Love Live! Sunshine!! S2

April 21, 2018

Seeing that the ultimate goal of saving their school wasn’t accomplished yet, that is why we need to have another season of Love Live! Sunshine!! S2. Another reason for us to keep up with one of our favourite anime idol groups and for hardcore fans to get hyped and salivate over their favourite girls prancing and dancing on stage. Can Aqours do it this time? They better. Or else we would need to have another season…

Episode 1
It is the new school term and Chika is already running late. Meanwhile Mari addresses her fellow students that Aqours failed to make it to the nationals but thanks to everyone’s effort, they manage to keep the school open. However there is more good news as there is another Love Live competition announced. But their goal now is to find a way to increase the enrolment numbers of Uranohoshi before finding their own way to shine. As they go about their daily lives, Kanan notices Mari acting stranger than her usual strange. It is revealed that Mari’s father has decided to cancel the open house that is supposed to be the draw to attract more students to enrol at Uranohoshi. This means Uranohoshi will not be taking applicants for the next year. Mari tried persuading him but he will not budge. Guess what? Chika wants to go talk to him personally now?! He is in America… Naturally with nothing more they can do, they can only imagine in gloom doom fashion had they won Love Live then. So we see Chika doing her usual bumming-cum-pondering until she gets her baseless confidence back to create a miracle. Guess what? The other Aqours members too have the same idea. They’re not giving up yet. They’re going to shine together.

Episode 2
Mari once more tries to convince her father. Even though his stance remained unchanged, unless they can bring in 100 new students, he might budge. So far they only have 10. Well, doesn’t look far, right? Only 90 more to go… Discussing about the new Love Live preliminaries, a rule is that a new song must be sung. So they’re racking their brains to come up with 2 new songs. One for Love Live and the other for the open house. Instead of putting pressure on a single person to write the songs, it is suggested they split into groups. The second years will be writing one and the seniors and juniors will be writing the other. The latter group heads for Mari’s luxurious seaside mansion and end up having fun instead of doing any work. Too tempting… Dia puts her foot down and has the venue change to hers. No fun… We see that both the juniors and seniors have very different tastes in music. So much so Chika is called to intervene because they are at odds over the kind of song they want to write! Seeing that trust is important, it is suggested they do bonding stuffs. Again we see their different tastes. The seniors are more of the outdoor type while the juniors prefer indoor activities. I guess the only true way for all Japanese people of different walks of life to bond is the bath. It certainly feels good but they hardly make any progress. As they leave, it starts raining so they take nearby shelter in a temple. Cue for jump scares… No progress still but then the roof starts leaking as they place pots, plates and pans to catch the leak. This is when it hit them. The different drops come together as one big harmony. That’s the motivation they need to come together. Coincidence or not, both sides finish their song.

Episode 3
More trouble for Aqours. Mari gets a call that the open house will be delayed a week due to the rain as the storm wreak havoc damaging the roads. Chika, it is not okay because this clashes with your Love Live preliminaries! Although held at different times, they discuss the possible travel methods after finishing one. Helicopter? Mari doesn’t want to ask her father for help since they have to do this by themselves. Luxurious liner? Whoever has this kind of cruise ship? The bus is the only possible solution but with a condition: They must go first in the preliminaries as the next bus is in 3 hours. And so all of them have to decide who should take the draw for the preliminaries. Yoshiko wants to do it but others view she has more bad luck than any other. Eventually she ‘defeats’ Dia in a rock-scissors-paper game. Behold her amazing luck! Aqours will perform as number… 24! That’s right in the middle! Hence the girls are now divided to just perform in either one. Of course nobody wants that as they want both. Can a miracle happen? Apparently Chika hits upon a great idea. Tangerines? After Aqours perform in their stylish kimono clad outfit at the preliminaries, all of them start making a dash across the mountain! OMG! Are they going to run all the way?! Not exactly. It seems in the mountains, Chika’s classmate runs a tangerine farm. They can ride some rail machine that is used to pick tangerines. I don’t know if Aqours riding it feels like overcrowding. What the heck? A turtle is faster than this machine! Then Kanan breaks a handle. It now becomes a roller coaster ride. Then they make the rest of their way by foot and manage to awe everyone at the open house. Wow. They really have so much energy after all that running. They can even perform like normal with all the energetic moves and smile. Truly idols. Truly a miracle. Truly crap…?

