It’s full speed ahead with My Love With a Star Begins Now, with Sumi Yuki immediately making a big impact by announcing to the others on camera that she’s considering leaving the show do to the teasing she’s enduring at school. But when the cameras are off, she’s on her phone checking the reactions.
It’s not that she’s just acting or lying. She is being teased, and she has considered quitting. She’s simply taking those kernels of truth and amplifying them for greater dramatic impact, for the good of the show and her own standing within it. It’s shrewd as hell, and you can tell Aqua admires it. But it’s also Yuki’s only play. She’s in a contract. If she quits, her agency will probably dump her.
He admits to Ruby that he knew nothing about reality dating shows, but now that he does, he’s surprised how much less fakery there is in it; not much more, in fact, than completely normal daily social interactions between peers.
Yuki is in it to win it, and quickly positions herself as the alpha girl, becoming the object of both Nobu and Kengo’s affections. As that love triangle captivates the audience and online buzz, Aqua is content to flit around the background until it’s over, while Mem-Cho is just in this to funnel more fans to her YouTube channel.
And then there’s Kurokawa Akane, perhaps the most kind, pure, eager, hardworking, and deeply naïve member of the cast. She’s always furiously jotting down notes and advice from the others, but while everyone else can “egosurf”, as Kana calls it, she ends up causing little to no impact. For her, there are no waves to egosurf. She’s completely becalmed.
Having overheard her agency boss chew out her manager, Akane shoulders the responsibility for standing out and making a mark on the show; she’s not just doing it for herself. A producer suggests she play the “bad girl” and try to steal one or both of Nobu and Kengo from Yuki, thus making more of an impact.
The thing is, despite working her ass off, Akane is very bad at this. She just doesn’t have the on-screen charisma or magnetism of Yuki. It’s almost more depressing that Yuki doesn’t take Akane’s efforts personally, because she simply doesn’t see Akane as a viable threat. While doing nail art for Akane, she makes clear she has no intention of giving up the spotlight.
When Akane is pleasantly chatting with Kengo and Yuki blatantly steals him away to look at a dog, Akane tries to stand up for herself. She rushes Yuki, slaps or grazes her face, and is about to give her a piece of her mind when she notices that the very nails Yuki made pretty for her have slashed Yuki’s face. The day before she has to do a magazine photoshoot.
The cameras stop and the crew surrounds Akane to deliver first aid, and Akane begins to withdraw into herself and straight up lose it. But then Yuki rushes over and gives her a hug. She wants Akane to know that it’s okay, she didn’t mean to scratch her, and it doesn’t matter. Yuki knows she’s working hard. Yuki likes her. They’re rivals on the screen, but it’s not personal.
It’s a beautiful moment of reconciliation, but the show uses the footage, and turns Akane into an online whipping girl for flamers. Worse still, when Akane inevitably “egosurfs”, it’s more like doom-scrolling. She carefully reads every nasty comment about her—something no one should ever do—and even posts a heartfelt apology—which Mem-Cho warned you should definitely never, ever do!
Even though she and Yuki are fine, the internet doesn’t let the incident go. Some want her kicked off the show. Some want her arrested for assault. Some want her to just disappear. To die. Akane tries not to let it get to her, but she’s only human. It gets to her. She finds it harder to sleep, to eat. She overhears classmates talking shit about her at school. She purges in the toilet.
It was at this point, having watched the first feature-length episode of Oshi no Ko, that this was rapidly heading to a very, very dark place. All Akane’s cast-mates muster are intermittent texts inquiring about her health. She’s nearly catatonic when one of those texts asks if she’s eating enough, and she realizes she doesn’t remember the last time she ate.
So she walks to the store…in the middle of a typhoon. On the way home, she slips, falls, and drops her groceries while on a bridge. She’s tired. She wants to stop thinking; to stop worrying about so much. She wants to pain and suffering to end. So she climbs onto the bridge railing, where cars are racing by below her, and even throws herself off. Her feet have left the railing…but she does not fall, because someone catches her.
The person who catches her is Aqua, who was a doctor in a previous life. As an OB-GYN he had experience detecting, preventing, and treating the mental heath issues associated with pregnancy, expertise he could apply to people in general, as well as the will to not just do no harm (his father excepted), but prevent harm from being done.
While the other cast members texted well wishes, Aqua did what you have to do when you suspect them of developing suicidal ideation: you keep a fucking eye on them. He must have been watching her intently, as even she didn’t initially intend to attempt to take her life when she left the house. She was just going to buy food. But circumstances aligned and an opportunity presented itself, and utterly defeated and ground down into dust, she took it.
Thank goodness she wasn’t successful. While Akane initially freaks out, when she realizes it’s Aqua who caught her and is cradling her in her arms, she calms down. Everything may not be okay at all, but it will be. It can be. This isn’t about Akane winning and the internet losing. It’s about Akane having everything to live for, and not dying needlessly.
Needless to say, was an incredibly rough watch. Watching someone kind and sweet and well-meaning and earnest suddenly descend into darkness is never easy, or fun. But it is important, and accurate to what the industry is like—Akane almost met the same fate as Terrace House’s Kimura Hana.
It sounds cliché to say it chews people up and spits them out, unless it happens to someone you know. After this episode, I felt like I knew Kurokawa Akane. I cared about her well-being and didn’t want her to die. Thanks to Aqua, she didn’t.
RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, confidential assistance is available 24/7.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
or Call/Text 988