DISCLAIMER: This recap of Oshi No Ko Season 1 Episode 1, “Mother and Children,” contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Buckle up, anime fans, because this season premiere is a whopping one hour and 22 minutes long. However, the episode will go by in a flash thanks to the immaculate pacing and engaging story. The show doesn’t waste a second, with everything feeling super purposeful. Let’s get into the opening scene.
The episode opens with the line “This story is a work of fiction” by a mysterious narrator who says that most in life is fiction. The deep narration doesn’t last long, though, as it shows us the narrator is an idol fan talking about a concert from his favorite idol group. In the darkness, he talks about his favorite Idol, Ai. Suddenly, a nurse flicks the lights on, revealing the narrator is an eccentric idol fan and a doctor. The nurse informs him she saw Ai is going on a hiatus, and he takes the news poorly.
Doctor Gorou Amamiya wasn’t always a die-hard idol fan. A flashback shows he used to be indifferent toward them. A young and terminally ill patient introduced him to Ai, whom he now adores. Before her death at 12, his patient, Sarina Tendoji, expresses that she wants to return as a celebrity’s child. In the present, Gorou now obsesses over the idol his young patient once loved dearly. How touching is that?
Gorou moves on to his next patient, who is a pregnant 16-year-old. But surprise — the girl that’s pregnant with twins is Ai. Accompanying her is the president of Strawberry Production and Ai’s manager, Ichigo Saitou. Ai insists on keeping the children secret while maintaining her career. After several fan-boy freakouts, he decides to treat her and deliver the children. Things don’t work out on the night of her going into labor. Gorou notices a strange man looking for Ai. Gorou chases the presumed stalker into a forest. When the stalker pushes Gorou, he falls off a cliff and dies.
Strangely, his narration continues after death in a new voice. Gorou, er Aqua, has been reincarnated as one of Ai’s twins. Aqua finds out quickly that his new sister, Ruby, also got reincarnated when he catches her responding to hate comments under a video of Ai. They both do their best to keep their past lives secret from everyone.
Ichigo tasks his wife, Miyako Saitou, with taking care of the twins while Ai works. Resentment quickly builds up, and Miyako plots to expose Ai to the press and cash out. Lucky for Ai, her two children disclose their language capabilities to Miyako and fool her into thinking god will punish her if she harms Ai’s family. As talking infants, they are pretty menacing. Now that the cat is out of the bag, they speak to Miyako freely and use intimidation whenever they want something.
Later, the two twins prepare for bedtime when Aqua reminisces on his past life. As Ruby falls asleep on the couch, Aqua tucks her in and, in his head, compares Ruby to Sarina. He accidentally says Sarina’s name. Ruby wakes up, asking if he called for her. He denies it and goes back to watching Ai in a music video. In her internal dialogue, Ruby reassures herself there is no way her new brother could be her doctor, Gorou, from her past life. So, that means Ruby was Sarina. They don’t outright say it in this scene, but there is no mistaking it. It looks like her wish finally came true.
The twins make it their mission to ensure Ai has a great life, but when their mother complains about her paycheck, they quickly realize that idols aren’t paid too differently from regular salary workers. Ai complains that now she wants to pay for her children to go to good schools but won’t be able to on her paycheck. When Ai leaves, the twins try to intimidate Miyako into giving Ai more gigs. Miyako plainly explains that getting gigs for idols isn’t easy, and all seems hopeless.
At practice, Ai looks visibly upset about her situation. In an attempt to cheer herself up, she reads comments about her. Sadly, she ends up coming across a comment saying her smile is fake. These words stick with her as she performs a concert for a small, underground audience. Ruby and Aqua appear in the audience, with Miyako chiming in with the context. She explains she took them there before the two were worried but urges them not to draw attention to themselves.
Unable to contain excitement at an idol concert, the two accidentally cheer and enthusiastically dance with glow sticks. Someone in the audience records the two, causing them to go viral online. On top of that, Ai’s live reaction was also recorded: a giant, genuine smile. Fans of Ai go crazy for the picture of her. After looking at the viral image of herself, Ai states that she will remember the smile her fans liked so much.
A few years later, we learn that Ai’s career has taken off. She now appears on shows left and right and finally has her first small acting gig. Ruby and Aqua are now teetering preschool age and can walk, talk and plot more openly. At the shooting for Ai’s role, the twins accompany their mom, posing as Miyako’s children. Aqua instantly hits it off with the director, Taishi, who insists on Aqua working as a child actor. Aqua dismisses the idea but accepts Taishi’s business card regardless. The shooting continues, and Ai nails her role.
When the show finally airs, the family watches it. Ai’s part comes up, and we see it was almost completely cut from the show, save a few seconds. Furious, Aqua goes into an empty room to call up the director and complain. The director explains that while Ai did a fantastic job, she was outshining the star actor, so they had to make cuts. Desperate for Ai to fulfill her dream, Aqua strikes a deal with the director. Ai will get a role in his upcoming film if Aqua also acts in it.
On the movie set, we meet Ai and Aqua’s co-star, Kana Arima, a prodigy child actress known for being able to cry in just 10 seconds. She should also be known for being extremely rude and self-centered, as she wastes no time insulting Ai and Aqua. When the time comes for shooting, however, Kana’s mood shifts from confident to distraught when she sees that Aqua is a fantastic actor. Not only good but better than her. The director explains to Aqua that actors need to be able to communicate with their co-workers and also know the director’s vision. It makes me wonder if Kana’s meltdown was an intended outcome to ensure that she could learn to be a less self-absorbed actor.