Episode 4
Everyone except Chika is nervous about the preliminaries’ result. That’s because they did so wonderfully that there’s nothing to worry about. Good for her. And the results are in. They pass! But of course. But here comes the real problem now. They lack the funds that would take them all the way to Tokyo. Just a stinking 5 Yen left. Of course the best next course is to work part time (sorry, Mari is not lending her fortune) but Dia scoffs off that old fashion way and suggests a flea market. It seems she has an ulterior motive. Noticing everyone is closer to Kanan and Mari, Dia too is ‘jealous’ she wants to get closer to them. At the flea market, Chika gives in to cute puppy dog eyes of little girls to sell dirt cheap while Dia makes it a hard bargain and will not sell below the listed price. Yeah, they didn’t sell much anyway. With Chika noticing something is wrong with Dia, she talks to Kanan about it. So Kanan and Mari go bug what’s bugging her. Eventually she reveals it and they couldn’t stop laughing. So at this day job at the zoo, Dia tries to be nice to everyone but they think she is mad and is suspicious of her goody behaviour. Is this really Dia? To avoid more confusion, Kanan and Mari tell the rest the deal. Somehow kindergarten girls are being let loose running all over the place. The girls can’t control them. Some even weep. Even Ruby?! And then Dia takes control of the situation and in her nicest behaviour rounds up all the girls to behave. Wow. At the end of the day, Dia feels dejected she couldn’t achieve what she wanted to but Chika tells her how everyone loves Dia for being strict with them when they slack because it makes them secure. They hope she will always stay that way. Don’t come complaining when she starts scolding the next round…

Episode 5
Riko still has fears of dogs. Especially Chika’s pet, Shiitake. One day, after Yoshiko’s mom visits Yoshiko’s mom, she left her handphone behind. She wants Riko to go return it to her but along the way Riko stumbles into Yoshiko feeding a stray dog. Yoshiko has it chase Riko around! Riko knew this was coming but Yoshiko wants her to temporarily keep this dog as her place doesn’t allow apartments. It seems the other girls will have their reasons too. So her logic is to keep it safe in one’s place who has phobia of dogs? Riko is forced to accept seeing Yoshiko has the dog chase her again. It gets a little awkward for Riko trying to feed it in her room but gets used to it. Then when Yoshiko comes by to claim it, Riko now wants it to stay?! She won’t give it back?! They end up arguing about it including the different name they have given it. It is like fate intervenes because Riko’s mom shows a poster of a missing dog. The dog is rightfully returned and the duo are depressed ever since. Heck, they are in perfect sync depressed. Yoshiko doesn’t accept this outcome and comes up with a conspiracy theory that the owner is fake! She is going to get the dog back! Riko tags along as she feels responsible for it somehow. Outside the owner’s doorstep, the moment the owner pops up, they run and hide. You mean they are going to wait there as long as it takes until the dog appears? We hear Yoshiko and her views as a fallen angel, destiny and unseen power. She might act like chuunibyou but she is also pretty perceptive of reality. She knows all those aren’t real but also accepts them. When the dog finally appears, it looks like it doesn’t remember them as it goes back in the house. I guess that ended it. I guess that’s destiny for them. Riko looks like she has overcome her dog phobia and is able to touch Shiitake. Talk about unseen power and dreams that are more than just coincidences. I don’t know. At least she learnt something from Yoshiko.

