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Key the Metal Idol

Key the Metal Idol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are two ways to look at the gender roles in Key the Metal Idol. The first is rage inducing, the second is to look at why it was done that way.  The second approach is rather more interesting.

Superficially the gender roles in Key the Metal Idol are horrifying.  The female characters are, almost uniformly, victims and commodities.

Those that Ajo gets his hands on, figuratively at least [1], are not even allowed to perform for themselves on stage.  Miho is forced to operate a PPOR controller whilst a bot performs in her place. Given how the PPORs are powered, this is extremely abusive.

It is also clear that to Ajo the bot is the “real” Miho. I don’t remember if the still to be met Beniko Komori suffers the same fate, but I do know that it isn’t good.

Whilst there is a reasonable amount of agency on Sakura’s part, her motivations and background are not promising.  And, apologies for this spoiler, Sakura does not get anything resembling a happy ending.

Key’s mother and grandmother, despite having a certain level of respect, also put up with significant abuse in their lifetimes, abuse that contributed to Key’s current stater.

Key herself is a harder case to assess, but even at the end I remember asking if the price she paid was worth the return.

Add in the rather more extreme than usual fan service [2] and there is a lot to hate about the gender roles in Key the Metal Idol.

But… what if the rage is the intended reaction?

What if the whole point is to rip away the glitz and glamour from the perennially popular idol singer to reveal the truth about the manipulation, the commoditisation, the eventual abandonment in favour of the next big thing, that is so much a part of the idol singer culture in Japan?

Cover of "Perfect Blue"

Cover of Perfect Blue

It is worth remembering that Key The Metal Idol, particularly the later episodes, is a close contemporary of Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue. Perfect Blue is also a devastatingly effective poke at the mechanics of idol singers, although one with what is arguably a happier ending.

Overall I think that the deconstruction of the idol singer “dream” is part of the intent of Key the Metal Idol.  That the viewer is intended to realise that an idol singer is all too often part of a misogynistic culture that should be questioned and challenged.

I’m choosing to take it that way, and on that basis only, am prepared to give Key the Metal Idol a pass on the topic of gender.

But only just.

Day 1 – START UP
Day 2 – CURSOR I
Day 4 – Sub vs Dub?
Day 5 – ACCESS
Day 6 – SCROLL I
Day 8 – The extra bits
Day 9 – RUN
Day 10 – GOTO
Day 11 – RETURN
Day 12 – Gender and Key the Metal Idol
Day 13 – BUG
Day 14 – SAVE
Day 15 – VIRUS I
Day 16 – ???
Day 17 – VIRUS II
Day 18 – SYSTEM
Day 19 – EXIT
Day 20 – Looking Back at Key The Metal Idol

[1] There has already been one example of his negative reaction to Miho touching his jacket.

[2] Key the Metal Idol was an OAV series and bypassed broadcast restrictions/censorship rules.  As such a fair amount of the anime anatomy is averted.