chapter 134 thoughts!
My immediate first thought going into this chapter and seeing how it picks up from last week's cliffhanger is that while I thought last week that this conflict served as an excellent character beat for both Ruby and Kana, I feel less positively about it as the catalyst for long term RubyKana conflict. Maybe that's hypocritical because I like the similar AquKana conflict back during the LoveNow aftermath and this is basically just a roided up version of that but… IDK, I guess it helped that the AquKana conflict is very clearly a romcom style miscommunication and it ends up leading to one of my all time favourite and funniest character moments for Aqua, this… isn't that. In general I really hate the old tried conflict trope of "Character A betrays or is otherwise cruel to Character B For Their Own Good and refuses to communicate about it" so this was kind of irritating to see…
It also really doesn't help that Kana is going SO above and beyond in being cruel to Ruby here in comparison to the AquKana conflict where her short-sighted lashing out was being mostly played for laughs but still came back to bite her. There's just something a bit excessive in how deliberately and pointedly cold and mean to Ruby Kana is shown being here and I guess it just feels a bit icky to me though I obviously can't make a proper call on all this til we see its conclusion.
I also have to question like… why is everyone around them just letting this happen lol. Memcho not intervening I can at least make sense of because she's been shown to be feeling off her game and a bit out of her element so I could see all that combining to make her uncertain of what to do but… uh, is Miyako not paying any attention? Admittedly the timeframe here is a little vague so we don't know exactly how long this has been going on but it's been happening at least long enough for Ruby to be going to school and fretting about it to her friends. So the idea of Miyako either being unaware of this or not intervening in this is really baffling to me??? Especially off the back of chapters 124 and 126 making a point of how badly Miyako wants to reach out to Aqua and Ruby and support them as their mother - the only way I can justify this to myself is if Miyako somehow doesn't know this was going on but how would she not know??? Like, we see Gotanda and his assistants fretting over Ruby crying after her scenes! If they're well aware something is wrong, why not Miyako? She's Aqua and Ruby's manager! This is a Strawberry Productions produced movie! We've seen her on set before! Is she just… not here now that it would be inconvenient for the plot?
(The answer to that is 'yes')
Uh all that up there does make it sound like I disliked either this or last chapter but I actually really loved them both for reasons we'll get into soon! I think they're both strong individual chapters and as points in RubyKana's shared arc I actually do really like this conflict, what it says about them both and where it seems to be taking them. There are just a lot of small, piled up contrivances pushing this conflict along and I think they annoyed me so much BECAUSE I otherwise think this is some really tasty character work for both girls and I'm otherwise enjoying it.
My bitching aside, I do really like the talk that follows this. I've been revisiting a lot of the earlier material recently via friends re-reading or giving the series a try for the first time so I've been back in that space of Ruby being particularly starstruck with Frill. It's sweet to see their present day dynamic where Ruby is fully comfortable with Frill just as her friend and trusts her enough to share her worries with her.
aw hey minami we thought you were dead
This entire scene really got my brain gears whirring and I can't help but speculate a little about its placement. At first I was just nodding along, thinking this was just Industry Exposition as usual but… isn't this odd? We don't see how Ruby phrases this question so maybe she was vague but from an authorial standpoint, why is Akasaka having Frill talk about love instead of dislike or hostility, which is what is actually going on between Ruby and Kana? Reading over that scene again and again, I can't help but wonder… is this supposed to be taken as some commentary on what's going on between Ruby and Aqua? Is Ruby developing confusedly romantic feelings for him purely because of their 'playing the roles', so to speak, of Sarina and Gorou? After all, the only other similar 'showmances', so to speak, that this could be referring to are AquKana and AquAka, neither of which quite fit the bill, especially when Frill talks about immediately snapping out of those feelings once the show is over — which didn't happen in the least for either pairing. Is this a hint of something to do with Ruby's feelings? Am I reading too much into this??? I mean, I almost definitely am, but I do that every week so…
Hopping over to Kana, the scene between her and Memcho itches my brain less mostly just because it's reiterating things communicated last week. I've said all I'll say about it feeling weird to me that Mem isn't making a move to intervene here but I do like the talk she and Kana have about their human jealousy towards Ruby. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for their being able to push it aside for so long because… honestly, none of what Kana said is wrong!