Episode 6
Time is running out. They don’t have many applicants and only a month left till the deadline. With the looming preliminaries of Love Live, there are websites trying to predict who would make it. Yeah, Aqours name is surely there. This time the polls will decide who advance to the finals. While it may do away with the anxiety of waiting for results, however this means the number of supporters you have determine your fate. How many students are enrolled at Uranohoshi again? Huge disadvantage. Because of that, Mari and Dia are bugging Kanan to resort using their last chance which is some dance choreography she came up. Kanan still has her doubts since Mari injured herself the last time. She throws away her notebook into the see but Mari jumps in to save it. See her resolve? Because Chika also feels the need to shine more than other groups, Kanan’s choreography comes to mind. Another round of bugging. If they don’t use it now, when will they? Kanan is not amused but decides to put her trust in her. But if it ever becomes risky, she will stop her even if it means dropping out of Love Live. So we see Chika trying her best to practice those moves but comes up short. Of course the usual flashback and motivation why she pushed so hard like everyone else. Even her pals come to support her. Don’t cry now. Keep trying. Close, but still not close enough so Kanan had to give her a final warning if she cannot pull it off by next morning, she’ll forget about doing it. Yeah, she’s going to take the whole night then… With more support from her friends, they remind her the most important person she is doing this for. She named everyone except herself. Yup. That’s it. Because of Chika, they are where they are now. And what are the chances Chika could pull off that move? Because now we see them performing perfectly at the preliminaries.

Episode 7
The results are out. Only the top 3 make it to the finals. And who are they? Drum roll please… Let’s say Aqours not only made it but they won the most votes!!! Thank goodness this isn’t some trolling dream. It is no surprise their view count on the internet keeps rising. But the real test is here. Do they have enough enrolment? Nope. Deadline is looming. Mari calls papa and he only gives her a mere few hours of extension. That’s like 5am in the morning, right? But right after that, the enrolment slowly rises. And then stops. This is like heart attack for them. Chika is so desperate to force invite others and even do a concert now! At this dead of the night? All you can do is believe in yourself. Yeah, believe. I guess shouting to the computer screen won’t change things either. Or screaming to the rising sun. But can a miracle happen? Because 98 enrolments and a minute left to the deadline. Come on… Come on! Suddenly applications are closed. Damn it! So close! On a side note, I want to know who the f*ck enrols during the dead hours?! Unless they’re foreigners, why would any Japanese kid be looking at the site and enrolling at this point?! Unless they are having haunted dreams to enrol or else… Damn drama… Anyway, everyone is frustrated. Especially Chika. Oh, if hard work could only guarantee victory. In the wake of this ‘defeat’, an announcement is made that the school will be absorbed to Numazu. So while everyone is putting up a brave front and try to practice because they still got the finals to win, Chika had to ruin it for everyone and cry. Okay. Nobody is in the mood either. They need some time to think if they really want to participate in the finals for the seniors, it isn’t that important. Eventually everyone believes they still want to participate. Damn you Chika for ruining things again because she doesn’t care about Love Live or their own way to shine. Without the school, there is no way to shine. I guess she complained so loud that the entire school could hear and hence give their answer to support them. They want Aqours to win the finals and cement Uranohoshi’s name as part of Love Live’s history. That is one way to save it and live forever. Not bad idea, right? New motivation, new hype. Let’s get to it.

Episode 8
Aqours is invited to Hakodate in Hokkaido as a special guests to watch the region’s Love Live preliminaries. A few antics of staying warm from the cold and keeping their balance on the wet icy ground… Before the performance begins, they go visit Saint Snow at the backstage. They renew their rivalry with the sisters, Seira and Ria to meet at the finals. Funny, it felt like a jinx because Saint Snow didn’t make the cut! It seems they made a single mistake during their act. Tough luck. Understandably Saint Snow isn’t in any mood but it is affecting Aqours too? Especially Ruby? Yeah, they heard Saint Snow were fighting and made a mistake in their last tournament too. Is this the end of them? Aqours go sightseeing and then stumble into the shop where Saint Snow works and lives. Not sure why Ruby was snooping around but she caught Ria crying in her room. Oh no. Death threats if you tell it to others. Ria then announces Saint Snow is through. She is done with anything that is idol. Later Aqours ponder about Saint Snow’s fate but Ruby seems to be the hardest hit. Because you know, big sister thingy. She almost reveals about Ria’s crying and instead ran away crying herself. WTF. Dia talks to her and it seems Ruby is worried they won’t get to sing together anymore once Dia graduates. She doesn’t want to be alone. Dia tries to be realistic. The school is closing down anyway but don’t think too much about it because focusing on the finals is what is most important. Dia was very happy when Ruby told her she wanted to become a school idol as she thought and decided it on her own. Later Ruby personally goes talk to Ria. Sounds more like reinforcement of their love for their respective big sisters. Ria too is worried about showing to Seira she is independent but screwed it up and now it has become their last song. Ruby tells her not to make it so then as she takes her to sing under the beautiful lighted up Christmas tree.

