Love Live! Sunshine!!

March 10, 2017

Eh? Do we need another Love Live series? I thought it was all over. Apparently this isn’t exactly a continuation or a reboot. More like a spinoff. Yes, another new group in focus. At first I thought Love Live! Sunshine!! would be about the younger sisters of the original Muse forming their own group and living up to their predecessor’s legacy. This is not the case. A bunch of new faces and a new school in a different prefecture means everything would be new although we all know the concept and setting would follow a familiar pattern. The forming of a new school idol unit, their trials and tribulations as they try to achieve the ultimate Holy Grail of the idol industry. What else can you expect from this genre? Oh, right. No space ass kicking idols to save the universe here for sure.

Episode 1
Chika Takami is a second year at Uranohoshi Girls’ High School. Along with her friend, You Watanabe they are trying to recruit members for their idol club. No takers. Oddly, Chika has never been interested in clubs and stuffs before but she’s getting into it thinking that school idols are all the rage now. They continue giving out fillers and stumble upon several ‘potentials’. Hanamaru Kunikida and Ruby Kurosawa seem suspicious first. Then there is Yoshiko Tsushima dropping down from a tree and acting all chuunibyou. Ruby seems to know her but Yoshiko seems to be pretending that she doesn’t. And the trio start chasing each other, forgetting all about the idol club. Chika is picked up by the student council president, Dia Kurosawa. She is chastising her for not even applying to create the club. Yup, the club officially doesn’t exist. Besides, there is a minimum of 5 members needed to form a club and Chika is the only one on it. To pour more salt on injury, Dia is adamant she will not have any idol clubs in her school! You thinks Dia is from a traditional fishing family so anything that seems silly will not get her approval. While Chika is trying to figure out ways to get new members, she sees a girl at the pier and thinks she is trying to commit suicide. She tries to stop Riko Sakurauchi from diving in but they both fall into the sea. Later as revealed, she was only diving. The reason being, she is trying to compose a song for a piano and needs to hear the sound of the sea to get inspiration. Despite she is from Tokyo, she doesn’t know what a school idol is. Too dedicated to piano to know anything else. Chika explains about them but doesn’t consider herself as part of them and just your average Jane. Then when she saw Muse performing, she became inspired. That dazzling brightness became her dream. Riko feels Chika’s words cheered her up. As they officially introduce themselves, Riko says she is from Otonokizaka Academy, the school were Muse is from. Chika gets more motivation when You decides to join her club. However Chika and Dia are still head butting each other. Dia tries to discourage them about an original song they need to write for entering Love Live. Because this school has no one gifted in music let alone someone who can compose a song. Then it is like a miracle dropping before Chika because Riko becomes a new transfer student in her class. The first thing she asks is to join her as a school idol. Sorry, she can’t. Dream dashed so quickly…

Episode 2
Chika continuously bugs Riko to join because she is the only one who can write songs. Still no. You on the other hand has designed some drafts for costumes. I think she needs to come up with something cuter than military and police outfits. Again when Chika bugs Dia and tries to give inspiration about Muse, the president snaps for her mispronouncing their name! She then quizzes Chika about Muse’s trivia but she doesn’t know a thing. Well, Dia seems to know awfully a lot. Is she a Muse fan? Unknown to Dia, her trivia interrogation was accidentally broadcasted throughout the entire school. Later Chika tries to lure Ruby with candy. They talk about Dia who is Ruby’s elder sister who is quite against any school idols so they aren’t confident if Chika’s club will get the green light at all. Also Yoshiko has been absent since the first day of school. Chika then sees Riko by the shore again. Still trying to find inspiration for her composition but no luck. Although Chika gives her motivation, Riko still declines thinking this is part of her ruse to get her to join her idol club. Chika accepts her rejection for now. Then she goes diving with her just to try out. As you know, miracles happen when this kind of scene pops up so Riko is able to hear what she wants for her composition. Although Riko agrees to write songs for them, this doesn’t mean she has joined their club. But to start writing one, she needs lyrics. What are lyrics? You mean Chika doesn’t even know what lyrics are? Chika invites Riko to her home-cum-inn to help think up of lyrics. Meet the weird sisters, Shima and Mito and their pet dog that Riko seems to fear? Brainstorming on what to write, since Chika loves school idols, she can write tons of lines on that. Back home, Riko tries to compose her song on her piano but it seems she has some trauma. Eventually when she gets going, Chika is impressed with her composition. Guess what? They live next to each other! Didn’t Riko realize this when she comes home? Anyway Riko still has some fears so Chika allays them by reaching out. I guess it means everything is okay when their hands touch.

