow closer if they're allowed to grow as people, and that's a difficult thing to do, but they don't have to do it alone. Their memories won't be lost—they'll only be adding to them. Junna's hug is more powerful than any weapon, and Nana's sadness is laid bare, as is her happiness as a Stage Girl. In the end, a love like this is a bond more important and more worthy of nurturing than any one performance.
This episode lacks the pizzazz of the previous two, and it spends most of its time spelling out themes that have already been covered pretty thoroughly by previous arcs, but I still appreciate the time spent giving Banana and her repeat performance a proper denouement. I also appreciate the little moments showing how rich and alive Seisho Academy feels now, like in a quick glance shared between the script writer and Kaoruko. You could take out everything to do with a talking giraffe and still have a solid ensemble drama within Revue Starlight. Overall, this is a good, heartfelt buffer episode in between the metaphysical melodramatics of Banana's arc and the conclusion to come. There's only one day of Auditions left, and Maya still stands on top. Will Karen and Hikari be able to escape Starlight's inevitable tragedy? Will their own script overpower that of the Top Star? Revue Starlight continues to handle its story and characters with grace and flair, so while I'm apprehensive about the many directions it can still go, I'm hopeful that it can stick the landing.
Revue Starlight is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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