There are a lot of things that can make a show good. One Punch Man was elevated to new heights by Studio Madhouse’s fantastic job animating it. One Piece’s worldbuilding makes you believe there’s truly a pirate-infested ocean out there. Konosuba wouldn’t be half as good without it’s amazing comedic timing. But as a writer, there is one aspect of media that will always hold a special place in my heart. And that is the quality of the writing. A lot of shows have decent writing. This current anime season has shows like Seirei Gensouki, Remake our Life and Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan. All these shows have, in their own way, solid writing. But one show has been a step above the competition for a little while now, and with episode 8 it reached excellence in it’s writing. And that show is Kageki Shoujo!!
For those of you who aren’t watching this show yet, let me give you a quick rundown of the plot. Watanabe Sarasa is a bubbly young girl that has just made it into Kouka Kageki High School. Kouka is an elite acting school that trains young women to get ready to act on the big stage. Sarasa and her classmates all work hard at becoming better actresses and each character goes through their own issues. What’s made the show stand out up until this point is how real it is willing to get. We’ve dealt with sexual assault, eating disorders and stalkers so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more of the darker parts of the acting world will come up in future episodes. But episode 8 didn’t focus on anything as severe as those. Instead, it focused on one of the side characters, Hoshino Kaoru, and her personal struggle with expectations and anxiety.
We haven’t learned too much about Kaoru up until this point. She’s one of the few characters that hasn’t seen much screen time so far. The twins have shown their difference, Yamada has had her struggle with food, and Sarasa and Ai are sharing the spotlight as main characters so they’ve been much more developed. Kaoru (and Sawa, who I’m sure will get an episode at some point) are still a bit of a mystery at this point. That changes with this episode as we take a moment to travel back in time to before Kaoru made it into Kouka. Her grandmother was a famous Kouka actress and her mother was with the troupe as well. Kaoru always knew she wanted to do the same and we’re shown that she’s a hard worker. When it’s hot out, she’s walking with an umbrella to avoid getting suntanned. She has more muscles than I ever will and she’s practicing her entire summer vacation away. On one hand I want to reprimand her for working too hard, but on the other hand I can only be impressed with people who are this driven to follow their dreams. Living her life like this has made Kaoru a bit of an outcast. But Kaoru isn’t the only one who’s under the pressure to perform.
To keep a long story short, the two get along well and develop an interest in each other romantically. The interactions they have are built up very well for a relationship spanning only one episode and it takes no effort to believe that these two like each other. Unfortunately Kaoru gets a realization towards the end of the episode. The pressure they feel is different. And Tsuji’s moment of weakness, so to speak, scares Kaoru greatly. She immediately runs away from the situation. It looks like she pushes him away out of a sense of dislike of his line of thinking, but I don’t think that’s fully it. Tsuji wavers and thinks for a moment if being compared to his brother and becoming as good at baseball is really what he wants for himself. Kaoru doesn’t waver. But the thought of giving up has surely crossed her mind at some point, seeing as this is her fourth and final attempt. Even her grandmother told her that she was free to choose another career path if she wished. So now Kaoru recognizes the legitimacy of Tsuji’s wavering and it makes her very anxious. So anxious that she would immediately push the boy away, out of fear for having to confront the option of giving up.
There’s no shame in wavering, or even giving up. But there can be a lot of anxiety when it comes to this. I remember when I had a time in my life where I stopped writing. Initially it wasn’t a big deal, it was just a break, but after a while I realized I wasn’t progressing my dream in any way and it caused me serious anxiety. I remember crying and telling myself that I might not have it in me after all. It devastated me. Seeing Kaoru burst into tears after having a similar realization hit me very deeply, and I couldn’t help but let out a few tears myself.
I was worried the show was going to leave us hanging and the ending to Kaoru’s backstory wasn’t going to be satisfying. She chose her dream over the wavering Tsuji, and although I do feel a bit bad for the guy, it ended up working out alright in the end. Not every relationship is meant to last, or even to start properly at all. Sometimes meeting someone and then parting ways after a little while will be enough for that someone to have a profound effect on your life. It’s those people that you meet and never forget that make you who you are, that drive you to strive to be the best you can be. And fortunately, Tsuji hasn’t forgotten about Kaoru and their arc gets resolved in an extremely satisfying manner.
If there is a particular note I want to end this on, it’s that we all have our anxieties. Some of us might be more anxious than others, or perhaps anxious more often. Other people’s anxieties might seem small and unimportant to us, but they mean the world to the people facing them. And every day we wake up, face our anxieties, and push on towards our dreams. It’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to waver and if something is too far out of reach, there is no shame in giving up. We can’t always reach our goals, but what we can do is face our anxieties head-on and give it our absolute all to show them what we’ve got. Your hopes and dreams and anxieties are your own experiences. And your experiences are an invaluable part of who you will one day become. Never forget that.