The apocalypse of memories.
Sarte famously said “Hell is other people” in No Exit. That humanity is trapped in how they are perceived by others. In a way, that’s been Hibiki’s entire problem since her childhood. Thinking people were friends with her for her generosity, then her money, and then deciding for herself that it was going to be her talent they admired her for, even if it meant forming no close personal connections. Which could tie into another famous story, but there’s a third, also famous story in Japan that ties into all of this together.
Why am I talking about classic horror/sci-fi/fantasy/psychological literature in this review of a kids’ show? Because for kids, the first half of the episode leans pretty strongly into a kind of hell that can affect everybody, regardless of age. After achieving ultimate idol power last episode, the system managing the city-state of idols went berserk, leaving Lala in a desaturated world where everyone’s personal connections have been severed. How a computer could affect bonds that theoretically exist outside its own self is interesting – as shown only a few weeks ago, Leona and Dorothy have an incredibly strong sibling relationship, but as soon as they were within the system’s reach, it was able to make them near total strangers to each other.
It had some other weird side effects, too. Like rendering Mirei closer to her “outside” self within the idol world. Same for Sophie, who spends most of the episode floating down the river. A performance of “Love friend style” is enough to restore most of the world back to normal, but again, this show loves throwing twists at us. And it does so in a very literary way.
Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “The Spider’s Thread” has been referenced in other Japanese media before. For most of the Western world, the Ancient Cistern from Skyward Sword is the most likely source. How it happens here is slightly different. Hibiki finally starts to realize the genuine heart of her friendship with Fuwari, at which point a black hole(!) appears beneath her. Then Fuwari and Ajimi and a few mascots jump in, all claiming that they want to be friends with Hibiki too – even Falulu. Though Hibiki may not be going completely transhuman, Falulu still respects her.
…then the hole closes, and Meganii explains why. In restarting the system, it’s deleting everything from CelePara to restore the world to its old state. Unfortunately, that appears to include deleting Hibiki… and everyone else in the hole. Meganee’s cheerful “It’s the system!” in response to this seems almost callous, but we’ve accepted by this point that she’s either very cheeky about this, or very easygoing. Because erasing a person outright from existence is a cruel fate for any show, even one that would be a late night anime.
I liked the early parts of this episode with the unsettling atmosphere created by the busted system, and the show’s heading towards a fitting conclusion for all the themes it’s been playing with, about deception and friendship and what it means to be an idol. I just didn’t expect it to end with a midair battle followed by a real person’s life at stake. This is more than just being Falulu’s Blue Fairy like it was in the previous season.
Will Hibiki and company get out of hell? Is it really just the system? Only two episodes remain for this season, so tune in next time to find out!