Embroiled in a salacious scandal born from photographed high-fives, Hiyori and her two large idol sons navigate the treacherous tabloid waters and bail out with solutions that prove to be both tidy and messy. As I discussed last week, this is a thorny subject with tendrils in a lot of different topics, including online fandom as a general phenomenon, the particularities of the idol industry, gender, parasocial relationships, and many more issues. In other words, it’s a tricky situation to solve in a single episode. Heroines Run the Show tackles it with some good character beats from unlikely cooperators, but its overall messaging only grazes the surface of these depths.
I suppose the biggest takeaway from this episode is that Heroines doesn’t have an ax to grind with the idol industry writ large. Everyone treats this situation as a kind of unfortunate inevitability that they have to mitigate as tactfully as possible. Idols going on dates is bad, but nobody here is dating, so they just have to explain they aren’t in a way that will convince the public. Problem solved. This, however, fails to interrogate the basic premise here—that idols having romantic relationships is a bad thing—and this rankles me. It’s an insidiously toxic assumption that dehumanizes entertainers and reinforces bad behavior and unhealthy fixations from fans. It’s simple to understand why the industry doesn’t mind this, because more fanaticism equals higher profits, but I’d expect art about the industry to be more introspective.
That’s the rub with idol anime, though: how do you straddle the line between art and propaganda? Lots of shows simply choose to focus on other things, or they choose to occupy a different reality than ours. Heroines has always been down-to-earth, so it makes sense for it to address these unsavory sides of the entertainment industry in a matter-of-fact, if uncontroversial way. I just wanted a bit more from it.
However, I’m unambiguously peeved at how Heroines turns Hiyori into a mouthpiece for the spurned fans. Fandom isn’t a homogenous monolith, so it sucks to see the show conflate that whole mess together in an effort to make them into a faceless sympathetic figure. Bad fans exist! Just ask literally anybody who has ever been on the internet. Fans can go too far. Fans need to be put in their place sometimes. Bad fans, left unchecked, can poison and destroy an entire community, so you can even argue there’s a financial (if not moral) impetus to rein them in or expel them entirely. It makes some sense for Hiyori as a character to act like this, since we know she ‘s prone to internalizing blame, and I ‘m glad Aizo and Yujiro push back on her opinions her. But the framing of the scene has Hiyori in the right, and they ultimately let her resign as manager. It’s a complete acquiescence to fan outrage, and that is plain wrong. No matter how much social media can blur the line between artist and audience, fans are not and never will be entitled to the personal lives of the people who entertain them. If you’re hurt by an idol having a happy relationship, that’s very much a YOU problem.
Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox now, and I will say that I really like Aizo and Yujiro’s material this week. When the going gets tough, the lads sure can get their act together, and it’s beyond wholesome to see them combine forces outside of work for Hiyori’s sake. Within the uncontroversial limits defined by the show, their pushback at the press conference is good too. They are, essentially, arguing that they’re normal teens entitled to a normal high school experience and all that entails, regardless of how it may appear to the public. A charitable reading might posit that this is Heroines‘ way of subtextually arguing for my larger point about idols’ personal lives, but I’d still call that too cowardly to be lauded. While they did the right thing defending themselves and Hiyori, I wish the writing would have allowed Hiyori to defend herself.
This episode also provides us with a rare peek into Aizo’s and Yujiro’s home lives, and they’re both a lot less dysfunctional than I expected. The Someya patriarch is surprisingly gracious about the scandal, hinting that he’s not as disappointed in his elder son’s choice of career as Yujiro might think. Showbusiness is showbusiness, and blowing up in the tabloids is just the cost of being in the public eye. It’s sage, albeit terse, dad advice. I also respect Koichiro’s suggestion to go all hackerman on the photos’ EXIF data, and they absolutely should have listened to him. Get that paparazzi’s ass. Ken’s attitude is a tad more playful, but he also takes the time to sit Aizo down and have an uncharacteristically constructive heart-to-heart. Consistent with the rest of the episode, I feel like these conversations go a little too smoothly and conveniently given the complexity of both the situation and emotions at hand. However, it’s also nice and heartwarming to see the support structures these boys have apart from Hiyori.
And while the boys might have attracted new fans thanks to their frank press conference, Hiyori’s role in this arc is far from over. Will she still be bullied? Will she have to stop spending time with Aizo and Yujiro? will she think she’ll have to stop? Given the last scene, she’s clearly upset that she had to quit her manager-in-training job, but there’s no way she’ll have gumption to ask for it back on her own. She thinks she did the right thing, after all. I ‘m a little worried about Chizuru ‘s suspicions her too, because despite her earlier protests her, she definitely seems to be a big LIPxLIP fan. There’s lots of ways next week ‘s episode could go, especially with a title like “Battle of the Hated Heroine,” but I’m wishing Hiyori and her her eyebrows her the best.
Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a world-renowned golf expert and commentator, but if you just want to read his thoughts on anime and good eyebrows, then there’s always Twitter. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.