A brief summary of my history with the Love Live! franchise: some months back, very soon after I started writing for the Crunchyroll Newsletter, I got tapped to do a little review of Love Live! 2. Now, at this time I had barely heard of the franchise, but I wanted to get writing, so I wrote the piece. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Skip to the present and I’ve watched all of season 2 and spent countless hours with Love Live! School Idol Festival (the franchise’s mobile rhythm game), but I still hadn’t seen season one. Until now.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about Japan’s idol industry, and AKB0048 First Stage [Satelight, 2012] is kind of the perfect review of everything I find enchanting about the system and everything I find terrifying and troubling about it. Like many anime shows that heavily feature music, I seriously believe in the unitive and uplifting abilities of music and, perhaps even more than just music itself, performance. Having been a part of a show choir for three years in high school and one year in college, the similarities between idol performances and show choir performances have always struck me. (Don’t know what show choir is? Here’s a video of a nationally renowned high school show choir from California.)
So, the trouble comes when I have to compare the affection for the past and resonance with my own experience generated by these shows to the dark side of the industry such shows sometimes tackle, but often gloss over. But before that, have some tunes!
Gundam Build Fighters [Sunrise, 2013], as a glorified toy commercial, stands at the fascinating intersection between art and commercialism. As most involved in the anime fandom know, these foreign cartoons are almost always little more than an advertisement for their source material, and Gundam Build Fighters has the slightly more unique distinction among them by being an ad for model robots rather than an narrative product.
This in mind, it is all the more marvelous that Gundam Build Fighters is simultaneously a triumph of creative narrative entertainment and intelligent advertising—but more than that, it’s a beautiful affirmation of the importance of fun, play, and sheer joy. How incredibly ironic that such a blatantly commercial enterprise should leave us with the final message that to sacrifice the love of something in the pursuit of material success is the worst kind of destruction that can be inflicted on our souls.
The spring has passed
And the summer come again
For the silk-white robes
So they say, are spread to dry
On the Mount of Heaven’s perfume
~attributed to Empress Jitō