It’s the “final” day of auditions and you do in fact have a tag-team duel where Hikari and Karen fight Maya and Claudine. I was hoping that that was the case given the weird tie for third between Karen and Claudine but nevertheless, I am very happy to see that Revue Starlight had the same thing in mind. Dreams do come true!
Before getting into the Revue, there’s a few things to address. Knowing that we’re down to the top three (four?) did make the school scenes at the beginning pretty darn awkward. Mahiru, Nana, Junna, Kaoruko, and Futaba are all determined to make this final day count, only to then find out that they’ve all been relegated to the audience seats. I guess it was at least courteous of the Giraffe to provide refreshments…even though I must wonder who was manning the cart…and the rest of the theater equipment for that matter…
There is admittedly a nice bit where everyone decides to still watch the “final” Revue. Everyone has all resolved to become better performers so naturally, they want to see how and why the remaining contestants did so well in the Revues. Well, everyone except Kaoruko. Of course, she just wanted to leave (her narcissism and haughtiness continues to entertain me). Since these girls did lose the Revues, however, you have to wonder what will happen to their shines. After all, Hikari said in Episode 8 that you lose it once the duels are over so that the Top Star can make her wish. Surely that’ll come into play in this final stretch. It’d be weird if it didn’t.
Having Karen and Hikari pay Tokyo Tower (and some aquariums) a visit is pretty great. It’s a nice calm before the storm (and oh boy, is there a storm). The direction is particularly fantastic as you see the girls’ younger selves stylistically appear when they re-enact their promise to be stars together. Present-day Karen with young Hikari and vice versa; it just sells how important and everlasting the promise has been. Even better is how the trick is used at the end. As Hikari gets called for an audition right, before she tries to say something important to Karen no less, you see her younger self seemingly looking over. It’s an ominous sign to what will unfold in the remainder of the episode, as though Hikari’s younger self is displeased with she plans to do…
Onto the Revue itself.
For the second time in a row, we’re treated with a pretty simplistic stage. It does make me wonder if there’s something going on behind the scenes but much like with Nana’s fight last episode, the staff did good job making a point with what they present. The stage incorporates some very basic shapes, basically building blocks or templates you’d use for building more exquisite sets. I actually really like this detail since the point of this fight isn’t to show whose will is dominating the stage but to see how two Stage Girls work together. The stage simply needs to serve as a battlefield.
In terms of character development, the Revue has two functions: an affirmation of Karen and Hikari’s bond and some progression for Maya and Claudine’s. You see this dichotomy established at the very beginning where everyone does their roll call. Karen and Hikari enter the stage together at the same time and they go back to back with their announcement as they share the same goal to do “Starlight” together. Conversely, Claudine and Maya introduce themselves separately. Claudine talks about how she is a star that will shine brighter than everyone else while Maya talks about how she is that shine and will prove it to everyone. They’re both making statements of pride but self containing them establishes that Maya and Claudine are similar but not in sync with each other like Karen and Hikari are.
The tone set by the roll call pervade throughout the actual fight. While Maya and Claudine do have the upper hand for much of the fight, their performances speak more in terms of their raw power rather than the connection between theme. They are indeed really good but for most of the fight, they take on Karen or Hikari one to one instead as of a team. On the off chance, the two are onscreen together, it seems to be by accident and it’s only then do they begin to realize that they’ve gotten this far because of each other.
That Karen and Hikari win by working together and just focus on one foe is important to note. These two have each other’s back, keep each other from giving up, and they aim to fulfill their promise together. You see this bond of trust in action at the end of the fight when Karen enacts a trust fall, avoiding Claudine’s attack and letting Hikari save her. And yes, Claudine and Maya do team up briefly to counterattack but they only come up with the idea after seeing their opponents set the example.
How fitting that the final exchange of blows is between Karen and Maya. It’s a nice callback to how their last duel went. I think it also speaks to a detail from Episode 3 I actually missed when I was reviewing it. There’s a scene there where Maya asks Karen what she is giving up to participate in the Revues. The implication is that Maya was letting go of seeing Claudine as her equal so that her focus is on becoming Top Star. In this episode, Claudine insists on taking the blame for losing and let Maya keep fighting but Maya decides to accept defeat and acknowledge Claudine as her equal again. From this tag-team duel, Maya realizes that letting go of Claudine was a mistake and that she needs to strengthen the connection she feels with her. Conversely, Karen never gave up anything at all. She stuck to her promise with Hikari through thick and thin…even if it ultimately is to a fault.
In the end, there can only be one though the “actual final” Revue doesn’t last for very long as Hikari turns on Karen and claims victory for herself. On the surface, it appears to be an outright betrayal and Karen perhaps feels that way. The dialogue, however, suggests otherwise as Hikari explains she wants to keep Karen’s shine alive and tell her friend that this Revue is “goodbye”.
I saw a few comments on MAL and Reddit speculating that Hikari plans to wish herself out of existence so that Karen can shine on her own. That seems awfully dark for this show but I can buy into it. Timeline shenanigans have been established in this story and the way Hikari looks at the camera is akin to the final shot of Episode 7 where Nana remarks on how time has changed. You even have the same red tint to the lighting. There is the fact that Karen falls down from the stage to consider as well. It’s very akin to the dream sequence in Episode 1. And notice that it’s always Hikari who pushes her off. In the pilot, the dream foreshadowed Karen’s descent into the world of the Revues. Perhaps repeating the same visual suggests that things really are about to change again. Whatever Hikari is planning, there is certainly an ominous ring to it.
I suppose that Hikari is viewing her actions as an act of mercy; sparing Karen the pain of fighting her and deciding the ideal fate for her. While understandable, it also feels misguided as this is hardly what Karen wants at all. If anything, the stage Karen dreamed of seems farther and farther away now.
ED: “Fly Me to the Star” by Maya Tendou (CV: Maho Tomita) and Caludine Saijo (CV: Aina Aiba)
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