This Week in Anime
Things Get Awkward in the Idol Romcom Oshibudo

by Nick Dupree & Steve Jones,

Eripiyo is a one-woman fanclub for underground idol Maina from the group ChamJam. Her obsession has made her a financial wreck as each and every yen goes toward supporting her shy favorite. Can romance blossom between a fan and an idol...and should it?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die here.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Steve
Nick, there have been a lot of confusing and contradictory messages flying around this pandemic, but luckily I've stumbled across one clear and concise piece of useful advice we can all take to heart: don't be like Eripiyo.
Nick
If My Favorite Pop Idol Made it to the Budokan, I Would Die (henceforth known as Oshibudo to spare our keyboards) is many things, but it is decidedly NOT a good role model for disease control. Don't let these lesbians fool you.

At least Maina's got the right idea.
You'd think that but she's clearly vulnerable to this plague propaganda.
And that, if nothing else, is a good place to segue into a deep dive of Oshibudo's themes and the unique way it explores the interesting divide between idols and wotas, and how one affects the other (and vice versa) in this weird symbiotic 21st century relationship facsimile between two disaster lesbians.
Oshibudo is a very strange series to dissect, honestly. On its face it's a goofy comedy about Eripiyo, a young woman obsessed with the black sheep member of a C-list idol group, and the wacky hijinks she gets up to trying to support her Best Girl.

In practice, it's all that AND, intentionally or not, a uniquely humanistic examination of modern relationships, microcelebrity, consumption as salvo for loneliness, and the complex fan-artist membrane in the age of organized fandom.
Yeah it's a super thorny set of topics, but I really liked seeing an anime directly concerned with this (pretty large) facet of idol culture that a lot of idol shows just gloss over. While Oshibudo clearly comes from a jokey, self-deprecating place, it comes from a really honest place too. At the very least, it's definitely not like any other idol show I've seen, and I think that ends up being a really good thing!
Granted, anybody coming into it looking for an excoriation of Idol culture ala Perfect Blue is going to leave disappointed. But Oshibudo inhabits a unique niche where it discusses and explores a more or less realistic version of the idol industry, and that alone is enough to separate it from your Love Lives and [email protected].

Like don't get me wrong, I have watched and enjoyed Love Live! for years. But it exists in a fantasy world where being an idol is like joining a really ambitious school drama club. In Oshibudo these are real women who do this as their day job to pay the bills. They even bother to draw the microphone wires and battery packs!
The lav mic representation is so important.
It also sets itself apart because the main character isn't even a member of the subject idol group. Instead, we get to follow around this delightful weirdo, who ushers us into the wide world of wotagei.

And what a world it is.
I'll say, one of my favorite things about this show is the relationship Eripiyo has with her awkward friend group. They really capture the energy of modern fandom friendships.
Trash begets trash, but trash also befriends trash.
Having your social circle dictated by who shares your hardcore niche interest isn't the best way to go about it, but sometimes you pick the right dumpster to squat in and find some friendly raccoons to chill with.
Hoo boy yeah, fandom friendships are their own weird thing, and you could probably write an equally compelling and problematic anime about the intersections of certain circles of anitwitter. But that's the existence we have right now! We're all in this garbage heap together, but thankfully that doesn't preclude finding people you genuinely connect with.

I like too that Kumasa ends up being just as layered a character as Eripiyo. You'd expect someone like him, in a comedy, to be a stereotypical otaku punching bag, but he gets to both wax poetic and be an obsessive weirdo just as much as Eripiyo does.
Oh I was absolutely prepared for Kumasa to be the butt of every joke possible. His design is textbook creepy otaku weirdo. But he's arguably got the healthiest outlook on both himself and his relationship with his fav idol in the whole show.
Yeah you know, after I typed that, I realized that I was being unfair to Kumasa: he's a lot more well-adjusted than Eripiyo.
It is not a hard bar to clear.
And meanwhile I'm going to choose to avoid talking much about Motoi for the sake of being as nice as possible.

Motoi is an interesting character, even if I kinda wish he'd stayed dead.
He definitely ends up coming across the least sympathetic of the three, since he falls most definitively into the kind of creepy, possessive mindset that I imagine most non-wotas think of when they think of wotas. And I don't think that's a fault on Oshibudo's part: that element is absolutely part of the culture. You gotta address it.
Whereas Kumasa's feelings towards his fav Reo are more or less platonic - he just wants to see her succeed after following her career from the start - and Eripiyo's is a nebulous knot of confusion, Motoi actually wants to date his favorite and even the other idol fans side-eye him on that one.
And that acknowledgment, exploration, and poking of the boundary between idol and fan is where Oshibudo is most interesting to me. You could say this entire subculture is defined by that boundary, but the way that boundary is defined is fraught and nebulous.
It's a rich vein to dig in, even in a very lighthearted manner like this show. Honestly despite having known many hardcore idol fans for years, watching Oshibudo was kind of the first time I really "got" the whole appeal. It genuinely expanded my horizons, which isn't something I can say for most anime.
You can tell it comes from a very genuine place on the author's part, and that's its ace in the hole. I don't foresee myself ever dipping my toes into this kind of hardcore idol "buys 50 copies of the same CD" lifestyle, but I did appreciate the olive branch extended towards those of us with crushes of the 2D variety

