Hope at the Half
We open on another morning at the Class 99 dorms. Kaoruko once again fails to wake up on her own, and Futaba gets her ready for class. Through a flashback, we see the nature of the pair’s codependent relationship finally laid bare. Kaoruko, as it turns out, is the reluctant heir to a school of traditional Japanese dance, and Futaba is one of the less naturally-gifted pupils. Kaoruko has a habit of running off, and Futaba becomes her devoted fan, and the one to always find her. Back in the present, however, this dynamic seems to have run its course. Futaba, after taking lessons with Claudine, has shot past her former idol, and makes the Seisho festival cut, while Kaoruko doesn’t. After Kaoruko threatens to leave, Futaba making another last minute gesture and the outcome of the underground Revues renew the pairs bond and place them on a more equal footing.
I will never get tired of these minor character episodes. I’ve said on numerous occasions that the ensemble development has been far more interesting to me than either the show’s central mystery or its would-be protagonists, and this episode was no exception. I had been wondering about the nature and circumstances of Futaba and Kaoruko’s coupling, so it was great to see that made clear. Kaoruko has really only had one other major appearance in the anime so far, and that was back when she foreshadowed the events of this week to Mahiru in the bath three episodes ago. I’m quite grateful we didn’t flashback to that, though, as it was great to just have that in somewhere in our minds while we saw this episode play out.
On a thematic level, this series seems determined to take the over-privileged to task. The first we saw of this motif was when Maya beat former child-star Claudine. It comes back again in this episode, and it was a really nice touch to see Claudine as the agent of Futaba’s improvement. This show is really going for a ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ message, and it’s really coming through in both overt and subtle ways. Kaoruko has the same attitude as nearly every defeated stage girl so far—she will improve. The end of the episode was also uplifting in a way that last week’s really failed to be for me. A big part of that might be that I love the Green Hornet/Kato dynamic that Kaoruko and Futaba seem to have much better than the thinly veiled cuckoldry of the Mahiru/Karen/Hikari triad. That’s actually what failed hardest for me this week. They tried to turn Mahiru into more of a big sister character, and I really didn’t buy it.
This was probably my favorite Revue of the entire series, too. The cherry blossom visuals and creative use of flashback to illustrate Kaoruko’s earlier Revues really worked for me. The ending also legitimately surprised me. I don’t think I want to spoil the winner this week, but the fight did not finish in any way that I had anticipated. So, kudos to Revue Starlight for still having some unpredictability up their sleeve at midseason.
Once again, we failed to learn anything about the Revue process or the giraffe, but it looks like Hoshimi will figure this out in the back half of the series. I’m not worried about much other than the show not giving itself time to explain the mystery in as satisfying a way as it deserves.
Speaking of deserving, I would be remiss to not mention the fact that I still could not care less about Karen and Hikari. While I feel as if nearly every other member of the 99th class has been woven into the narrative with painstaking care, their scenes do little more than confuse and annoy me thus far. Next episode is going to be about junior scriptwriter Nana, but I’m still looking forward to it more than I would if another episode centered on our dull main duo. The best thing about Kaoruko and Futaba was that even their briefest appearances showcase their characters and intrigue me, but when Hikari and Karen are given the same chance, with exponentially more screen time, they have failed me all season.
None of that should take away from what was probably my favorite episode of the season, so far, but it is something that I will be on the lookout for as the show starts to wind down. I hope we get more information about the Revues and Starlight itself, but nothing this show can do will bring me more joy than the idea of seeing Kaoruko cheering Futaba on at the Seisho festival this year. Good on you, Revue Starlight.