Episode 9
Ruby wants to do a performance with Ria for Seira and Dia but she needs Hanamaru and Yoshiko’s help. The quartet try to brainstorm things but since more time is needed, they get ‘permission’ to stay back while the other Aqours members take their flight home. Kanan and Mari make Dia paranoid that those young ones are definitely hiding something from them. Like as they they’re going to split from Aqours and form a new unit. Herald Saint Aqours Snow! Oh my, Dia panicked and almost caused the air stewardess to think if it’s some terrorist attack or something. The trio are in Ria’s room. They notice a snowflake crystal on her shelf. Ria explains the story how it was the symbol that made them form Saint Snow. Once they are done writing their song and lyrics, not sure what audition they had to go through so they could approve their event. Nervous, but I’m sure all that love and tears are worth it. They even make their announcement via radio broadcast. Probably the slipping up is what made it memorable. Ria seems to be hiding from a couple of classmates whom she never had the courage to talk to. Apparently she thinks they are upset for losing out on Love Live preliminaries. Yeah, with those faces I can see why… But it turns out they aren’t and are supportive of her and Seira. Wow. Sudden strike of friendship. More tears flowing… Aqours are soon called back to Hakodate. Is this just an elaborate setup so the younger sisters could give their older sisters an invitation to their event? Of course big sisters won’t miss it for the world. Time for a sisterly hug. And more tears… Looks like Aqours have also prepared a surprise and hint their new outfits are prepared. So we get to see the collaborated performance of Aqours and Saint Snow. If it was a surprise, why are they so well coordinated? Okay, maybe they had some little time to practice. In the aftermath, Ria makes up with Seira. Ria won’t keep Saint Snow going and will start a new group and find a different snowflake (why does this sound so politically incorrect?). She’ll make a school idol group that everyone can love.

Episode 10
Flashback shows a young Mari, Kanan and Dia went up to some stargazing site to make a wish on the star. Too bad God wasn’t on their side as it is cloudy and it is starting to rain. Mari was on the verge of giving up till Kanan marked the star chart for reference so that they could have their wish to stay together always. It is New Year’s Day. Saint Snow is here to help Aqours in their training. I guess this is the only way they could keep their relevance. Mari gets a call to be the director at Numazu as it would help ease the transition process. She declines since she is going to an Italian university recommended by her dad. Hence the reminder, she has 3 months left with them. Oh why do you need to trigger those worries and sadness for Chika? A little soul searching as Chika has to come to terms with reality. Mari thought Kanan and Dia would be mad at her for not telling about her plans. They aren’t because they too have their own plans and didn’t tell anyone. Now they’re even. More childhood flashbacks of them being together. One that includes Mari threatening to disown her parents if she didn’t get to hang out with the duo. They must love their daughter so much. The star chart brings back memories. Yup, even it gets cloudy and rains. They start ‘blaming’ each other but eventually Mari blames God! He is trying to not make their wish come true?! If that’s the case, she will disown Him! WTF?! That night, the trio have an idea. They gather the rest of the Aqours. Mari in the driver’s seat? Don’t worry. She’s got a valid licence. Her driving’s fine. I hope. Where to in this night trip? To see the stars. I know this series has some exaggerations but this one is totally ridiculous because we see the van flying into the night sky into the stars!!! OMFG!!!! I figure they must be high on drugs to see this illusion. At the site, looks like it’s raining. Again. Their wish is to one day be together again. So they’re going to stay here till it clears up? Haha! Or else they’ll disown God! Haha! Hahaha!!! You think the sky is going to listen to you? Haha! Haha~… Oh my… God must now be an Aqours fan because he clears it up for them???!!! Freaking miracle???!!! Is God scared of being disowned by a few cute girls? Oh yeah. So scared that he showered a few shooting stars for them to make several wishes. Now wanna bet He is going to make them win Love Live?