In these fraught times it's important to show solidarity. Be we idol fans or anime fans we can all come together through what we have in common: bullying mobage fans.
I will tolerate no bullying of Yuka, thank you very much.
There are however two sides to fan-celebrity relationships, and that's where Oshibudo gets a little rockier. It's all well and good to explore the feelings of fans, but when it starts delving into how the objects of their affection respond, things get a lot messier.
Haha yeahhhh so the other half of Oshibudo actually does follow the ins and outs of being a small local idol group called ChamJam, and they all end up being pretty great characters in their own right. But Eripiyo's object of affection is the least popular member Maina, and, to put it kindly, they're a pretty perfect pair.
Maina may actually be my favorite character in the whole show, but that comes with the big asterisk that I'm willing to go with the conceit of an idol falling in love with her biggest fan, which not everyone's gonna be cool with. And with good reason! On paper it's basically the fantasy of the exact kind of possessive fan Motoi is meant to represent and has led to actual real-life idols being gruesomely assaulted.
Despite Oshibudo largely anchoring itself in reality, this is as good a point as any to make the distinction that even realistic fiction is still fiction. Nevertheless, this ends up being a pretty big hurdle both in terms of real events and even in terms of Oshibudo's own narrative. But if you can bear those points, Maina and Eripiyo's relationship is a cringeworthy and fascinating thematic distillation of that idol/fan divide I was referencing earlier.

Basically, they never would have met if not for this whole idol business, but the idol business also explicitly prevents them from growing closer and properly communicating by literally commodifying the back-and-forth of their relationship.
It's a surprisingly sharp idea, provided you can get behind it. Eripiyo and Maina spend basically the whole show awkwardly prodding at the borders of their vague relationship, emulating the ups and downs of what would usually just be shyness and wacky misunderstandings in a typical romcom.
Because anime is a visual medium, I should also note that this theme is communicated beautifully via Eripiyo's prized hoverhanding polaroids.
It's so beautifully awkward. Eripiyo is constantly trying to temper her fangasms so as not to freak Maina out, while Maina is so trapped in her own head that every attempt to even speak winds up coming off as cold and uncomfortable.
Some of it is for sure romcom-caliber wackiness, but the root of it is this institutionally-and-culturally-ingrained wall of separation. That's what makes it so good! One of the best scenes happens when Eripiyo runs into Maina randomly on the subway, and neither one of them knows what to do. There's a sense of safety that comes with the rigid structure of idoldom, so removing that means we're back to scary regular human interaction.
That's probably my favorite aspect of the show. It acknowledges that part of what attracts people to the sort of parasocial relationship is that separation. The lack of meaningful contact means it's in some ways a space for fantasizing without the risk of being hurt. I am loathe to admit it but Motoi actually makes his presence worth it just for this line in the finale.
And of course we can extrapolate that fear and rationale into all sorts of aspects and innovations of modern communication. These are universal anxieties not confined to big idol nerds.
For sure, but it's that angle that makes the different connections formed throughout the show hit harder than they might in a more escapist show. Eripiyo and Maina both struggle to define what it is they feel towards each other, and even if it's obviously romantic to the audience, seeing them muddle through their own anxieties to realize that is surprisingly heartwarming.
Granted, they've still got a long way to go, but progress is progress!
They'll get there at their own pace okay? Not everyone can be Maki & Yumeri.
Be the distinguished lesbian couple your lovable neophyte idiot band member can look up to.
Or just try not to be A-ya or Yuka, at least.
Being A-ya is suffering.
Every good Idol show needs a Nico Yazawa, and she'll just have to fill the role and no amount of makeovers will change that.
Bless the Nicos of the world. And speaking of drawn on, I'd be remiss not to mention that Oshibudo tends to look quite good! I was consistently in love with the painterly backgrounds and pastel color composition.

Oh those backgrounds are the best. The character animation ranges from surprisingly solid 2D dancing to "well at least nobody's melting" but the environments around them were jawdropping at times.

On the whole, I was genuinely surprised by how Oshibudo ended up being one of my favorite picks from this season! A comedy with this thorny of a premise had a lot of ways to go wrong, but it kept itself held together and turned into something thoughtful, funny, and heartwarming overall. I'd definitely love to see more.
1000% same. Winter took me by surprise with a lot of shows, but OshiBudo wrangled its way to appointment viewing for me within its first 2 episodes. It's problematic as hell, but that's part of why I love it too. I would happily take a 2nd season, or at the very least have somebody bring over the manga in English.
And hey, if we don't get a second season, Eripiyo's got things covered.

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