Episode 3
The trio are practising their dance moves. Still need more practising. They are interrupted when a helicopter flies low. Riding it is Mari Ohara and Uranohoshi’s new chairwoman aside from being a third year student too. Well, her family is a major patron of the school. Dia is not happy because she vanished a few years ago without saying anything and now she is suddenly back. Mari gives hope to Chika’s idol group. If they can fill in the gym for their first performance, she’ll approve the club and get school funding. Otherwise, they’ll just have to disband. However when they calculate, the entire school isn’t enough to fill the hall. This means they have to get audiences from outside. So Chika begs to Mito for her company of 200 employees to come but looks like it didn’t fly. They go to town to distribute flyers. While You is a natural, Chika sounds threatening. Is that a way to ask people to come to your concert? Shy Riko? What good is talking to a poster will do? Ruby and Hanamaru are there too. But they ask a more pressing issue: What is their group name? And so our trio have to think about a group name quick. Let’s say each come up with their own lame names. They can write all over the beach the potential ones but eventually they stumble upon Aqours. Feels good. Something related to water. Okay, so Aqours it will be. They don’t even know who wrote this. After that it is more flyer distribution. On the night of their performance, the trio are nervous. When the curtains rise, well, only a handful of them. You can count them all who attended. They carry on their performance but halfway the electricity is cut off due to the bad storm. They try to carry on without the music but it is so heart-breaking that Chika is close to tears. And then suddenly here comes Mito bringing her entire colleagues! Wow. Suddenly the hall is filled. Traffic jam all over the place? Well what do you know? Mito scolds Chika for putting the wrong date on the flyer. More miracles because Dia turns on the generators for backup power. The trio continue their performance to a standing ovation. Oh wait. Everybody is standing in the first place. At the end, Dia confronts them that their success is only due to past efforts of other school idols and the kindness of these people. Chika agrees but had they not done anything, nothing would have happened.

Episode 4
Mari gives the green light for the idol club to be approved. This means they have their own clubroom. Uhm, very messy. Clean up time. However they’re still short of members. Ruby reports to Hanamaru that the idol club is approved and is very happy about it. This has Ruby remember she used to act out performances of Muse with Dia. They love idols so much but one day after Dia entered high school, she started hating them and doesn’t want anything to do with it. So if big sister doesn’t like it, Ruby is not allowed to like them too. WTF?! Mari sees her friend, Kanan Matsuura and wants her to join the idol club once she returns to school. It is the reason she came back. However Kanan is not pleased. Hanamaru suggests to Ruby they try out the idol club. Of course Chika is happy but she must remember that if they don’t like it, they won’t join. They hope they can keep this a secret from Dia too. The first order is to train. But there is no decent place for them so it is suggested the rooftop. Like how Muse did it. For stamina training, they run up the mountain. Hanamaru lacks stamina and although considerate Ruby wants to wait for her, she tells her to forge ahead and not be someone she doesn’t want. Otherwise she’ll suffer. After Ruby goes ahead, it seems this is part of Hanamaru’s plan as she is scheduled to meet Dia nearby. She tells her to listen to Ruby. That’s it? Oh, here Ruby and co comes. Dia wants an explanation so Ruby explains the truth. Ruby officially joins Aqours. But what about Hanamaru? She thinks her role is over and returns to the library where she belongs. She loves books. Of course Ruby can’t have her ending like that so she is going to force her to join. Forgive me, I reworded it harshly. Ruby has been observing Hanamaru too and knows she was pushing herself for her sake. She noticed she was happy while practising too and that she loves them as much as her. Let’s be idols together. Hanamaru doesn’t think she doesn’t have what it takes to be an idol. But Chika tells her it is not the question of can or cannot. It is whether you want or not. And so there were five. When they key in their group name to check out rankings on Love Live, they rank 4999. Not bad, right?

