Height frequently decides one’s fate in the Takarazuka Revue, if not definitively, then at least in setting would-be Takarazuka stars down a certain path. Only those who become otokoyaku (the Takarazuka women who play male roles) can be the top star. And only those who are naturally tall and well-proportioned can become otokoyaku.
Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight‘s “Banana” Daiba is tall.
When Maya Tendou thoroughly trounces Karen Aijou on the revue’s dueling stage, further proving her position as the troupe’s top star, it comes as no surprise to anyone but Karen. From Revue Starlight‘s first episode, Maya has been visually established as the top star. Therefore, it’s also not a surprise to see her name at the top of the revue rankings followed by Claudine Saijou — the latter of which lost to Maya but won her duel against Futaba Isurugi.
Although Claudine has been visually placed in the musumeyaku role to Maya’s otokoyaku, Claudine too is taller than most of her peers, giving her a natural advantage in her quest to become top star. It’s not fair, but in the world of the Takarazuka Revue — from which Revue Starlight is directly drawing influence, including Seisho Music Academy’s setup and hierarchy — height and proportions can automatically propel a trainee up the ranks, provided that they continue a grueling course load and dedicate their lives to improving. This isn’t to say that Maya and Claudine haven’t worked hard. Revue Starlight is more nuanced than the age-old clash of hard work against talent. It instead takes both into consideration and acknowledges that certain members have natural advantages, especially Maya and Claudine.
Nana’s appearance as the third-ranking revue member, right behind Maya and Claudine, comes as somewhat of a shock, furthering the mystery of Nana’s personal ambitions.
In the same episode, Nana reveals that she will be taking more of a backstage production role rather than vying for a lead role in the 99 troupe’s upcoming performance of “Starlight.” This is met with confusion and surprise from her classmates. It’s implied that Nana has the respect of her peers, especially with Claudine’s genuinely confused reaction later in the episode. There is also an interesting visual and verbal showdown between Maya and Nana, where Maya sizes up Nana and considers her decision to step offstage before accepting it — portrayed visually by Maya taking one of the banana muffins that Nana made for the class.
“For some, knowing what it is to stand upon the stage empowers them to write for it.”
-Maya Tendou, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 3
Revue Starlight reminds us and its characters periodically that the play “Starlight” only has eight roles, but the addition of Hikari Kagura makes nine potential candidates for those eight parts. Nana’s decision to step aside creates a timeline where new arrival Hikari doesn’t have to worry about displacing anyone. Coupled with Nana’s natural leadership qualities — she has been shown to want everyone in the troupe to get along with each other, continuously brings them snacks, her side of the room that her and Junna Hoshimi share is full of pictures of the group and Junna — this could easily be seen as Nana taking the path of least resistance, eschewing her position as one of the top-ranked trainees.
Yet, Nana’s position as the third-ranked duelist defies this. She wouldn’t have been able to get as far as third place in the standings continuously defaulting to the easiest path that upsets the least amount of people. When she talks about writing her script for “Starlight” she admits that she feels pressure from everyone counting on her (jokes about bribery for the lead roles aside).
The Revue Starlight prequel manga gives us another scenario where Nana steps aside, this time for the role of class president in favor of Junna. Nana appears to have the position all but won, when Junna is able to help one girl who is struggling to sing find her voice. After withdrawing, Nana is confronted by Junna who asks her why she stepped aside. Nana simply responds that she wants to support Junna and under her breath whispers that she used to be that girl, the one who couldn’t find her voice. This flies in the face of Nana’s natural abilities that automatically place her on the path towards top stardom: her height and overall look.
It would be easy to write off Nana as the 99 troupe’s “team mom.” Yet her height and appearance combined with her third-place rank — especially since she hasn’t dueled within the scope of the series — and the Takarazuka trappings of Revue Starlight hint that there’s a lot more to “Banana-chan” than meets the eye.