A week ago I got a haircut at an old-school Japanese barbershop. It was the type of place where the hairdressers still make small talk, and while cutting my hair he told me about an upcoming anime called Oshi No Ko.
He highly recommended it and showed me an image of the anime poster on his phone. I took one look at it and thought oh, this is gonna be another creepy lolicon idol anime.
On a whim, I decided to watch the first episode, and I was blown away. The last time I was this moved by an anime series was the first time I watched Violet Evergarden.
On the surface, Oshi No Ko (Favorite Child) presents itself as an isekai/reincarnation idol anime. Beneath the surface is a mystery that shines a spotlight on the dark sides of the Japanese idol industry, as well as showbiz as a whole. This Oshi No Ko anime review will not have any major plot spoilers and will give my first impressions of the anime (as there has only been one episode released so far).
Table of Contents
- Oshi No Ko Story Review
- The Darksides of the Idol Industry in Japan
- Oshi No Ko Characters
- Voice Actors
- Review Score/Final Thoughts
Oshi No Ko Story Review
The anime follows a doctor named Goro Amemiya who is an obstetrician and pediatrician in a small countryside hospital somewhere outside of Tokyo. He cares for a 12-year-old girl who seems to have a serious disease. The girl, Sarina, talks to him about her favorite idol named Ai Hoshino. Bedridden by her disease, Ai is everything Sarina wishes she could be.
Goro tells Sarina that she will recover soon and she can be everything she wants to be.
Unfortunately, she passes away shortly after. Years later, we see Goro still working at the same hospital, idolizing Ai Hoshino as Sarina used to. Goro feels as though he is carrying the torch for Sarina by cheering Ai on in her stead. He wants Ai to achieve all the dreams that Sarina had.
Long story short, and without giving too many spoilers away, Goro comes to an untimely end.
After he takes his final breath and closes his eyes, he opens them again only to realize he has been reincarnated as the newborn son of the idol he so cherished: Ai Hoshino.
It’s Not What It Sounds Like
I was skeptical at first too.
Ugh an anime about a creepy dude that gets pampered by the young girl idol he was crushing on. But Oshi No Ko is not about that at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
There are anime that glorify the idol industry, showbiz, and the young idol’s rise to the top.
On the other hand, the Oshi No Ko (Favorite Child) anime shows the reality of that industry. We learn about why idols often fail. We are shown the toxicity of the competitive side of showbiz. Most importantly, we’re told what the idol industry is all about:
Oshi No Ko Reveals the Darkness Behind Japan’s Idol Industry
When we talk about darkness in the idol industry, it’s easy to point to real-world incidents like Mayu Tomita, who was stabbed dozens of times by her homicidal, obsessed, fan. I could talk about the idols who have committed suicide.
However, Oshi No Ko covers the root of those issues, the real problem that causes fans to become obsessed to the point of murder.
The Japanese idol industry pedals the idolization of young girls.
The problem is inherent in the name of the industry itself and what it implies. When you idolize something, it becomes an integral part of your life. The term idol has its origins in religion. Religious idols were items that represented the gods themselves. Christians idolize the cross that Jesus died on. Buddhists pray in front of gold idols of The Buddha.
What do you think happens when people put that same passion and emotion toward real-life 16-year-old girls? This is what happens.
Is the Japanese Idol Industry Any Different From The Music Industry in General?
As a foreigner in Japan, it’s easy to point fingers at things you don’t understand. It’s easy to say this is wrong because in my home country, we don’t do it this way, and we believe we are right.
I’m sure that the idol industry has had great success stories. I’m sure it has jumpstarted amazing careers.
We can’t say it is all bad. After all, we have young artists in The West too. Taylor Swift started at 14; Justin Bieber started even earlier. But the main difference is in The West, a music group made up of young women typically attracts a crowd that looks like this:
Image of a crowd at a Fifth Harmony concert, via https://www.windycitytimes.com/lgbt/-Fifth-Harmony-insync-with-fans/50894.html
Oppositely, in Japan, an idol concert of young girls aged anywhere from 12-16 often attracts a crowd that looks like this:
The room is filled with a crowd of mostly young-adult or middle-aged men. Why? I think Oshi No Ko helps us understand why.
The Idol Industry Pedals Lies
One of the best scenes from the Oshi No Ko anime is when Ai says that being idol is all about telling a beautiful lie. Her smile on stage is a lie. The words she sings to her fans at every concert: all lies.
And the biggest lie of all is when idols sing the following words to their devoted followers:
I Love You.
Many men don’t follow idols for their music.
I would argue that most are looking for someone to care about, someone to root for. If you don’t have a girlfriend whose career you can support and root for, don’t worry, root for our idols instead. If you don’t have a daughter to watch over, come to these concerts and protect these young girls.
There’s a reason why girls in the idol industry have lines in their contracts that prohibit them from having boyfriends.
It’s because if they engaged in romantic relationships like the rest of us, the illusion would disappear.
In this documentary about the idol industry, a Japanese professor explains that the reason idol concerts are filled with middle-aged men is that these men are looking for a fantasy family. They are people who never had a wife, or a daughter, and need to fulfill that need. The idol industry is less about music and more about filling that need.