Episode 5
Yoshiko believes she is a fallen angel and even records a video of herself doing all those chuunibyou stuffs. But it’s like her other rational personality told her to stop it since she’ll be a high school girl and it will be embarrassing. Unfortunately bad habits are hard to die out so when she first introduced herself in class the first day like that, it’s the reason she never showed up anymore. Aqours move up in their ranking by a few hundred ranks. Not bad. Hanamaru has never seen a computer before since her family runs an old temple. You bet she is a noob when it comes to all technologies. So when she accidentally shuts down the computer… Hope they saved their work. Hanamaru spots Yoshiko spying on them and calls them out. She is afraid her classmates think she is weird but after being assured they won’t remember a thing, she is confident to start anew. Yoshiko portrays herself as the graceful cool beauty. She becomes popular as her classmates would love to know her better. That’s when it goes downhill because Yoshiko starts doing her chuunibyou when they wanted her to do her fortune telling. Oops… She feels disgraced but Chika finds it cute. Thinking this is what they need to improve their rankings further, she asks her to join their school idol club. Everyone tries out the gothic outfit at Chika’s place. But her dog keeps harassing Riko so she literally jumps back home!!! She can become a long jumper if this falls through. A video of a cheesy fallen angel of them is filmed. Embarrassing, right? But it increased their rank just below the thousand mark!!! OMG! Amazing???!!! However when Dia sees this, she blows her top at this utmost embarrassment. She warns them the popularity is only temporary because right now they have dropped back down to behind 1500 as other groups also do their best to stand out. Yoshiko thinks it is the end of her fallen angel days and can live a normal high school life. After she leaves the group, the rest discuss why she was so obsessed being a fallen angel. She was just normal like them and never stood out. Then they realize they want her and chase her all across town just to ask her to join Aqours. She can continue being a fallen angel. It is who she is. It is what she loves. They accept her for all the nonsense. Chika realizes being a school idol isn’t about what people thought or how to get popular. It is doing what you love most that makes you shine the most. And with that, Yoshiko’s in.

Episode 6
Dia learns from Mari that Uranohoshi will close down and merge with Numazu. Of course Mari is trying to delay that from happening, thus her return as chairwoman. But if next year’s enrolment numbers go down, the inevitable will happen. An excuse to use idols to revive the school? Well, Dia is not going to fall for this. So Aqours also learn about this but Chika is ecstatic because they are going to follow the same route as Muse and Otonokizaka. Does she really think this path will also lead Aqours to glory? Well, no harm dreaming. Thus she comes up with an idea of doing a PV. Unfortunately they are all over the place and have no idea on what to report on what is good in their town. Mari also tells Kanan about Uranohoshi’s fate. She can keep it alive but needs her help to come back to school. Kanan is not amused she ‘broke’ into her house just to tell this but Mari reminds her she is her stalker. When Aqours show their PV, if Mari thinks it is trash, I guess it says everything. They might have put in a lot of effort but the result is still crap doesn’t make it any better. Later Chika sees Dia performing alone in the hall. She is amazed at her skills and wants her to join Aqours to help keep it open. But Dia refuses and will fight this her own way. Mari is here to harass remind her about nothing will change if she keeps running away. Dia responds she never ran away. Not now. Not then. When the school is doing community service picking up litter on the each, Chika gets an idea for their PV. They do a music video and mix it in with this communal work.

