What’s it about? Eripiyo is one of the original fans of underground idol group Cham Jam, and her favorite is the shy Maina. Eripiyo worries that she might be scaring her fave off by coming on too strong, but Maina is tongue-tied for another reason entirely!
There’s an emerging trend in anime that I like to call the Lady Shield. Certain subgenres, plots, or archetypes have fallen out of favor over the years, perhaps because the public at large has decided “Hey, maybe this is gross, actually.” Rather than take a good, hard look at the mentalities behind those tropes and trying to see if there’s anything left to salvage after discarding the most harmful bits, certain shows simply decide that the way forward is to write the same thing as always, but with a female character instead of a male one.
And while there are stories that change dynamics by altering the genders involved (i.e., certain old rom-com tropes becoming fresh again when staged with queer couples), that shift still requires the author to consider things like power dynamics, societal privileges, and media history. It’s not as simple as drawing a triangle-dress and ponytail on your stick figure and calling it a day.
This is most obviously observable with the recent spate of lesbian pedophile characters, as lolicon overall begins to recede to the rancid pit from whence it came. But less extreme examples have popped up here and there as well, particularly with handsy or stalker-like characters… which brings me to the irrationally long title, If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die.
Obviously, many women are idol fans—we’ve had some lovely pieces discussing women in idol fandom that I recommend. But Budokan isn’t a story about that side of fandom. Eripiyo is the only woman we see, and her experience as an ultra-fan pretty much exactly matches the male otaku she (exclusively) hangs out with.
And the way they talk about their faves is… well, it’s unsettling. This review hasn’t the space or breadth to get into the massive double-edged sword that is the idol industry, which can be both a positive space for fans to come together to appreciate artists and a machine that chews up and spits out young adults, forcing constant social labor and exacting purity standards thanks to that marketing of approachability. But it’s hard not to think about those realities when watching a show like Budokan.
To this episode’s credit, every ultra-fan who appears obeys the rules of the social transactions, and there’s no slyly winking suggestion that it might be fun or permissible to cross those boundaries for extra gratification. This isn’t a fanservice anime about peeping on these singers as they undress.
But it is about the fantasy of an idol falling for a fan—a veritable minefield that, to work, requires discarding the parasocial obligations of the idol/fan interaction so that Maina (is that even her real name?) can be a real, flawed person rather than the ideal fantasy stepping down from the stage.
In other words, the story has to be willing to puncture the marketing machine of the idol industry, or at least allow Maina to be worried or frustrated about it, something that anime is often quite reluctant to do except in a sidelong manner outside of the single most famous exception.
There are two things that save this episode from being a total wash. (Well, three, if you include my assumption that Maina is an adult and not a high school idol.)
The first is the fact that Maina already has a crush on Eripiyo, so this is a case of miscommunication rather than a story about Maina being worn down into having feelings for her fan (though that miscommunication could prove to be exhausting in itself if carried on too long). The second is that the show starts in pretty early on shaping Eripiyo up—by halfway through the premiere she’s realized that she’s coming on way, way too strongly and might actually be creeping Maina out, which sets her on a good trajectory to grow into a decent potential partner.
I’m decidedly side-eyeing this one, but I am contractually obligated by my own brain to give any queer-leaning and non-pedophilic anime at least three episodes to prove itself. But I wouldn’t blame anyone else for stepping back and waiting to see how it turns out.