Apparently, poppy young girls called “idols” dominate urban culture regions of Japan. This bright form of vocal art is definitely hit or miss by most. I’m only glad that Love Live! could be my first segue into this genre of anime, and not some generic idol series instead. For others new to spunky idols, here’s Love Live!, a true story of struggle and determination.
Honoka dives into her second glorious year at Otonokizaka High School with overwhelming passion only to find out that if the school doesn’t receive enough transfer students the following year, then it will close down forever. In an effort to save her beloved school, Honoka starts an idol group, which are currently popular, with her best friends Umi and Kotori to attract new students.
As the hardships stack up, μ’s (pronounced “Muse”) recruits six new members including three first-years and three third-years. Pouring all of their hard work, time, and love into their music, the girls pursue the “Love Live,” the top-dog high school idol contest in the region! But will their combined efforts be enough to save their blossoming high school life?
In terms of plot execution, this anime is a bit rigid. A lot of the characters have individual qualms that conflict with the idol competitions, for instance: studying abroad, future professions, failing grades, and other talents besides singing and dancing. And while I’m glad that these characters have realistic conflicts of their own, the show never bothers to touch up on some of these issues, some development even being dropped as “the show must go on” with all nine members intact (end of first season specifically). Don’t get me wrong, I love happy endings, but had some of these characters gone their own ways, then the show could have been more gripping, tear-jerking, and even relatable.
But where the show falters, the characters easily fill in the holes as the show’s richest feature. Each and every one of the girls are overly loveable, memorable, unique and just plain cute! Their constant teasing yet support of each other adds to the overall enjoyment and sense of reality that the show carries. Additionally, each of the characters, including the rival members of “A-RISE,” have some sort of back story and/or standout characteristic that adds a whole new level of depth to them. I’ve never seen a cast of girls so likable and so well-developed like they are in Love Live!
Honoka is seriously the most bubbly, loveable, natural-born leader character ever! Obviously being the main character, she undergoes the most development. You can definitely tell a difference before and after the two seasons. Her charisma and perseverance is nearly unmatched – well, until the rest of the girls step in to cheer Honoka up when she’s discouraged!
Two other characters in particular stuck out to me, which are the third-year student council members Eli and Nozomi. Eli embodies the student council attitude with her over-concerning will to protect the school. Of all the girls, she sets the standard for maturity and true talent (besides Maki), as she was a professional ballet dancer during her childhood in Russia. Though her story is never glanced back to, she just has this irresistible kindness and devotion that can’t be ignored.
Nozomi is vice-prez of the student council and serves as Eli-cchi’s advisor/best friend. After they both become a member of μ’s, however, Nozomi becomes a motherly figure that everyone looks up to. From the start, she is always watching over everyone and never loses faith in μ’s. She is the key that all things related to μ’s creation tie back to, and Nozomi hilariously uses these tarot cards to predict the outcome of everything. Nozomi also has this strange impulse of rubbing the other girls’ breasts when they “misbehave” and whatnot. It’s totally out-of-character, but it was always funny to witness!
As for visuals, the producers at Sunrise like to keep things very colorful and dazzling. Each of the girls have their own concept design to them as well, which helps to define their personality and distinguish them in the crowd. Especially enjoyable are the expressive faces that the characters give off. All of the emotions and feels are perfectly captured on their cute lil’ faces, allowing you to feel exactly what they do without them needing to say a word. And speaking of cute, some of them can pull of the most devilish smiles I’ve ever seen – Umi and Eli can be pretty freakin’ terrifying when they want to! 😀
The only “glaring” issue I found with the animation was actually with the CGI used in the performances. There’s such a crude switch between 2D and 3D in every other frame that becomes really distracting after even a few seconds. I understand why they did it an all – 3D is much smoother to animate, especially with dancing – but man, some of these transitions are pretty rough.
And while I’m hitting the dance scenes, I’d also like to point out that for a “music anime,” the songs weren’t that catchy or memorable. Perhaps that was just the idol music to my ears, but it was all just too bland for me. Happy, sure, but bland. Between both seasons, the only songs that I really liked were “Bokura no LIVE Kimi to no LIFE” performed in the anime by μ’s, Maki’s “Aishiteru Banzai!” and the anthem the song that started it all, “START:DASH!!” sung by the original three members in episode three and in episode 13 with all of the members. Now, my favorite song award goes to “Susume→Tomorrow,” initiated by Honoka in episode one – the first thing we hear, might I add. I absolutely fell in love with this sweet, delicate melody!
Love Live!‘s most enjoyable moments come from the enduring, harsh beginnings of the idol group. Their first concert in episode three in particular left me on the verge of tears. But once μ’s is up and off the ground, the lovable girls carry the story home. What I liked most about this show overall was that no matter how desperate situations seemed, the girls, primarily Honoka, endured it all.
Love Live! radiates POSITIVITY, and is UNEXPECTEDLY a stand-out anime! While the first season has a couple of plot issues, the second season makes up for that with great character development. Just know that all good things eventually come to an end, though . . . If you’re new to this idol business, I full-heartedly recommend this show – it’ll cheer you up no matter what and make you feel dem feels as well! “Nico Nico Ni :3”
“All we can ask for is just a tiny bit of support from you. We truly believe that with your help, we can change the world around us. We will make our dreams come true!”
+ Amazing, well-developed, fun main cast
+ Positive vibe is irresistible
+ Harsh reality of the idol business approached step by step
– 2D to 3D shifts jarring
– Plot cuts back stories short and forces the group over personal conflicts
– Music could have been better
Thanks so much for reading – hit the like if you enjoyed it! You can watch both seasons of Love Live! over on Crunchyroll for free. I can’t wait for NIS America to dub it all in English! Woot! Until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host