“A stage that never ends. Taking on the shine that this stage requires enough for someone else as well. Such is the atonement for a stage girl who must surely die. The stage of fate that she has chosen.”
-Giraffe while observing Hikari Kagura, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 12
Previously I had thought of Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight‘s giraffe as an arbiter of the system, similar to Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s Judgmens who preside over the Severance Court. In Yuri Kuma Arashi, the three Judgmens are the only body allowed to permit relationships — there’s even an offical stamp that says “Yuri approved!” — a reminder of societal constructs and barriers that the leads eventually break by the end of the series. The giraffe seemed to be of this vein, presiding over the toxic top star system of the Takarazuka Revue at Revue Starlight‘s Seisho Music Academy. This is why he always cheered or commented during the duels, kept track of the top star standings in his room, and was an important signature on Hikari Kagura’s transfer documents. Because the giraffe is the system, naturally he would have a hand in her “transfer” from Seisho once she reached the top star stage.
Yet, the giraffe’s true identity is revealed in Revue Starlight‘s finale. This revelation recontextualizes the giraffe’s actions throughout the series. While it’s not wrong that he’s an arbiter, he’s also something concrete and very familiar to anyone who has watched a stage production.
The giraffe is us, the audience.
“The stage is composed of both those who perform and those who are spectators. The performer stars onstage and as long as the spectators wish for them to be there, they will remain. Right, you did this to continue watching over the girls. I do not want to make this performance end partway. Though I am a spectator who loves the stage. I am the host of the stage of fate, the eternal moment of the stage girls. The shine bursting forth. I want to see that. Yes, along with you.”
-Giraffe, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 12
The giraffe’s role as an audience member provides greater context to his appearances throughout the series, particularly in Episode 12, where he’s shown watching from a distance at all times. While watching, many of us mused as to why a giraffe specifically was chosen, and now it may be as simple as, he has a long neck to watch the stage with ease. We hear his voice not as a narrator, or even greek chorus with further insight than an audience member or character in the play would have, but as someone watching and reacting to the show placed in front of them.
This also means that the giraffe’s reactions, assumptions, and commentary is affected by the top star system as he knows it: a hyper-competitive ladder where only one can stand on position zero and claim the title. One of the first, enthusiastic cheers from the giraffe in Revue Starlight‘s first episode urges the stage girls to fight and burn away their happiness and pleasure for the sake of chasing a “star” or that elusive place at center stage.
Through his opening lines, the giraffe also reveals inherent bias in how he views the stage, again reflecting that a viewing audience at any performance comes with a specific mindset (although it may vary from person to person). They expect to be entertained. They expect the performers to give their best performance. When attending a Takarazuka show, they expect a certain type of actress, especially when it comes to the top star position.
Some of the giraffe’s first words to Karen are, “Those who cannot wake up in the morning. Those who are content standing on the sidelines. Those people will never be called upon.” This establishes assumptions made by the audience of who should stand on stage, what type of person should stand on stage, who is worthy enough to stand onstage.
These expectations are shaped by a variety of societal factors. The top star system and toxic cycle isn’t the audience’s fault per se, but the audience is complicit in perpetuating it to some degree. It’s an exchange system between the production company marketing and system that is directly affected by social mores. One of founder Kobayashi Ichizou’s ideas behind the revue was that the revue would teach women to be good wives and mothers so that, upon leaving the revue stage, Takarasiennes would settle down and have a family. This hasn’t always worked as intended (in the best way, with some incredibly talented women choosing to stay in the theatre or move into production, acting, etc.) but it was one of the core tenets of the revue that still affects the system to this day.
Another part of the system is selling dreams to the audience, ensuring that otokoyaku top stars are the most desirable member of the cast (and are marketing accordingly) often at the expense of the rest of the troupe, especially their partner musumeyaku. An eager audience will eat this up and push for more, often at the expense of personal relationships or mental and physical health. It’s a rigid, often unfair ecosystem, even at the top. When the giraffe turns to us and reveals his position, it adds another dimension to Revue Starlight‘s ongoing Takarazuka critique.