This week’s Oshi no Ko follows up its most intense episode to date with the aftermath of Aqua saving Akane from jumping off of a crosswalk. But while there is a clean resolution in mind with the cast of the reality show banding together to help rehabilitate Akane’s image in time for her grand return, the issues with the past episode’s depiction of reality show-related suicide attempts have just begun.
CLEARING THE AIR
Since the broadcast of the last episode, Hana Kimura’s mother came forward to decry the depiction that the show gave to a story similar to her daughter’s death. While she doesn’t blame the author for depicting it in such a way, she mentions that the show comes off as very unhelpful and insensitive in approaching a subject that hits far too close to home.
In the process of having non-affected people empathize with a victim of cyber bullying, if you have been in Akane’s shoes or know people who have grappled with being bullied to the point of having suicidal thoughts, it would likely conjure up the same negative emotions they’ve been trapped in while enduring hate 24/7. And knowing what happened on Terrace House, it can be insensitive, if not exploitative, to watch an anime girl act out the death of a real person with a real family who has to deal with shows like this turing her death into content.
It’s hard to say what a middle ground would be because you’re dealing with a story inspired by a real life tragedy. It is an issue that’s prevalent in the entertainment industry, so sanitizing it by not showing you Akane’s experiences would feel detached and fail to humanize people who have endured cyber bullying. It’d share the same issue that Persona 5 had with Shiho, where we only got to know her as a victim. At the same time, you likely shouldn’t aim to expose people who have experienced Akane’s struggle to a friendly reminder of what they went through.
I suppose it falls under the same line of questioning as to what audience truly needs a specific work of art. Experiencing shows, movies, or music with unfiltered homophobia that’s ultimately condemned is important for straight people, but ultimately does nothing for a gay person who has been on the receiving end of said discrimination. It exists to pat a formerly prejudiced person for their emotional growth and eventual turnaround, and people on the receiving end of said prejudice are merely told to let them start over.
From this perspective, I can see how Akane re-enacting what Hana went through does more for non-suicidal people who want to play the savior than people who have gone through bullying or thoughts of suicide from said bullying.
Much like true crime podcasts or the Dahmer show, you have to be completely detached from the subject to be the audience for these programs. Otherwise, you’re likely to be part of the subject matter affected the most from the tragedies explored, and will have your trauma exploited by opportunists.
That’s to say Oshi no Ko’s angle with Akane would be more palatable for people who aren’t direct victims of targeted cyber-bullying. Otherwise, it’d just feel like going on Twitter and having to see hate speech just because an account you follow wants to ratio them. Yes, you dunked on them, but now you’re exposing yourself and your followers to hate speech they’ve likely had to experience in the real world.
It would be sufficient to say that Oshi no Ko would be a better show to recommend for people who are completely unaware of what goes into their sausages. It’s why I had such lofty expectations of the first couple episodes and sounded crabby in the process. If you are a part of the industry or you’ve endured cyber bullying, it wouldn’t be helpful to just see more reminders of what people think or thought of you.
I admit the last episode impression I did before I heard of the news did feel like I was bordering on too close to true crime podcasts. I think to me it was about drawing more awareness to what Terrace House did to their participants and what they were saddled with since it was something that bothered me about the show when I watched a couple seasons. My intention isn’t to make light of what Kimura had gone through, but rather to draw the parallels between what had happened to her and what had happened to Akane.
But I would rather apologize in advance if it came off as more detached or insensitive for me not to bring up the gray area behind depicting such a matter than act like it’s a non-issue. I wouldn’t want people to feel like reading through all of this is just as triggering and deflective as what’s posited by other sites or forum discussions that would tell you to shrug it off or deal with it when we’re all still people at the end of the day.
BOYS & GIRLS NEXT DOOR
What happens in Episode 07 doesn’t quite help the case considering how it deals with the aftermath. While the last episode and this current one immediately peg the show they’re on as a Terrace House equivalent with Akane going through what Hana had faced, it muddies the waters even more by bringing up the statistics of how many people die from reality shows.
To paraphrase, the show posits that “If 50 participants had ended their life, 10 times as many have faced thoughts of suicide”. It makes it difficult to approach any of the past episode and this one without having to question exactly how many other reality TV stars are being conjured back up into the limelight by addressing the issue of mental health on reality TV programs.
A quick online search crops up more than enough people who have either died or had made an attempt because they participated in reality television. Whether it be substance abuse, being poorly compensated for their work, or having their reputations destroyed by reality television, it makes them an easy way to target vulnerable people who hope to have some form of upward mobility by being on TV. Shows like Love Island, American Idol, Kitchen Nightmares and Big Brother have deaths attributed to their aims to either sensationalize or exploit people at their most vulernable.
