My time with Love Live! is much like the few members of its nine strong cast who were reluctant about being school idols. I wonder how a pushy, narrow sighted girl managed to rope me into this crazy gig, and then I wonder if this idiot turned friend will drag me to another adventure that was more fun than I ever thought possible. The nine strong cast is μ's (pronounced ‘Muse’), named for the Nine Goddesses of Music. Gods don’t die, and neither can my love for their antics, their struggles, and their story.
But Umi Sonoda would suggest I explain everything before acting sentimental, and I wouldn’t expect less from little miss ‘modesty and logic will hopefully win the day (or at least try to guide it).’ She’s the kind of person who tries to keep others on track, sometimes a bit too much when her friends would rather relax at the beach. Thankfully, her sense of discipline is never misguided, as she’ll often pick up her friends after they fall from a mistake. She doesn’t move past being the voice of reason, but she is a major reason μ's goes far.
μ's itself is lead by Honoka Kousaka, whose motive for being a school idol is as crazy as it sounds. Her school is close to closing down due to the lack of new students, and the juniors before her will be the last new students the school accepts. After a chance glimpse at how a concert from a school idol group has brought attention to their school, she has the idea of being a school idol to hopefully attract new students to her school. Enough students to the point where her school won’t close down. Surely such an impulsive idea won’t be where the story takes off from, right?
Well, the story starts there but it doesn’t take off until three episodes into the first season. Reality hits Honoka as her first concert fails, and from that point on the story really begins. Much of season one is about our lively lyrical leader bringing other students to her cause. Despite this, the story doesn’t get serious but doesn’t lack for purpose either. One of the main strengths of Love Live! is an unbridled sense of fun that never loses sight of its story. There’s enough stage practice to make the lead up into every concert believable, but even the antics outside that are always meaningful.
From the change into crazy costumes to reinvent their image for fear of growing stale, to the beach episode that brings Maki Nishikino out of her shell in more ways than one, to the odd responsibility shared by Honoka, Umi, and Kotori Minami in season two, every moment is more than its humor. Despite the fun, there are still times when the story gets serious, and it’s almost never unfounded as even things mentioned in passing come to show their importance later on.
It especially shows with Kotori, whose story deals with the issue of what it means to contribute to a team through humorous bouts of ‘writer’s block.’ Kotori herself hasn’t a single aggressive bone in her body, but that doesn’t mean a sweet and cheerful persona is all she is. She has her doubts and worries, and her reticence at one point truly tests the friendship between herself, Umi, and Honoka. Her story implies the question of what it means to chase a dream, and whether the chase can make someone lose sight of what’s around them.
And for third year student Nico Yazawa, being a part of μ's is another chance to chase her dream. There’s a good, if prideful, reason she wants to become a school idol, and her over the top ‘cute’ persona shows that dedication. In truth, she’s very smug and cynical, but not without good reason. In every jaded person is an optimist waiting to let loose, and Nico does quite enjoy herself as the series goes on, however smug she still acts. Her vast array of idol stuff like concert DVDs also shows her dedication to the art, even before going into her backstory. Much to the pleasure of first year student Hanayo Koizumi.
Hanayo is the old case of how passion can call out an entirely different side to someone. At a glance, she’s timid, and her joining μ's is partly thanks to a small push from her friend Rin Hoshizora and classmate Maki. But from that point on, she’s often energetic, especially in the presence of idols and being an idol fan herself, and of course during μ's concerts. There’s a kernel of truth to how her interests and hobbies suddenly bring out such an involved side to her, but it isn’t over the top to the point of unbelievable.
Then again, the only unbelievable—and weak link by extension—part of the story is Rin. She’s mostly ‘just there’ in season one, while season two messily develops her with an issue that’s never brought up or hinted at save for early in season one. Her time in the spotlight involves being the temporary leader of μ's for…some reason, and wearing an outfit that’s not her style just because. Though still a quite likable tomboy with a penchant for cat speak, the brief change to that other side of her is largely unfounded to the point where likability is all she has going for her.