Episode 7
Aqours now ranks 99th! Not bad! The top 100 qualify for Love Live. Phew, right? Then they get mail for them to attend the Tokyo School Idol World Committee. They’re going to Tokyo! Ruby seeks ‘permission’ from Dia but is told she has already decided on what to do so what others say don’t matter. Then Dia confronts Mari about the idols going to Tokyo. Mari tells her Dia could have stopped them if she wanted although Dia is more concerned if they should fail. If the worse may come to worst, then there’s no avoiding it. So here Aqours is at Tokyo. A bunch of country bumpkin at awe with the tall buildings, the city life, getting lost, getting lost in shopping, etc. Then they run up the legendary stairs that Muse used to run up. Legendary like Rocky Steps? At the shrine on top, they hear the beautiful voice of 2 girls singing. The duo know all about Aqours and seen their videos. They know why they are here and are looking forward to it. From the way they sound, they’re like their rivals, right? And why do they have to look ‘evil’? To show Aqours what kind of bar is raised, one of them does an acrobatic somersault! Later Chika wants to visit Otonokizaka but Riko seems against it. Riko explains she doesn’t hate her ex-school. It’s just that each time she thinks of it, it’s like there are expectations to be met and all she did there was practice and in the end she failed. Chika on the other hand wonders what it’s like to have expectations. When people came to see them off, she felt happy and scared. It’s like she had to meet their expectations and cannot fail. Aqours are at the Dome where they will perform and the audience will vote to rank them. It seems Aqours will be one of teams to start first. Second, in fact. At the backstage, Ruby is still nervous and Yoshiko is still spouting her chuunibyou crap. Then they encounter those girls at the shrine again. You didn’t think they were idol rivals? They are Saint Snow.

Episode 8
Saint Snow goes first and we see their outstanding dance to the rock and hip hop mix. After that it’s Aqours. Well, we didn’t get to see their performance (to say that this isn’t their best?) but we see the girls a bit down and Chika forcing herself to stay cheerful and positive. When they are handed the results, they look for their name of course. Saint Snow ranks 9th. Hmm… Aqours not on the first page. Maybe the second page… Aha! Number 30th. Not bad, right? Well, there are only 30 teams participant. Damn. So how many people voted for them? Zero!!! OMFG! Ironically Saint Snow praises them for their performance. And then a reality check. Because they warn to give up trying to become like Muse. Love Live is not some game. You can’t brush that off easily when they say that with tears in their eyes. On the way home, Chika continues to remain positive and thinks they have done their best. Back home, their fans greet them. But when Dia comes to get them, Ruby lets loose her tears. Time for a little advice. Dia sees nothing wrong in their performance and they have certainly done their best. However there are 7,236 teams participating in this year’s Love Live. More than 10 times last year. The level of competition has risen sharply. Dia also reveals why her side cannot sing. Back then, she and Kanan pestered Mari into joining their idol unit in hopes of saving the school from consolidation. Mari was against it but eventually gave in. But after witnessing how awesome other groups are, it was their turn on stage and they froze. They cannot sing a note. That’s why Dia was against them forming an idol group fearing this might happen. And it did. Mari once more tries to convince Kanan but she continues to give the cold shoulder. Mari now breaks down in tears, wishing to take back those days of them together. Crocodile or not, Kanan is not moved. That night, Chika has a lot to think. Especially when You asked if they should disband. Next morning, Riko is shocked thinking Chika tried to drown herself! She was just thinking with the help of the sound of the sea. She has decided to continue being a school idol. Then she breaks down thinking how frustrating everything was despite trying so hard. Riko hugs her and is glad she is now honest with her feelings. Chika didn’t want to cry so as not to affect their morale. Riko assures they didn’t become school idols for her sake. They did it for themselves. Aqours renew their motivation and set their sights to improve.

