Turns out Aqua wasn’t the only one looking out for Akane: Mem-cho had been looking for her too. Not long after Aqua saves her, the two are confronted by a cop. Back at the agency office, Miyako, Kana, and Ruby discuss the abuse Akane is getting.
Kana tells Ruby that even she has days mentally when she thinks to herself “maybe I really will go and die,” so for someone with little to no tolerance, the abuse could be deadly, giving the illusion to the target that their life is over.
Miyako points out that over 50 actors in reality dating shows have taken their lives over the years, which Kana uses to estimate that ten times as many narrowly avoided that fate. Ruby hopes Aqua will be okay, but just then, Miyako gets a call from the police about him.
Of course, once she arrives and learns what happened, she’s proud of Aqua, even tussling his head like the mom she is. When Yuki and the other cast members arrive, they are unabashedly supportive of Akane. Sure, Yuki slaps her, but she then hugs her.
Aqua gets down to brass tacks: if Akane wants to quit, now is probably the time. Under the circumstances, the production company would probably be okay with letting her vacate her contract and walk away. A tearful Akane admits she’s scared, but she doesn’t want to quit. Aqua and the others respect her decision.
Aqua then pushes in his chips on what he sees as a good bet: leaking Akane’s suicide attempt to the press. He doesn’t just want to rehab Akane’s reputation, he wants to stick it to the production staff who put her in an almost deadly situation.
While the news causes she storm of Akane criticism to worsen, some people back down in light of what happened to her this is only phase one of Aqua’s plan. The other involves making use of all of the photos and videos Mem-cho has taken during production.
He intends to gather and edit these so they can tell their own, truthful version of Love Now, from their point of view. Mem-cho likes the idea, and is experienced enough with social media to know there’s a silent majority out there right now waiting for a reason to end their silence.
One key piece of candid footage is Yuki hugging Akane after getting slapped by her, which Yuki reveals was caught on one of the cameras (she even made sure she was at the perfect angle to be captured). I like how she can simultaneously be so professionally shrewd while also providing genuine comfort and affection to Akane.
The problem is, that and all the other B-roll footage is in the hands of the director, who tells Aqua flat-out he can’t give it up. He and the staff have a job to do, as did Akane. He essentially blames her for not speaking up when the show went in a direction she wasn’t ready for.
Aqua, who as we know is a lot older of mind than body, tells this 35-year-old director that Akane is only 17, and 17-year-olds are dumb kids always making mistakes. He then asks what kind of adult chooses not to protect a kid, and the director relents.
Aqua runs himself ragged compiling and editing the footage, with input from the other cast members and one of them even providing original music. When the homemade movie of their Love Now is ready to upload to Twitter, Mem-cho tries to manage expectations: they’ll know if it will generate sufficient buzz if it gets 100 retweets in the first minute
It hits that mark in just under a minute, causing the cast members to jump with joy and cheer. In the first day, it gets 74,000 retweets, not only rehabilitating Akane’s image and quelling the storm of hate, but also solidifying the popularity of Love Now, as it portrays all five of them as good kids.
Most importantly, when Akane watches it, she knows the others have her back, and her carved out heart is gradually filled back in by her colleague’s caring efforts. I love love love how they manage to go up against the cynicism of the industry and even manage to score a victory.
In light of the positive press, Akane prepares to make her triumphant return to the show. This time, Mem-cho suggests that Akane try playing a character, as a role separate from her true self will serve as a powerful armor against future hate, which will come as surely as the rising sun.
As Akane is a classically trained theater actor, Akane is open to this, but wonders what kind of character she should play. Mem-cho and Yuki turn to Aqua, the only guy in the room, and ask him what his ideal girl is. He goes on to list some very abstract yet specific characteristics. Mem-cho immediately pictures Ai from B Komachi.
Akane resolves to try being the kind of girl Aqua likes, not just for her own sake, but to repay him for looking for her in the storm and, well, literally saving her life. This is when we see Akane’s extremely detail-oriented, bordering on obsessive approach to character research, in which she extrapolates a frighteningly accurate study of Ai’s personality.
When Kana asks, Aqua tells her Akane has recovered from her ordeal and is poised to make her return to Love Now. Kana is glad Akane’s okay, but also a little disappointed she didn’t bow out, speaking strictly as a professional rival. Like Yuki, she checks herself for saying something that if typed into Twitter would have gotten her flamed.
On the first day of shooting with Akane back, she apologizes to the staff, who respond with applause, and Aqua walks ahead of her in preparation to begin the shoot. To his shock, Akane unveils the character she has spent her time away carefully crafting.
From the length of her stride and the curve of her smile to her suddenly confident yet bubbly voice (Iwami Manaka really changes it up) and her dazzling, suddenly starry eyes, Akane has transformed into Hoshino Ai Reborn, who I’ll henceforth refer to as Aikane. I can’t wait to see her light up the screen!