Revue Starlight – Ep. 12 (END)

This is it. The series finale of Revue Starlight. And yes, the void is kicking in right now. Of all the finales airing this week, Revue Starlight‘s was the one I was most anticipating but also the one I felt most begrudged to get around to. Obviously, that must mean that I really loved the anime but I do feel so empty now that it’s over. What an experience it proved to be though and as I had hoped and expected, this final episode is a terrific way to go.

Considering the build-up towards Karen and Hikari’s final confrontation, it cracks me up that the very first scene of the finale is actually everyone else having a potluck. I may have even expected it even less because we did just have an emotional walk down memory lane with all the characters. I suppose some levity before the big final battle is still warranted though. It is still reassuring to see the girls this confident that Karen will bring Hikari back. And not going to lie but it is nice to have one last moment where everyone is all just acting cute, especially with Kaoruko continuing to be the brat that she is (never change, Kaoruko).

Once we get to Hikari, we finally see what exactly she’s been doing this whole time: method acting. Truly a punishment that this sinner deserves! I joke but that is kind of what is going on. Since Hikari refused to take everyone’s shine, it seems that she’s been left in an endless cycle to try and claim the wish she was promised. She builds a tower with rubble she finds in the sand. She climbs to the top. The star she yearns for swings in and destroys the tower as though it rejects her for not having the fuel it needs. Rinse and repeat. All the while, you have Hikari reciting lines from “Starlight”, alluding to the fact that she is essentially Claire, the one left alone and imprisoned to atone for everyone’s sin. Good Lord, she really is method acting.

Shortly after, Karen meets up with Hikari and it takes a while for the former to snap the latter out of her trance. Interestingly, Karen tries to play along, following the “script” in the hopes that doing so would break Hikari’s rhythm and make her friend aware that she has arrived. What ends up working though is when Karen simply talks about themselves and their promise to do “Starlight” together. It’s a nice touch on the writers’ part. Rather than invoke a play whom they feel their lives have ran in parallel to, you have Karen talk about who she and Hikari are as people and what they want to do rather than what they think they are bounded to do.

As I had hoped, this reunion would lead into a final Revue between Karen and Hikari. At this point, I do think set pieces may have peaked with the duel between Karen and Mahiru and the one between Hikari and Nana. I guess it hasn’t been easy topping a yandere-themed game of baseball and that one time Tokyo Tower crashed into a body of water (and no, I’m not over how amazing that was). Still, I am impressed that, for the third time in a row, the simplicity of the stage still works in Revue Starlight‘s favor. I don’t mind that they’re on that rising, circular platform again since the duel is a rematch and it symbolically represent the two competing to be at the top again. Besides, at this point what kind of inner thoughts do Karen and Hikari have left to project onto the stage? If there’s been any relationship that has developed a complete sense of transparency, it’s certainly been this one. All that’s left is their disagreement over their shared fate and the clashing of their weapons does the trick just fine.

You know what really threw me off? Seeing the giraffe break the fourth wall and directly talk to me and/or you, the viewer. I let out a very prolonged “What?” at the screen and that’s even after seeing Nana and Hikari look directly at the camera in prior episodes. This move is so logic-defying and feels completely out of nowhere and yet it’s so characteristic of Revue Starlight to do. After giving it some thought, I do get what the show is going for. Throughout the whole show, the giraffe desires to see something amazing to happen, allows these revues to happen, and spectates the whole thing. It’s very akin to the role of the audience, someone who spectates but whose own investment breaths life into the experience just as much as the people providing it. Now, why are we, the audience, represented with a talking giraffe? Uhhhhhhhhh…

The final move Hikari pulls on Karen where she traps her opponent with the rope of her dagger is awesome but it also refers to how the two girls’ relationship has played out lately. In a way, the rope latching onto Karen are like the threads of fate. While Hikari is trying to keep Karen “safe”, Karen’s brilliance and fate as a performer is still tied to the former being present in the latter’s life. Though this move is meant to pull the opponent off the stage, it instead reveals the connection the two share. It’s also hence why Hikari’s remaining move is to eliminate Karen by force, throwing her dagger at the button of Karen’s coat as though she is rejecting her friend entirely. Of course, even that ultimately doesn’t work.

I could decry Karen magically reattaching her coat via sheer willpower as plot armor but then again, this girl has always been a wild card. For crying out loud, she was never meant to be in the revues in the first place anyway, let alone last this long. Actually, I think this scene works well in service of Karen’s character. Throughout the whole show, a phrase often uttered is “I am reborn”. At first, I thought it was just in reference to her transformation as a Stage Girl but it actually alludes to Karen’s perseverance. No matter how many ups and downs she goes through, Karen will always desire to be on stage. She learns from her mistakes, essentially getting “reborn” from them into a better performer. It’s very appropriate to see the phrase uttered again here (complete with a neon sign because why not). Not only does it fit Karen getting back into the fight, it also compliments her statement that she’ll keep honing her craft, even if she loses her shine to the revues.

There’s some other strong symbolism going on in this scene as well. One, I find it really interesting when the platform splits, Karen’s side develops into a series of steps, contrasting with the singularly vertical monument Hikari stands on. It reflects how different the two think about how stardom works. Whereas Hikari thinks a performer only has one shot at being brilliant and that’s that, Karen sees it as a climb that you’ll just keep going. Each step getting smaller than the last one even accentuates her desire to hone her craft even if she loses her shine. Two, you also have the incorporation of Tokyo Tower. I really like how it’s etched onto Karen’s side of the platform with lights, representing the promise she made to Hikari and the foundation of her perseverance. As badass as it was seeing Tokyo Tower burst through the walls and crash into Hikari’s side, it also literally acts as a bridge between the two girls, signifying the bond between them.

While Karen ultimately wins, you don’t really see the complete aftermath of the Revue. Some questions float around. Is Karen now the Top Star? Did she make a wish? If so, what was it? Did she and Hikari even get to join the potluck? The full details aren’t given and the episode cuts to the second performance of “Starlight”. I don’t really mind this choice though since the Revues have frankly served their purpose. Karen doesn’t care about being Top Star; all she wanted was to be on stage and do “Starlight” with everyone, especially Hikari. Whatever wish she may have made, it clearly worked out favorably. What I do like is that the whole class acts out the happier ending Karen envisioned for “Starlight”. I’m sure someone in that audience will wonder why the ending is different (or why there’s now a giraffe in the story). However, considering that the Seisho festival is meant to show the growth of the students, it makes sense for Karen and Hikari to add a happy ending as a reflection of what they’ve experienced.

No, Revue Starlight does not make complete sense. It probably goes without saying but I kind of have to reiterate given how glowingly I’ve spoken about the anime. In the end, all the crazy, surreal stuff and how they seemingly speak about the characters is something you have to go with. But rather than be concerned with logic, Revue Starlight was more concerned about embracing its theatrical backdrop. It does have something to say about its characters and the profession they chose but it also aims to make a show out of it, akin to a theatrical production, and it most certainly succeeded in that regard. I don’t know if I’d call Revue Starlight anime of the year but it’s certainly up in the Top 10 somewhere. This is, without a doubt, one of the most evocative and dazzling anime to have come out in 2018 and it’ll be a tough act for anime to follow in the coming seasons.


Thanks for reading!

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