Why I love 'Love Live' - [Part 1]
Oppdatert: 13. des. 2019
Note: The reason I only go in depth on two episodes is because saying "superb voice acting and adorable moments 26 times isn't really that engaging to read.
I've been watching anime for... well, not that long actually. I bought a 3-1 volume of 'Naruto' at the airport back in 2013, then a friend recommended 'Sword Art Online' to me, and I watched anime kind on and off. Then on the 8th of August, 2018, I made my MAL account. And here I am. 200 completed anime, over 1000 hours. So I want to do something special. I want to explain, why have I spent so much time on watching niche japanese cartoons? So, why? Well, while I only got really into anime once I got my MAL account, there is one show which made me able to say that I love anime. That made me say that I am an otaku, I am proud, strong and won't ever give up. I first watched it back in 2016, and that show, is Love Live School Idol Project.
Never give up, follow your dreams. That's the message of Love Live. Which seems really basic, and it is. It's not really that deep, but the way the show expresses this is phenomenal, and I'm here to explain why that is. I'll go over both seasons episode by episode, and then the movie.
"Otonokizaka High School is in a crisis! With the number of enrolling students dropping lower and lower every year, the school is set to shut down after its current first years graduate. However, second year Honoka Kousaka refuses to let it go without a fight. Searching for a solution, she comes across popular school idol group A-RISE and sets out to create a school idol group of her own. With the help of her childhood friends Umi Sonoda and Kotori Minami, Honoka forms μ's (pronounced "muse") to boost awareness and popularity of her school."
I will admit, the first three episodes of season one were kind of a drag for me on the first viewing. However, on my rewatches, I've come to enjoy them a lot more. Episode one has a really cool way of introducing us to all the characters which are eventually going to join μ's. Apart from Umi and Kotori being invited to join by Honoka, Hanayo and Rin are shown being at UTX when Honoka goes to check out the new school, with Hanayo running energetically towards the giant screen with A-RISE on it, while Rin is struggling to keep up. Nico is also there, having dressed up in a long coat, sunglasses and one of those things Japanese people cover their mouths with when they've got a cough. When Honoka asks Nico (at this point not knowing who she is) who A-RISE are, she reacts negatively and scolds Honoka for not knowing this. Just from this, we already know the core personality of two members. Eli and Nozomi are the student council, so we get to meet them when they reject Honoka's Idol club application.
Episode 2 on the other hand... well to be honest I don't really remember anything that happened in episode 2. It's really intertwined with episode 2 though, so I might attribute some events in one episode to the other. Now episode 3, this is when the show starts really getting good. Honoka, Kotori and Umi have finally gotten permission to use the auditorium for their first concert, and they spend some time handing out flyers to students passing by the gate at the school, and in Akiba. They've practiced their choreography and singing, their costumes are ready, yet no one shows up. OK, that's not really true. Hanayo came to see them, but one person is basically no one, and considering her presence in the show and the fandom, the auditorium is empty. But the three of them hold the concert anyways. The song they sing, START:DASH!! has some great lyrics, and while I won't analyse literally every song in the show, I will do a short bit on it. The songs in School Idol Project all have one central theme: never give up. You may not make it at first, but try again. Try again and again until it works.
"Being closed in by sorrow
And just crying -- That isn't you
With your blazing heart, you can definitely clear the way to the future"
Those lyrics perfectly encapsulate the ethos of the show. But we've still got 23 episodes left to analyse, so let's continue!
Episode 4 is my favorite episode of anime ever made. More than episode 13 of Kino no Tabi, more than episode 1 of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's, this is my favorite. Before we get into the meat of the episode, there's a part where Eli is arguing with the principal of the school (who is also Kotori's mom) about whether to allow Honoka, Umi and Kotori to continue their activities as school idols. Eli being opposed to the idea, says that there is no way they're going to make it big, and that their attempt to increase the popularity of the school is futile. Principal Minami then shows Eli a recording of μ's first concert, and explains that it's actually gotten fairly popular online. Nozomi being the vice president of the student council, is with Eli at this moment, and says "Someone must have recorder it", as she then glances over at Eli while they're watching the recording. It's pretty obvious that this is pointing to the fact that Nozomi already knows Eli was the one who uploaded the recording, even though this isn't explicitly stated until later in the show.