Compare this to Maki, who doesn’t lack for believability and likability. Despite being as young as Hanayo and Rin, she carries herself with a senior like demeanor to speak level even with third years Eli Ayase and Nozomi Tojo. At the same time, her true self often shows whether she’s flustered or just being a little more open around Nico and Nozomi, and everyone else. And yet, her want to hide her feelings is less about any one of her friends and more about being truly reticent despite her apparent sharpness. Maki is well developed, and not just for her body as Nozomi learns firsthand(s).
For the curious, the big chested Nozomi has a small running joke throughout the series where she gropes the girls of μ's. Nozomi herself is often in the background, but due to her role and reason for being in μ's, it makes sense. Her role is someone who watches over these girls (especially Eli), her reason more than just wanting to watch over them as she befriends them. Mischievous and motherly, Nozomi looks after μ's as if it was her own creation, and the creation of her own person isn’t lacking despite (or maybe even because of?) her lack of screentime.
Of course, her friend Eli isn’t open to μ's being a thing at all. Not at first. Her doubt towards them is rooted in her past success, and doesn’t think they’ll do anything for the school’s future. She has an interesting parallel with Honoka for much of season one, in that despite thinking differently about school idols, they both want to save the school. As student council president, though, Eli works behind the scenes as μ's grows in numbers, ever tempted to let it go and just have fun with them. Her struggle between her duty and desire, despite her pedigree, makes her nothing short of compelling.
But even as Eli becomes a kind of second leader in season two, it’s still Honoka at the heart of μ's. Honoka herself is emotion personified, the sheer range of her facial expressions communicating what dialog can’t. A melancholic gaze, a smile that triumphs over her tears, a crossed scowl, an indifferent but thoughtful gaze, an infectiously energetic smile, and many more faces all serve to perfectly round out her persona. That doesn’t mean she’s without her faults, as she can be focused to the point of losing sight of what’s around her, something that comes up toward the end of season one and the start of season two.
It’s during the second season that Honoka tries to stay aware of what’s around her, partly due to a personal incident in season one, partly from an extra duty as student council president in season two. Yeah. I don’t know how she became student council president either. The best guess among viewers is, after the school was saved, nobody was better fit to be student council president than the school’s savior. Yeah. I don’t know how rallying school idols translates to running a kind of government either.
Thankfully, Honoka eventually, if reluctantly, grows into the role of student council president, and never misses a step as part of μ's as they look to compete at the Love Live! event. During season one, they learned about the Love Live! being a chance for school idols to really show off what they can do. Unfortunately, they had to drop out at the last minute, but they got enough attention anyway to the point where the school was saved. So why would μ's still want to compete at the next Love Live! event?
To which I answer: why must there be a deeper reason to want to do something? Does it matter if passion starts from duty? If they’ve made it this far, why let that effort go to waste? With the introduction of its nine strong cast being largely finished in season one, season two changes the focus from ‘Honoka and the rest of μ's’ to ‘here is μ's as a group of equals.’ Not just Honoka, but all of μ's wants to compete in and win the Love Live! event. Their time in the spotlight much more even, each girl no less passionate than the next. But with their sights set on Love Live!, rival school idol group A-Rise has their sights set on them.
In many ways, A-Rise is the antithesis to μ's. The latter starts as a group of three with Honoka, Umi, and Kotori, and blossoms into nine great performers, while the former is only the trio of Tsubasa Kira, Erena Todo, and Anju Yuki. For how alike these six look respectively, they still take on their own identities, μ's donning frills and youthful vigor while A-Rise sports sleek smooth sensuality in their wardrobe and dance moves. In a refreshing change of pace, though, A-Rise isn’t a conniving group trying to sabotage the main cast. They simply want to win the Love Live!, and truly look forward to facing μ's. There’s mutual respect between both groups.
But as μ's gets closer to the big event, the story becomes less about the actual competition and more about the looming finale they can’t avoid. This plays perfectly into why Nozomi is part of μ's, as the story of nine comes full circle before she, Eli, and Nico are to graduate after the Love Live! event. The thought weighs on their minds, but the show must go on and they rightfully cherish every moment together. Every misadventure, every squabble, every concert teaches them to accept the bitter with the sweet.