Episode 11
Uranohoshi prepares for its closing festival. The highlights include Mari trying to cook some premium nabe and some of Aqours see a couple of strange walrus mascots running by. Tracking them down, they suddenly disappear! Oh my. Ghosts? Still want to continue investigating in this dark storeroom? Why don’t they turn on the lights? Anyway they see the bed sheet moving and the culprit revealed underneath it is Shiitake? When the walrus duo pop up for real, it scares the sh*t out of the dog as it now rampages throughout the school. Why must it break down the arch that took lots of time and effort to put up? Anyway, Dia gives them an earful despite Chika giving explanation that Mito was walking Shiitake but the leash got loose. It is discovered that Kanan and You are behind the mascots and they are supposed to put on some show for kids for the festival. However if You has been fixing the arch, who is the one behind this mascot? NOTHING! OMFG! Real ghost???!!! The festival proceeds well. Highlights include Dia putting up a Love Live quiz and Yoshiko and Hanamaru ‘forcing’ Chika to come take a fortune because no customers. The biggest surprise for everybody is a bunch of girls release an arch made completely out of balloons to thank everyone for everything. Then they release it all to the sky. What a waste. Wouldn’t this be air pollution? What will the next prefecture say when they see balloons flying over? Oh, who cares? This is their last festival and since everyone is happy, let’s turn a blind eye. The festival ends with the students having a bonfire dance. Then Mari makes her final statement as Uranohoshi’s director. Happiness. Thank you. Emotional apology. You know the drill. But with everyone chanting Aqours’ name, everyone turns into a giant choir team and sings together. Wow. Did they sing until the wood becomes charcoal?

Episode 12
I wonder why Chika still holds that previous results sheet that has Aqours in dead last place with zero voters? Anyway, Aqours are off to the shrine to pray for their victory. They are glad to see many of their friends too have written their wish for them to win. But why the sad face when they see that there are also many other fans vouching for other idol groups to win? It’s not like they’re the only group in town, right? But this must be the only shrine in town because the board is filled with only idol victory wishes. Saint Snow is also there to personally give their blessing. Seira asks Chika if she wants to win Love Live. I thought that was a silly question even if Chika asked her previously this same question. As they stay in their inn, they are obviously nervous and pressured to win Love Live to etch Uranohoshi’s name in history. You eases the tension by having a pillow fight! We see Chika going about asking some of Aqours about why they want to win. Again, I thought it’s a silly question but I guess we need to ramp up some emotions from the viewers as they give their personal honest answers. Mostly, it’s got to do with love and pride of being part of Aqours. Of course everybody wants to win! Which team ever goes to the finals and wants to lose?! Silly! So throw away that old results sheet and chart your own path. Anyway, the next day, the big finals is on the cards. One last hurrah from Aqours to hype things up that they have come this far and all that is left is victory. From zero to one, from one to the future. Go, Aqours! We see them in their heavenly performance on stage.

