My thoughts on Love Live! Sunshine!!


Hi guys, Lance here, been away on a trip to South Korea for 2 weeks but now I'm back to continue regular updates (hopefully ^^''). Alright, so the anime summer 2016 season just ended and I've finally wrapped up all the weekly shows I've been following. Of those one of them was Love Live! Sunshine!! a followup to the successful first iteration of the franchise in μ's. I'm relatively new to the franchise compared to our resident snwlprd, but I thought I would give my thoughts on the show.

Now the plot on Love Live! Sunshine!! is going to sound very familiar to anyone who has seen the first Love Live! anime. New series lead Takami Chika, had fell in love with school idols after witnessing one of μ's performance and is now dead set on forming her own idol group back in her hometown of beautiful but rural Uchiura, Numazu. Cue the familiar story of recruiting new members to form the new group Aqours, goofing around together, and training hard to compete in the qualifiers for the upcoming Love Live school idol competition. Love Live hasn't been big on the overarching plot to begin with, and I wasn't expecting anything grounbreaking new, but the story had enough spins on the formula and difference in tone to make the experience fresh despite its familiarity. I was pleasantly surprised with the comfortable but more confident pacing this time around, and the level of writing in the individual episodes is a big leg up over the original, making them thematically consistent but self-sufficient chunks that still drives the overall plot forward.

That all being said, it is almost impossible not to see the parallels these draw with the original Love Live! Being a followup group to a much beloved franchise, Aqours was always going to have difficulties in establishing their own identity in the shadow of their predecessors. Being someone who checks in on the idol industry from time to time as I'm fascinated by their design concepts and business models, I couldn't help but be curious at how the Love Live project will aim to promote the new girls, seeing as how it is almost always exponentially more difficult for successive generations of idols to appeal to their audiences. The Love Live project is different from live idols to be sure, but like them Aqours is not trailblazing new territory like μ's did, and appealing to fans of the original is going to take some work. I myself wasn't exactly hyped for the new group and went practically blind into the new series. Well, I'm glad I gave them that chance, because I'm surprised by how much I liked it.

The show is pretty self aware of its own situation, and for awhile it toys with expectations abit steering very close to being a complete retread of the original, and the girls themselves seem to believe they might just be able to follow in μ's footsteps. Well, it didn't take long for them to slam face-first into reality, in an idol industry that is nothing like what it was half a decade ago, where competition is fierce and Aqours is just one of the many, many girls just as inspired by μ's as they were. A good portion of the show is about how the members of Aqours come to terms to what it even means to be a successor of μ's, both as individuals and a group. Again, it ain't breaking any new grounds, but I found the meta storytelling rather amusing.

Whatever the case, what really sold me on the new series were the new characters themselves. Limiting our discussion to anime-only, when it came to μ's, I really couldn't bring myself to care very much of some of its members, mostly due to deficiencies in characterization and development. It is therefore a pretty good sign that I do care for all of them and even really liked a good number of the members. Personally I found the characters and their personal struggles much more relateable this time around. Worrying about personal identities and motivations, wanting to shine in a life of mediocrity, and wanting to do so with your closest friends are things that I found alot more appealing than something as nebulous as saving the school. There are elements of the latter of course, and Aqours themselves are quick to point it out, but quickly realized it really wasn't why they really wanted to be idols, and their development as individuals take center stage over their development as idols. It really helps that the developers have realized what appeals to their audiences with greater focus on character stories and interactions between the members, all the while filling in plenty of silly humor, memes, and yuri-shipping baits. Its great that Love Live realizes its inherent ridiculousness and embraces it to have a great blast the whole time. The difference in tones helped the girls feel like a tighter knit group of real friends that very much enjoyed each other's company, and its plenty fun just watching them mess around.

Of course, being a part of the Love Live! project means idol songs and dance sequences! And boy was I surprised that I liked all but one of the insert songs, with Young Dreamer being a nice highlight besides the excellent OP & ED. The CG dance sequences also saw huge improvements this time around, feeling alot less janky (but still a little odd). Production by Sunrise is all-round pretty good, with a bigger budget and atractive artstyle reminiscent of the Love Live movie earlier this year. The backgrounds were great, animations smooth, and I did notice anything going off-model.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Love Live! Sunshine!! by how well it presented its new characters and their journey by being familiar but very refreshing. The ending for season 1 I felt lacked much emotional punch but sets up nicely for the inevitable followup. I had alot of fun in my time watching Aqours and can safely say I will be watching them for awhile yet! What are yours thought on Aqours?

P.S. You and Hanamaru oshi here!! XP


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