Unfortunately, the concerts during season one are mostly nothing sweet to look at. It often looks like a smile plastered on a dancing doll. Thankfully, season two greatly improves the animation during these scenes, blending the 2D and 3D work into a cohesive showcase. The coloring and design makes for vivid variation. Even the darker colors of A-Rise shine brightly, and the thematic unity across costumes still have subtle differences to reflect each person, such as Anju being A-Rise’s only wearer of frills, or Umi’s outfit in one concert rocking shorts instead of a skirt.
So the show looks great, but it also knows HOW to look great. The series knows its girls are the cover attraction to itself, but thankfully it doesn’t overplay its hand. It forgoes sexualizing its cast for an emotional connection through personality and appearance. It’s flattery that induces a star struck state, without objectifying the cast in any negative fashion. Even the swimsuit episode is fairly harmless, while Nozomi’s groping antics miraculously avoid falling into the suggestive moans that are prone to happen in other shows. Early concert scenes aside, I see no reason to call the visuals nothing short of excellent.
Now, no amount of outstanding outfits or lovely lighting will do anything without music. And indeed, Love Live!’s soundtrack is far and away its strongest aesthetic element. There’s music for every occasion, from the quick tempo of a chase scene, to an over the top piece for a joke, to the slow piano keys for matching melancholy, and even the revitalizing recap music at the start of each of episode, all compliment the mood to great effect. And the few moments where music is absent are well chosen, and stand out that much more for it.
But while the instrumentals are good, the real reason Love Live! is a musical treat are the actual songs, which it never lacks. ‘Private Wars’ and ‘Shocking Party’ play hard, fast, and clean, capturing the aura of coolness about A-Rise. ‘Advance Tomorrow’ reflects the spirit of the show, being loud and fun but starting from genuinely heartfelt intentions through a soprano style voice. And of course, the two opening numbers, ‘We’re All In This Moment’ and ‘That Is Our Miracle’ carry lyrical significance with what happens in the story. This isn’t music that’s just a joy to listen to, but pieces that say something more when listening closely.
One of the two songs this is most exemplified in is ‘Start;Dash.’ Unlike much of μ's other songs, it starts with an almost melancholic feeling, starts singing in a defiant fashion, and ends in a manner that says ‘we’re down, but not out.’ It’s the piece Honoka, Umi, and Kotori sing at their first concert, and the piece μ's sings at the end of season one. The other song is the unforgettable ‘Snow Halation,’ testifying to the heights people can reach as they work together and understand one another’s feelings; words do no justice to the power of this track.
There are still more songs than these, from ‘No Brand Girls,’ to ‘Our LIVE, Our LIFE with you,’ to ‘Wonder Zone,’ to ‘The Door To Our Dreams’; the sheer number of great songs, well done instrumentals, and amount of story significance on each piece, makes the soundtrack of Love Live! nothing but a musical masterpiece. And yes, I’m only counting the music the show itself had, tempted as I am to talk about ‘Love Marginal’ among others.
What I DO want to talk about, is how hard it is for me to discuss Love Live! in any critical manner. It’s a series that caught me completely off guard when I was just looking for something to pass the time. It’s a show that makes me wonder just how much aesthetics matter to the viewing experience. It’s a story that forces me to see that even the simplest looking things can be more than meets the eye. And it’s a tale of gung ho dream chasing that’s infectiously optimistic.
Now, some people will surely have problems with the ending, and it’s usually not the kind of finale I go for either. Then again, every rule has exceptions. For those people who’ve already seen both seasons of Love Live!, let me say that I can overlook season two’s ending because I’m not expecting another adventure.
I just want an encore.
Cant wait for the next season but ill tell you guys a lil of my opinion so far. It is a bit of one of those addictive animes at times escpecially the beginning episodes. Its a big rollercoaster of drama towards the end and personally I wanted to growl a few times at some of the characters actions towards eachother. The ending was alright but def could have been better had they actually participated in the big event they had tried to get in. Okie thats all ill say, youll just have to watch to figure out what I mean!
