「キラめきのありか」 (Kirameki no Ari ka)
“Where the Sparkle Is”
I know I rag on about visual storytelling and dialogue and blah every week, and you’re likely sick of it by now, but it just so happens that Revue Starlight is a very interesting case study and it provides all manner of great examples for us to talk about. Here’s an exercise: try watching the initial, pre-OP segment of this episode without sound (and for those of you who watch with subtitles, turn them off). Just let the visuals speak for themselves. How much do you actually miss? I would argue, not a lot, and certainly nothing of importance. And that’s what makes anime a visual medium; we can debate until the cows come home whether certain words improve the scene, but they are often not necessary. I’m guessing this is not a consideration for Revue Starlight because of its nature as a mixed media project, and it really wants to push the actors behind the nine members of the main case as personalities unto themselves. Therefore they need to have lines all the time, and perhaps there’s even a quota. But Revue Starlight has always been strongest without explication. Take this week’s revue. We don’t have baseball here in Australia, so I didn’t really understand the metaphor. Perhaps there’s nothing to understand. But it made me want to think about it, and at the very least it made for an interesting sight gag. I was at once fascinated and entertained.
Speaking of the Revue of Envy, let’s talk about Mahiru for a bit. She’s the subject of much exploration this week, even getting her own segment of newscast-exposition (which in fiction is usually reserved for loose criminals and meteors about to hit the Earth), so let’s spend some time on her. She’s actually a rather bold character for Revue Starlight. If you’re a regular watcher of idol anime you’re probably familiar with their usual cast dynamic. They’re mono-gendered, impossibly friendly, and conflict is minimal or temporary. Sure, there’s always a bit of romantic teasing here and there, but it never goes anyway, nothing materialises, and everything remains platonic because status quo is king. Therefore it’s actually rather notable that Mahiru is actually an obsessive stalker. I’m also blogging Happy Sugar Life this season so Mahiru’s antics feel downright tame in comparison, but for an idol anime Mahiru steps firmly out of the genre’s comfort zone. As she should; this is a story where conflict between characters come to the forefront, and anything that pushes conflict should be emphasised. Mahiru the benevolent country girl has no reason to fight in the revues. Mahiru the psycho yandere lesbian, though, is entertainment.
That said, Revue Starlight doesn’t seem like it wants to push Mahiru’s love very hard. Her fight with Karen is more or less played for laughs. Her feelings are implied to be childish or naive, even an unrealistic fancy. Karen is never punished for making a promise she can’t keep, blithely agreeing to be together with Mahiru ‘forever’. And, most importantly, Marhiru’s love for Karen is conflated with admiration. There are two conflicts here. The first is that Karen and Mahiru were once partners in dignified mediocrity, and now Mahiru feels that Karen is leaving her behind. The second is that despite Mahiru’s genuine affection for Karen she will never be special to her like Hikari is. The first is resolved when Mahiru finds her self-esteem and, as Dame Julie Andrews would call it, her sparkle. The second is left hanging, as an untied thread.
What will they do with Mahiru now? I hope she doesn’t fade into the background as just another competitor for the centre spot. She always had the most interesting implied dynamic, as Hikari’s foil, as someone with actual off-stage motivations, and as the odd one out in the main cast of nine (as you can tell from the ED, the friends are all paired off except for Miharu, who’s place got taken by Hikari). I doubt we’ll have much episode time for her now with other characters waiting in the wings, but I hope she stays interesting.
(I’m going to stop updating the ED every week. I’m sure you get the general idea of it. I’ll just save this spot for the full-cast version that will inevitably happen.)