Review — Oshi no Ko (Vol. 1 & Episode 1)

Idol singer with stars in her eyes sticks out her tongue and does peace signs

Overview

Synopsis A doctor and his patient reincarnate as the children of their favorite idol singer. Their new lives consist of learning about the industry and trying to seem like normal babies, but not everything is as it seems.

Author Aka Akasaka

Artist Mengo Yokoyari
Publisher Yen Press
Genre Music, Mystery

Length 220 pages

Release Date January 2023 (America), July 2020 (Japan)

One of the biggest anime adaptations of the Spring 2023 season, Oshi no Ko, has turned heads with its vibrant art and unique premise. The manga was released in the West after more than 100 serialized chapters. Because the first episode of the anime is virtually shot-for-shot from the manga, this review will cover both.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: A person is pushed off a cliff and dies. Someone else is stabbed, and their eyes dim when they die. While the deaths are bloody, there is not an excessive amount of gore.

Language: Occasional language like a**, d***, b***h, b*****d, and s***.

Drug/Alcohol References: Adult characters smoke and drink, occasionally to excess. A young lady is told she cannot have alcohol because she is not yet 20 (the legal drinking age in Japan).

Sexual Content: A teenage girl is pregnant out of wedlock.

Other Negative Content: Multiple men tell an idol her career is over if she reveals she has children or a boyfriend. Lying is seen as something positive and an act of love. Someone is stalked. Themes of revenge.

Spiritual Content: Two characters are reincarnated after death.

Positive Content: An orphan learns how to love after having a family. Themes of chasing dreams and pushing forward, no matter how hard things get.

Review

Rightside: two blonde people, one facing the camera. Leftside: Idol with stars in her eyes sings while an adult man holds a glow stick and a bald girl sings along

Oshi no Ko follows a doctor and his patient who die and are reincarnated as the children of their favorite idol. Ai Hoshino is only sixteen when she gives birth, and her manager advises her to keep the newborn twins a secret for the sake of her career. The first volume/episode follows the family as Ai moves forward in her career and the kids try to seem like typically developing infants.

Not Another Isekai — The Story

Reincarnation is a theme that has been overdone with the recent isekai trend. Most narratives follow one person or multiple characters of the same age. Here, the siblings know they both have past lives but have no idea who the other person used to be. One was an adult male doctor, and the other a young girl. Raised as siblings, they question each other’s past but never admit their true identities.

The idol scene is a large part of the story, yet unlike other music-centric anime, Oshi no Ko takes a realistic approach to the cost of being an idol. The Hoshino family is not wealthy, and the managers explain to both Ai and readers how much effort and money goes into the profession. These explanations are not intrusive but central to major plot points. Edutainment like Cells at Work or Dr. Stone make information the purpose of the narrative. Oshi no Ko takes a different approach by giving readers only information that revolves around its central plot and characters.

Oh the Joys of Adaptation — The Anime

The pilot for Oshi no Ko — exclusively on HiDive as of this writing — is over an hour and a half long. It covers the entire first volume of the manga, beginning with the doctor at the hospital and ending with the big twist (more on that later). This reviewer read the manga and watched the anime on the same day and noticed no discernable differences; in fact, it was almost eerie going from one to the other because of how exact the adaptation was. However, I do want to point out some subtle ways the format could change how viewers see the narrative.

Because the manga uses narration and inner monologues, the idol industry information does not feel out of place on the page. In the anime, though, more of this explanation is given through dialog, and it almost feels like expository overload. The manager is explaining things to children, not directly to the audience, but some of the descriptions could have been pared down from the original to better fit the atmosphere of the anime.

Ai's eyes with stars in the middle and countless stars behind them

The most obvious difference is that of color. Oshi no Ko‘s manga covers and first pages utilize striking pinks and yellows, but the body of the story is in black and white. This works in favor of readers who want a story with little distraction. The monochrome art is gorgeous and invites readers to linger on each page with the characters.

Colors dominate the anime from the fluffy idol outfits to Ai’s signature star eyes. Viewers are treated to a bright palette at every turn, almost to the point of distraction. Ai’s eyes sparkle with a galaxy, and I lost count of how many shines the animators added. This dazzling showcase was likely the original illustrator’s ideal, given the colors used in the covers. With such a long runtime for the pilot, though, my eyes craved a break from the sparkle.

Twist in the Tale — Spoiler-Free Notice

This cheerful story about an up-and-coming starlet’s family has unsettling aspects that become more obvious as the reader continues. The sick patient dies of illness, but the doctor is murdered right outside the hospital while Ai gives birth. Readers are not privy to the identity of the perpetrator, leaving them to speculate as the twins enjoy their new lives. Oshi no Ko is not what it appears to be. To say too much on this front would include major spoilers, but volume/episode one is a prologue to the true story, which will be continuing past this.

Black and white picture of an idol smiling sadly. "I'm made of lies after all."

I am invested in the lives of these characters, and I was upset this arc was just an elaborate setup. My frustration speaks to Oshi no Ko‘s complexity. I will continue reading because I have no idea what will happen next. The characters are well-rounded, and the intrigue keeps readers on the edge of their seats. With every chapter I finished, my fingers itched to slide to the next one.

In conclusion, Oshi no Ko may not reinvent a single genre, but it splices together the best parts of multiple genres into a cohesive whole. Between eye-catching art (in both the anime and the manga), flawed yet loveable characters, and a unique reincarnation side plot, there is no wonder this title is one of the most popular of the season.

Reviewer’s Note: As of this writing, the Oshi no Ko manga can be read for free in its entirety on the Manga Plus app.

Positives

+ Complex characters
+ Unique reincarnation model
+ Educational information about the idol industry
+ Compelling background mystery
+ Beautiful art

Negatives

- Plot twist can be frustrating to fans
- (Anime only) Educational information can feel out of place
- (Anime only) Use of color can be distracting

The Bottom Line

Oshi no Ko is a standout title, both in manga and anime form. I recommend it for any anime fan.

 

Story/Plot 10

Writing 9

Editing 9

Art 10

9.5

Courtney Floyd

Courtney has loved reading since she was a child. Kid's books, YA, memoirs, comics, graphic novels, manga, anything. She also loves bingeing anime, keeping up with her favorite shows like Star Trek, and playing video games. She has two dogs named Kora and Crash (after the Airbender series and Crash Bandicoot, respectively).

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