Season aired: Spring 2023
Number of episodes: 11
Watched on: HIDIVE
Translated by: Jake Jung
Genres: Drama, Mystery
Thoughts: OSHI NO KO came in as one of the most anticipated anime of the season. Written by Akasaka-sensei, the genius behind Kaguya-sama: Love is War, the series is a murder mystery that dives deep into the complicated and oftentimes problematic elements of the entertainment industry. Its source material was nominated for awards and won several, and when the first episode came out, the series was met with applause. Now that the first season is over, the question is did the series continue to meet people’s expectations?
Yes, it did.
OSHI NO KO has one of the strangest premises in existence. An OBGYN doctor is obsessed with a teenage idol named Ai after being introduced to the idol world by a child patient that tragically passed away. Thinking he’ll never be more than just one of the fans, he is shocked to discover his newest assigned patient is the idol Ai herself, whose pregnancy is taboo in the idol industry and must be kept secret. On the fateful night of Ai’s delivery, the doctor is murdered and instead finds himself reincarnated as one of Ai’s twin children. Now living life as Aqua, he devotes himself to combing through the entire entertainment industry in order to fulfill his revenge.
It’s a little hard to discuss the plot of OSHI NO KO without major spoilers, so I will instead focus on how the story ingeniously uses the murder to speak at length about the issues plaguing the entertainment industry today without feeling gimmicky. There are arcs dedicated to the complications behind adaptations, how people use and throw away child actors, how fans react in self-righteous ways out of a sense of bloated self-importance regarding events they know nothing about, and how as a whole, the industry does very little to protect the people involved. The real purpose of the entertainment industry is to make money, and even if bad practices result in death, the people at the top do little to stop the trajectory as long as they remain safe and hidden.
This is why in many ways, Aqua is the perfect protagonist to expose this side of the industry. Despite physically being a teenager, his mind remains sharp thanks to retaining all of his prior life’s memories. He can physically find a way into the darker parts of the industry as a teenage actor while retaining the maturity to be able to identify when adults are abusing and taking advantage of minors. This simultaneous attached and detached perspective helps to perfectly convey the problems that happen behind the scenes without the audience feeling detached from the situation.
An additional stroke I like about Aqua is that his own character is a commentary on the industry’s problems. The anime never ceases to remind you that he is, at the end of the day, a grown man who is obsessed with a minor idol that he knows very little about, and it puts to question the ethics of his actions with other minors and his overall “love” for Ai. He’s morally questionable at best, but that only makes his role in the story more interesting.
Aqua is not alone. He’s surrounded by a colorful cast of female characters who are all layered and nuanced, and where Aqua represents the darker side of the industry, his costars are undoubtedly the better half. Ruby represents the hope and inspiration entertainment can bring to a person’s personal struggles, Kana represents the hard work and determination within the industry, and Akane represents the innate skills and passion of entertainment. These girls aren’t pushed to the side to let the male protagonist shine – in fact, the series treats them with more respect and importance than the main character, with the majority of the arcs centered on their growth and struggles.
While the strongly written characters can be contributed to the source material, it would be unfair to say the anime only succeeded because of it. OSHI NO KO betters the manga through its amazing visual direction and impactful art. The character designs shine thanks to its emphasis on eyes and facial expressions, and the anime optimizes them through its creative camera angles. While the backgrounds can be bland in unimportant scenes, the series pulls out all the stops with animation and color when it comes to the important ones. Certain sequences took my breath away, and it is able to portray magical moments that a non-moving manga panel simply can’t capture in black and white.
The voice acting also brings another layer to the adaptation. Despite only showing up near the end, Manaka Iwami milked every second as Akane, whose twisted performance is just too good for me to spoil in this review. Megumi Han embodies every complicated emotion Kana holds inside herself – her confidence, her sarcasm, her self-doubt, her joy, and her pain. Yurie Igoma is a newbie seiyuu whose role as Ruby is her first ever in anime, and it is impossible to distinguish her inexperience from the rest of the more experienced cast. And last but certainly not least, Takeo Ootsuka nails the complicated Aqua, oscillating between his calmer, mature internal thoughts, his violent moments, and his various forms of lying and acting. In an anime about the entertainment industry, the voice actors came with their full skills on display.
Season one felt much more like a setup for season two as the anime eases us into the theme of the story and introduces us to the important characters, but I still loved it every step of the way. The biggest question hanging over me, aside from the mystery, is how exactly will the story deal with Aqua, the most troublesome character of them all? At times, Aqua is loveable with his passion to protect the kids around him and his intelligence to outmaneuver powerful adults, until the anime reminds you that to be capable of pushing back against something like the entertainment industry, you have to be even worse than the enemy. Yet, it is this precise conflict that makes me forgiving of all his bad behavior, which shows that in the end, I am also just another consumer of the entertainment before me.
Plot: 9 (Multiplier 3)
Characters: 8 (Multiplier 3)
Art/Animation: 7.5 (Multiplier 2)
Voice acting: 9
FINAL SCORE: 82