As friends. As rivals. As idols. As those who will ascend to godhood.
All the characters participating in the Divine Grand Prix have some degree of history with each other, whether they were introduced this season, or have been around since the beginning. None, however, have the history of Solami Smile and Dressing Pafe. When the show began, it was only six idols in two units of three – and they were all the show had. It did surprisingly well with this combination, too, though this was also back when Principal Okanda wasn’t so chummy with the girls and the school featured more into everyday plotlines before idol politics (not to be confused with this season’s Idol Incidents) took over the show.
So, back from their mountaineering/training adventure, the episode focuses almost entirely on Solami Smile and Dressing Pafe getting together, sharing memories and preparing themselves to compete in the final round of the Divine Grand Prix. It’s a very low-key episode compared to the past few weeks, and is all the better for it. Lots of flashbacks to moments in season one, from Shion and Mirei’s tension to that moment when Mirei realized that she had to recruit both of the twins to join her prospective idol unit. When the rankings mattered slightly more than they do now, and Solami Smile were simply young upstarts, not the twice-over saviors of the idol world.
The episode does have its share of silliness, like this scene when Lala talks about how strong Dressing Pafe has gotten. Or Dorothy and Lala getting into an argument over the best pizza/okinomiyaki to have before the final round. Stuff that doesn’t entirely rely on catchphrases or callbacks, but the chemistry these characters have built up over 100+ episodes on air.
Instead of moving onto the final round, the episode has Solami Dressing reunite to give one more performance of “Realize!” Bringing back an old song like that hits the nostalgia button so hard, and the way they walk off in separate directions at the end… It’s really driving home that this is the end for these characters. After all, once you’ve become an idol that performs among the gods, where can you go from there?
There’s one other aspect I liked. The ending theme used the second verse of “Growin’ Jewel” as its ending theme, which gave a different feel to the episode’s ending. A change of lyrics for a change of pace, for an eventual changing of the guard. It sounds sappy, sure, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly letting it sink in that these characters that I’ve followed for three years – far longer than a two-cour series – are going to be leaving my screen on a weekly basis, cameos aside. Let’s enjoy them while we have them.
Two cars in a parade ride into the heavens, carrying the idols within. The final battle to claim the title of idol godhood is at hand as the show moves into its final month. But what’s waiting after the competition’s done?