Episode 9
Mari turned down studying abroad so she could continue being a school idol. However Kanan for the umpteenth time told her she is quitting. Even Dia agreed with her. Majority won. Aqours try to find out more about their seniors since they heard rumours from Dia that Kanan couldn’t sing that led to this mess. So in order to know more about what Dia said, everyone targets Ruby! The pressure! Too bad she didn’t hear much. They decide to tail Kanan. Hope they saved up their stamina because that girl can run without breaks! Then at the shrine, they see Mari stalking her again to come back and stop running away. Kanan is still stubborn and this time she gets serious. She doesn’t want to see her face again. Next day, Kanan surprises the school when she returns. Mari continues her harassment by giving her the idol uniform. She throws it away. If that is not enough, the drama grows with Mari clinging onto her like a leech. She’s never letting go! Dia can’t do anything as everybody is watching. Ironically it is Chika who tells them to stop this crap and come to the room to explain everything. Wow. Chika is so commanding! Even so, Kanan’s lips are sealed. She remains stubborn saying she couldn’t sing. That’s it. After she leaves, the rest are even more curious to know more. Now they turn to Dia. Get her! The big revelation as she reveals it wasn’t Kanan couldn’t sing. She chose not to sing. On that day, Mari injured herself. Despite Mari insists she could continue, could you imagine had they go on? It would have ended with something worse than an injury. Mari is not pleased her feelings were never sought. She turned down offers from other schools and had even everything all setup for their next idol stint. Dia adds that Kanan was always looking out and worried for her. She was worried they would rob her future and chance to achieve her full potential. Time for Mari to find that girl and slap her. Some past flashbacks as kids how they met and become friends. So time for them to settle it once and for all. Mari starts off that she too was thinking about her. Then the inevitable slap to release her frustrations. Because it was her own fault too for not being honest then, she allows Kanan to slap her. But Kanan signals a hug. Something they did as friends. Time to let out a big emotional hug. And now it is official. The trio join and complete Aqours. At the end of the practice, Kanan reveals their group was also named Aqours. Coincidence? Guess who gave this idea to the juniors? That writing on the beach. Dia has taken them for a ride too. You cheeky devil…

Episode 10
Summer vacation is here but Dia becomes the self-appointed manager to come up with training schedules for Aqours. She’s really into this. But with the neighbourhood association tasking them to work at the seaside café, there is no time for training. It is suggested that they work all day, using morning and evenings for training. Who says being an idol is easy? Chika suggests staying at her place and treat this like a training camp since they will save time on travelling. So after a little fun in the sea, it’s time to work on the seaside café. Dia again appoints herself as the manager as she delegates jobs to make their café more popular than their neighbour’s (which is raking in lots of customers). I guess they were decent but not popular enough to sell out their food and thus they have to finish them for dinner. Yeah, they have Mari’s expensive high quality seafood mix or Yoshiko’s whatever black balls… Tears of the fallen? Yeah, you’ll cry after eating that because it is spicy! The real drama begins when Chika overheard Riko’s family talking about Riko’s upcoming piano competition invitation. They are unsure because Riko has not replied. Chika discovers that the competition is on the same day as Love Live preliminaries. When Chika talks to her, Riko has already set her mind on Love Live. School idols have become a big part of her life now and is more important to her. Why do I have a feeling Chika is going to have the same déjà vu dilemma like Mari did? More Aqours training, working and improvising their cooking. Dia wants to give a history lesson on A-Rise but with Mito giving that stare, Chika quickly calls it a night because she doesn’t want the unthinkable to happen. This is what she actually said, “If we don’t cut the noise right now, the god of this inn is gonna pull my soul right out of my butt!”. Oh sh*t! Back to Chika-Riko drama. Chika has Riko play a piano piece of her least likable song. Chika likes that song. Read: She wants Riko to take part in the piano competition. It’s not like she is asking her to quite Aqours. She thought it would be great if she could go back and play piano again. Remember, playing the piano was important to her. Go on, Chika and the rest aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be waiting for her right here. The green light for permission to pursue her dream and an emotional hug. See? You can have best of both worlds.

