UniteUp! continues its strong momentum into episode 2, introducing us to two fellow online singers: Banri Naoe (EVAN), the eldest of the trio, and Isuzugawa Chihiro (SUZU) being the youngest (first year in high school), putting Akira (KIKUNOYU) in the middle of the pack. The three of them will start off as trainees together in preparation to launch as sMiLea’s newst vocal unit consisting idols who started out online.
I actually found their first sitting to be quite funny, especially with the way Akira was situated in the middle with these contrasting personalities. He was like a fish out of water, absolutely overwhelmed and being completely out of the loop when they brought up their Mytube handles– perhaps the funniest one being “which Suzu?”. That said, I did laugh at myself when I realized I had mistaken EVAN for being an unit and thought they might actually even be a rival. As it turns out: EVAN was actually Banri’s Mytube Handle, so that’s who the girls at the train station were gushing about last week. He is very much the most openly passionate one of the trio, being well versed with both SUZU and KIKUNOYU’s channels to the point he has even left comments on them. Incidentally, it was thanks to Banri that the three of them even hung out today considering Chihiro had originally planned to go straight home.
While Banri came off as the most energetic one, we quickly learned that the stuffy cover isn’t just for disguise for show. Ever since he was teased about having a girly-face in middle school, he has become extremely self-conscious about showing his face to others. That’s why no matter where he is, and what’s he’s doing, as long as he’s in front of others (though likely with the exception of his family), he insists on wearing that get-up. That’s why being an online singer was comfortable for him, because he never had to show his face. He just needed to commission art to present his ideal self (a princely character) for his videos. But that’s not going to be an option going forward, as he will need to overcome if he wishes to step forward into the limelight to perform in front of others. So I am curious to see how they plan to go about his progress as it’s one thing to reveal his face to Akira and Chihiro (though it was ultimately Chihiro who ripped it off for the sake of ensuring the guy didn’t pass out in the baths), and it’s another to stand in front of a crowd of strangers. He did mention however that he has a part-time job at a Chinese restaurant since he had moved out to Tokyo from Shimane. It’s unclear whether he wears the disguise at work or not, or perhaps he does more work in the back so it doesn’t matter if he’s still wearing all of that. Anyhow, I do hope that this whole self-conscious of face thing wasn’t simply a device used to help break the ice for the trio. I would definitely like to see Banri progressively overcome this, but I won’t hold my breath for it as he seems to be satisfied with the fact Akira had said he thought he was handsome, just like a prince. (That scene was also very funny to watch with how relieved he was to be perceived that way.)
Then there’s Chihiro who goes by SUZU. Truthfully I was a bit on the cautious side of what I was trying to anticipate from his character thanks to his resting stoic
bitch face, but Chihiro actually turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. He isn’t the obnoxious sort, something I do tend to worry about when we are given trio units. Sometimes there’s always that one character that is constantly causing frictions due to clashing personalities. (In-fact, that’s something we’re actively seeing with LEGIT. Fuka seems to be the “chill” guy of the group, while Nijo Eishiro and Takao Daiki seem to endlessly clash with one another due to differentiating opinions, but I digress) On the contrary, (though maybe it’s a bit early to say) I appreciate how Chihiro doesn’t beat around the bush in a tactful manner, as he was direct with Banri about what he had planned to do going forward with his fear, but didn’t press him any further than that, nor did he be snide about it. He also showed us he is very critical about his self-evaluation in a rather objective way. He has a relatively good understanding of where he needs to improve, and his desires to test himself and learn more about by becoming and idol. He has a very mature outlook, which makes him probably the rational member of the group when needed.
Though when it comes to baths, haha– that’s when Chihiro’s personality immediately becomes more lively, and adorably so. Hilariously as soon as he realized that Akira’s handle was named off his family’s bath, instead of going their separate ways, they just bee-lined to KIKUNOYU HAHA! Heck as soon as he stepped inside, you could tell that Chihiro was prepared to pay to take one immediately.
That said like Banri, Chihiro has some problems of his own. However unlike how the other two opened up about their insecurities and uncertainty, Chihiro didn’t say too much about himself apart from telling Akira that he thinks he’s much more fortunate than he is, as everyone is expecting something from him. It seems to suggest that Chihiro doesn’t rally have anyone in his life at the moment who is supporting his dreams or passion for that matter, and that’s something he longs for.
As for Akira, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if some felt off-putted by his ‘mopiness’, but you have to understand where he is coming from. This guy, quite literally had no idea that his best friend created an entire channel dedicated to post the covers he sings until a few days ago, and his mom agreed to the agency’s call before even asking him, of course he is still feeling glum about how nobody asked him how he felt first. But I’m glad that Akira came clean about his uncertainty of lacking aspirations to become an idol, and his current circumstances to the boys today (in the baths no less, talk about literal symbolism at its finest). It’s something that’s better off confronted earlier on than becoming a bigger problem later on. And on top of that, opening up about it sooner also helped relieve him of the guilty mind of signing with sMiLea when his heart isn’t committed to the job like the other two are. Thanks to both Banri and Chihiro, Akira was able to come to terms that it’s okay for him to feel that way, as they too still don’t know the right answer themselves. Banri in particular drops a wise solution of, if he enjoys singing, why not just keep it simple and try having fun with it, and honestly that’s probably the best advice to give at the moment.
Overall this was another really fantastic episode that was really entertaining and heartwarming to watch. I really loved the way they made use of the bath bonding session because they really made it matter. It was also so incredibly wholesome how by opening up a bit to one another, they were able to find common grounds with each other, and have fun like singing Crossfire because of the way their voices echoes in the space. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the trio will mesh throughout their trainee phase going forward. Their personalities really do balance each other well.
Apart from our main trio, it was good to get a glimpse a bit about the other characters. We were also introduced to Harumi, and I find it so endearing that she is part of their agency and they liken her to being the true president. It was so funny how she snapped at LEGIT to get back to practice. Fuya unfortunately had picked a bad time to answer the call from JAXX/JAXX who were just returning from their tour. Pretty sure she burst in mainly because of Daiki’s screaming since that’s what caught her attention in the first place.
And finally last but not last, I’d say the comedic highlight of the episode was the bit where they revealed how Lin is an absolute monster when it comes to his sweets. NOBODY touches his shit, and if they do, he will not only bear a grudge against them for all eternity but he’ll fire them on the spot. HAHA- TALK ABOUT EXTREME. But do take the warning seriously, as Lin showed us just how shameless he is when it comes to sweets. My god, not only did he take the the sweet bun, but also the ENTIRE BOX! Poor Maoto!
Well that’s all I got to say for this week, so cheers to the next one!