The second generation of B-Komachi exists for Ruby. Strawberry Productions got back into the idol business entirely so Ruby would have a group to be part of. Kana and Mem were recruited so Ruby would have unitmates to perform with. It doesn't revolve around her to the extent the previous generation did Ai, but in a very real sense Kana is correct when she identifies herself and Memcho as 'extras' for B-Komachi, who exist for Ruby's sake. Not only that but Ruby honestly treated them really badly while she was in black hoshigan mode! Yes, we as readers know what was going on in her head and why but think about how all that probably seemed to Kana and Mem who had no idea: From their POV, what happened was that they broke into mainstream success at last and Ruby immediately left them in the dust, prioritizing her own growth and success in a way that had a very real impact on the fan response the two of them got while they were busting their asses and trying their best to keep B-Komachi going in her absence. I don't think they would be wrong to feel honestly kind of used and hurt!
Obviously this isn't me saying that Ruby is a bad person or that she deserves to have Kana snap at her like that or whatever but… I dunno! It just feels good to have Mem and Kana finally address those feelings and admit to them without it compromising their genuine love and care for Ruby, which is one one of the main ways that the current gen of B-Komachi has surpassed the previous one. Kana especially touches on something I discussed last week in that I think her half of this shared RubyKana arc is going to be about confronting and besting her 'inner Nino', so to speak. Like Nino, she has those same tangled up feelings of admiration and envy, but Kana is capable of confronting them and identifying them. Most importantly, she loves Ruby enough to not let them take her over completely.
ANYWAY FORGET ALL THE REST OF THIS STUFF BECAUSE THIS WAS SECRETLY AN AI POST THIS WHOLE TIME MFS!!!!!!!! oh god this chapter review is already so long and now it's about to get even longer.
Anyone who's read any of my OnK meta before will probably know that I have always stood by one thing that I won't compromise on: Hoshino Ai was just a normal girl. She was a normal girl who suffered abuse and neglect and hated herself as a result, who was exploited by the entertainment industry because she was pretty and vulnerable, who didn't understand people but spent every waking moment of her too-short life reaching out so she could try and love them. The idea of Ai being fundamentally mysterious or unknowable, that the so called 'real Ai' had some horrible dark secret or that the supposedly 'true' Ai really was as horrible as Ai thought herself to be have never resonated with me. The 'real me' that is so horrible that Ai can only speak of her with black stars is nothing more than the flawed, hurting, abused human behind Ai of B-Komachi. I've said this all along and yet there's always been a little part of me worried that Akasaka was going to pull a fast one and betray that idea and rupture the heart of this character I've come to love so much.
To that end — I cannot tell you how insanely fucking cathartic the ending of this chapter was. To have Ruby at last come face to face with her mother as a human being and recognize her for who she really is. That this key final puzzle piece of the real Ai is centered on her pain and her loneliness and her raw humanity, that Ruby describes her as just a normal girl who was always crying and in pain… I genuinely don't have words to say how incredible it felt to finally, FINALLY have someone recognize Ai's suffering. And not just anyone, but one of Ai's children, one of the people she loved more than anything else in the world.
The imagery and framing here is so insanely powerful. Ai taking the place of Ruby's reflection, the look of weary, resigned pain on her face. How small Ai is when Ruby sees her. The barrier of the glass between them; even now in this moment of understanding, the unbreechable barrier of Ai's death keeps Ruby from truly reaching her. It almost feels skeuomorphic in how literal the visualization of this moment of connection and empathy is. Ruby literally sees herself in Ai — she sees Ai in herself. It's pure empathy made as real and tangible as it gets. At long, long last, someone has squinted past the blinding light cast by Ai of B-Komachi and seen Hoshino Ai alone in the shadows where she's been this whole time.
Break next week…! That was to be expected — Jump Festa 2024 will be taking place next weekend and there will be a OnK panel with the seiyuu for Ai, Aqua, Kana and Akane in attendance. We're confirmed to be getting some season 2 news as well, so there's that to look forward to!
Oshi No Ko was about Arima Kana all along.
And I think there’s a real possibility she may die at the end.
Or be placed in the way of grave danger.
I was reading some AquKane shippers say something about how they don’t understand AquaKana, and why the writers and directors keep clearly pushing Kana towards Aqua when they barely share any chemistry. Whereas, in their belief, his relationship with Akane is more honest, deeper, whatever. I’m not here to argue about that. But I get where they’re coming from. And the simple explanation is this:
It’s because this whole story was written for Arima Kana.
I’ve seen some Youtubers talk about how this whole story was meant to be fulfillment for Ruby/Sarina’s dream to become the next great Idol, something about Amaterasu favoring her.
And that’s near what I thought of it. But I really think if the God of Entertainment wanted to bless a child with cancer a second life as the world’s great idol, they’d also give her a great singing voice, y’know?
