Episode 8 – Ya Boy Kongming!

Continuing along with the quest kicked off last week, things might seem a bit more low-key, comparatively, for Hey Boy Kongming! in this episode. The titular tactician is actually barely barely in this episode, shown to be consciously hanging back from overtly coaching his performers. Instead things stay focused following Kabe’s journey realizing what kind of rapper he really is, as well as Eiko’s developments alongside her blossoming connection with Nanami. Now, given that one of the earlier incidental issues I indicated with this show was how the likes of Eiko didn’t seem to be getting fair attention paid to her personal growth and agency in the plot, finally spending this much time on her is something I can hardly complain about at this stage. But more than that, y’all need to know that I am absolutely smitten with the depiction of Eiko and Nanami’s relationship, and you’re just going to need to put up with it as it sways my opinion of this series for the foreseeable future.

Of course, this is a paradise they’re also absolutely setting up some trouble for, so a cozier break before more dramatic developments makes sense. I felt like an idiot, piecing together the ‘clues’ this episode provided us about Nanami’s apparent association with Azalea (Eiko’s biggest rival for that goal of 100,000 Likes) before double-checking the previous episode where they simply state, right as the group is introduced, that their lead singer is a super-talented performer named ‘Nanami’. Mystery-box storytelling to rival JJ Abrams, for sure. It immediately clarifies where Nanami’s impeccable musical skills are coming from, being a hyper-managed big-name professional musician. But that angle also recolors Eiko’s perception of her performances and what she’s striving for: Even with all that studio polish behind her, Nanami distinctly sings with her ‘own voice’, something Eiko continues to strive for and eventually ends up being coached on by Nanami herself. It means the real driving mystery is exactly which details about her career Nanami is struggling to come clean with Eiko about this episode, and what limitations her managerial side (the ominous ‘Karasawa’ who messages her at the end) might be imposing on her.

The complications of fame a concept that’s gradually being more alluded to in this episode. Getting those 100,000 Likes is the victory condition, meaning all the artists involved understand the level of public visibility they’ll receive, one way or another, should they reach their goal. This idea intersects with Kabe’s side of the plot, as part of his development involves interacting with people who turn out to be fans of his work. We’d previously been informed (by the likes of Kabe himself, no less) that he was well-known in the rap-battle circuit, so it makes sense that he’d receive recognition as he got back in the game and continued working his way up. And between the girls who notice him on the street and the schoolboy we find out he properly inspired to stand up to his bullies, they clarify that as another gap in Kabe’s personality: When he isn’t ‘On’ while rapping, he’s uncertain in his reactions to this sort of adulation. As the other of Eiko’s major musical collaborators compared to Nanami, Kabe illustrates how and why a performer of such caliber might hide behind street-performing anonymity in cases. Love of musical performance for its own sake has been a component of Hey Boy Kongming! since that first episode’s intimately-portrayed jam in Eiko’s apartment, with Kabe here coming around to that sort of sincerity.

That intimacy of those sorts of for-the-fun-of-it musical instances are on display throughout this episode, not just in the likes of Eiko and Nanami’s street performances, but also in even smaller-scale cases. Pieces like Eiko and Kabe’s improvisational collaboration in the empty club, or Eiko harmonizing with Nanami using the acoustics of a public bath, both of those playing completely without instruments, focusing instead on the characters ‘finding themselves’ through playing with their chosen medium alongside others doing the same. These are as appreciably engaging as any dramatic Kongming plan-revelations, because the show’s confidence in pulling back and letting them speak for themselves indicates their importance. That confidence is even reflected in-story, with Kongming himself holding off from advice or encouragement for Eiko and Kabe, letting them grow through interacting instead, he comments on his faith in them over games of Ring Fit Adventure with Steve Kido. His only major interaction with Eiko here is an imagined bout of silliness as she overheats in the bath, overwhelmed both by the temperature and the possibility that she might never actually reach the peak of her performing skills no matter how much she climbs.

And that’s why it turns out to be so key that Eiko has Nanami to assist her in further developing her skills, and to keep her connected as they develop an adorable relationship together as well. Never mind that this ancient Chinese story is the meaning behind Kongming’s divination sign that appeared as they met last week, the connection marks delightful instances of development even apart from the show’s typical classical commentary. Eiko has shown adoration for other performers in the past, but it hasn’t hit this personal a level before, as Nanami represents not only someone whose skill she aspires to reach, but wishes to do so in order to better perform with. It ain’t exactly subtle that Eiko’s ‘own voice’ comes through most clearly in an intimate scenario like that bathhouse number where she’s singing exclusively with/for Nanami. The illustrated reactions, the facial expressions between the two, drive up the connective energy even further. Granted, it’s obvious from the aforementioned preloaded plot-twist concerning Nanami’s true identity that this is all heading towards more distinctly dramatic territory in the story’s future, apart from all this episode’s blushing and crushing. But if you know me, you know I’m fine with that as well, as I can appreciate some heavier dramatics as much as these cuter antics, and as well, it’s all in service of Eiko finally getting the more distinctive personal development I was hoping she would. It’s a story that would work perfectly in a ‘regular’ music show, so even with minimal involvement from Kongming (and the very real possibility that he actually did set this all up down to the smallest seemingly-coincidental details), it leaves me extremely excited to see how it will all work out in this story’s climax.

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Hey Boy Kongming! is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.

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