Before we ever see her duel in full, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight tells us that Maya Tendou is already established as the revue’s top star.
Maya’s first appearance not only introduces her as a character, but position zero itself: the place of the troupe’s top star. She walks through Futaba Isurugi and Kaoruko Hanayagi’s conversation and they part to let her through. Maya then claims the center position for herself. Revue Starlight introduces her there, at position zero, with title card as her shadow is cast over the pink tape representing the center position.
Where Karen Aijou had previously walked to it, stood beside the center position, and invited Mahiru Tsuyuzaki to join her in stretching, Maya claims it. Later, before Karen crashes Hikari Kagura and Junna Hoshimi’s first audition, Maya is positioned at the head of the table in the common room, calmly drinking tea as if she’s presiding over the audition even though she’s not dueling herself.
The second episode places Maya in a pseudo-otokoyaku role with Claudine Saijou as her musumeyaku. This is important, establishing not only the Takarazuka tradition in Revue Starlight‘s Seisho Music Academy, but also cementing their roles — at least for now, until that status quo is truly challenged by Karen’s desire to share the stage. Otokoyaku are the young women in the troupe who play male roles and the musumeyaku are the young women that remain in female roles. Only an otokoyaku can become the troupe’s top star. Claudine’s dance with Maya is a fight for control — one that she notably does not win because she’s still not at Maya’s level, and is also visually stuck in the role of a musumeyaku, automatically giving the lead to Maya. Revue Starlight doesn’t sort its characters strictly into otokoyaku and musumeyaku, but the imagery here serves to establish Maya and Claudine’s power dynamic.
This is later reinforced in their off-screen duel, of which we only are privy to the ending, Claudine’s defeat. Maya stands over her and says that dreams aren’t a goal or something to have, they’re to be exemplified. She then says her signature line, “This is Tendou Maya.” while standing over position zero on the dueling stage. Like her initial introduction in the classroom, her shadow is cast directly over the position. Adding insult to Claudine’s defeat, Claudine is cast in Maya’s shadow. Additionally, the distant light from the tiara gleams above her.
In Revue Starlight‘s third episode, aptly titled “Top Star,” the series makes the connection between Maya, the Venus statue that has been in the Seisho Music Academy courtyard, and tops this all off with swan symbolism on her dueling stage.
When Maya approaches a group of her presumed peers, they’re not presented visually as her peers at all. Instead, Maya takes a similar pose and position that mirrors the Venus de Milo statue in the background. The Aphrodite or Venus de Milo statue is the most well-recognized work of Greek sculpture, depicting the goddess of love and beauty. Maya is already beyond them. She is the goddess, for now. This is mirrored by her introduction and presentation in her dueling stage.
Unlike Karen and Claudine, whose light appears beside them or creates a path in front of them, Maya is always visually introduced as the center. The light falls on her directly as the center at position zero.
The swans and other birds during her dueling stage are also imagery associated with Aphrodite/Venus. Maya throws Karen down a flight of stairs to punctuate Karen’s arrogance in these duels. Karen falls back onto a large swan, also representing Maya. When she looks up through the flying feathers, she sees Maya at position zero at the top of the stairs. It’s in this moment that Karen realizes just how much more of a lead Maya has on the title of top star. Karen can’t begin to reach her.
The birds are even present in Maya’s dormitory room.
Maya’s dueling stage also features a staircase. This is another important Takarazuka setpiece. Every Takarazuka finale involves a giant staircase where all of the actresses sing, dance, and walk down a lit path. These finales also highlight the top star, a troupe’s lead otokoyaku. In Revue Starlight, this is Maya.
Maya finishes her duel with Karen by casually claiming the center position and saying, “Position zero, this is Tendou Maya.” Not only is the title of top star and position zero Maya’s, but the specific Takarazuka imagery in her dueling stage also establishes her as the status quo for Karen to eventually defeat. However, this duel, the “Revue of Pride” also serves to showcase Karen’s own arrogance — she has been claiming to fight for her and Hikari to stand onstage together, but hasn’t bothered to talk to Hikari at all.
“she has been claiming to fight for her and Hikari to stand onstage together, but hasn’t bothered to talk to Hikari at all”
That’s not the main issue. What Maya did was making it clear to Karen there can only be one top star. You can’t share the lead role. That just doesn’t make sense. In a world where Karen wins and become the top star, Hikari could only be second at best. There can’t be two top stars, there can’t be two number ones. This is Hikari’s fundamental contradiction and the reason she lost to Maya who is determined to win even if it means standing in position zero alone.
I mean Karen’s contradiction