Power exploding towards a shining tomorrow?
Impressions can be deceiving. That’s the lesson of PriPara in general, but let’s discuss it in the context of Sophie Hojo. She’s a unique character. Her older sister, Cosmo, existed as part of the DS games for the Prettty Rhythm franchise, of which PriPara has an ambiguous relationship. Sure, the three main heroines of Aurora Dream, Dear My Future and Rainbow Live appeared in the very first episode as the group Saints – a name that hints at their legendary nature, if nothing else – but since then, their appearances have been nil. Cosmo predates Sophie, and Sophie herself, aside from being at the center of the Marilyn Monroe episode image change recently, has been a curious case ever since the first arc of the series, which, more than Lala or Mirei, was about her.
The first promotional materials for the show made her look like she was in the Bell Renjoji model. A conceited superstar who saw everyone beneath her, and would nee to learn the value of humility. For anyone who’s watched Sore ga Seiyuu!/Seiyuu’s Life, it was closer to her being like “Hoi Yurie.” As much as their agencies try to sell them otherwise, idols are human. They get tired, they have weird eating habits, they’re slackers around the house like the rest of us. It was only through the power of Red Flash that Sophie was able to maintain her persona. Not that different from Mirei, except the side that was her “serious” side was reversed.
In this week’s episode, Hibiki courted Sophie with the golden version of that Red Flash, the same one her Tetsu Inada-voiced father was seeking back when he appeared. Consuming it nearly permanently puts Sophie in her Bell-like state, giving her the strength to do 9.5 concerts directly after the other, and even indirectly transfer some of her persona onto Lala and Mirei through a kiss. Sure, Leona tried to do his best Hibiki impression this week and found that he’s not a dominating arsehole, but the real kisses this week came courtesy of Sophie herself. YuriPara regins supreme.
Of course, all of this only came about because of the return of Nene Tokuda. If Celebrity Four was Milky Holmes doing their best job at staying themselves, then Nene is Yoshino Nanjou doing her best job at reprising Kokoro. The same desire to catch people she thinks are causing trouble is there, it’s just channeled through the press instead of the police force. Oh, and there’s nobody like Genius 4 around to keep her under control. The Techno-Goddess Meganee, lenient as she is, even encourages Nene in her pursuits, and goes along with Sophie’s 10-concerts-in-one-day harebrained scheme.
And Sophie fails. For perhaps the first time in the series, her jellyfish-addled slacker brain is revealed in front of a crowd of maybe hundreds. She recovers in time to make it a success, but even the ultimate pickled plum isn’t invincible. Curiously, this failure is still marked as a success by Hibiki.
Inside the star-lined space where we saw him discard Fuwari from his agenda, he places a tiny figure of Sophie into the Dream Theater alongside Falulu, coming one step closer to fulfilling his extremely vague plans. It’s kind of repetitive, in a way. Aroma and Mikan were also trying to break apart bonds and recruit people their team, but they ultimately had a pure-hearted desire to make friends, and see their loved ones be happy. Hibiki has no such deeper motives, at least as far as what we can see. Where things go from here can only get more interesting.
I have a feeling we’re going to see more and more people approached by Hibiki over the next few episodes as he sizes them up and tries to see if their latent talent is worthy of his lofty ambitions, but I suspect Lala will end up rejecting him for the same reason she rejected Aroma and Mikan before. She simply doesn’t understand. Not the bad kind of ignorance, but the kind that’s similar to Hajime in Gatchaman Crowds. She knows there’s always a better way to update the world – or reach the Dream Theater – you just have to be willing to find it.
That’s why forcing Sophie into her haughty persona didn’t work. It denies another part of her self. There is no real Sophie. They’re all the real Sophie.
Hibiki approaches Shion, thinking he has her from the word “Go.” Ergo, this should be easy. But when the chips are down, will he realize that Iroha was ultimately a better partner than he, or will Shion be thankfully rejected from his schemes?