Demon Slayer continues to slay, and Attack On Titan remains more gigantic than ever, but there's a new series dancing its way into the hearts of anime fans everywhere, and its name is Oshi no Ko.
But you knew that already, right? How could you not?
The music video for the show's opening number hit 22 million views in just six days, and the show even managed to topple Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood from first place on MyAnimeList’s top anime of all time rankings. Just one episode in, Doga Kobo's adaptation has proved itself to be even more popular than returning success stories like Demon Slayer.
Not bad for a brand new show, eh? Except Oshi no Ko is so much more than just another idol anime.
Aka Akasaka's story starts with a gynaecologist named Goro Amemiya who delivers babies in a remote countryside hospital. As the premiere unfolds, we discover that Goro has become obsessed with an idol named Ai Hoshino after he was introduced to her songs by a late cancer patient he had grown attached to.
And then, plot twist! Ai suddenly shows up at Goro's hospital 20 weeks pregnant with twins. As she's only 16 years old, Ai plans to give birth to the children in secret before returning to the spotlight as B-Komachi's lead vocalist. Goro, being the professional that he is, sets his obsession aside to help his favourite idol out.
Up to this point, Oshi no Ko doesn't stray too far from the usual Idol formula, but that false sense of security gives way when one of Ai's stalkers suddenly murders Goro right before he was about to help Ai give birth.
And with that, Goro wakes up to discover he's been reincarnated in the body of Ai's infant son, Aquamarine. He's joined by Aqua's twin sister, Ruby, who seems to remember her past life as well. What Goro doesn't know is that Ruby is actually the cancer patient who he cared for back when he was still an adult.
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Cue a bunch of awkward breast-feeding scenes and the babies pretending to be gods so they can trick a nanny into doing their bidding. And then, just as fans start to get used to the new rhythms of this talking baby show, Oshi no Ko throws yet another curveball our way with the surprise death of Ai, who's murdered by the same man who killed Goro in his previous life.
That's all in just one episode, by the way.
Just when you think the premiere is going to go one way, it pivots and slaps you with a complete turnaround that twists and subverts the familiar, happy-go-lucky vibes of Idol anime with something far more disturbing and unexpected.
It's no wonder then that Oshi no Ko made such an impact so quickly. It helps that every frame is beautifully animated and the music slaps of course, as you'd expect from an Idol show like this, but it's the twists and turns that really pulled fans in, including those who usually avoid this genre.
By taking such ambitious shots at death, loss, and exploitation within the entertainment industry, Oshi no Ko immediately set itself apart from its cutesy peers with real substance and a long overdue critique of this genre's tropes.
That's not just true of the premiere either. Seven episodes in, Oshi no Ko continues to wow fans with its thoughtful approach to difficult topics like cyberbullying and suicide. As painful as that latter storyline has been to watch in particular, it's also a standout arc for many fans who can relate to the pressures of being a teenager and living constantly online.
Yet even with all this much warranted praise, Oshi no Ko is still falling short compared to the impact that the first episode made. With Ai's death came the death of the show's twisty format and interest in how reincarnation helps subvert typical Idol tropes. Instead, the second episode jumps forward over a decade to Aqua and Ruby's teen years with yet another shift in genre.
Aqua now plans to make it as an actor to find his biological father, the man he believes was responsible for Ai's death, while Ruby wants to follow in Ai's footsteps and become an idol too. Yet, the fantastical nature of their predicament takes a backseat to teen hijinks from this point on, albeit in an "Entertainment School" designed to produce the superstars of tomorrow.
It can be hard to set yourself apart in an overstuffed Idol industry, and that's true of the Idol genre too. Oshi no Ko is still brilliantly made, but with this pivot into generic teen issues, the show no longer stands out as unique in the same way that the first episode did.
At times, it's almost like the events depicted in the premiere didn't happen at all. Anyone who starts Oshi no Ko with episode two wouldn't struggle to keep up at this point, which speaks to how disjointed these two "halves" have become. Perhaps if there were more allusions to Aqua's past life, this disconnect wouldn't feel so severe, but his revenge mission is often overlooked at times, like a faded Idol of yesteryear.
Even just some fun references to Goro's older mind being trapped in a teenage body could help in this regard, or perhaps some acknowledgement of his past experience as a trained doctor.
That's not to say this disconnect will last forever. Aqua and Ruby are bound to discover their past-life connection at some point, which will create endless drama in the best way possible. Still, it's odd that there's been so little mention of this key fact beyond the premiere so far. By avoiding this backstory almost entirely, Oshi no Ko runs the risk of losing the impact of this key reveal when it does finally arrive.
Let's just hope that Aqua and Ruby end up recalling more of their past lives sooner rather than later so Oshi no Ko can relive its own past glory and remember what helped make this story so special in the first place.
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