Episode 11
Everyone sees off Riko at the train station. After that it is back to more idol training. They are impressed with Saint Snow doing well in their preliminaries but they have to worry about their own. So for idol training they have to clean the pool? I guess it builds up stamina and patience. When it’s time to practice, they realize they can’t start because Riko is missing for the opening gig. Suggesting someone takes her place, somehow everybody is looking at You. Unfortunately You continues to make mistakes all the time. This has You worrying. A much needed call from Riko to Chika as she passes on to everyone to speak to her. When it is You’s turn, her handphone battery is going to go kaput. Why does this always happen? With You obviously looking down, Mari talks to her and after a few cheeky face pinches, she advises her to just say her feelings and thoughts and not make the same mistake like she did. You had a chance to talk to Chika but didn’t have the guts. At home she is thinking of the various scenarios she can tell Chika but they are all dramatically lame. Then the much needed call from Riko to assure her that Chika is really happy to be with her and do her best for her sake. Scenes like these always make the character want to tear up, right? Get ready for more as You is already at tipping point when here comes Chika requesting to practice again with her. This time she thinks You should be dancing in her own way. You breaking down in 3, 2, 1… Let it flow, those tears. Then there is a narration why Chika wanted to become a school idol and nothing else. She didn’t want to shine all by herself and wants others to shine with her so as to spread the light that bring everyone listening to their music together. That way, everything will shine even brighter. Technically speaking. So we get to see Aqours performing as well as Riko in her piano recital at the same time. You can tell they pull off an amazing feat with the crowd applauding. Hey. Is Aqours doing the sign of Black Power? Fist in the air?!

Episode 12
Are you ready to find out if Aqours will advance to the next round? Let’s see… Who the f*ck is Izu Express?! Then they realize the list is by entry number. Oh look, Aqours is on the list! Hooray! They pass! Yes, oh my god indeed, Mari. Even better news is that their PV online is getting more views. But here is the thing that will bring them back to earth: Applicants for Uranohoshi this year is still zero! Oh God. It’s that dreaded number. So with lots of soul searching and thinking, Chika suggests they go back to Tokyo again to see what Muse has that they don’t. Back at the shrine top again, guess who is there again? Saint Snow. They talk and learn Saint Snow is following the footsteps of A-Rise. History repeating itself in a way? I guess Chika asked a stupid question so they have to tell her what else everybody enters Love Live for? To win, of course silly! Aqours then visit Otonokizaka and be awed by its magnificence. When a student of Otonokizaka (Hanayo?) learns they are trying to learn more about Muse, she tells them there is nothing left about them here. They didn’t want to leave anything behind and don’t need those things because their hearts will always be connected. Aqours pay their respect to the school. When they return, Chika has realized why Muse are so amazing. She believes Aqours shouldn’t be like them or chase after them. The amazing about Muse was how they went with nothing and make everyone’s dreams come true. Aqours should be doing things they want their own way. You suggests a hand signal for their group. It looks like an ‘L’ but from another point of view, I thought they look like a gun… Aqours jump with joy with that hand signal and their moto is from zero to one.

Episode 13
We see Aqours training in the summer as well as some of their usual antics. Oh, the number for their school’s open house is still zero. A few of their friends have noticed them practising hard so they talk about their love for their school. At first they thought that there was nothing they can do but after seeing Aqours trying their best, they too want to help out in any way they can. This has Chika thinking that despite hearing everybody saying they love this school and town, why does the number still stand at zero? No, it’s not that everyone is lying. It’s just that the message isn’t getting across. She believes Love Live is not an afterthought. Chika’s mom even returns to lend her support. Oh God. She is a typical anime mom because she looks smaller and younger than Chika! Enough to be her little sister! Aqours is motivated when the entire school wants in to help them out. Wait a minute. Do they not seriously think they can all just go up and perform on stage?! Riko had to break it to them about the rules that only registered members can go up there. Yeah, imagine if they bring the entire country… So we see Aqours having their backstage motivation before heading out to the stage for their regional competition. They start off differently because they are narrating their school’s dire straits and the formation of Aqours. Basically a dramatic summary of what has happened so far. Audiences must be confused if they are watching a play or a concert. Yeah, it lasted over 5 minutes before they get to the real singing and dancing.

Living On Love And Sunshine
Well folks, it looks like if there is a need for it, there is a chance that another sequel for Aqours would be possible. After all, they are going to become better than Muse, right? So what better way to follow in their footsteps and have another, if not more sequels. Because Aqours need to advance and win for our sakes, right? But that is for another time. As far as this spin-off sequel is concerned, personally I am not an idol fan so overall it looks and sounds the same to me. Just repackaging it in a slightly different way and mostly visually. Because it feels like an excuse to distract us that Aqours wants to follow in Muse’s footsteps and thus hiding the fact that we are watching the same plot and journey again but with a different name. Uh huh. Notice how their idol unit is set up just to save the school? How about recruiting members for the group? What about failing and falling back up? A rival to rival them and most important of all, doing their best to win the coveted Love Live title. So similar, right? Might as well rewatch the first 2 seasons of Love Live then.

