[Oshi No Ko] Volume 3 Review

This review will contain spoilers for Volume 1 & 2 of [Oshi No Ko]. 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 anime pilot or read the first volume, it’s highly recommended you stop reading this review now.

Aqua and Ruby are the illegitimate twin children of the late idol Ai Hoshino, who was murdered by a crazed fan, spurred on by Ai’s ex and the twin’s father. Aqua, driven to find the name of their father and get his revenge, agrees to enter a dating reality TV show to gain information from the producer. What starts out as a simple, silly reality show, suddenly turns serious and dark as the episodes progress. Meanwhile, Kana has agreed to join Ruby as an idol group, but the pair can’t decide on a name or where to start their career. Luckily, the agency they’re with has an idea to get their fandom building on YouTube.

Volume 3 of [Oshi No Ko] contains the ‘dating show arc’ which includes a very serious and infamous scene that gained a lot of attention when it was animated earlier this year. The arc contains themes of bullying, psychological trauma, and suicide, so proceed with caution if these themes upset you. But for what it’s worth, the volume does not pull its punches when it comes to the subject matter, portraying it as (sadly) an  expected thing celebrities face with these days, showing how fickle or toxic the public’s opinion can be.

But let’s rewind it back to the beginning. Aqua agrees to be part of a reality show, where the concept is several teenage celebrities meet up after school and hang out, with the aim/wish for them to fall in love. Even from the very beginning, there’s multiple layers to the show: you have the contestants (a mixture of dancers, actors, musicians, etc) who all have different goals, one being exposure but some being more ‘open’ about their real selves than others. Aqua plays an upbeat teen (the complete opposite of what he is) and model Yuki Sumi knows how to play to the camera and get reactions out of people. Then there’s Akane Kurokawa, a stage actress who’s known for her method acting, but with a reality show there’s no ‘character’ to portray, so she struggles to attract attention from the cameras, and by extension, the audience. So, when she’s put under pressure from her agency to get more screen time and then given advice to portray a ‘villainess’ type of character, she takes the role on too seriously and ends up hurting another member of the cast. As soon as the camera stops rolling, the person who got hurt wasn’t offended at all, and understands the pressure that Akane has been put under. But the production company doesn’t care about the truth, they care about ratings.

So, when the incident is shown on TV, with no context given to her actions or their aftermath, Akane is flooded with hundreds upon hundreds of messages with horrific words from hatred to bullying. The manga does not shy away from how disturbing this is; many of us who are often online will have witnessed the ‘cancelling’ of a celebrity and seen such awful tweets in real life. The tweets in the manga read very much like the ones you’ll see online, with missing grammar (sometimes) and lack of filter, using language that someone would never say in real life but is quite comfortable with typing it out online. Other stories that cover this topic sometimes make the tweets too well written or clunky hashtags to the point of feeling too fake to believe, but here you FEEL the visceral impact of each message and the pits of despair that Akane falls into as a result, from the framing of the tweets to the bombardment of the press on top of it. The reader feels claustrophobic and can only imagine how it must be in real life to get this kind of horrid attention. When Akane’s despair reaches its peak, it’s Aqua who comes in to help her, but also gambles with her future by leaking her plight to the press and even playing the ‘social media’ game by editing a video in an attempt to sway the public’s opinion of her. Like a lot of [Oshi No Ko]’s other harsh criticisms of the entertainment industry, the manga is very contemptuous of how easy it can be to sway fans from one mind-set to another, in that it’s all a game to just maintain the status quo. In reality, we are only given a small look into the much larger and real picture of a person, so as long as the press or celebrity in question (plus their fanbase) paints the right picture at the right time, then their careers are safe, until the next ‘cancelled’ moment. It’s a brutal take, that not only shows how damaging it can be to the psyche of someone who is suffering from being cancelled, but also that the so-called ‘fans’ have way more power in their large numbers than they ever did prior to the internet, and that they have no idea how their typing can have devastating consequences.

During this arc we also get an interesting insight into Aqua’s character development as well; he’s still very narrow-minded in his goal to find out who is Ai’s killer, so he’s willing to play any game to get what he wants. This has the consequences of hurting others he’s completely unaware of, such as Kana (who clearly has feelings for him) and another female in the reality show, who’s been caught in Aqua’s downwards spiral. But I also liked how the manga revisits his feelings towards his past life, reminiscing about how his memories and love for Ai might not have been so healthy, and realizing that his mind expands as he grows older, with the line between ‘Aqua’ and his previous life ‘Gorou’ starting to blur. He remains a fascinating character to follow, even if you don’t always agree with his thought process or actions.

Then there’s Ruby, who doesn’t have much page-time in this book, but we get to see the next step of her journey into becoming an idol. The crossover event with another YouTube was a funny chapter that helps break up the darker sides of the volume, and seeing how tough it is to just start out as a YouTube star was an interesting insight; it will be good to see more of it as the series progresses.

Taylor Engel continues to translate the book, with a few interesting titbits in the translation notes as well. I can imagine that translating every single horrible tweet must have been a challenge! The book also contains a mini-manga that’s a side story to some of the reality show contestants; it’s not long but gives interesting insights to the other characters.

[Oshi No Ko] continues to really push the story with each volume whilst not shying away from the darkness aspects of the entertainment industry. It handles them with the bluntness and perspective that are not always explored, especially for a newish phenomenon such as ‘cancelling’. But where will Aqua’s journey into finding his dad take him next? We’ll just have to find out in Volume 4!

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

9 / 10


By day, I work in the television industry. By night, I'm a writer for Anime UK News. Twitter: @lilithdarkstorm

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