If I had to repeat a grade, I wouldn’t want to be surrounded by tape recorders either.
Not much things of interest really happened in the first episode, and the only reason I didn’t mind it too boring was because of the SHAFT and Shinbo visuals that we all know and love. We’re introduced to a hikikomori with a hot computer virus ragging on him to buy some suntan lotion and go experience life outside of the house. Her nagging causes him to accidentally spill soda all over his keyboard, and since he can’t live without his computer he’s forced to go outside and buy a keyboard. But whilst shopping at the mall, it turns out to be his unlucky day as the mall is taken over by terrorist robbers. Then he and some mysterious men help solve the situation.
The one thing I find interesting is how Shintaro’s descent into hikikomori-ism two years prior coincides with when his computer got taken over by Takane. Perhaps it’s because of her that he shut himself away from the outer world, yet at the same time much of her dialogue early on in the episode is nagging Shintaro to do something outside. Or maybe she just wanted him to spend money of suntan lotion for God knows why.
The first episode didn’t really explain what the show is about though, but let’s see if episode 2 can fix that.
• A girl named Momo rushes to school, as she’s somehow running late despite leaving her house an hour early. She also happens to be some sort of idol, which is why just about all the people she passes recognizes her. Luckily for Momo none of these people seem all that pushy or paparazzi-like. Maybe they’re all used to seeing this idol run to school, but nonetheless it still causes an inconvenience for Momo by slowing her down as all these people say their hellos to her.
The whole scene is pretty cheerful for the most part, except for early on when we see a bunch of abstract eyes focusing on Momo—this appears before anyone even starts talking to Momo:
It’s a brief and colorful, yet creepy shot which clearly hints at how Momo might not feel that great about her situation. Plenty of people dream of being admired or idolized like a pop star, but having everyone focused on you at all times can get pretty tiresome, even if what they’re seeing is only an outward and idealized version of you (i.e., Momo’s idol persona.) Then things gets worse for Momo when she tries to catch the bus, but finds herself atop some very convoluted staira, with another swarm of fans at the bottom.
• Not going to lie, when I realized that there was a few girl characters in the cast, I was really relieved that the cast wouldn’t be all men (as I originally thought for some reason.) Not because I have some sort of feminist agenda to uphold with my Japanese cartoons, but because I hate yaoi and casts full of nothing but bishounens. Sue me.
• Momo arrives to school and not only is she horribly late, but she runs into a teacher who informs her of how terribly she did on her recent history exam. So not only does she have trouble getting to school on time, but her studies are suffering as well. Her busy career as an idol is no doubt part of the problem here, but on the other hand it takes a special kind of person to think that numbers like “1820–1872” next to historical figures is supposed to be their combat level. Even more special with someone who thinks eating their textbook will help them memorize information. No wonder she only scored 2% on her history test in spite of how hard she supposedly studied.
• Momo sure has an interesting imagination for how a repeat of her freshmen year would be like, with all the “first-timers” symbolized as tape recorders with apples; since tape recorders repeat things to the listener. She’s probably right that she’d receive a bunch of social ostracization if that were to happen to her too, and it’s interesting that that’s the one consequence that gets mentioned. No mention of how it would be a detriment to both her academic career and her career as an idol.
• Ah, and to make matters even worse, Momo also doesn’t have any friends. She doesn’t even really shy away from the fact, confusing her manager on the phone when she blurts out how she has no friends. Also, once the manager exclaims “We’re all amazed at your gift of focusing everyone’s attention on you,” Momo nonchalantly responds by saying that it’s really more of a curse for her.
So now it’s confirmed what was already clear. It’s unclear how Momo came to arise to stardom, likely since she had her own idealized ideas of what it’d be like, but Momo clearly isn’t happy about her situation of being an idol. She has everyone’s attention on her, but she’s not really getting any personal or emotional connections out of it. And contrary to what a lot of people think, being famous won’t solve any of your problems. Even if millions of people “like” Momo, it doesn’t do anything to keep her from flunking school or not having friends.
• A series of flashbacks commence, with even more people symbolized as audio machines, as well as flowers. So Momo doesn’t just have a knack for attracting attention as an idol, but as an artist too. In fact, she probably just has a knack for attracting attention in general. Her dad died when she was young, but winning an award for her art helped her get out of the depression ensuing from the loss of a relative, and live a happy life again. Being the center of attention can certainly help with someone’s self-esteem or confidence in themselves, but again, that won’t solve all your issues.
At one point while in middle school she continues to steal all the spotlight with her artwork, but this provokes the wrath and jealoudy of another student who rants about how Momo’s work is all style and no substance. I guess when most everyone loves you, there’s no doubt going to be others who are jealous. And then Momo’s mom becomes ill shortly after that, and suddenly Momo’s back to have a less than ideal life. So this leads Momo to accept a job offer as an idol, as she’ll be able to be self-sufficient without her ill mother (who might even be dead in the present time.) You could say that she’s using her “fame” to solve all her issues, but as we already know, becoming an idol only presented a new set of problems for her.
• Momo sees an ad for some weird item, and decides to pay the shopping arcade a visit to get it because it’s apparently that important. She of course goes in a plain outfit and hoodie to avoid attracting the masses again, but bumps into some snotty brat who happens to be going to the same store. They bicker, and Momo eventually punches the kid for calling her an “old hag” for the third time; causing her hoodie to fall off and expose herself to the masses. Cue a music video montage of her and the kid running away from all her fans. The kid also never realizes just who Momo is, probably because he’s a country bumpkin or something.
• After all the running and losing her pursuers, Momo states how she wants to be normal, crying as she does so. *shrug*, not much to say about, as that was only evident.
• Then one of the mysterious men who helped Shintaro in the previous episode (or is at least in the same group,) finds Momo and confirms her location to someone else. And that’s the end of the episode. Well then. Considering that Momo was headed to the shopping arcade, I was sure this was going to end with her getting caught up with the terrorist plot or something.
• Finally, there’s a post-credits scene with the girl-like monster. This week she learns about humans and tries to interact with them, but is only met with “pain, fear, and despair.” Interesting little sob story I guess. We’ll see how it relates to main story later.
Okay, it’s still unclear what this show is even about, but at least Momo is a much more interesting character than Shintaro. Nothing about Shintaro’s life as a hikikomori was particularly intriguing, save for his relationship with a sentient computer virus. In contrast, this episode paints a clear picture of the struggles and issues that Momo deals with, and why being the constant center of attention isn’t as great as it sounds. Granted, it’s a bit melodramatic and I can see how Momo’s predicament could be interpreted as Shinbo ranting about all the criticism he gets as a director (“Your work is all style and no substance,”) but eh, I still liked. It probably helps that I actually really like Shinbo as a director too.
I honestly forgot this was even supposed to be about vocaloids with special eye powers though, which says a lot. It’s a little annoying how the show is taking so long to establish its premise, but I’m willing to wait and see where it goes.
Mekakucity Actors still isn’t that great or anything, but I don’t see what’s so terrible about it. But then again, I also liked Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, and most people hated that show too.