Akane Kurokawa and a Savior Who Sees and Saves

Have you ever been on the receiving end of bullying so relentless that you feel there’s no hope that life will ever get better? Episode six of Oshi no Ko expertly helps us understand that feeling through actress Akane Kurokawa’s eyes as she drowns in a sea of criticism and bullying. And having previously shown us that the darkness in the entertainment industry can fully destroy its young victims, Oshi no Ko leads us to think the same will happen to Akane—and it almost does. But the unexpected occurs and Akane is saved. You see, her savior has been watching her all along and knows just who she is, and is ready to act on it. The best part is that this surprising reveal reflects a truth for all of us who are struggling even a little bit like Akane. We have a Savior who sees us, loves us, and is reaching out to save us, too.

Akane is introduced in the previous episode of the series as one of six high school-aged cast members of a reality dating show that Aqua is participating in. Each young person has their trope-like role, except for Akane. As Aqua observes, she doesn’t stand out in any way. As a love triangle develops in the show, dominating the storyline, Akane fades further into the background. Despite her efforts to put forth the best performance possible, Akane is viewed by the public as boring and expendable.

Being pushed to the background is a problem for Akane, but not because she’s seeking fame and fortune. She feels pressure to perform well in order to thank her agency for placing her in the show and to help those who are caring for her, like her agent and her mom. And she’s willing to fight for a place in the spotlight. She seeks out advice to help her deliver the best performance possible, talking to the crew and her costars, and taking notes earnestly. 

Acting on the bad advice of the director, who suggests she try to “steal” the more popular boy from Yuki, the most popular girl, Akane lashes out on camera and slaps the girl, accidentally cutting her with her nail (which likely happened, by the way, because of a jewel that Yuki herself had put on Akane during a manicure). As the director orders the cameras to stop rolling, Akane begins to freak out. But then Yuki does something gracious. She embraces Akane, telling her that everything will be okay, and says that she cares about her.

Akane may still be on edge, but that quick resolution should help her recover, right? Not so, unfortunately.

The show is cut in such a way that the slap and injury to Yuki are shown to viewers of the reality dating show, but the reconciliation that followed is not. And so viewers quickly begin to berate Akane on social media. Because the full “reality” was not presented, Akane is vilified, going from virtually invisible to villain overnight.

The scenario involving Akane resembles a real-life story. In fact, the manga source material was likely inspired by the tragic experiences of Hana Kimura, the pro wrestler who became a cast member of Terrace House: Tokyo 2019–2020, the fifth season of a reality series resembling the one featured in Oshi no Ko. After coming under a barrage of intense cyberbullying following an episode in which she fought with another cast member, Kimura shared on her social media accounts some of the awful comments she received, posted self-harm images, and then committed suicide.

Kimura’s death was a wake-up call to viewers in Japan and people worldwide. The television series came under scrutiny, lawsuits were filed, several of the bullies were prosecuted, and a law against cyberbullying was passed in Japan. Whether any of these measures will have a lasting impact on the prevalence of cyberbullying is yet to be seen (the law was passed in 2022), but Kimura’s death has at least led to these attempts to create positive change.

In the world of Oshi no Ko, however, change has yet to occur. Akane is suffering under the weight of words said by thousands of people she’s never met. Even worse, when she returns to school, Akane discovers that it isn’t only on social media that she’s hated; her classmates treat her just as cruelly.

For Akane, there is no escape.

The words from her classmates seem to hurt Akane the most. These are the people that should know who she is. They see and interact with her daily. Their betrayal, along with seeing the same on social media by a former acting colleague who also turned on her, end up breaking her. Overwhelmed by all the unjust hatred, Akane, without much thought, climbs up on top of the railing of a pedestrian overpass and steps off.

If the episode had ended there, followed by an informational card pointing viewers toward help if they, too, are feeling suicidal, it would have been completely in keeping with this series. From the first episode, Oshi no Ko has emphasized that those who hold power in the entertainment industry have created a corrupt system, exploiting young entertainers who can barely make a living from their work. It’s also pointed out a consumer culture that treats young entertainers as commodities rather than as human beings. They are enjoyed, commented on, and forgotten. For Akane to jump off that railing to her death would have continued to emphasize these themes.

But this story comes to a different conclusion, and I would argue a more effective one. Just as Akane begins to fall, Aqua, appearing out of nowhere, reaches for her. He pulls Akane to safety and prevents her story from ending.