There's also a scene in this episode where Rin walks to school with Hanayo while wearing a skirt, but decides to walk home and change into pants because some kids made fun of her for it. This starts my favorite character arc in the show, which actually won't be fully resolved until episode 5 of season 2. Rin is shown trying on a more girly outfit later in the episode, but the fact that she never actually wears it outside shows her reluctance to accept herself.
Earlier in the episode, Maki was looking at a poster of μ's, and then accidentally drops her wallet. Hanayo, who is around as this happens, picks up the wallet to go deliver it to Maki the next day. During their exchange, when Hanayo says that she saw Maki staring intently at the poster, she denies it. Later, when Hanayo told Maki that she should be a school idol, Maki replies that she doesn't want to pursue music as a career choice, but that Hanayo should, because "You were watching so intently at the concert the other day." Maki then denies having been at the concert after Hanayo asks how she knows this. This shows that Maki has trouble being true to her feelings, and just as Hanayo does, has a hard time following through on what she really wants to do.
At the start of the episode, before the opening played, there is a short segment where we see Hanayo reading out loud in front of her class. However, she speaks very quietly, stumbles over her words and ends up being laughed at, showing her that she's very low on confidence. Fifteen minutes later into the episode, Hanayo is asked to read out loud again, and this time she sort of manages to do it! However, she stumbles over some words mid sentence and is cut off by the teacher. This signalizes that she's grown in her confidence, and might decide to follow her dream. And at the end of the episode, when Hanayo is going to join μ's, how does she manage to do it? With the help of her friends. She manages to speak loud and clear without messing up, and asks to join. All because Rin and Maki helped her gain confidence.
Now what I'm about to say might seem weird, but... that's about it. There are some things I want to mention about the later episodes, as well as the OVA and movie, but when it comes to season 1, there's not that much else to it. Episode 5 has some nice foreshadowing which comes into play in episode 9. Episode 10 has a scene where Nico lies to the other members about never having cooked before to appear rich, despite the fact that she cooks later in the episode, and is really good at it. This establishes a plot point which doesn't appear again until episode 4 of season 2. Episode 13 has a nice "roundness" to it, as it ends with all nine members singing in front of a filled up the auditorium, which is in contrast to episode 3 where it was only Honoka, Kotori and Umi singing in front of an empty auditorium.
However, there are a few things which annoy me about the show. First of all, the recording Principal Minami shows Eli has multiple fancy camera angles. How? Eli was standing still in the recording booth during the concert. I have no problem with there being fancy camera angles in episode 3, of course the director wants to make it look cool, but it shouldn't be the same footage which Eli recorded. Then... then there's george.
This was one of my favorite parts of the anime when I first watched it. μ's completely removed from the ranking. Honoka cries, and you really feel it. She's come so far from nothing, she was about to participate in one of the biggest competitions in all of Japan. And then... gone. But during my third rewatch (this is my fifth) I was paying more attention, and then I see that one of the groups in the ranking is named 'george'. Fuckin' george. Doesn't matter that all the other group names are lame, there's just a group named george. How the hell am I supposed to get emotional and sad about this scene when there's a group in the rankings named george!? Needless to say, I burst out laughing while watching and it just ruined the entire moment for me. Because apart from that, it's a really great scene. ANN accused the show of being melodramatic, but honestly, I just think it's well done drama. But george kinda ruined the episode for me. Fuckin' george.
OVA & Recap
Love Live goes arthouse in this five minute music video disguised as a 15 minute OVA. Great song though. That's the short version, but this OVA is notoriously weird. Maki has a dream where she's being chased by some scary people in hoods while she's running in a closed area. Later in the OVA, when Maki sits down by her piano, she meets her childhood self, who seems to transport Maki out of our universe. After Maki doesn't show up to practice, the other members wonder if she's sick, so they decide to go to her house to check on her. However, they meet a little child who looks just like Maki. Pretty quickly afterwards, the child summons a giant beam of light, disappears, and transports Maki back to our universe. Then there's a pretty good music video with highly improved CG.
