「わたしたちは」 (Watashi-tachi wa)
“We Are”

Here’s something you’d see a lot in anime, and in movies, and basically in all popular media: people falling from great heights only to survive by landing in water. In reality, water only breaks your fall in the way that it breaks your bones, and falling back-first onto it at high velocity will result in catastrophic spinal injury or, more likely, death. This is because water is actually rather dense. When you fall onto, say, a cushion, it is filled with air, and gas compresses. That compression absorbs some of the force of your fall. Water, though, does not compress, and falling onto water is like falling onto a brick wall. And then F = ma and that’s all she wrote.

Fussing over these details may seem obtuse, especially when we’re talking about how much damage a cartoon should sustain. And, indeed, it’s not really a big deal, but I bring it up to preface a point about suspension of disbelief. Even in a show where magical girls fight on a surreal stage to appeal to a talking giraffe it’s important that we respect logic. This because even the best written fiction is but a set of well-crafted lies and even the smallest inconsistencies can unravel it. And suspension of disbelief is about maintaining the sway of that lie over the audience. It is, fundamentally, a compact between the author and the audience. We, the audience, promise to engage in the author’s fiction, to actively buy into their lie — suspending our disbelief. In return the author promises to do their best to maintain it. Unfortunately, we’re surprisingly sharp at times and it’s difficult to fool us even when we’re willing to be fooled. Care must be given to every detail. I assure you, the artists who drew the cakes absolutely had references to make their animated versions convincing. And so too does care need to be given to the story convincing.

Notice that the standard is ‘convincing’, not realistic. Total realism is, of course, quite convincing, but also usually unnecessary. We assume that the story follows the rules of reality when it looks like it’s set in reality, but otherwise reality can be discarded readily. More important than a story’s consistency with reality is its consistency with itself, its internal logic. Even in pure fantasy the story will give us some rules about how the world operates and we expect it to follow those rules. And of course we expect the characters to remember the rules as well, and be able to interact intelligently with them, if only because relying on your characters to be stupid to advance the plot is frustratingly bad storytelling.

Which brings us to time travel.

It’s always very dangerous introducing time travel into a story, because it is both an incredibly powerful and incredibly complicated device. Time travel can solve basically any problem and completely negate the conflict in a story — which means you have no story. So restrictions need to be put on the time travelling, which usually requires unwieldy mechanics and increases exposition bloat. And when time travel is freely available to be used and a character doesn’t use it, the audience’s immediate reaction is, ‘Why didn’t they use time travel?’. Chekov’s Gun is waiting there to be fired. This episode, Hikari has her triumph and we find out what she does with it. Nothing good, apparently. In Catholic fashion she’s sent herself to Hell for the sin of her ambition. Presumably, it’s because she refuses to steal away Karen’s soul (but is fine with taking from the others, I guess?), but we’ve already seen a way to avoid that. Nana had been winning revue after revue and simply went back to the past each time. Can’t Hikari do that to? Go back to the start of the revue, warn Karen about it, Karen doesn’t enter, problem solved? Even better, go back to the time she was in London, don’t join that revue, problem extra solved? On the one hand, perhaps it’s good that Hikari doesn’t go full Madoka, because we don’t have a lot of episode time left. On the other hand, there’s a very obvious solution to a manufactured problem so either it’s an oversight by the characters or there’s something lacking explanation, which is a plot hole either way.

Mind you, this was till a good episode, full of dramatic and emotional impact. I appreciated the irony of Hikari’s absence taking away Karen’s spirit even though that was the one thing Hikari wanted to avoid (though, eh, lean in, girlfriend). Each member of the party having their scene in front of their set to a nifty insert song is just the thing for an episode 11 (though perhaps a bit too ‘JRPG’). I enjoyed it, but I wish I could have enjoyed it more without these details nagging at me. We’ll get a chance to wrap everything up next week, and I hope it’ll all be settled. I definitely want Revue Starlight to go out with a blast.


ED8 Sequence

ED8: 「Fly Me to the Star」by everyone sans Hikari and Karen


  1. Presumably, it’s because she refuses to steal away Karen’s soul (but is fine with taking from the others, I guess?

    You need to watch the episode again. It was literally said she didn’t steal anything. She saved everyone, not just Karen. That’s why she had to pay such a heavy price herself.

    1. Oh, I did watch the episode. Sure, Hikari didn’t steal anything from the others, but that’s just incidental. She’s never had a character conflict about it, and only ever specifically makes an issue out of Karen. Remember, she joined this second revue specifically to make up for her loss in the first (because promise with Karen yada yada). If she ever faced a moral dilemma about other thefts, she’s never expressed it.