After the movie airs and receives nominations, Ai’s career takes a whole new turn. Beyond being a guest on a show here and there, she is now modeling and frequently being requested. Everything seems to be looking up for the young family now. Everything is peaceful, though he continues to worry. We see him looking up his past life, only to see his body never turned up nor the killer found.
The heavy energy doesn’t last long, as the scene quickly transitions to the two at preschool. The two still don’t know each other’s identities, though they are getting along very well. Both enjoy the preschool experience, Ruby because she can have the childhood she missed in her first life, and Aqua because he can catch up on reading while the other children play. While they enjoy it, preschool life isn’t without drama.
When Ruby learns a dance recital is coming up, she flees her classroom. We get a flashback of Sarina, Ruby’s former self, trying to walk and do simple physical therapy exercises. Only to fall in a heart-wrenching way. Ruby tells Aqua that she has never danced before but doesn’t explain the full trauma of her past life. Aqua tries to motivate her, and we cut to Ruby in a dance studio as her current self. As she tries to dance, Ai comes in and helps her learn not to fall and dance with confidence. Ruby absorbs the knowledge and quickly becomes a pro.
Later, Ai calls the father of the twins via pay phone to ask him to visit the kids. Until now, this man hasn’t been mentioned and was a complete mystery to us. Ai explains that the kids were discussing who their father might be, and she decided it would be best for them to meet him. She gives him their new address, and soon she is back with her family and the Saitou’s.
Everyone is celebrating Ai’s successful career and her upcoming performance. For the first time, Ai will perform at a dome, a mark of true success for an idol. Ichigo reminds Ai how important the performance is and not to get into any scandals. He specifies not to try to meet with the father of the twins, and she agrees. With no intention to listen to Ichigo, we hear Ai narrate, explaining the importance of lies.
We see a flashback from when Ai was first scouted. In the flashback, she explains that she has never been loved or loved, so she couldn’t possibly be an idol. Ichigo, the one scouting her, explains that she doesn’t have to love her fans. Pretty lies are what idols say all the time, after all. This begins Ai’s career as a professional lying idol. She hoped that eventually, her lies would become true and she could love someone genuinely.
Back to the present, Ai is back home with the kids. We anticipate a meeting with the twin’s father as we cut between shots of Ai and the kids to shots of someone walking with a bouquet. Someone rings the door, and Ai rushes to answer it with Aqua not far behind. Ai answers, and the man at the door congratulates her on her new gig at the dome and asks how the twins are. Uplifting music starts up as we see the life of Ai with her twins flash by. We see their birth, time together, Ruby’s dance recital and other heartwarming moments.
Little did we know that this was her life flashing before her eyes. Flowers fly by to transition to the shocking sight of Ai being stabbed by the man. Aqua rushes to her side as we hear the man, who is revealed to be a stalker, monologue about the betrayal he feels. Somehow, the stalker finds out about the twins and, due to his sick parasocial relationship with Ai, thinks the only justification is for Ai to die. After all, he says she has lied to her fans and not truly loved him.
In her dying moments, Ai reaches out to her stalker and apologizes for not loving him sincerely. But states that she wants to try to love him and everyone. Filled with regret, the stalker flees, leaving as Ai says parting words to her children. She encourages Ruby to keep working on her dancing so she can be an idol one day. She also says that Aqua could be an actor. With those final wishes, she dies.
In the wake of her death, the twins are understandably shaken up. The Saitous take them in as their own, and a funeral for Ai takes place. At the funeral, Aqua has a revelation that the stalker who killed him all those years ago was the same stalker who took Ai’s life. Though, he is sure the stalker couldn’t have been clever enough to find them on his own. Aqua decides they have to be someone close to Ai, like their father. Vowing to kill the father with his own hands, we see a dramatic shift in Aqua. The white star in Aqua’s eye now turns black, and he has a sinister aura.
Determined to learn how he found out the address to the hospital Ai was staying at and her home address, he dedicates his life to discovering who their father is as he is the key to the mystery. To do this, Aqua knows he must be in the same entertainment world his mother was a part of. He moves through the crowd of people to find the director from the film that helped Ai’s career grow. When the director tries to find some sympathetic words for Aqua, Aqua assures him they aren’t needed. Instead, Aqua asks the director to raise him.
Jarringly we transition to Ruby adjusting her school uniform. She is much older and presumably high school age now. That’s right; time skip time! She and Aqua are getting ready for their first day of school. As they head out the door, they bid farewell to their mother’s small shrine by the door.
With that, the episode ends. Being the length of a feature film, it would be an understatement to say this was an excellent first episode. We have seen the death of our main character, Gorou, followed by the death of the real main character, Ai. Now we are left with the real show ready to start, following Aqua and Ruby as they face the world of entertainment and work to solve their mother’s murder. I can’t stress enough how Oshi No Ko has exceeded all my expectations.
Are you feeling the whiplash after this episode’s constant twists and turns? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to keep an eye out for more recaps. Until then, be sure to check Oshi No Ko out if you haven’t already.
Catch Oshi No Ko Wednesdays on HIDIVE.