Spoilers for the manga, of course as we go along on this explanation. So anime onlies, get caught up before you start reading me ramble.
Here we go:
1. Arima Kana is the embodiment of Amaterasu, not Ruby.
Or at least, Amaterasu’s appointed representative, or her favorite daughter.
To give you a run-down of some of the core Shinto/Japanese Mythology that is important for the story, the Creator God Izanaki had three children:
Amaterasu, Goddess of the Sun.
Tsukuyomi, the Moon.
Susanoo, the Storm.
The story goes that Amaterasu and Susanoo had a competition about who could create better gods. So Amaterasu took Susanoo’s Totsuka-no-Tsurugi* (longsword) and split it into three, from which she birthed the three Munakata goddesses.
And woncha knowit, there are three great actresses born in that year?
*A reminder that Kana plays the character Tsurugi, which literally just means Sword. And Akane’s character Saya-hime just literally means Sheath or Scabbard Princess.
In this bet, Amaterasu got clever with the rules and won on a technicality. Susanoo went on a rampage, destroyed Amaterasu’s ricefield, and flayed Amaterasu’s favorite divine horse*, and then threw its body at her loom.
*The name Arima is spelled with the Kanji of Horse & Exist/Live.
Amaterasu, in her grief, flees into a cave, believed to be Amano Iwato cave, right in the town of Takachiho, Amamiya Gorou’s hometown, and the death place of Tendouji Sarina.
The being that draws Amaterasu out of there was the Goddess of the Dawn, known also as the Goddess of the Revelry & Arts, a being that Aqua says he knows well, and believes there’s a grain of truth to:
And how does Ame-no-Uzume draw Amaterasu out of her grief?
By throwing an absolute rager, and dancing really wildly that it catches her attention and makes all the gods around them laugh so hard. Just like:
Ame-no-Uzume will later on marry a diety who tried to block her passage before, Sarutohiko, who in Ise is worshipped as the god who illuminates the world.
That’s some divinity-level AquaKana shipping right there.
Just like how Aka Akasaka wrote the story of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War about two lovers who couldn’t be together just like in the myth of Kaguya, but having his characters overcome all odds to defy divine fate, I do believe that apart from the parallels to the mythology like he did in Kaguya-sama, there is very literal divine intervention this time in Oshi No Ko.
I think what’s happening is that the gods, particularly Amaterasu and Susanoo are quarelling again about who could create better gods, just like before, but now more of whose favored child will shine the brightest and be worshipped by the most humans. But just like last time, Susanoo may have been enraged, especially at the sexual assault of his chosen Hikaru Kamiki, that he possessed him with a corrupting force that urges him to destroy shining stars before they reach their peak, hence the murders of Himekawa Airi, Hoshino Ai**, and Katayose Yura.
Which by the way, the name Hikaru means Radiant Light!
And Hoshino means Field of Stars!
Whether it’s because Amaterasu is angry that every daughter she sends to earth is slaughtered by Susanoo’s chosen, or just because she wants to win their competition, she appoints Ame-no-Uzume to assist in safeguarding her new favored one from Kamiki’s clutches. Her new favored one being Arima Kana.
And therefore, Ame-no-Uzume takes the souls of two motherless humans who had passed before they could shine and sent them to become Hoshino Ai’s twin children. It was all anyway happening in her territory of Takachiho at the most opportune time.
Ame-no-Uzume is also known as The Goddess of Dance, as well as The Great Pursuader. And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly the gifts that the Hoshino Twins received.
An energetic performer who takes the stage with dance:
And a deceptive, persuasive, extremely believable actor, who:
fooled his own sister into believing she had been rejected from an audition
pretended to scout an idol from a competing agency to research them
get Director Gotanda to raise him and train him
make Akane not just date him, but follow him down a destructive path
convince Kana and Mem to join IchigoPro
impersonate Pieyon for several days straight
Anyway, I truly, truly believe that unbeknownst to Aqua, his true mission is just to keep drawing Kana out of her darkness until she shines the brightest. Which is what he keeps doing anyway:
2. The Timing of the whole Oshi No Ko plot is aligned with Arima Kana’s rise to unprecedented stardom.
The story of Ai Hoshino’s pregnancy and meeting of Gorou Amamiya in a quaint hospital occurs at the beginning of Arima Kana’s life, just after she is born.
She meets Aqua Hoshino around age 4, already talented, and already extremely arrogant which could have easily been the demise of her career. But meeting Aqua and seeing his acting was a necessary wake-up call for her, that it brings her to tears. She never forgets this experience that she brought that lesson with her to her adulthood: that she can’t be satisfied and keep working harder, and to be a better communicator with her colleagues. At their first point of contact, Aqua already becomes the reason why Arima Kana’s acting career survives the slump.