Episode 13
From the banner at the start… Aqours won Love Live! Hooray! End of story. Oh wait. There’s still more? Oh right. Proper closure needed. So we see the students ‘vandalizing’ Uranohoshi walls with paints of positive messages because apparently this is their last day so it gives them the right. Then a final assembly and Mari’s last speech to officially close the school. Then everyone goes around reminiscing their times. Tears flow. Last moments together. More tears. Finally the closing of the gate in which Aqours have the honours to do so for more tears effect. Oh Chika, why make promises that you can’t keep. Because why tell everyone not to cry when everybody is already so into that? In the aftermath, spring is around the corner. The most shocking revelation is Riko is no longer afraid of dogs and has adopted one! And Shiitake has pups now. Shiitake is female?! Chika bums around at the beach. So apparently she gets to keep the banner and puts it out on the beach as it is the best place for everyone to see? Why not on some tall building? Whatever. Then with some encouragement from her family it isn’t like her to give up, Chika throws a paper airplane in which at the gust of her yell, it really flies ridiculously far as Chika chases after it. Oh, like fate playing a prank because it leads her back to Uranohoshi. Hmm… The gate is open… Chika walks around and reminisces all the things she and her pals have done in that particular corner of the school. So nostalgic that damn she’s crying now. What did I tell you about not making such promises? At the hall, she is shocked to see all the students waiting for her and on stage, other Aqours members extending their hand for Chika to join them singing as a group. One more for the road? Man, did they really plan all this and waited for Chika to show up? And Chika not knowing a thing? Okay, I understand if it’s Chika. And they expected all this to turn out exactly as planned? Okay, not surprising if it is for Chika. Thanks for the performances. Bye.

From Sunshine To Shining Star
Oh well… You know it is not over yet because… There is a sequel! Technically, a movie. Apparently goodbye seems to be the hardest word. I mean, would this be the end of the Love Live franchise? Or will they come up with another school that needs to be saved so we can have another bunch of new girls who are ‘forced’ to form an idol group to save their school by winning Love Live? Yeah. This formula is getting old. Unless you are super hardcore fans of idol themed series and one who is so into the Love Live series, then I guess the producers have got you locked in there, milking and squeezing all the money and every penny (or yen in this case) out of you. But I suppose you people won’t mind because you love your idols more than money, right?

I figure only fans of the series and Aqours can only appreciate this sequel. Casual viewers like me would have found nothing exciting or new to the table. Though, it does have its funny moments. In the sense that it felt weird that it seemed funny. But other than that it is basically a bunch of girls becoming idols in hopes of winning and achieving their goal. But if you think the Love Live series is going to be ultimately the same, this Sunshine series is slightly different in the sense of the plot that Aqours were unable to save Uranohoshi. Unlike in the original Love Live series, Muse managed to save Otonokizaka by the end of the first season. If Aqours managed to do that even by the end of the second season, I guess it would not be any different and might as well go back and watch the original Love Live series.

Therefore it gives a much needed drama for this season for Aqours to be even more relevant and work harder to achieve that goal to save their school. Thus for this series, that is why we have Uranohoshi’s final closure as the main ‘story’ while the Love Live tournament feels relegated as secondary. It works to make the feels via separation than winning something. It hits you harder on the emotions there. Hey, this show is about Aqours, not Love Live. I really felt this scene of saving their school was ridiculous because of how unrealistically the numbers were trickling in as the deadline closes. As if it was to enhance the nail biting drama that they could do it, they could do it, and they could do it. At this point you would expect the final second saving grace moment. You know, when a hero diffuses a ticking time bomb, he usually does so with a second left on the clock. Yeah… Alas it was a heart attack and heartbreak for those really expecting for good news. They might have lost this battle but they have won others, right? So it’s not so bad after all. Hey, you can’t win everything and earn a flawless victory. Life is not that rosy despite looking at how easy and fun becoming a school idol is when it isn’t so straightforward. I know they put in a lot of effort in the background that is not shown but still, they make it look like so much fun. Maybe it is for them. After all, it’s not like they want to dominate and conquer the world, right? Or do they? The other ridiculous part was ‘flying to the moon’. I know, exaggeration but really, that was too much.

Fans would be familiar with the members in Aqours especially if you have a favourite girl. This season does focus on some of them but not all of them. I feel the second years like Chika and You are mainly on the side lines while the juniors and the seniors have more limelight and screen time. There is not much changes to the characters either since Yoshiko (or is it Yohane?) is still acting like a chuunibyou, Hanamaru speaking in her weird accent and Ruby still being the shy and most timid of them all. I guess the biggest ‘change’ is Riko overcoming her dog phobia. No more Shiitake chase running joke? Okay then. Good for her. I still maintain Chika as the most annoying of them all because of her tendency to drag others into her own pace. Despite all that sunshine and super optimism, it becomes annoying when you see her spout all those flowery hopes and dreams and making it look so good. Then she tries to act tough by keeping up her positivism and cheery side when we all know that deep down inside she’s breaking up. Shouldn’t she be true to her feelings like always? Whatever. In the end, Aqours is Aqours and they certainly have found their own shine after all the moments they have been through. Their breakup is understandable as they will be going separately to different places. But can they reunite in the later years? Maybe that is all a different story altogether and it won’t be the same as now when they’re still in high school.