      1. Think about it. She could wish whatever she wanted. If she just cared about Karen, she could steal the shine from the others beside Karen and would get to stay with Karen and protect her at the same time, without sacrificing herself. That considering, I have to disagree with you. It wasn’t just incidental. She meant to protect everyone. That’s why she ended up shouldering everyone’s punishment instead of just Karen’s.

      2. Something went wrong with you dude, I’m very confused by what you wrote, something seems off…?

        I mean:
        “She’s never had a character conflict about it, and only ever specifically makes an issue out of Karen.”
        I can’t see that, at all.
        Of course that she wanted her shine back, but for me she rushed to Japan exactly because it would happen again there, where Karen is. So she entered the audition even more motivated. Motivated about what? To save Karen without a doubt. But to rob other of their shine? This was never said or hinted at.

        And going back in time to solve everything just after we watched Nana arriving at the conclusion that this is not a solution?! This isn’t about preventing mistakes and tragedies, it’s about conquering them and moving forward, no?

      3. @Panino Manino
        Hikari came to Japan to reclaim her soul. If you recall, she was given a second chance by the giraffe when she confronted him, after she realised what she lost in the London revue. At the point she didn’t even know where she was going, let alone that Karen was there.

        As for conquering your mistakes and all that, a worthy sentiment, to be sure, but ultimately empty platitudes in the face of a perfect solution to those mistakes. This is why introducing time travel to your story, because it makes everything so very easy.

        As you can see from above, we can have different interpretations of a character, and I encourage these discussions. That said, when talking about writing we must be careful that we aren’t writing the script for them. I’m all for assuming that Hikari was considerate of the other girls as well; I like Hikari, and would prefer that she displays a strong moral centre. If that’s what Revue Starlight intended, though, it should have dedicated scenes to showing so, perhaps investing in more scenes where Hikari built rapport with her new friends and even include more of the theme about the price of ambition into her confrontation with Nana.

        In any case, I don’t it’s a bad thing that Hikari’s motivations aren’t entirely selfless. It make her a more interesting character when she’s not a messiah. It’s a story about ambition, after all.

      4. @Passerby
        Hikari may have wanted to recover her shine, but can we say for sure that she planned to rob other to have it back?
        She didn’t knew that Karen was there? (I want to rewatch the first episode to confirm her reaction)
        Does it matter, if by minute one she saw Karen there I that could have made her change plans?
        We don’t know for sure what was her intention, what we know for sure is that she choose to sacrifice herself.

        About time travel, no. Just because it is there doesn’t mean that it must be needed, for various reasons in this case. For started it was already used once, but more importantly, how was it used? It wasn’t a tool that was there for anyone, the time travel was Nana’s wish, her desire. And something that only her and the Giraffe were aware. Can we confirm by that “apparition” that Hikari knew? Not 100%. Maybe she knew and the only relevance that the information had for her was that Nana couldn’t win because she would sent her back and miss her opportunity. Aside from that, who also knew? Karen discovered because Nana tell her, and Junna. Few actually know what had happened, so no, it’s not just because time travel is a possibility and one so personal for one character that it should be used again so lightly like a magic solution. After all, go back in time and what? Those girls choose to participate in the audition for a reason.

      5. @Panino Manino
        If you’re raising hypotheticals and doubts then you are writing the script for the authors. The point always is that explication is needed. If you introduce time travel to one part of your story then you also need to spend time to definitively rule out time travel later in your story. Take Chekov’s Gun off the mantle and burn it so it doesn’t just hang there.

      6. @Passerby
        Time travel was only a temporary solution for Nana’s drama and dilemas. Traveling back may give Hikari a second chance and only that (and this is already her “second chance”), it is NOT the solution. The girls are trying to do something not prevent something from happening. Taking part in Starlight together is more important for Hikari and Karen than anything else.
        Each other character already found another solution than what they had in mind in the beginning for what they were trying to accomplish, all of them with mistakes and loses included. Why would be different for the last two? Same as expecting Karen dying from the fall, you nerd.

      7. @Passerby
        To put it as simply as I can.
        Hikari and Karen are trying to realize their shared “destiny”/promise to perform Starlight as Stage Girls. Both were hit with obstacles along the way, and to overcome them you’re asking for Hikari, whom by what we could see is at best only half-aware of what Nana was doing, to use Nana’s failed solution to her own personal desire, to rewind time to prevent them from ever trying to step on that stage?
        Not an option.