They meet again in high school, when Arima Kana has one acting job in a lackluster production of Sweet Today. The ratings had plummeted, if not for the fact that Aqua came onto the set to draw out the best acting Arima Kana could deliver. After this, Arima receives much more respect and recognition from her colleagues in the industry beyond just being cast to bring some legitimacy to their production.
It’s because of Aqua and Ruby that Kana joins IchigoPro’s Idol Division, and her career is reborn anew. Such that, even after quitting B-Komachi, Arima states she never regretted the decision to join, because otherwise the career of Arima Kana would have been already over.
It’s because of Aqua’s presence that Arima trains to become better and better as an idol. Aqua kept drawing out the light from Kana’s eyes, to the point that it catches the attention of the crowd who previously had no interest in her.
It’s because of her experience as an idol that she regains the confidence and sense of greed necessary to grab the attention of the audience when on stage, such that even Akane recognizes this change in her when Arima takes the stage as Tsurugi for the 2.5 Adadptation of Tokyo Blade.
And it’s because of all of these that she captures the attention of award-winning Director Masanori Shima, who lines up some roles for her when her acting schedule had dried up. It’s once again because of Kana’s dedication towards Aqua that Shima D finds her so interesting that he was most willing to promise her the best role possible.
It was as if Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto appointed Aqua and Ruby to come draw Arima Kana out of her Cave, and bring the Sun out again, just like how the deity drew out Amaterasu.
If you think about the title of the show, Oshi No Ko, it literally means The Favorite Child. God’s favored child. Arima Kana had been born chosen by Amaterasu from the very beginning. And Ame-no-Uzume is sending Aqua and Ruby to aid on this quest.
Which explains why it seems like there had been a mission communicated to Aqua from the very beginning. And why Ai was never going to be reincarnated at all.
You would think that if The Crow Girl, which we assume is the divine guide Yatagarasu, was communicating with Aqua about his revenge plan or helping him find Kamiki, that Aqua would hold a more favorable relationship with The Crow whenever it appears to give advice, no?
But it’s exactly the opposite. Because The Crow is guiding him into something that is different from his personal goal that Aqua doesn’t understand.
And this is where I think Arima Kana could be put in danger.
3. Arima Kana is Hikaru Kamiki’s next target.
There were earlier theories that thought Kurokawa Akane was the one to die next, because of what people have now learned of Kamiki’s serial murderer profile targeting big celebrities before their peak, and because Akane had received a bouquet of white roses from him when she won an award.
The chapter when it was expected to happen was a fake-out from Aka Akasaka, and some people think it’s still possible that she’s the target. In fact, I keep seeing recent theory videos who discount Kana and say she’s “the safest”. Hah! If only!
The scenes with Shima D weren’t just a mere plot point to bring scandal to Arima’s name, and threaten her career and life enough that it pushes Aqua to reveal his mother’s secret in exchange. But it’s there because this is the upward path for Arima Kana. So far, the only people who have witnessed her dazzling star power have been fans of the Sweet Today manga, idol otakus, and people who attended Tokyo Blade. That’s not really masterpiece-of-the-century, performing-at-the-dome level. None of these gigs have placed her center stage in what could be Film of the Year, and a Best Actress spot. Now, the chance is here, and it’s real:
I think, The 15-Year-Lie will attempt to draw out Hikaru Kamiki, or that Aqua intends to reveal himself in the movie looking like him, and reveal the identity of his father.
But I also think what would happen is that they would be unsuccessful at taking him down completely. Instead, from the movie, he would be interested in Arima Kana, and target her through the course of her Shima D movie, and plan to kill her before an important awards night.
Alternatively, now that Kana is changing her focus to film, she may consider moving agencies, and ask Frill Shiranui about her agent. And if we’re right, she is likely represented by Kamiki Productions.
Either way, Kamiki will pay attention to her and try to kill her just before she reaches her highest.
But I don’t think Arima Kana will die. I think instead of being saved by Aqua, it’ll be Kana who takes Kamiki down. Echoing back to her getting mad at Aqua for thinking that avoiding her was protecting her, and Aqua believing that Kana doesn’t need help since she’s strong enough to take care of herself.
And then maybe, it’s Arima Kana who draws Aqua out of the darkness too.
And, just like with Kaguya and Shirogane Miyuki, Aka Akasaka is once again writing a story about two people who will defy a fate of divine tragedy, and come out of it being more truthful with each other than they’ve been with themselves all along.