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“Oshi no Ko” 2nd Season – 01

I had quite an odyssey with the first season of Oshi no Ko. I was rather captivated by the prequel movie (which is effectively what it was). As indeed were most who watched it. But even then I could see a huge minefield stretching out before me. For various reasons which I won’t rehash in detail in this post (much), by the end I was pretty well zoned out. That disappointed me but it didn’t surprise me. Nor did the fact that OnK wound up being one of the biggest commercial blockbusters of the past few years.

As such I go into this season with, frankly, low expectations. I was certainly going to trial it, because Oshi no Ko’s best S1 moments were pretty damn good. But my money was against covering the second season, at least in full. The road back is a hard one – I have some pretty big issues with the writing and where it took the story and characters by the end of the first season. And even though I thought this premiere was excellent overall, my money would still be on the same horse. Good setups I know this series can do. The follow-through I’m highly skeptical about.

What’s odd is that the season seems to start right in the middle of an arc – the “Tokyo Blade” arc to be exact. And that’s not surprising given that, as I understand it, a good deal of connective tissue from the manga was cut. As such we’re in the stage play setting with no setup at all. Why that happens with a series this monumentally successful I have no idea, but there is an irony in it given the thematic focus of this arc. And that kind of meta synergy is a club Oshi no Ko always has in its bag. Akasaka Aka is very good at that.

Fortunately, the episode itself is highly competent even if it does sort of start in the middle. The production and direction are excellent, which you would expect. And once it’s clear what’s going on here the story itself becomes interesting very quickly. Aqua is in a 2.5D stage play (those are all the rage in Japan – I did a bespoke piece partly about them) called “Tokyo Blade” as a means to try and get closer to director Kindaichi, who may know something about the death of his mother. Also in the play are Kana and Aqua’s stage girlfriend Akane, among other familiar faces.

There’s no denying Oshi no Ko is good at these sorts of “how the sausage is made” subplots. It eventually stumbles when it loses the will to be really critical, but in the deconstruction stage the writing is really sharp. The dynamic among the actors is quite interesting. Akane – the ultimate chameleon – is eager to outshine Kana. For her part Kana as usual is making that relatively easy by trying to blend in dramatically. But she gets paired with wonder boy Himekawa Taiki, whose thespian theatrics draw out her inner scenery chewer. Which is no condemnation – in those sorts of productions that’s exactly what they (both the producers and 90% of the audience) want.

Also interesting is Akane’s struggle with her character, Princess Saya. In the manga she’s a conflicted and kind person reluctantly drawn into the violence that underpins “Tokyo Blade” and its story. But the script for the play turns her into what Kindaichi literally calls a device. There’s no room for her emotional self-conflict in a two-hour stage play – she’s there to move the plot along. The screenwriter GOA professes himself a fan of the manga and expresses regret that he’s had to do this (he says he sees himself playing the role of bad guy), but the director backs him up. It sucks for the actor playing her though, that’s for sure.

OnK has dipped its toes into the waters of bastardization of source material before, of course, but it’s a fertile spring. With the mangaka showing up and demanding GOA revise “everything”, who knows how this will play out – that sort of thing has cratered more than one manga adaptation. If one is interested in the realities of manga adaptation in its various forms, this is genuinely fascinating territory – and better before Akasaka inevitably starts pulling his punches (which he almost surely will). There’s not much connection to the main plot yet but that’s fine, I was starting to drift on that by the end of S1 anyway. So far so good – but I still feel like the Oshi no Ko experience is borrowed time for me, most likely.

The post “Oshi no Ko” 2nd Season – 01 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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