The recap is just what it sounds like, it's a recap. Nothing special. Though it is voiced by Honoka's seiyuu, so that's cool at least. The S2 recap is the exact same thing, so there's no reason to cover it separately.
"Otonokizaka High School has been saved! Despite having to withdraw from the Love Live!, the efforts of μ's were able to garner enough interest in their school to prevent it from being shut down. What's more, following the conclusion of the first, a second Love Live! is announced, this time on an even larger stage than before. Given a chance for redemption, the nine girls come together once more to sing their hearts out and claim victory."
Season 2 starts us off with a pretty weird episode. Honoka is shown to be a dragonborn, as she manages to stop the rain with just her voice. Guess the Greybeards expanded their reach to Japan as well. But joking aside, I find season 2 to be on par with season 1, because of Rin and Nico's development. The theme of never giving up continues, as they have to start from the bottom again. Working their way up towards the Love Live, and having to beat the previous winners, A-RISE. The new opening is also really great, it's probably my second favorite Love Live OP after Aozora Jumping Heart.
Nothing that noteworthy happens in episode 2 and 3, though we get some more foreshadowing at Nico's family and her financial situation, as she's shown to be annoyed at the fact that Maki is really rich. Episode 4 is the one that most caught my attention on my first watch of the series, as it made me actually kind of like Nico. During my first watch of the franchise, I hated Nico. I thought she was annoying, pretentious and just kind of an asshole. And I mean, yeah that's what she was in the first few episodes of season 1. She harrased Honoka, she seemed way too stuck up about how she was super great and everyone was bad, and I disliked her for that. Only thing is I hadn't watched a lot of anime around that time, or consumed a lot of art for that matter. By the time I watched Love Live, I hadn't even completed over 15 anime (this is back in 2016). However, on subsequent rewatches, I haven't felt the same. I don't really dislike Nico now, mostly because I've realized that characters can be morally bad and still be good characters. Also because the plot of the episode is stupid. Why is everyone getting angry at Nico for lying... to her younger siblings. It's treated like Nico had somehow fooled everyone into thinking that she's the star of the show and that everyone else is just background people, but she told that lie to her siblings, who don't even seem to be older than seven at most! It's just kind of overblown to the point where it almost feels like melodrama.
Episode 5 is what makes this season a 10 for me. What I like about art, is that I can connect with it. I can watch a show or read a book, and I can think "wow, that makes me feel different. This changes something about me as a person." The Ghibli movie 'Omoide Poroporo', is one of those. Where I relate so darn strongly to the character. Where, as I'm watching, I get an epiphany. This... is literally me. Now obviously life is short and you can only have so many epiphanes before you've seen everything, which is why I only consider four out of all the shows I've given a ten to be a "true" ten, and all the others are just really good stuff where I connected with something or which made me think about something in a new way. But Hanayo and Rin are the characters I relate to the strongest in any piece of media ever. Again, literally me. But let's get into the analysis of episode 5.
The 2nd years are on vacation in Okinawa, but with the 2nd Love Live coming up, practice never ends. But with both Umi and Honoka being away, and Eli and Nozomi being busy with the student council, there's no one to lead the group. However, all the members decide that they think Rin should be the temporary leader while Honoka is gone. Only problem is that Rin has terrible self esteem and is staunchly against her doing it, as she doesn't think she can do it. She pushes against their decisions, saying multiple times that she doesn't want to because she's not good enough. However, Eli wins her over and she decides to do it. During practice, she doesn't speak very confidently, and is visually nervous. She's also unsure of herself while giving directions during practice. A conflict comes up between Maki and Nico, and they look to Rin for help. However, her indecisiveness causes her to simply say that she'll decide later. While walking home from school, she mentions how bad she is and that it's impossible for her to do a good job. Hanayo and Maki reply that it's not true, and that she did a great job. Rin pushes back, and claims that the only reason they chose her was because they didn't want to do it themselves. She says she's different from everyone else in the group, that she's not cute, not idol-like, and that she can never manage to do it well.
