Of the four editions of the Love Live! franchise (the others being the original SIP, Sunshine, and soon to take on its second season Superstar) Nijigasaki High School Idol Club has been the maverick of the group. And I mean this as the greatest compliment I could offer. As for the others, I always had this 'where have I seen this before?' feeling. To this point: In the other series, a girls' school was in danger of going out of existence. SIP saved their school. Sunshine lost theirs. Superstar might be the rubber match in the world of waxing and waning academies. But Nijigasaki has been a solid school which leads the way in all fields of achievement (particularly school idols). Organizing a five-site School Idol/School Festival extravaganza is just a stellar example. In the other series, nine seemed to be the magic number (does the number of muses in Greek mythology have anything to do with this?). In SIP and Sunshine the nine were gathered through three second-years followed by three first-years finished off with three third years (one of whom nixed school idols, one promoted school idols, one was just there). True, Superstar ended the first season with a team of five, but anime rumor-mongers hint that four new members will join Liella (5+4=9, math fans) early in season two. But NHSIC will be a challenge for triskaidekaphobiacs the world over. At episode ten, thirteen charming girls whose personalities have been honed razor sharp will bring the last two episodes to a novel conclusion. For ... In the first two series (and no idea if this will continue into Superstar) the Love Live! competition has been the driving force. Remember all those grueling practice sessions and stair-climbing that µ and Aquors endured? Nijigasaki abandoned the idea of a national competition (unless in the final two episodes NHSIC have the girls compete, sing and dance, go to Tokyo, wow the next to non-existent competition, and take home the prize ... but that would so not like Nijigasaki). Who needs Love Live! the battle of the school idols when you have so many backstories. The ideal of the solo idol goes the way of the bad idea and quartet+duo+trio (4+2+3=9, close to the formula, but then you have the tenth wheel Yu Takasaki) form among the club members. This brings up the one complaint of the first season. Poor animation in frequent use of the static pose and never used choreography. Not in season two! The animation pops as the ensembles move in and around each other, the high quality one saw in the SIP and Sunshine productions. Personalities rule, and the addition of new characters Lanzhu Zhong, Mia Taylor, Shioriko Mifune offer the complications. Lanzhu is the new idol on the horizon, hoping to eclipse the Niji girls. Mia contrasts strongly with Yu. Both aspire to be songwriters. Mia is naturally talented, but she wishes to have the courage to sing. Yu struggles to knock out songs, but her dedication to the school idols gives her the drive. Shioriko adores school idols but fears whether she could be considered one. But no cut-throat competition, just girls coming to understand each other, and have a great deal of girly fun in the process. Better animation. Music that I would consider better than the other three in the franchise. Lively. Upbeat. Introspective. And the closing theme ends with the simpler character designs which has become the trademark of the NHSIC line. There is something to breaking formula. And with two more episodes in season two, we can toss predictability out the window. This makes Nijigasaki High School Idol Club the best series in the Love Live! Universe, IMHO.
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