OP: 「星のオーケストラ」 (Hoshi no Orchestra) by (saji)
「桜舞い散る木の下で」 (Sakura Maichiru Ki no Shita de)
“Beneath the Cherry Tree, in a Rain of Petals”
Here are some things you most definitely won’t find in the hallways of the notorious Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts: pungent smells, deep voices, hairy bodies and testosterone. For ‘graduated’ member of girl-idol band JPX48, Narata Ai (Hanamori Yumiri), this might as well be Heaven on Earth, a place away from the abominable evil that lurks in society—males.
TO WEAR OUR TRAUMAS
Complicated might be an euphemism when describing Ai’s relationship with her mother. Try as she might, her stoic facade doesn’t stop us from catching a glimpse of her inner turmoil. We see her typing, deleting and retyping an email, words supposed to deliver a positive event are loaded with passive-aggressiveness. Her personal achievement suddenly just doesn’t feel good anymore. Ai’s relationship with her mother seems to play a big part in how she has chosen to build her identity and I’m sure we’ll see more of it in future episodes. Despite the fact that Kageki Shoujo!! appears to be centered around a group of young teenage girls pursuing their theatrical dreams, at the heart of the story the plot moves through interpersonal relationships–social dynamics, struggles, psychological pain, trauma and personal development–as opposed to the character’s motivations. Not to say that their motivations and passions are not part of the plot (they are!), it only means they take a secondary role on the main stage. I’m only mentioning this because I find that to be one of the biggest key points that differentiate the demographics in anime/manga.
If her upbringing wasn’t enough, Narata was also traumatized due to her idol career. Her early ‘graduation’, a result from an unsavory encounter with a fan. Being on the receiving end of media backlash has certainly left a bitter taste in Ai’s mouth. So much so that her brain software created a new program that continuously runs in her brain, “I’m not safe because men are disgusting and will take advantage of me.” Has that happened before? Yes, probably on several separate occasions. Are all men disgusting and out there to take advantage of her? No. But Ai’s brain made the decision to group these traumatic events across time so that she might automatically react and avoid facing similar traumatic situations in the future. While I wasn’t particularly taken with her character I found her story to be a realistic commentary on human behavior. Her experiences of happiness and joy are marred by these traumas she’s grown attached to, she can’t fully enjoy them. So much so that she’s thoroughly annoyed by Sarasa’s character.
Watanabe Sarasa (Senbongi Sayaka) has stars in her eyes, a spring to her step and is tall as Hell. With little to no self-awareness, this unlikely candidate has a pretty straightforward goal: she wants to play Oscar-sama. To play the main character in Versailles no Bara means to be the top star of the Kouka Theater Troupe. Unbeknownst to her, by making her audacious intentions public, our starry-eyed girl has just declared war with basically every single classmate of hers.
Sarasa has main-character qualities that serve as a catalyst for change wherever she goes. She will play the role of the one who stimulates and challenges her classmates to go beyond what they think it’s possible, towards a place where they can reach full potential and major character development–at least that’s what I’m assuming. This influence won’t always be direct nor conscious. And I’m curious to see how the author chooses to portray this specific fearless character. So far we’ve only seen snippets of who she is through Ai’s lenses and the four chapters I’ve read only covered this first episode, so we’ll be figuring these out together. I’m particularly interested in hearing more about her connection with Kabuki theater! And it also seems like we have a stalker?
THESE SMALL THINGS
I found myself skeptical with the whole sexual harassment comment Sarasa made. My Japanese is quite elementary but I understood Military Baldy used informal speech when addressing Sarasa’s height, yet I can’t see how that would be an actual case of sexual harassment. A little rude due to his speech choice? I could roll with that, but yeah. I didn’t get that one. And my last bit of critique goes to the male characters in the series (Andou-sensei and Ai’s uncle Taichi), I found them slightly pathetic as if their whole purpose was to simply serve as commentary and background noise. Just because this is a show oriented towards a female audience doesn’t mean it’s male characters should only serve as tropes. Perhaps they will develop further on, I guess we’ll see!
Full-length images: 36.