Later in the episode, while discussing who should be the center for their next performance, everyone says they want Rin to do it. However, Rin says that Hanayo is more suited for it, and that she'll never be able to be the center of a song. She's also opposed because the center has to wear a cute dress, and she doesn't think she would look good in it. The members then decide that Hanayo will wear it, as Rin doesn't seem to have any intention of agreeing. Rin excitedly agrees, however it is clear that she wishes she could wear it, and chooses not to because of her self esteem issues.
Right before their concert, Hanayo and the others manage to convince Rin that she should wear the dress and be the center. Rin seems against it, but Hanayo, remembering how it was Rin who pushed her into joining the group and helped her accept herself to do what she wants to do, now sees it as her responsibility to do the same for Rin.
Rin, having accepted herself, wears the dress and performs as the center during the concert, completing her character arc which started all the way back in episode 4 of season 1. The song in this episode, Love Wing Bell, also has lyrics which refer to remaking and accepting yourself for who you truly are. At the end of the episode, Rin is wearing a short skirt to training, showing that she's accepted herself.
The season goes back to the usual stuff after this. I don't want it to seem like all the other episodes are bad, I just want to make it clear how darn good these episodes are. Episode 6 is just a normal halloween themed episode, but it does have one of the best songs in the entire franchise, 'Dancing Stars on me", so it's got that. I really dislike episode 7. If you've watched your fair share of cute girls anime, you'll recognize the weight loss episodes. Now the thing is, if you're overweight and fat, then sure, do some weight loss. You don't wanna die at 40. The only problem is... these characters aren't 30, they're 15 and they're not really shown eating an obscene amount. And their body figure never changes. So you're being told that these characters are eating way too much, but they look even better than normal! None of them are even close to being considered chubby! Basically, these episodes promote unhealthy lifestyles and they're just kind of boring. It's not like I learned anything new about Honoka or Hanayo by watching this episode. Still, some good memes came out of it and the voice acting is still superb as always. It's one of the weaker episodes, but it's still okay. Episode 10 has Rin wearing a cute outfit, which is nice. It shows that Rin has in fact accepted herself, and it's nice to see that character development has an impact on the story and isn't just forgotten immediately after the end of the episode. Episode 11 is a great ending, and episode 12 has 'Kira Kira Sensation', which is a great song. They also switched the ED out for last season's OP, which is a great touch. Episode 13 doesn't have that much
special to it, but it does have 'Happy Maker', which is the greatest song ever made.
Love Live: The School Idol Movie
I'ma be honest with this... there's not a lot to this movie. It's got everything that made the original great, but it doesn't have what made the original a 10/10. It doesn't have that "literally me" effect. The thing about anime for me, is that I value both visuals and writing. I think putting one above the other is a bit stupid, especially considering that it's a visual medium. It's why I'll never understand people who are able to give 'Tsuki ga Kirei' a 10/10 (though even if it didn't have horrible CG crowdshots and janky animation I woudn't have given it anything higher than an eight). I can't really give a show with just great writing or just great animation anything higher than an eight, maybe a 9 if it really excels in one, like End of Evangelion (yeah yeah it's probably got some deep meaning 'n stuff but I didn't get it, I'll probably understand it when I rewatch it once I'm older), which has godlike animation and not just some of, no the most striking and incredible imagery I've ever seen in an anime period. This movie is kind of the same. Am I claiming that End of Evangelion and The School Idol Movie are of the same caliber? Yes, yes I am. However, that's not what I'll be talking about. My point is simply that I really like the music and visuals in this movie, but It just doesn't have the combination of great writing and visuals which I require to give it a ten. The ending song for this movie, 'Bokutachi wa Hitotsu no Hikari' has some amazing lyrics and almost manages to push it above the threshold, but It's not enough. I still love the movie to death.
My point with that massive wall of text was simply that if Love Live didn't have those two super good episodes, It wouldn't have been able to surpass an 8/10 for me because both visuals and writing is important to me.
Well that sure was a long fuckin' post. But don't worry, there's more to come! Part 2 will be covering season 1 and 2 of Sunshine as well as the movie. I had planned for this to be 5 parts but after re-watching Sunshine I lost the motivation for that. There will however, be a third part about the music videos.
Love Live is one of my favorite anime, and my favorite media franchise period. I want to make something I'm proud of, and this three part series will hopefully be that. I hope you'll be there for the other parts as well. StarMan, logging out.