        You know what would be a reasonable solution?
        If Hikari hadn’t “betrayed” Karen.
        The two already broken the rules, that shouldn’t be broken. Why not broke the rule that says that only one can shine as the star? That’s where Hikari failed, in fulfill her promise to perform TOGETHER. Hikari could very well grab Karen’s hand and perform with her a reinvented Starlight, overcome the tragedy of the story. That’s the conflict I see in this story between the two. Hikari lost his innocence why Karen still has her innocence, Hikari became a bit cynical and don’t believe that she can change something, that it is how it is. But this is a play, it’s the actors and production who decide. The and can be different, Hikari just needs to play the part.
        So, there you have if, problem solved, no time travel involved again.
        (But I swear, if this end in a “it’s all a dream”…)

  2. I don’t know if it’s just me, but this week’s episode felt specially sad, and if a show is capable of making me emphasize this much with the character, I can’t give less importance to what happens when people fall to the water or whether a character decides to time-travel again or not. Even if it makes sence all that Passerby said, I feel like we are watching different shows. I mean, i want to know what happened to Hikari more than why she didn’t make a different choice (and let’s remember we are just talking about teenagers who act according to passion besides logic). I felt Karen’s loneliness all the episode and it felt extremely realistic in some way. And after that, I forgot about those plot holes. Maybe it’s being too harsh on a show that may not be the best, but that it’s doing right many things. I’m expecting a good end, but I already feel satisfied since I’ve been always aware that we are watching the product of a new franchise, and they already accomplished things that you could say that wasn’t necessary for the show to succeed on its own terms. Good animation, nice action choreographs, an engaging plot (even with a plot twist) and thar included some content you can analize.
    And come on, love live was much mediocre (and the CG and the songs were horrible) and nobody asked how was possible that a bunch of high school girls could became international idols in just two seasons and one movie.

    1. It’s just a matter of perspective. I enjoyed the episode, too, but it is in my nature as a blogger to analyse writing and take apart shows. It’s not that Revue Starlight isn’t good. But as an anime fan, I always wish my anime to strive for better.

      As for Love Live, perhaps I would have been hard on it if I had blogged it, since I am nothing if not an obtuse pedant. But one thing about Love Live is that it didn’t have much of a story in the first place, so we don’t expect much of it. But Revue Starlight‘s story actually has depth, so I demand more of it. That, too, is the price of ambition.

  3. I’m fairly certain that:

    A) Junna is the only character (other than Banana and the giraffe, of course) aware of the time loops
    B) The initiation of the time loop was unintentional and very much related to Banana’s mental state in particular

    Given these two things, I don’t see why Hikari would conceivably know time travel was a possibility, much less be able to initiate it.

    1. We may, of course, only guess as to why Hikari did what she did what she did the way she did it. But the point is, we shouldn’t have to guess. These are the kind of details that should be explicated or else we have an unsatisfying hole. It’s like having a magic genie in your story. Sure, there may reasons why Aladdin makes nothing but stupid wishes. He may just be stupid. But the protagonist taking actions out of only stupidity is frustrating from a logical point of view.

      1. @Passerby
        Perhaps you forgotten that the anime didn’t ended yet, and that the next and last episode will (of course it’ll) show us the cathartic reunion between Hikari and Karen when, I guess, “everything will be explained (but not)”.

  4. Ok, but who does posses the Time Machine? Isn’t a bit too much to expect that a character that don’t posses the desire to use it or other that wasn’t even aware of it to use it?
    Doesn’t matter if it’s something like a literary rule or not, rules are there to be broken at times, and also, the whole drama of time travel more often then not revolves around how it isn’t a solution and the characters have to cope with it and find other ways.

    By your logic could I say that “unmei” was introduced, thus the story is obliged to do something with it?
    I may still sympatize with your problem with suspension of disbelief, but you’re locking yourself in some petty details and missing all the dramatic developments. For example, when Karen fell in the water didn’t you notice that you could intepret the position of her body as a metaphorical position mark that Karen was steping on? And so on.

  5. https://randomc.net/image/Shoujo%20Kageki%20Revue%20Starlight/Shoujo%20Kageki%20Revue%20Starlight%20-%2011%20-%20Large%2036.jpg

    Was fortunate to see the final episode today. Episode 12 is a presentation masterpiece. I am in awe how they could make a show rather mediocre at times but then become a stunningly animated sequence the next.

    There are certain scenes in the episode that would rival or even better the best storyboards this year-looking at you VEG and DevilCry Bby. Yep, episode 1, 8, and especially 12 are in a whole different league compared to the rest of this show.

    Can’t wait to see your take on it Passerby.


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