It ain’t over ’til it’s over for this banana.
In hindsight, I was kind of right with my prior speculations. Nana did technically fight Hikari last episode and here, she fights Karen. She even realizes that Karen has changed the timeline just as much as Hikari did. All things considered, I was on the mark with some things. I am, however, glad to be wrong about Nana being Revue Starlight‘s Big Bad. This character is so much more interesting when she’s losing right now. In the end, she’s just like a lot of her peers or any other teenager for that matter; a young girl afraid of the unknown future, hoping that something magical will make her escape from her worries. It just so happens that something magical did in fact happen and because of that, Nana is stuck in this stalemate of fate.
There’s a brief yet important flashback six minutes into the episode that help elaborate on why Nana is so attached to the first “Starlight”. As it turns out, Nana was part of her middle school’s drama club only for it to go defunct after the other members moved onto other activities and Nana failed to gain new members at the school’s culture festival. Once she enters Seisho, she finally gets what she’s been looking forward: friends who all share the same passion as she does and executing a performance unlike any other she’s done before.
In regards to both past and future, it’s no wonder Nana wants to travel back in time. She loves the feeling that first “Starlight” gave and she’s afraid to see it fade it away like her past efforts did. And now that she can actually cling onto this feeling, she’s afraid to know how the future will replace it. Will differently will her friends be next year? Will the next “Starlight” even be better than the first? Will it ultimately all be in vain like it was for her old club? It’s a possible reality she doesn’t want to risk seeing and winning the Revues have allowed her to conform to her escapism. You do find out that Nana was willing to change some lines and directions in the many times she performed the first “Starlight” but that is essentially playing things safe. The play already good in her eyes so she just wants to see if it can be even better, unaware that such minor changes won’t really bring her closer to her friends or her passions.
I’ll admit that in terms of spectacle and action, the duel between Karen and Nana is pretty underwhelming. Just some sword slashes here and some heated dialogue there. Karen beating Nana so easily almost feels a bit anti-climatic even and I say that knowing that she has to win anyway for the plot. Even the stage seems awfully simplistic compared to the extravagant set pieces we’ve seen before. You have the blinding lights again, some old “Starlight” props in the background, and the 99th Seisho Festival’s logo etched on the floor. That’s really about it. The music is still pretty good though; a very intense piece that sells Nana’s frustration and desperation over her goal.
Oddly enough, I get the impression that the simplicity and briefness pervading the fight is actually the point. The stage Nana presents here isn’t extravagant, sure, but maybe it’s supposed to be. After all, the real stage Nana envisions is from one year ago and if actually reliving it isn’t cutting it, then there’s no way she could recreate it for a Revue with her imagination. If anything, the lack of detail captures how limiting her nostalgia is for her. The props are just piled up in the background as if they’re wasting space and the festival logo suggests that it’s no longer the actual stage Nana is clinging onto but the idea of it. Karen stepping out of it and making it disappear is a very subtle way to show that she’s persevering against the future and to tell Nana that it’s time to move on.
Frankly, it’s fitting that Karen wins so easily. We can still presume that Nana is quite powerful; she gave Maya a run for her money in numerous timelines for crying out loud. However, because Nana is afraid to move forward, her level of shine must’ve stagnated. Compare that to Karen who has come a long a way since the start of the story and has resolved to evolve her craft as a Stage Girl. That Karen shines so much now is even visualized in the show as the blinding lights turn back on when Nana realizes what her opponent has become. In the end, Nana probably didn’t have a chance.
Props to Revue Starlight for developing the friendship between Nana and Junna. We’ve seen them together before and they are roommates but they feel especially close here. Honestly, it’s probably the steadiest and least heated bond we’ve seen so far in this anime. It certainly says a lot about these two if Nana is willing to confess her actions to Junna and the latter, while a bit thrown off, accepts the truth with empathy. I particularly like that it’s Junna who cheers Nana up and that it’s ultimately the former’s own roll call for the Revues that did the trick. All those quotes from famous writers and philosophers are indeed applicable to Nana’s dilemma (especially Shakespeare’s) but what Nana truly needed was to hear her friend actually say she’s facing the future. The time loop is pretty much over but this will finally allow Nana to grow as a person and having a friend as supportive as Junna most certainly helps.
Are we really nearing the end of these auditions? I know there’s three episodes left and yet, I can’t help but think time flew by. You have to pause the screen to see the final rankings but it looks like we’re down to a final four: Karen, Hikari, Maya, and Claudine. Interestingly, Karen and Claudine are tied for third. This might be a wild hunch but I think the giraffe is planning a tag team battle. Karen and Hikari are put together as a team to face Maya and Claudine and the real test is to see who shines brightest as a team. It’d be really cool; not just as a one-off gimmick but also to examine how these characters feel about their friend or rival. It probably won’t happen but if it does, I’ll be a very happy man.
While all the Nana character development happens, there’s a scene where Karen and Hikari read the “Starlight” text together. Finally, after nine episodes, we get to know what exactly this meta-story is about! It’s worth keeping in mind too as there’s a striking connection between the promise and tragedy Claire and Flora experienced with Karen and Hikari’s own story. For example, Flora forgetting who Claire is reminds me of how Hikari forgot about her promise with Karen while studying in London.
Also, the casting for the first “Starlight” sure was on point in hindsight. Of course, Mahiru played “Jealousy”…Karen being “Arrogance” is really interesting…
ED: “Fly Me to the Star” by Nana Daiba (CV: Moeka Koizumi) & Junna Hoshimi (CV: Maho Tomita)
Finally a version sung by Nana and in a duet with Junna too! It even uses a different verse of the full song. This ED is a huge contrast to the Nana solo version. Whereas Nana first thought she’s reaching down for the stars, she now realizes she needs to seek them again and luckily, Junna is there to help. I really like how Junna is ascending while Nana is going in a different direction, signifying the difference in their original goals before uniting as friends.
Thanks for reading!
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