Things play out a bit differently in Revue Starlight than I expected. Turns out it’s pure coincidence that Hikari transferred to Seisho in this timeline (though I must say, the Giraffe’s involvement in this event is pretty peculiar). I don’t even think Hikari even knew what Nana was talking about when they’re fighting each other in the Revue of the week. I suppose I’m a little disappointed but only in the “I thought this one thing and had hoped the storyteller(s) thought so too” kind of way. In hindsight, not making a bigger deal about Nana is for the better as that would’ve downplayed everyone else’s roles in the story. More importantly, I’m content because this episode was really, really good.
About time we got an episode centered around Hikari. I’ve generally liked her up until this point but I can’t deny that her character has largely been in service of others. For Karen, she’s her dearest friend and biggest reason to win the Revues. Mahiru saw her an obstacle. Nana viewed her as a curiosity. You do get to know more about Hikari in Episode 4 but in general, she has been more of a plot device than a character albeit a very interesting one. It’s this episode where she truly starts to feel like her own being. There isn’t necessarily anything mind blowing here but a lot of what the viewer already knows gets re-contextualized and it helps you understand where Hikari is coming from — her aspirations, her turmoil, and her resolve.
A number of early scenes in Episode 8 mirror moments previously seen in Revue Starlight. For example, the flashback in “Dondon” where Hikari gets out of bed is reminiscent of the beginning of the pilot where Mahiru wakes Karen up. Much more attention is given to how Hikari starts her day though as we see her get dressed, eat breakfast, and gather her belongings (for the record, I still love how untidy she is). It’s a surprisingly deliberate contrast to the pilot which skips all the menial tasks as it can be inferred that Mahiru did a lot of legwork that day. After that, we see her study and practice and we see her do it quite well, not at all like Kaern who starts off rather rusty.
Even the flashback where Hikari and Karen are kids (goodness, they were so adorable) is akin to the reunion scene in Episode 4. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that the playground was a significant hangout for those two. More important than that though is how differently the two scenes play out. In the present, Karen says that they can accomplish anything together. Conversely, in the past, Hikari says that going their separate ways is what will allow each of them to become better performers. She even goes as far as cutting as much contact with Karen throughout the years as possible. Yes, there is a point in the episode where Hikari narrates something to Karen but bear in mind that Karen said in Episode 4 that she never heard back from her. The narration is actually what Hikari wants to say to Karen.
All of these scenes together suggest that Hikari is self-sufficient and to a fault at that. It’s a odd dichotomy seeing as how her dream is to be at the top with her best friend and yet she has been so determined to get there by herself. It’s not like her plan had anything to do with pride; she’s certainly not at the same level as little girl Kaoruko. Hikari genuinely thought studying abroad for the best.
And yet the London revues suggest otherwise. That Hikari has participated in them and lost doesn’t surprise me at all. One, it seemed like she and the giraffe have known each other before. And two, if she had won that battle royale, why is she even competing again? I can’t say the revelation that losing the Revues results in the loss of your shine threw me off guard either. I mean, this is a magical girl-esque anime in a post-Madoka anime industry. Of course, there’s a catch.
Really, the big takeaway is that somewhere along the way, Hikari seemingly forgot what she was fighting for. She was so singular in her goal that it became something she was doing for herself and not for herself and Karen. It even takes some time for Hikari to realize why her loss disturbs her more than it already does. Losing your shine sounds frightening already but it’s increased tenfold when Hikari realizes that by extension, it jeopardizes her promise with Karen. Once that hits hurt her, she becomes desperate for a second chance.
Even real life begins to reflect the pain she’s going through. For the class play, Hikari plays the role of a fallen empress; trembling in fear and unable to fight back. What her peers don’t realize though is that the fear is quite real for Hikari, trembling because she thinks she failed Karen. Furthermore, she’s alone, the only one clinging onto the “empire” she built for herself only to see it fall apart before her eyes. Also symbolic albeit more cheeky and amusing is that when Hikari realizes the consequence of losing the Revues, there’s a giraffe skeleton behind her. It reflects the lack of shine she currently has…that or it’s telling me Hikari really wants to kill the giraffe…
…Anyway, let’s talk about the Revue.
I’m afraid to say this is my favorite fight so far because for all I know, Revue Starlight has something crazier and more meaningful in store. Even so, I really don’t know how this anime will top this duel. There is so much to love here. The music perfectly captures Hikari’s struggle and resolve. The animation is among the best this anime has ever looked. And spectacle…goodness is there spectacle.
Something that stood out to me is that the stage is entirely based on Hikari’s thoughts. First you have a recreation of London, then you have the play Hikari originally rehearsed for, and finally the fight incorporates that replica of Tokyo Tower you always see in the background. Since Hikari is so determined to win, it makes sense that her will would dominate the stage. We also did already see a glimpse of Nana’s stage last episode (i.e. the blinding lights). Still, I was wondering if Nana would start to take over because she was practically wiping the floor on Hikari for most of the fight. That aside, the stage perfectly encapsulate Hikari’s arc. London reflects her humble beginning. She nearly loses to Nana on the same setting she realized what she lost. Plummeting Tokyo Tower into the stage is well timed with her renewed resolve and a reminder that she owes it to Karen. Also, SHE PLUMMETS TOKYO TOWER AND CREATES A TIDAL WAVE. This show’s sense of spectacle truly knows no bounds.
Oddly enough, my favorite symbol in this episode is actually Hikari’s weapon. It actually started off a sword but after losing the London revues, it’s shrunk into a dagger. Evidently, the weapon is indicative of Hikari’s level of shine. It’s diminished but it’s now out and she can still fight. Having it transform during the Revue meanwhile denotes her renewed hope in her dream and her determination to make this second chance count. And its new form, the dagger lets Hikari swing across the stage like she’s Spider-Man. It might refer to how far she’ll go now but on a purely superficial level, it just looks awesome.
While the dynamic between Nana and Hikari plays out differently than I anticipated, it’s still intentional that Nana was the opponent of the day. She is perhaps the only one who can truly empathize with Hikari, at least in a way Karen couldn’t. Both girls desire a miracle. Nana wants to fully re-experience the glory days. Hikari hopes to be Top Star with Karen and unlike Karen, she’s still unsure if it’s possible. While I’m sure Nana is bummed that she lost, I think she gets it. She knows Hikari is dreaming big and whether that dream is obtainable or not remains to be seen. If anything, a duel between Hikari and Karen, which Nana warns the former about, seems more likely to happen.
ED: “Fly Me to the Star” by Karen Aijo (CV: Momoyo Koyama)
Yes, I’m reusing screencaps but this ED still merits some discussion. It really threw me on a loop to hear Karen singing solo instead of Hikari but I think the change speaks well to the fact that it’s Karen that has helped Hikari to still yearn for the “stars”. I really should look up a translation of the lyrics. Surely, they speak to the whole cast if the visuals do.
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