Oshi no Ko Review: A Star is Born

Produced by Doga Kobo

Directed by Daisuke Hiramaki

Streaming on Hidive

As a reviewer, I believe I have some small obligation to be impartial. It’s not possible to give a completely objective review, so I also try to inform you when my personal taste supersedes my ability to analyze an anime. With that in mind, I have to report a conflict of interest; Oshi no Ko was always going to be the anime of the season.

Well, maybe not always. Nothing is a given in anime, where an adaptation of even the best manga can be botched. I’ve lauded anime for their production values, talented voice casts, and brilliant script composition, only for them to take a crap in the back half of the season just to prove me wrong. To clarify, if Oshi no Ko was a proper adaptation of its source material, it was always going to be the anime of the season.

Kaguya-sama is one of my favorite anime and manga, period, and that is due almost entirely to the talent of its author, Aka Akasaka. He had already blended romance, comedy, psychological thriller, and battle shonen into one neat package, so as soon as I learned his newest manga was a psychological thriller about idols and Japanese show business, I was hooked. If you’re a new reader, you should know my policy on stories, especially anime, is that weirder is generally better, and I love seeing something I’ve never seen before.

So, I’m not going to say whether or not you should watch Oshi no Ko, because you should. Instead, I’m going to try and explain how this story is peak fiction, in the hopes that will convince you if you’re not already on board.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope that you have faith in your doctor. Trusting the medical professionals tasked with your care is vital to the process of maintaining your health. It’s also a little disconcerting when your gynecologist puts on an idol video and starts gushing about his fave in your hospital room.

Gorou Amemiya fell in love with Ai Hoshino, the star of the underground idol group B-Komachi, after being converted by his patient, Sarina, a terminally ill girl. She succumbed to her illness four years prior, and Gorou has carried a piece of her with him in the form of his fondness for Ai. Thus, he’s devastated when Ai goes on hiatus due to poor health, and a little perplexed to find her at his hospital, twenty weeks pregnant with twins.

But the two strike up a fast friendship, and Gorou dedicates himself to helping Ai give birth to her healthy twins. She’s near the due date when a stranger begins asking around for Ai, and Gorou gives chase, certain the man has malicious intentions. Well, he’s right, because the crazed idol fan hurls Gorou off a cliff, killing him just as Ai goes into labor.

Rather than the cold embrace of death, though, Gorou feels only a comforting warmth, as he opens his eyes to discover that he has been reincarnated as Aqua, Ai’s newborn son.

If that felt a bit like spoiling the entire plot, then don’t worry, that’s the plot of the first chapter. What ensues is a deep dive into the world of show business, from the plight of idols struggling to make a buck to the manipulation going on behind the camera in your favorite reality shows. When the dark side of that world threatens Ai, Aqua has to search for his mysterious absentee father and join that star-studded world for the answers he needs.

I’m trying to be careful with spoilers, because despite all initial appearances, Oshi no Ko is as tense a psychological thriller as you’re going to come across, and that first episode hits like a truck. Show business lends itself well to that type of story, where the stakes of death or harm coming to the characters has been replaced with a career going down in flames.

I will say that Aqua is one of my favorite characters in any anime or manga. It’s rare to see the stoic mastermind sort of character come by his cold calculating persona honestly. I’ve already complained about it when I tore down Tomodachi Game, but anime like that or Classroom of the Elite just shove a cardboard cutout with a genius-level intellect at you so the fans can chant, “he’s just like me fr”.

But he’s not alone. The cast of Oshi no Ko is stacked with characters who each have compelling personalities and also mental disorders. Seriously, they all need therapy so bad.

I wouldn’t have expected an idol anime to be the next closest thing to a spiritual successor to Death Note, but here we are.

If I had to levy any one piece of criticism towards Akasaka, it would be his art. I love Kaguya to death, but his strength has always been in writing. The early chapters of Love is War are particularly rough, so I’m glad to see that he took a step back from illustrating with his next two manga, Oshi no Ko and the as yet unreleased Renai Daiko. Mengo Yokoyari’s work on Oshi no Ko has been full of gorgeous panels, expressive characters, and some phenomenal composition.

I was a little nervous about the choice of director and studio at first. Daisuke Hiramaki is a veteran animator, though I could only find one other series where he was credited as a director, and Doga Kobo has produced a handful of solid shows like Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, My Senpai is Annoying, and Sing Yesterday for Me, but that’s just it, they’re solid. I’m not one of those guys who thinks every anime should be handed off to MAPPA or Ufotable, but I was wary of Oshi no Ko being handled by a studio that was only decent.

I had nothing to worry about. Oshi no Ko is a phenomenal looking show, with dance sequences that are more fluid than your favorite shonen fight scene, good use of a vibrant color palette, and a character designer who managed to translate these characters to animation beautifully.

Oshi no Ko is the rare adaptation that sees the potential hidden in a still frame of manga and manages to free it to its full potential in motion. I don’t want to give it too much credit, seeing as the first episode’s theatrical release guaranteed it a far more forgiving schedule than the rest of the episodes to come, but in every step of production, Oshi no Ko is a treat for the senses.

It might be early to call for Anime of the Year contenders, but Oshi no Ko has argued in its own defense wonderfully.

Does it deserve to claim the top spot on MAL after a single episode? Maybe not, but considering Fullmetal Alchemist fans have been review-bombing every anime that dares to push past Brotherhood, including Kaguya, I’m willing to let that slide. MAL’s rankings are a joke, and I’m just happy to see a deserving show enjoy a moment in the spotlight, as its characters so often do.Oshi no Ko claims an Entertaining Fantastic with ease.

Pardon the rushed outro, but writing this has just made me want to read the manga again, so…follow on WordPress and Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, pretty please? And as always, thanks for reading.

FineHell’s Paradise
PleasingAn Explosion on This Wonderful World
FantasticOshi no Ko

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