Love Live is everything you think it is from the outset. It’s a high school drama centered on a group of adorable girls becoming idols. It’s nothing new, it doesn’t strive to change the game; yet it still manages to beat the competition as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not familiar with all the competition because I’m not a huge fan of this slice of life/music genre that seems to have cropped up after the success of that one episode of Haruhi Suzumiya and the massive success of K-On. All I know of is the first season of K-On, which is massively hyped up. I reviewed it pretty decently though and in retrospect…I think it’s because I’m a sucker for this moe garbage. I fall for the cute girls just as easily as the rest and even when reviewing some titles I seem to relax my rating because I enjoyed following the cute girls as they do cute things. I’m pathetic, I know.
Why am I admitting my being a moe blob? Because that’s how I get caught up in these types of anime. My thinking that Azusa was adorable got me watching K-On. My thinking Nico was cute got me watching Love Live. And while Azusa was my favorite character from K-On, Nico is actually not my favorite character from Love Live because she’s kind of a bitch. But that’s beside the point…
Love Live has the same type of set-up as many of these high school drama-y anime. Just like K-On, we follow an idealistic, loud, clumsy, and annoying girl. In Love Live, she decides to start an idol group due to the popularity of these groups around Japan. It’s all a last ditch effort to save her high school which could possibly shut down. She recruits her two best friends, a very boring moe girl named Kotori and the super shy girl, Umi. Umi doesn’t want to perform in a short skirt because that’s embarrassing. Meanwhile, she wears the school’s uniform skirt that, in reality, would be as effective a piece of clothing as not wearing a skirt at all.
They face all kinds of obstacles such as a really unsavory girl named Nico and a student council president who keeps pushing them aside.
Story-wise, it’s nothing new. The only real plus I can give the story is the fact that the girls actually practice. There are lots of parts that have nothing to do with practicing but the sheer fact that we are given a group of competent girls that are actually trying to succeed at what they are doing makes the anime more enjoyable and gives the audience more reason to invest themselves in the group and hope to see them succeed.
That being said, this is a music anime and I believe that every music anime I’ve ever reviewed I’ve stated one thing:
NOT ENOUGH MUSIC!
This is the exception. Love Live contains a surprising amount of music. This is an equivalent to America’s High School Musical so it better well have some goddam music. But unlike High School Musical, we’re not subjected to Ashley Tisdale’s nose, which makes this anime a big plus in my book. We’re also not subjected to understandable lyrics, which is probably why I enjoy the music of these types of shows. Let’s face it; the music in Love Live is garbage. It’s bubblegum pop, the kind of stuff you’d expect teenaged girls to write. The meaningless lyrics and nonsensical English words or phrases thrown in are a staple of these types of songs. But it’s what you’d expect from sixteen year old girls and I guess that makes it alright. Start: Dash is pretty catchy and while none of the music may be memorable, at least there is enough of it going around that you get excited for the next piece.
That being said, the music is accompanied by an idol performance most of the time. The animation of this show is usually pretty good with very adorable girls, great backgrounds, and good movement. But the issue comes with these dance performances that become very shoddy CGI mixed with traditional animation sequences. While the animation looks good, the sudden use of something akin to Miku Miku Dance is frustratingly out of place and gaudy. I don’t know who decided to change the style, but fire that person for season two. Please. No more computer animation.
Even with a big cast of really likeable and adorable characters it still fails to impress with anything new. Every character is a stereotypical something-or-other. You have the tomboy, the tsundere (really two of them), the well-to-do upper classman, the pervert, the ditzy leader, the shy and fraidy-cat friend, and the girl with very little personality. Working together, these characters are fun despite some having very little depth. The show does give most of them a good amount of focus and fleshes them out a bit, but they’re, once again, typical. The development they’re given is the usual.
Now for some smaller tidbits of hate: Why do all Russian girls in anime and manga have to be ballerinas? I’m looking at you Black Lagoon, Love Live, and Gunslinger Girl. Also, why the beach episode? If one episode contributed nothing to the anime as a whole it was the beach episode. Also, the drama at the end regarding Kotori was forced and very predictable. The entire outcome was extremely easy to see from a mile away because the same plot device has been used before to the same effects.
