My feelings were decidedly mixed when If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die/Oshi ga Budoukan Itte Kuretara Shinu (OshiBudo) first aired. It’s an exaggerated episodic comedy about idol fans, or wota, and I enjoyed the silliness from the get-go. But with psychological thriller Perfect Blue — which deals with the dark side of idol fandom — as the only idol-related anime I’ve watched, and with real-life incidents like the Maho Yamaguchi assault, I wasn’t sure at first if it was something I could laugh at without feeling uneasy inside.
That uneasiness was mostly swept away starting from the second episode, although it’s not because OshiBudo suddenly develops a sharp and critical tongue for idol culture and the idol industry. It does sometimes highlight issues like fan reaction to dating rumors, but it’s also content with having its protagonist’s large expenditure on merchandise, despite her reliance on part-time gigs, be mere comedy material without noting the unhealthy implications of her actions. The behavior of the main wota characters might also come off as creepy rather than funny, even if the show and the characters themselves are quick to point out the way they act. But as a whole, the show succeeds in being such a lovably dumb and enjoyable show that I found it easy to accept it for what it is.
At the center of OshiBudo is Eripiyo, a young woman who’s a hardcore fan — and also the only fan — of the idol Maina Ichii, a member of underground idol group ChamJam. When I said I had mixed feelings at the beginning of the show, it was because of Eripiyo’s sheer passion for all things Maina-related. Even the staff are wary of Eripiyo, although this is played for laughs. If Eripiyo wasn’t a cute girl herself, the proceedings would’ve been very uncomfortable to watch. In Maina’s case, she seems understandably uneasy with Eripiyo’s behavior for much of the first episode, until the ending reveals that she’s just too shy to properly express her appreciation for Eripiyo.
If you can accept this romanticized depiction of idol-fan relationships, the misunderstandings between the two, which sometimes reach rom-com levels, are an enjoyable treat. They both want to become closer to one another, but Eripiyo often worries that she might be coming on too strongly, while Maina is shy and sometimes bemused by Eripiyo’s words. When Eripiyo asks Maina what organ people need the least (in reference to selling off her organs for cash, a joke I’m sure many of us are familiar with), Maina just can’t fathom why her diehard fan is talking about internal organs all of a sudden.
The banter between the three main wota, Eripiyo, Kumasa, and Motoi, makes for good entertainment too, mainly thanks to the first two. Their normal conversations usually end up integrating verbal attacks, comebacks, and dumb lines (mostly from Eripiyo) that get commented on, and the dialogue is well-timed and sufficiently unpredictable. Like most of OshiBudo’s comedy, they wouldn’t work without Eripiyo’s energetic and absurd nature. I was simultaneously creeped out and tickled when she nosebleeds in the middle of a ChamJam performance in the first episode. Later, I found myself thoroughly amused by the moments where she kowtows for cash with a broken leg, expresses enthusiasm at the idea of getting a cold from Maina, or does squats with a massive stack of CDs on her head.
While the focus seems to be mainly on the wota at first, the idols get a good amount of screentime too. Offstage, they talk about their job, their lives, their worries, and sometimes they clash with each other. They have personalities that don’t always align with the personas they portray as idols (well, except Maina maybe). One of the idols, Aya Yokota, plays the cute little sister role onstage but is more straightforward in real life. She chats casually with (and even blackmails) Eripiyo and Kumasa when they visit the maid cafe she works at. The idols have aspirations, like performing in the title’s Budokan arena, and put in the effort to achieve their goals, as evident in their dance practice scenes, and the show makes it easy to support them. Most importantly, it shows that idols are also people like us.
The focus on the idols also provides a healthy dose of yuri-teasing. It’s never said outright, but it’s clear that two of the idols, Maki Hakata and Yumeri Mizumori, are in a relationship. Things are more ambiguous with the others, but there are moments that indicate the possibility of there being another two couples within ChamJam. Maina falls outside of this since if she’s going to be paired off with someone, it’d definitely be Eripiyo. Even though the latter claims to be opposed to the idea of gachi koi (The Japan Times translates this as “true love”), it’s clear that her actions and thoughts go beyond that of a mere fan.
I’m not sure how long anime idol performance scenes usually are, but OshiBudo’s feel like they fall a bit on the short side, if there’s such a thing. There’s still a decent amount of dancing and singing though, and these are all traditionally animated. Aside from one mildly spotty-looking performance, I was rather impressed by the idols’ movements. It’s just a shame that the final episode’s performance is quite brief and doesn’t try to upstage what came before.
The voice-acting is solid all-around, and Ai Fairouz does a great job of conveying Eripiyo’s energy and fanaticism. Aya and the tsundere-ish idol, Yuka, sound a bit similar to me, but the rest of the idols are easily differentiable, despite both Maina and Yumeri being soft-spoken. The songs in the show are alright, but the opening song Clover wish, performed by the ChamJam voice actors as their respective characters, is a catchy and upbeat J-pop tune that I’ve never skipped.
I can see the issue with painting a romanticized portrait of something that may not be so in real life, but past OshiBudo’s first episode, I found it easy to simply sit back and enjoy the silly amusement that it delivers. The show is worlds apart from Perfect Blue, but I can enjoy both.