Admittedly, at first it feels totally out of place. How could Aqua possibly know where to find Akane, let alone that she was going to jump? Why would he be concerned enough to search her out in the first place?

Simple: Just like the rest of her friends, he’s been watching Akane’s actions and reactions all this time. But the difference is that he knows exactly who she is.

Through his interactions with Akane, Aqua realizes that she is earnest and not at all the fraud that social media (and her own classmates) claim her to be, nor is she the villain that reality TV casts her as. He sees her sincerity. And though Aqua doesn’t know everything about her yet, he knows enough to chase after her.

Sending Aqua after Akane is an interesting creative choice. If Aka Akasaka, the writer of Oshi no Ko, had decided to kill her off, few would be critical of that choice. As I explained above, it would make sense when framed by the series’ dive into the evils of the entertainment industry. But keeping her character alive is not only a strong creative choice (the end of the next episode indicates that the Akane storyline is only just beginning), but it also does something more. It stresses to those of us watching Oshi no Ko who are in similar situations—we who are being trashed online, bullied at school or work, or who are carrying expectations on our shoulders that we can’t meet—that our lives are significant. They are meaningful. And just as Akane was saved by Aqua, we, too, are worth saving.

What a beautiful message!

But is it enough? Could it really save young people like Akane who are drowning in the stormy seas of anxiety, fear, and depression and who can’t get their heads above the waves to draw the breath they need to keep on living? Does the life-affirming message in this arc ultimately feel like nothing more than a platitude to the Akanes who are on the verge of taking their own lives? “You are worth saving. Your life is meaningful.” Yes, that is true, but if I really believed that, would I be in this situation?

And what if there isn’t an Aqua looking out for them? In Akane’s world, she has adults who care about her, including a mother who is genuinely concerned for her welfare and whom she loves. But it takes an outsider, and a reincarnated genius at that, to prevent her death. Not everyone will find a miracle (or a deus ex machina) like that or have people in their lives that are willing to move Heaven and Earth to make sure they are safe.

But what if I said every single one of us has someone in our lives who loves us without fail? Who actually did move Heaven and Earth to save us?

The story of Jesus is the story of a God who sacrificed himself so that we might be saved. Jesus understands the hopelessness that builds in our hearts when we are crushed by the world. And he offered his very life to save us from it—now and into eternity. In fact, his sacrifice was the culmination of a ministry where he experienced all the same pain and hurt we do: rejection by his family, unjust accusations hurled against him, and abandonment and betrayal by even the closest friends. He knows our hurts. And He sees us.

These truths are illustrated in an Old Testament story, a surprising one hidden among the tales of the patriarchs, about a slave woman whose offspring wouldn’t even be Israelites. The woman, Hagar, serves Sarai, the wife of Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham), who was promised a son and descendants as countless as the stars. But in their old age, and without the promise yet fulfilled, Abram and Sarai connive to take matters into their own hands. Sarai convinces Abram to receive the promise by sleeping with Hagar and impregnating her. She indeed becomes pregnant, and is then reviled by Sarai, who complains to Abram. His judgment? Do with her as you will. So Sarai treats her with such heavy disdain, effectively bullying her, that Hagar runs away.

Hagar is terrorized to the point that she would rather flee to the desert which, traveled by a pregnant slave woman, meant almost certain death. Sound familiar? As with Akane, Hagar’s situation is a terrible one where anger, impossible burdens, and bullying are unjustly pressed upon her. But here, too, the story turns in an unexpected direction. An angel finds Hagar in the desert and greets her, instructing her to return home and promising that she, too, will have so many descendants that “they will be too numerous to count” (Genesis 16:10).

And what does Hagar say in return? She responds, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). El Roi, the God who sees, knows Hagar in her suffering. She is not forgotten nor is not forsaken. She is seen by God and she is loved.

You’re seen, too, loved ones. When you feel like Hagar or Akane—oppressed and burdened, unable to escape feelings of hopelessness—remember that God sees you. And he is for you. His hand is reaching out, offering to save you. Like Aqua, God is there for you in your most despairing moments.

And while Aqua’s appearance may seem out of the blue and out of place—something we could criticize as a lazy piece of writing—it’s not actually out of place at all, but is perfectly in keeping with Aqua’s way of being—and God’s too. It is a representation of hope for the suffering, and it speaks to the promise that you are seen, too. But not by simply your friends or comrades; El Roi is with you.

In the darkest of times, when everyone and everything is against you, God offers salvation to his beloved children. Fall into his arms, loved ones. He’s reaching for you and his love is the very hope you need.


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