Note: This piece was originally written for, and was later published in the Crunchyroll Newsletter for April 29, 2013. You will be able to check out this post, and much more by following the link above!
As someone who did not watch the first season of Love Live! and with only one other idol-based anime under his belt (last season’s Wake Up Girls!), I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the second season of Love Live! Would I be able to understand the character dynamics? Would I be missing out on a bunch of inside jokes? Would I even like an idol anime at all?
It’s to Love Live!‘s credit that my fears were assuaged within the first few episodes. I actually am of the opinion that the show has been more enjoyable for me due to the fact that it is a sequel. Without the oft-ponderous character introduction episodes and arcs that typify shows with large casts, the members of μ’s and their relationships are allowed to breathe in a more natural way. Because the show assumes all the characters are known, new viewers like myself can simply watch and make observations about their personalities without needing to have every quirk and every tendency spoon-fed to us. The pacing of the show also benefits, with the main conflict being introduced in the very first episode (a rarity in anime, but a very effective technique when actually used). By clarifying the series’ goals so quickly, it allows the characters to be illuminated within the context of the actual story and engaged me from the start.
The chemistry between the members of μ’s is excellent, as might be expected of characters that have already had a full season together. Each girl has a role to fill in the group, with Honoka standing at the center of it all. It’s probably no secret to first season watchers that Honoka is the most exceptional member of the group, and as a first time watcher I picked up on it right away. She’s truly the heart of the group, the axis on which all the other members turn, the star that will eventually allow μ’s to rival A-RISE.
Presentation-wise, I imagine Love Live! is pretty much consistent with the production qualities of the first season. The animation and art style aren’t especially noteworthy, but the CGI dance scenes are reasonably well integrated with traditional animation. As a side note, A-RISE’s CGI-sparse performance in the third episode looked great (far superior both musically – I’d buy that song – and visually to μ’s, I thought). The motion of the camera and use of cuts created an experience that was much more engaging than the following number by μ’s. It’s nice to know that Sunrise can put together what essentially is a great looking music video when they don’t use CGI. Personally, I hope we see more of that for μ’s, as they are the main group and deserve the best looks they can get.
At this point, Love Live! hasn’t shown itself to possess any deep-seated thematic weight, but for a show like this, that’s okay. It’s not to say that Love Live! is devoid of all meaning; far from it. The messages that are strung through this show are clear ones: rely on your friends, trust them to pick you up, do your best. As someone who spent three years in a high school show choir, Love Live! connects an a personal level. Knowing what it takes to succeed in a competitive group that lives and dies by unity on stage, it’s a pleasant viewing experience to watch a group that has already come through the ups and downs of learning to work together and seeing them strive as a team towards a goal. Love Live! is pretty transparent about what it’s trying to do, but those fresh-faced messages aren’t ones that need to be obscured, hidden or complicated.
Love Live! wears its heart on its sleeve; that’s what you have to do as a performer. Like a number of other shows from this season (One Week Friends, The World is Still Beautiful), that honest confrontation and engagement with the emotion and relationships is a refreshing experience. I, for one, am looking forward to μ’s journey through the Love Live! competition, whether they win or not.
To close things out: I feel like I should be campaigning for my favorite girl here, but it’s currently a three-way tie between Honoka, Maki and Eli. A final decision will have to wait until the end of the season.