So where does that leave Love Live? Despite the story’s predictability, the characters predictability, and the MMD style dancing, it’s still highly enjoyable. Watching this band of girls come together and work hard to attain a dream is actually kind of heart-warming. The pacing is a little rough and the music isn’t the best but there’s a good amount of music and a good amount of fun to be had. It’s not an anime to be taken seriously, you hop on this ride to meet some new friends and enjoy their interactions and triumphs. It’s no masterpiece by any stretch, but for what it is, it’s a good, though flawed, anime.
Quite possibly one of the most inspiring and generally feel-good shows you'll find, Love Live! School Idol Project is a beautiful, cute, and packs a few curve balls.
The animation quality is crisp, clean, and simple. The performances look like they were made in the Love Live! video game's program, but it works for the show. Even with very precise motions, the characters still look alive, exhibit their unique personalities, and are full of energy. There is a distinct different between the animation in the performances as compared to the normal animation but it's not a good or bad thing, no matter which way you look at it.
The music is touching. I never played the games, but it appears that they are using the same songs so there is a lot of fan service to the soundtrack rather than them trying to make new music. Even the background music is fitting and sometimes a little over triumphant.
Love Live! brings together a host of characters from your usual archetypes. Even each character's backstory is practically a clone of any generic and flat character from any other anime (especially harem) show out there. That being said, Love Live! still brings on the character development and the feels. I cried multiple times each episode, especially as the season came to a close. Even with "generic" characters, Love Live! manages to make their cast memorable, lovable, and entertaining to watch.
The only issue I have with the series is the very episodic pacing. Each girl has an episode to herself and there are a few episodes about the group as a whole. Each girl has something to learn or overcome in her episode and that becomes the "theme". This bothers me a bit, but it's not a big enough turn off to stop watching.
What they do exceptionally well (aside from character development) is the curve ball. There are a few things that happen later in the season that were very unexpected. I was genuinely surprised at how the season ended and I was glad that a second season was announced a year or so later.
Highly recommend watching this especially if you love cute, peppy anime with lots of great music and a wonderful cast.
I have to admit that, after dropping it for several months, I came back to Love Live!: School Idol Project not because I was in love with the show, but because I'm mildly addicted to the cell phone game. Upon my first viewing, I thought that Love Live! was a pleasant show with nice character designs for fairly unmemorable girls, as well as some very cheerful and fun pop music floating around in the background. It was the music that drew me to the game the minute I got a cell phone good enough to play it, and the game that dragged me back into the anime.
Now that I've watched all of Love Live's first season, I do like it better than I thought I would. The characters are very likable, there are some plot developments that I genuinely didn't expect, and nothing about the show really seems to be forced. It's believable that these girls would be friends, the way their idol singing quest plays out makes sense (even though I would like to know the background of this world where school based idol singing groups have become so important to popular culture), and when one of the girls ends up being unexpectedly important to the plot, it makes sense. It's a little slow paced, but since this isn't a show I was watching for the action, that wasn't a bother.
There were a couple of things about this show that I found to be very bizarre. One, which is rather specific, is the episode where everyone finds out that one of the girls has a part time job and, despite the fact that this is a bit of an unusual job everywhere except for in anime, none of her friends so much as flinch. Their relationships seem fairly realistic both before and after this point, so I was surprised that none of the girls so much as ask her what this occupation is like, or how the customers treat her in the face of this revelation. It's not a big problem, but it's conspicuously odd in context.
The other issue I have with this anime is the god-awful horrible CG dancing animation. I know, it saves on the animation budget, and other idol anime do it, too, but it still looks weird and bad. The funky CG heads and noodle limbs are quite distracting, as is the fact that their outfits and hair actually seem to be better animated in the normal scenes than the dance scenes. I don't begrudge anyone else liking this style, but it's certainly not my thing.
Love Live!: School Idol Project isn't my favorite anime by any stretch, but it's so pleasant that it's difficult for me not to recommend it to people looking for a low drama anime with some exemplary fluffy pop music. Though I don't know that I'll rush to watch it, I look forward to seeing season two.