Is shine all there is?
Overview (Spoilers Below)
After Hikari wins the underground auditions, the giraffe asks her which stage she chooses as her Stage of Fate. Hikari declines to choose any stage because she refuses to rob the rest of the 99th class of their shine. The next day, Hikari disappears. She has withdrawn from Seisho academy, and no one knows where she is. Over the course of seven months, Karen continues to search for Hikari, even as the rest of the class starts to give up on ever seeing her again. Finally, she has an epiphany. Karen breaks into the elevator that initially transported her to the Stage of Fate audition, and with the support of the entire class, enters a mysterious door. Meanwhile, somewhere on the other side, Hikari Kagura suffers, alone, remembering Karen’s promise.
Not a lot happens in this episode. It mostly serves as a chance to showcase the wonderful ensemble we’ve grown to know and love over these past eleven weeks. Normally, I would knock a point or two off for what is essentially a high-effort clip show, but I truly can’t get enough of these supporting characters, so I was grateful that they got a worthy sendoff before a finale that is sure to be almost exclusively Karen and Hikari-focused.
Another notable thing about this episode is that it attempts to give Hikari’s insufferable characterization up until this point an explicit reason. The writers have decided that Hikari’s lack of shine, which was stolen from her in her last Stage of Fate audition, is what caused her to be so standoffish and cruel throughout the year. It’s a nice try, but I don’t buy it. It’s completely undone by a lack of contrasting scenes showcasing Hikari’s warmth. She’s just as capricious to Karen as a child as she is as a teenager, and even when she and Karen are in mutual awe of “Starlight,” it doesn’t do much to cut her harsh personality.
In this episode, we have mirrors. Karen is once again searching for Hikari, and texting and calling her ad nauseam. However, unlike the fourth episode of the season, Hikari can’t answer her. This forces Karen to once again traverse the outside world looking for her. This is not a show that gains much of anything by having its cast interact with other characters. Revue Starlight centers on nine women in an acting conservatory with no men who fall in not-love with each other. Watching them talk to teachers, police, or really anyone without a direct connection to their backstories is tedious and tests the credulity of the show’s core concept in a way that I never find myself thinking about.
When it does get back to the plot, Starlight attempts to provide us with another answer. Why is the giraffe doing this to poor young women? He wants to see something he hasn’t before. The way the describe the giraffe is like some sort of immortal, or at least very old being, who is bored by the endless repetitions of human nature and essentially tortures them for kicks. I don’t know if this will be made clear in the final episode or not, but as of now, it’s a pretty played out motivation.
The giraffe, though, did make me think about these characters in a new way. The giraffe is the only male-appearing character on the show, and he is the definite antagonist of Revue Starlight, his male presence encroaching on the Sapphic love of the 99th class and turning them against each other. Based on what we know about “Starlight” and Karen, it’s likely the two will band together to face the giraffe in a final showdown, but I am curious how this will look. Will they fight? Will they sing? Will the giraffe remain as he is, or does he have another form that will face Karen and Hikari?
As we prepare to say goodbye to Revue Starlight, I think about it once again as the product that it is. This musical/anime/manga/video game shared universe should be, on its face, a saccharine, cynical cash grab, intended to net Bushiroad as much money as possible in as little time as possible. And, while it is those things, it also has more to say. Much like the new Star Wars films, Revue Starlight is almost about its metanarrative. It has a lot to say about the power of adaptation, and while something may seem similar, the individuals who comprise something, and its spatiotemporal location do imbue it with a certain uniqueness that cannot be recreated. Just as each production of “Starlight” is both a new adaptation of the book “The Starlight Gatherer” and a reflection of all the productions that came before it, so too is Revue Starlight as it moves from medium to medium.
I hope to return to this idea more next week when we see how our story ends, but an attempt at capturing a work’s aura in the modern age can’t go unnoticed. I’m still interested, Starlight, and you know what they say about a show. If you finish strong, the audience will forgive quite a bit.