As I would have guessed and told them from the start when Chika really wanted to become and follow in the footsteps of Muse, Aqours shouldn’t be striving to become like the best school idol group in history ever (for now) because Muse and Aqours are both very different to the core although on the surface they might look the same. Even if this entire storyline feels like going through déjà vu but in a different visual presentation, they are still very much different. Muse is Muse. Aqours is Aqours. They can use Muse as motivation but all Aqours needs to do is to become the best in their own way and pace. Because in that way if they ever become popular, people won’t compare them and say that they are only so because of Muse. That is like they’ve been riding Muse’s wave and will forever be in their shadows.

Well, I certainly have this weird feeling of seeing it all before but yet this season feels different. I mean, if it was completely the same, might as well take out my DVDs of the previous 2 seasons of Love Live and start rewatching them. You can tell the familiar pattern of how the girls are trying to form a new idol group and being the underdog themselves, it isn’t a bed of roses as they will face some sort of obstacle in their bid to win the coveted title. Which of course they’re still a long way to go the way this season plays everything out. Even the ‘completion’ of all the members joining and making Aqours as a whole feels like history repeating itself like Muse since Aqours got all its 9 members after 3/4 of the series. It is around that time that Muse too got completed like that albeit slightly earlier. So do you not think that Aqours is just Muse reborn in a different town?

Making this rebirth of Muse seeing more obvious are the characters themselves. Not only the fact that they have the same number of members, but somehow you could just feel that they are mostly the same characters. Just that they swap hairstyle, hair colour and personalities. And voila! You get a new set of characters for a new group. For example in the looks department, do you not think that Kanan looks suspiciously close to Nozomi? Just take away the boobs. Heh… Then there is the blonde halfie who wields a powerful position in school. Mari is half Italian and the chairwoman while Eri is half Russian and is the student council president. Then there is the joker type who was Niko and her Niko-niko smile, now we have Yoshiko and her fallen angel and chuunibyou crap. Shy girls are still around. If Muse had Hanayo, Aqours has Ruby. Next one is somewhat a bit different but I can think it is to fill in the ‘less feminine’ personality since Rin is a tomboy and they replaced that with Hanamaru the country bumpkin. In terms of roles, it is obvious that Chika is this season’s Honoka as the group’s leader and Riko is the Maki for Aqours since she is the one who only writes songs and plays the piano. Not forgetting the group’s outfit designer are Kotori and You. So do you see how they just swapped everything around and make it sound as though everything is fresh and new?

In view of this, there is not much for me to comment on the girls of Aqours since like I have said, they feel familiar but yet different. But if I want to point out my ‘favourite’ one, it would be Yoshiko because she is a funny girl. Yes, she has a screw loose in her head but she’s funny shamelessly doing her chuunibyou in the middle of public. That’s Yoshiko being Yoshiko (or is it Yohane?). Just like my ‘favourite’ one for Muse was Niko. Because she’s funny. What? You don’t think liking a person because she is funny is not a valid reason? But it seems ever since Aqours became a whole, Yoshiko as the funniest character seems to be taken over by Dia. Uh huh. I believe she is the one that had undergone the most ‘drastic’ change in character among the Aqours members. At first she was very prideful to the point that you’ll be convinced she is just a strict b*tch. But after the issue with her friends are resolved, her funny side shows up and it’s like she can usurp Yoshiko as the comic relief character. Seriously. Then there is Mari too who acts like some sort of stalker to Kanan before and after. Do best friends stalk each other like that? I’m not sure if this is a running joke because Riko is shown to be afraid of Chika’s dog. This phobia seems to be more comical than the phobia of some of Muse’s members. Because Eri was afraid of the dark and Umi was afraid of public performances. So each time she is at her house, it’s like there is this ‘showdown’ between them if it is going to happen or not. When it does, all hell breaks loose as Riko will be running for her life from this canine demon.

