This review will contain spoilers for Volume 1 of [Oshi No Ko], and by extension, the feature-length pilot episode of the anime adaptation. This is a story best experienced by going in blind, so if you wish to get into this series and have yet to see the pilot or read the first volume, it’s highly recommended you stop reading this review now.
Pop idol Ai Hoshino was murdered in her apartment ten years ago; to the public she left a legacy of music and acting behind, but in private she also left behind her twins: Aqua and Ruby. Since her death, the now teenagers have been impacted by their mother’s death in different ways. Ruby is single-minded in wanting to become an idol herself, no matter what it takes. Aqua on the other hand only has revenge on his mind, to track down the man (his biological father) responsible for Ai’s death. In order to do that, he plans to get a foot in the door of the entertainment industry by any means; whether it be via production or acting, but he’s also determined to make sure that Ruby does not end up with the same fate as their mother.
The first volume of [Oshi No Ko] was a rollercoaster ride of storytelling and emotions; it started the book following in the footsteps of a doctor obsessed with a particular idol, and the book ends with the same doctor, having been reincarnated in the body of Ai’s child, having witnessed her being murdered and realising that the same man who killed her ALSO murdered him a few years earlier. The book always swayed from deconstructing the entertainment industry to wish fulfilment, from comedy to murder mystery and so on. The second book is a lot more focused; as stated at the end of the first book, the prologue is now done, THIS is the true start of the story. Those who enjoyed the rollercoaster aspect of Volume 1 may be a little disappointed to see that Volume 2 calms things down and follows Ruby and Aqua’s story more closely, without any jumps in time. But to appreciate a rollercoaster, you can’t just have high drops and loop-de-loops, you also need slow sections and calmer parts to make the riders appreciate the highs more. So that’s what Volume 2 is all about; we’ve had the first high, and now we’re slowing things down whilst also starting to build the investigation that Aqua begins in this book: trying to track down his father.
The first third of Volume 2 focuses on Ruby’s attempts to get an idol contract, but it’s not long before she and Aqua end up in a special high school which has an Entertainment Department filled with idols, actresses, pin-up models, etc, who already have contracts so they can have a standard education whilst also maintaining their glamorous careers. This is also where Kana, child actress from Volume 1, makes a comeback; now a teenager and known as a ‘former child star’, she requests Aqua’s help in her first TV role for many years. It’s through this mini-plot that the deconstruction of the underbelly of the entertainment industry continues from the first volume. Whereas the first volume concentrated mostly on the idol industry, with a brief look into movies, this volume shows the TV industry, focusing on the making of live drama series adapted from manga. It’s actually heart-breaking in the panel where we glimpse the manga creators saying to ‘not get your hopes up’ when it comes to adaptations, and the line about trying to cram too much material into a short drama will also being very relatable to anyone who’s watched a movie or TV show that’s a poor adaptation of a book series that they love. The tight production schedule, the lack of budget to make the show and even the reaction fake-twitter screen grabs from those watching all feel very authentic. The last page of this book teases a look into a different type of TV production, which will be interesting to read about. It’s nice that [Oshi No Ko] can tackle different subject matters and hit it out of the park, without coming across as unfocused.
Because the characters make little mention of remembering their previous lives, one could say that that backstory isn’t necessary for the drama. But it actually creates a lot of subtext to think about for each of the twins. Ruby seems to be very naïve when we first see her in this book, being determined to become an idol, even if it means getting involved with underground/sketchy management. You’d also think that because her mum was murdered by an idol fan, Ruby would want to stay away from all that. But it makes sense considering Ruby’s previous life; she was a sickly child who died before her teens, unable to move her body and do anything outside of watching Ai on repeat from her hospital bed. It makes sense that in this life, one where she’s free from sickness and able to physically move more than she ever could in her previous life, that she would want to throw herself into something that she’s passionate about, no matter the downsides or costs to get it, because one day it could all be taken away. The same goes for Aqua; he was an older man, a doctor with more life experience before he was murdered, so going into this life, he’s got a lot more emotional maturity and knowledge of how the world works. Training to be a doctor would require a lot of determination, years invested in order to qualify, not to mention being able to handle unique kinds of pressure; so learning the ways of the entertainment industry whilst slowly uncovering evidence on who his father is? Yeah, I can see someone like him doing that. The trauma of seeing his mother/idol he admired murdered in front of him, combined with the unique circumstances of knowing his past life and knowing it was the same man who also caused his murder, explains why his world view has turned cynical and dark and his overly involved nature into his sister’s affairs. They are no means healthy means of coping with his trauma, but it certainly makes for unique drama – which [Oshi No Ko] excels at.
We get a new translator for this volume, Taylor Engel, and admittedly I didn’t notice at first because the language flowed from Volume 1 quite easily. I will say that the translation notes are not as comprehensive as they were in the first volume (only a single page, whereas Volume 1 has three pages) but the translation is easy to read.
Volume 2 might be a slower ride than Volume 1, but [Oshi No Ko] continues to be an entertaining read from the themes to the characters. It’s no wonder the anime has exploded as it has, and the manga is so popular in Japan. Volume 2 is out now via Yen Press.
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.