Nine girls become school idols once again in the new addition to the Love Live series. How does it stack up with the original? I dunno. WAIT YES I DO! Read on!
Carrying the school idol torch, Love Live returns with a brand new installment. The original told the story of nine girls that became school idols. At first to save the school and then to enter the Love Live competition, a big event where school idols across the country battle for popularity. In the end the group rises to the top and disbands after the third years graduate. Now a couple years down the road a direction-less high school student is lead by destiny to a video screen playing the PV for “Start Dash”. Inspired by how the nine normal girls shine, the high schooler, Chika, rushes home to try and start a school idol group. We follow her tale as she gathers 8 friends to form Aqours, and follow in the footsteps of Muse. The only difference, Chika lives in a small fishing town. and her school is in danger of closing. Drama ensues.
So Love Live is back at it with a new generation. Borrowing heavily from the original, Sunshine appears as a carbon copy, however this is only on the surface. Set in a small town we see Chika and her friends come together and try to follow the road map Muse left behind. Chika has no idea about school idols and only heard of them after discovering Muse. Some of her friends know more, other even less. It’s a strange concept, flipping the original so it’s now ancient history. We see how Muse inspires others. However Chika soon realizes that Aqours can’t follow their path, and Sunshine begins to breakaway from the traveled road…12 episodes in to it’s 13 installment run time. Most of the season is the girls slowly coming together. There are lingering issues and unresolved conflicts among the third years leading to some moody soap opera drama. Love Live is two things. One, a funny slice of life and two, teenage drama. Although it never comes off as melodrama, each episode seemed to have some element of seriousness, whether it was a conflict or a heart warming moment.
The comedy in Sunshine is quite sharp. There are a lot of jokes and slapstick bits. Some running jokes as well such as Riko’s extreme fear of dogs, Yoshiko’s bad luck and Mari’s random English. The characters are bubbly and all have their own weird personalities. Chika is a good lead, similar to Honoka in her passion and also prone to frustration and doubt. The student council president Dia is a complete nutcase and one of the funniest characters next to Yoshiko, the demon master chuuni. Every character has something to get over, in the beginning it’s Riko being unsure about idols, then the third years trying to be friends again. Kanan and Mari are like estranged lovers. The characters all pop and great detail is put into their individual actions and body language.
The voice cast was terrific. A promising bunch of rookies, Chika’s voice actress Anju Inami was the standout, with her very natural tone. Aika Kobayashi did great as Yoshiko as well. The songs in the anime ranged from good to forgettable. The OP “Aozora Jumping Heart” is an idol song by numbers, but still decent. “Kimeta yo Hand in Hand” is the standout with an extra high powered chorus pick up. The finale tune “Mirai Ticket” was also good. A lot of the tunes where sort of mid tempos drags however. Artwise the show is awesome. There is tons of movement and everything stays in model and looks great. It’s shiny, fluid and a well oiled machine. The CG is still noticeable but improved over the original. The new designs looks good.
One issue with Love Live though is the scale of the world. It’s about the 9 girls and there is not much to offer in the way of side characters. Aqours rival group Saint Snow is clumsily forced in and aside from family members, not much goes on in the background. The ending scene started with an awkward Linus reciting the bible part, and overall broke a lot of the show’s tone. The characters just appear at the Love Live. No one is doing backstage workings. One of the advantages Idol Master has as a franchise is the world and realism. Love Live is not meant to be a realistic story however, there is plenty you need to suspend your disbelief for. The world is not so alive, but the characters very much are. It’s a very strong character story where each member is important and has their own emotional struggles. It’s warm and has a lot of sweet moments along with a remarkable amount of heart.
Overall Love Live Sunshine season 1 was good. The idea is nice, 9 country girls becoming famous. The series progresses at light speed, blasting through it’s story at a sometimes sloppy pace. It’s similar to the original in a lot of ways, but this is just the beginning. Aqours begins to break away from Muse in the show the same way Sunshine becomes it’s own thing. Love Live has some fundamental issues and perhaps takes itself way too seriously at times, but it’s fun and the positivity can’t be denied. It’s just a nice thing. Sunshine has great production values and was engaging every week. I did enjoy it quite a bit, even if there where things to nitpick. It can be sappy and moody but as it is, Love Live Sunshine is just a good time in the end. But it only feels like a beginning.