Saint Snow is looking to be the destined rival for Aqours although their appearance is just very minimal. It is easy to fall for the trap of trying to compare Saint Snow to their A-Rise counterpart but I believe that on the outside their roles may look like they are similar, we do not have enough information to conclude much about them. Yet. Unless you’re an ardent fan and know everything there is to know about this series. I’m not. Sorry. Is it me or do idol units need to have so many members or just minimal? I thought there would be more members in Saint Snow but it seems there are only 2 of them. Heck, even A-Rise had 3. Yeah, I know. It’s not about the numbers but the quality of their performance. Well, this dismisses my hope to see any one on one showdowns between the rival groups. What the heck am I hoping for?!

Seeing that this is an idol theme series, music plays an important ingredient. Unfortunately I’m not really into this genre so I’m just watching for the sake of ‘nostalgia’ since I have watched the previous Love Live seasons. There are lots of insert songs but none of them really makes my heart jump like the one Muse did, Start:Dash! In fact, that is the only song that I like a lot in the entire Love Live series. Nothing after that comes close to this. So the ending theme, Yume Kataru Yori Yume Utaou sounds decent and lively. It is perhaps the better song for this season if I am forced to pick which is the best song I like. Of course this song has many versions as they are sung by the different mini units of Aqours in addition to the one that is sung as an entire group. The opening theme is Aozora Jumping Heart. Typical idol song but not anything to my liking.

The casts behind Aqours are also a relatively bunch of new seiyuus making their debut or only have minor cameo appearances as background characters in other animes. So we have Anju Inami as Chika, Shuka Saitou as You, Rikako Aida as Riko, Aika Kobayashi as Yoshiko, Kanako Takatsuki as Hanamaru, Ai Furihata as Ruby, Arisa Komiya as Dia and Nanaka Suwa as Kanan. Only Aina Suzuki as Mari has ‘more’ roles than the rest like Shiori in Joukamachi No Dandelion, Kondo in Sansha Sanyou and Tokiko in Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Girls. It is rare to here Kana Asumi these days so it was quite surprising to hear her here as Shima. Kanae Itou also plays a part here as Mito but I didn’t recognize her. Apparently I found out much later that Nana Mizuki and Rie Kugimiya also made their cameos as Riko’s mom and Chika’s mom respectively. Their dialogues are so minimal that I didn’t really get to hear them properly at all. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention…

The art and drawing remain bright and colourful, consistent with the previous seasons of Love Live. After all, they were produced by the veteran studio, Sunrise. So don’t expect to see any big changes in the artwork department because you’ll still have your happy-happy idol girls smiling all the way. Also, they use CGI when the girls are dancing on stage. Although not perfect and you can easily tell this is more 3D animation instead of 2D, at least the difference is not so obvious that it makes watching them perform unbearable. Yeah, at least not robotic. After all, you have to put in some effort if you want people to believe in and be attracted by idols in the thing they do best. You don’t want to fail in this all important visual area, right?

Overall, if you are still into the idol genre, this one should appeal to you. Even more so if you are a fan of the original Love Live and you’re still not over their ‘breaking up’ or ‘end’ and need something new to revitalize your love for the group and brand. Okay, I made that up but if you really enjoying cute and kawaii girls jumping up and down with perfect choreography and synchronicity donning cute and kawaii idol outfits, this series is just like any other idol genre you would expect. Well, I’m not really sure if all-girl group idols are on the decline because recently I noticed there are more reverse harem music genre series coming out recently. From B-Project to Tsukiuta to Magic-Kyun! Renaissance to Dream Festival and don’t forget the Uta No Prince-sama that already has 4 seasons. I don’t want to start a gender idol war or which side does it better but as long as their music can captivate the heart, I’m all for it. Let’s hope Aqours will make their dreams come true before the popularity of idols dies out. You know how fast the rise and fall of idols, right? Out you go if you can’t keep up with the pace. At this rate there will be as much idols there is in Japan as there are stars in the sky. I know there’s a pun somewhere I can make and connect with this… And the chances aren’t zero…

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