The best outcome for most reality stars who have survived an attempt is often seperating entirely from reality television as a profession, and move onto other avenues like music, acting, or writing. But with Akane, the aim to get her back on television by her co-stars mostly serves to humanize Aqua’s co-stars as Akane still rests at home, anxiously looking on her screen and waiting for public opinion to change for her.
She’s still victimized by the internet, and can only get back to her life once others speak on her behalf. It’s a heart-warming outcome, but again, it does a better job at making the others look good. “Anyone in Akane’s positon better have close friends and advocates, or they’re S.O.L.,” is the message I’d be getting from Oshi no Ko if I was dealing with cyber-bullying and tried to find someone, anyone, to give me any kind of reassurance.
SCHADENFREUDE OVER A SUICIDE ATTEMPT
Kana makes it even worse when she lets Aqua know that she wished Akane retired in disgrace as a way to eliminate competition as an actress. Like, what the fuck is even the takeaway from Kana saying this shit? Are we supposed to empathize with Kana as a struggling actress who had likely lost out roles in stage plays to a notoriously talented stage actress? Are we supposed to believe that she was able to temper her ego when she saw a suicidal actress, and hoped she would leave acting so she can take her roles?
I know earlier, we’re made to understand that Kana had to grow tougher skin to deal with all of the cyber-bullying she would face by being a child star who grew up. At the same time, she should understand more than anyone that no actress wants to know all of the other people or actresses who are cheering for you to retire or die.
To me, it’s the same kind of impression I got when Aqua interviewed the one idol who was jealous enough to badmouth her co-workers. Where, yeah, I imagine that there are jealous and vindictive people in the entertainment industry. But the show was also quick to brush her under the rug by saying that girls like her are a red flag for anyone looking to start an idol group.
But for Kana, she’s an important character so the most she got from this was Aqua being upset and irritated by her flippance about praying for a suicidal actress to retire. The whole “i’D gEt CaNcElLeD oN tWiTtEr,” comment makes it even worse because I’ve gotten so used to seeing it as one of the catch-all phrases a Vtuber would say every time they spout out fifty different slurs. I feel like at that point, you should’ve kept those thoughts in your mind because nobody, especially not the guy who save Akane from jumping, would want to hear someone admitting that they felt happy when she tried to kill herself because it meant one less actress to compete against.
I suppose the best take-away from Episode 07 was that it was validation that, in an environment outside of god-awful reality television, Akane is an impressively talented actress. All it took was a day of research and internalizing Ai as a performer and as a person to mirror her to such a scary extent. The wait for Episode 08 will be difficult considering how the last frame of the show we’ll see until June is Akane with the exact same starry eyes that Aqua’s mother had.
Glad to see you identifying all these narrative/plot shortcomings especially when it comes to Kana.
It gets worse as the story continues. I dropped this at the end of certain arc because of contrived and stupid it has become, but the anime is adapting the parts I liked from the manga so…
In fairness to the writers, Kana didn’t say anything about wanting her to die. I believe they were talking about Akane retiring from showbiz.
I’m a little iffy about the whole using of the story of a real person without asking permission but at the same time the general plot of being bullied online sadly isn’t uncommon either. Let’s just hope this bring awareness about this especially to the younger demographic which tends to be online more
It would be sufficient to say that Oshi no Ko would be a better show to recommend for people who are completely unaware of what goes into their sausages.
Yeah, I think this is the key. From the first episode, it was clear that Aka Akasaka’s aim for this story was to educate mainstream audiences on the underbellies of the audiovisual industry. The good, the bad and the ugly, instead of the shiny facade most people get when they interact with it.
The weakness of this approach is that it may feel superficial or preaching to the choir to those in the know, or it can come across as insensitive when it touches actual real life cases, such as Hana Kimura and her mother’s criticism of it. Yet with all of this in mind, I think the pluses outweight the minuses. The willfully oblivious aren’t going to educate themselves, and the success of Oshi no Ko will help its message reach people who otherwise would never pay attention.
“Anyone in Akane’s positon better have close friends and advocates, or they’re S.O.L.,” is the message I’d be getting from Oshi no Ko if I was dealing with cyber-bullying and tried to find someone, anyone, to give me any kind of reassurance.
True, but if we invert it for the intended audience, the message becomes much more positive and poignant: “Anyone with a friend in Akane’s position better help and care instead of looking the other way.”
Akane should have left the industry
No way would I want to be part of an awful manipulative industry like that.