Oshi no Ko episode 7

Rating: A

After producing one hell of a hard-hitting ending last time around, the series faced a difficult assignment: find a way to follow through and resolve the problem without cheapening the circumstance which got the show there. Instead of just contenting itself with that, the writing went for the extra credit as well: take a predictable plot development (i.e., Akana falling for – or at least playing up to – the guy who saved and helped redeem her) and give it a somewhat unsettling, thoroughly jaw-dropping twist, and in the process redefine both one of the the established cast members and one of the underlying truths of the series.

The fallout from Akane’s suicide attempt last episode sets the stage for that. A conversation among Kana, Ruby, and Miyako lays out the background for this by discussing how coping with social media negativity can vary from person to person, but even the most well-adjusted aren’t immune to it; I especially liked how dark Kana’s eyes were as she strongly implied that she’s had her own difficult moments with it. (The only minor complaint here was the the comments about attempting suicide seemed a little too on-the-nose when they could not have known at that point that Akane had attempted it.) Seeing the rest of the cast of “Love Now” rally around Akane was gratifying; “Love Now” is not an inherently competitive format (a la The Bachelor) as dating shows go, so a cast of teenagers who are all performers getting chummy with each other off-camera, too, is hardly a stretch.

Just as importantly, all of the cast are savvy in one aspect of media or another, so they make the perfect team to attempt to redeem Akane’s reputation. One knows the music, one (rather literally!) knows the angles, one knows the timing and promotion, and one knows the editing and how to manipulate adults to get what they need. Everyone except the dancer is allowed to not only contribute but show how smart they are about it as well. I have no doubt that their campaign is probably an oversimplification, but the tactics nonetheless feel real.

As satisfying as that is, though, the most interesting part is actually the last quarter of the episode, after all that is done. The story has pitched all along about how lies are a shield to protect the performer, so Akane is pushed to create a role herself to potentially deflect future problems. Surprisingly for this kind of situation, she’s not the one who actually comes up with the idea of tailoring her performance to be Aqua’s ideal, but given how much Aqua has done for her, wanting to please Aqua is hardly strange. But that is also the exact point where the demon gets unleashed.

Viewers have been told that Akane was an actress, but not what type. The revelation that she’s a theatrical actress – and a renowned one at that – explains both how Kana knew her and why she had such trouble adapting to the format. Stage acting is very formalized and structured, so a free-form approach like a dating show, where nothing is set, is in utter contrast to her norm. Of course it threw her for a loop, and her diligent note-taking was all about trying to translate that environment into the structure she’s more familiar with. Given a character to play, she shines – and she’s chosen Ai as her model. The scene where she reveals not only her Ai-based personality but also Ai’s starry eyes is both electric and unnerving, especially given the preceding scenes showing how thoroughly and obsessively she studies Ai and how scarily close to the mark and revealing her analysis of, and insight into, Ai is. I am certain that I am far from alone in having woefully underestimated her over the last two episodes; in her own way, she’s every bit as clever as the other smart characters in the show. Ironically for Kana, she may be even more of a threat to Kana than the latter realized.

Akane’s analysis and copying of Ai also raises one other interesting point: that Ai’s trademark eyes are reflective of her self-confidence, rather than some trait of hers, and thus can be duplicated. That has interesting implications for the way Aqua’s star goes bright (as when he rescued Akane) or turns black. And what, if anything, does it mean that Akane’s stars are yellow rather than Ai’s white?

Sadly, looks like we’ll have to wait two weeks to see how Aqua (and eventually Ruby, too) both react to Akane’s performance, as HIDIVE has episode 8 scheduled for June 7th instead. Assuming that happens, that review may be delayed for a few days, as I will be on a trip where my access to HIDIVE will be uncertain.

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