And that is the lie that the idol industry pedals. It is why the industry is worth billions of yen. It pedals a beautiful lie and an idea that can’t be bought: love and true human connection.
Oshi No Ko illustrates this idea beautifully and presents the negative sides of the idol industry without preaching about it.
Who is this Anime For? Should You Watch Oshi No Ko?
Oshi No Ko is an anime for mature audiences. It covers mature topics such as sexual abuse, exploitation, homicide, and suicide.
If you are interested in more mature anime with dark tones, this is for sure the anime for you.
However, if you thought this was going to be another lighthearted reincarnation comedy anime, you are mistaken. It is not something you can watch to take a load off.
But for me, all art is about presenting some truth of the world, and Oshi No Ko does that many times over.
It’s not just about the idol industry, it’s about relationships. It’s about the entertainment industry. And ironically enough, it is about love, the indescribable beauty of true love, and the toxic danger that fake love can give birth to.
Only one episode has been released so far, so take my thoughts here with a grain of salt. However, I think the anime has so far been paced perfectly.
Those are strong words considering that the first episode was 90 minutes!
I first thought I had either accidentally opened an episode of Game of Thrones or my Netflix app was seriously malfunctioning.
However, not only do those 90 minutes fly by, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
The pilot episode also accomplished the incredible feat of fitting 3 story arcs into a single episode.
Oshi No Ko Graphics Review
The Oshi No Ko anime is produced by Dogo Kobo, the anime studio behind hits like New Game!, Himouto! Umaru-chan, and Plastic Memories (don’t get me started on Plastic Memories I’ll cry right now in the middle of this Starbucks).
The studio has a good track record and the production quality and detail they put into the first episode was amazing.
I particularly loved how the artists use the art as a plot device. For example, Ai is a character that lights up the room and that is why she is the lead of her idol group. Her full name is Ai Hoshino. Hoshi in Japanese means star. And what do you notice in the middle of Ai’s eyes?
Her children are born with them too.
The above image is of her son Aqua, who the MC, Goro, is reborn as.
It’s not just a cute coincidence. On the contrary, it creates a powerful and sometimes unsettling tone when Ai speaks about the dark lies of the idol industry while smiling and with stars shining in her eyes.
I’m a huge fan of anime that juxtapose cute/happy images with dark content. It adds to the darkness and horror of the scenes (search up Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni to see what I mean).
Music / Soundtrack Review
While I said that lots of men don’t show up to idol concerts for the quality music, Oshi No Ko went all out and collaborated or licensed a song from a huge musical duo in Japan called Yaosobi. Check out one of the main theme songs of the anime below:
On top of that, the background music and score throughout the first episode were well-done and sometimes haunting. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the darker scenes near the end of the first episode.
Oshi No Ko Characters & Voice Acting
We’ll publish a more in-depth character guide in the coming weeks, but for now I’ll highlight the main characters:
The doctor who initially meets and takes care of Ai Hoshino. He is later reborn as Ai’s son, Aqua.
An upcoming idol that Goro is obsessed with due to his past patient’s (Sarina’s) love for her. Ai is 16 and the lead singer of the idol group B-Komachi.
The son of Ai Hoshino (Goro reborn).
The daughter of Ai Hoshino.
Rie Tahakashi: Ai Hoshino
Rie plays Ai Hoshino and has an impressive career. She has had lead roles in Konsuba, Beast Tamer, Yuru Camp, and many many more. Her reputation proceeds her and her performance in Oshi No Ko is no exception.
Takeo Otsuka: Aqua (Goro)
Takeo plays the MC, Aqua (Goro). Some of his past work includes roles in Monogatari, Beastars, Haikyu, and more.
Yurie Igoma: Ruby
Yurie plays Ruby, Aqua’s sister. According to IMDB and MAL, this seems to be Yurie’s first role in an anime. Good for her!
Oshi No Ko Anime Review Score: 9/10
The only reason I didn’t give it a 10 is because I don’t want to be accused of simping, and as my basketball coaches told me, there’s always room for improvement.
Joking aside, I can’t think of anything the pilot could’ve improved on. I can’t think of any anime that has a 90-minute pilot episode and it was a refreshing change. I felt like HBO had come to the anime world and I’m here for it.
Like HBO series do, Oshi No Ko ticked all the boxes. They got a stellar cast with both veterans and rookies. The pacing was admirable, and the story was deep and thought-provoking. The anime studio has an impressive filmography and they even licensed music from a current top artist in the Japanese pop scene. I’m not sure what more we can ask for from a new anime series that is 100% guaranteed to go down as one of the best anime series in 2023, if not the best series this year.
In short, watch this anime and watch it now.
One thought on “Oshi No Ko Review: Anime Pilot Reveals the Darkness of Japan’s Idol Industry”
I had an epiphany once, a few years ago, regarding the fervor of certain otaku. I titled it My Angry Otaku Epiphany. Basically, it suddenly struck me, as an outside observer, that these people were actually deifying their idols, and that’s why they react so badly when the fantasy crumbles. It is disheartening to see how adoration can become so toxic that it hurts these young girls who are being so adored. It’s another form of dehumanization, all the worse for being rooted in some form of superficial love for an image instead of for a person. Small wonder these kids are crushed beneath the spotlight.