Episode 5 – Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task

Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of Hiyori’s actions. After hurting her foot at the end of last week’s episode of Heroines Run the Show, the other shoe quickly drops, along with the rest of her body. Her athletic aspirations hit a big stumbling block at the same time that her trial period as professional boy wrangler is about to expire, and the ensuing emotional strain is enough to drag our usually sunny heroine down into the tear-drenched dumps. It’s a dramatic episode full of highs and lows, but not all of them feel earned.

This episode’s main takeaway is that Hiyori is a stubborn dummy, and of course we already knew that. Still, it clarifies the precise kind of idiot she is, and while it’s frustrating to watch, I can’t say I don’t relate to her. Ignoring her injury and trying to walk/run it off with no medical intervention is a recipe for career-ending disaster, but I’ve definitely done equally stupid things when I was a teenager with no lasting harm. Sometimes, life inexplicably tosses you a break. It is, however, more fraught when we consider this as part of a fictional narrative that has to build on top of certain narrative cornerstones. A sprained ankle, in a case like this, can feel less like an important character-building moment and more like a dramatic crutch exploited for an easy cliffhanger.

Her hurt foot does lead to Hiyori’s phone conversation with her parents, though, and that makes for a valuable scene. Her mom’s comments cement the supposition that Hiyori’s tendency to overwork herself is an innate part of her personality, and it has caught up with her before. It’s difficult for a leopard to change its spots, so rather than use this moment for self-reflection, Hiyori chokes back tears in order to convince her parents that she’s doing alright. She’s not worried about disappointing them, but she’s already frustrated and disappointed in herself. While that might not be a healthy mindset, it is, again, one I can certainly relate to, and I think this scene ends up doing a lot to round out Hiyori as a main character with flaws and layers.

Unfortunately, we don’t really get a satisfying resolution to her internal conflict by the episode’s end. Torn between focusing on track and not wanting to leave her job—a conundrum that has already caused her to injure herself from being too reckless—she decides to keep doing both anyway and just work harder at it. That’s not a solution! It’s just a return to the status quo. I’ll grant that we’re only in the middle of the season, so it makes sense for the anime to kick this can further down the alley. After all, given the conceit of the show, there was a zero possibility that Hiyori would stop hanging around the boys so soon, so maybe he’ll revisit this conflict later instead. For now, though, it makes for a weak character arc.

On the other hand, you could argue that the character arc I’ve highlighted isn’t the focus of this episode in the first place. No, this episode has a different development in mind, and it’s all about dragging Hiyori down in the dark and cavernous world of idol fandom. Okay, I kid, but it is about solidifying the affably prickly relationship triangle between Yujiro, Aizo, and Hiyori, and in that respect, it’s a fun and satisfying watch. As we’ve seen before, Aizo and Yujiro utilize both the constraints and powers of their career differences to work past their personal, and in this case, their mutual desire to do something nice for Hiyori brings them even closer. The boys barely even fight in this episode! Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they?

The animators also put on a hell of a show for the concert scene. The anime has been an admirably consistent production so far, buoyed by strong designs, but it’s quite the feat to deliver a traditionally-animated dance routine in an era when CG reigns supreme. While I’m not knocking CG, which takes a lot of effort and know-how to do right (compare contemporary Love Live! to OG Love Live!), there’s something uniquely impressive about seeing those dance moves pour out of the animators’ pens. It looks great too! Some minor jankiness here and there, but for me, that just reinforces the difficulty of this undertaking, keeping track of all those limb movements and clothing swishes. Yujiro and Aizo’s performance makes for a spectacle worthy of a midseason climax, and the passion infused in it works to sell the idol magic behind Hiyori’s change of heart.

Or, if you don’t care about sakuga, there’s another way you can interpret this scene: Hiyori only starts caring about idols the moment she sees two hot boys start flirting and pawing at each other on stage. That’s valid as hell. Our behind-the-scenes knowledge makes this a pretty funny display when contrasted with their fighting off stage, but like they say, hate is only a short hop away from love. And again, the sweetness of the encore gesture can’t be denied. The cynic in me wants to deny it—Hiyori’s blasé attitude toward idols is a big part of what made the story’s conceit so fun in the first place, so it sucks a little to say goodbye to that—but it’s heartwarming enough to get away with it. Plus, I’m sure they’ll all go back to snarling at each other soon enough.

With Hiyori, Aizo, and Yujiro all on relatively good terms now, it looks like Heroines‘ next move will be to introduce a fourth wheel in the shape of a presumed childhood friend named Nagisa. Perhaps this will provide more insight into Hiyori’s running career in middle school, perhaps we’ll see a little romantic drama, or perhaps he’ll challenge Aizo and Yujiro to a dance off. Personally, I’m going to spend the next week thinking about all the different eyebrow phenotypes found in Hiyori’s family.


Addendum: I just want everyone to know that I am a (debatably) professional anime critic, and I only just now noticed the “run” in the translated title Heroines Run the Show is a play on words regarding Hiyori’s track passion. That’s not present in the original title either: ヒロインたるもの!~嫌われヒロインと内緒のお仕事~. The subtitle gets a straightforward interpretation, “the unpopular girl and the secret task,” and while I’m not 100% on what たるもの means in this context, I know enough to know it has nothing explicitly to do with running. So kudos to that translation! I’m always a big proponent of inserting more puns into the universe.

Heroines Run the Show: The Unpopular Girl and the Secret Task is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is a world-renowned golf expert and commentator, but if you just want to read his thoughts on anime and good eyebrows, then there’s always Twitter. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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