As part of the surprise and twist, Saint Snow who is supposed to be Aqours biggest rival crashed out early. I guess this only gives an excuse to have more friendship drama because the sisterly duo definitely have more screen time and focus. Heck, even more excuse to show their sisterly love! I suppose that is the other theme of this series other than friendship. In a perfect world, big sisters love their little sisters and likewise little sisters love their big sisters. What a big happy world. Is it me or does this worlds have only females? Yeah, coincidently those with siblings only have sisters. Where are all the guys?! They become fat ugly useless otakus possibly showing up at concerts and performances when they have to support their favourite idol group. But then again, I have a feeling all the fans in the stands are females too. No wonder you don’t hear any creepy stalker stories from this series. Too traumatic for its sunshine theme.

Artwork and animation remain consistent as the first season, bright and colourful. Cute looking girls and the use of CGI when the girls are dancing on stage. Doesn’t look too bad but it would be if you think too much about it because CGI dances seem to make them look a bit robotic. Because the setting of this place is the seaside, there are some nice backgrounds to look at. As usual, an idol themed series is all about the songs but I didn’t find any that I really like, not even the various insert songs. Well, there’s one. The closest that came to attracting my attention was My Mai Tonight. A typical group idol opening theme, Mirai No Bokura Wa Shitteru Yo with all the cute stuffs that you would expect from Aqours. The same can be said for the ending theme, Yuuki Wa Doko Ni? Kimi No Mune Ni. Of course this has multiple versions. You have the individual solo or duo versions and the big group Aqours version.

During the same season, another idol series aired with its second season: Wake Up, Girls! I am not sure if they are supposed to be going head to head with each other and pitting fans of both sides against each other. But I don’t see anything of that sort serious rivalry since there is no reason to hate or sabotage other groups as long as you love your own. Right? Either way, both have their own styles and their own fans so no big deal or cutthroat competition to see who is better. On a side note, I am neither their fans but yet I still watched both series and all their previous seasons. Am I a closet idol fan?

Overall, like I have said, only fans of Aqours and the idol genre would definitely connect and grow with the characters over 2 seasons (4 if you include the original Love Live that has no real connection with this one). You learn, laugh and cry at all their endeavours and attempts as they inch towards their dream and shine and feel the heart-warming friendship that brought them this far. But like everything else, it must all come to an end so what better way to go out in a bang and do the things you love and want to do before you can never have that chance again. Thank you Aqours for leaving a lasting impression in our hearts (at least till this season ends). Oh wait, there’s that movie sequel so looks like they’re going to be sticking around for a while. From zero to one, from one to the future, and from the future to infinity and beyond! Aqours can really reach for the stars now.

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…

When you have saved your school from closure, what else is there for an idol group formed to just do that as their initial goal? It will be a total waste for them to disband so I guess since they are already here, why not give it a shot and try their hands at Love Live again? And yeah. This is what the second season is mostly going to be. But wait a minute. Didn’t they fail to enter the last time? Well, it’s back by popular demand! Wohoo! I figure that is why we are having a second season. After all, this is going to be their last time together. Gasp! Last time together? What are you saying?! Oh girls, even if this will be your last performance together, you will always be in our hearts, right? Well, if you are a big fan of them. I’m not ;p.

Episode 1
Thanks to the increase in enrolment, Otonokizaka Academy will continue to operate and take in new students next year. Hooray! Honoka has been installed as the new student council president and why, we even have a musical version of it as she sings her way through the school corridors and fields! It might just be her imagination because the moment she took the microphone to address the crowd, she forgot all her lines. Now she can’t laze around since Umi is being as strict to get the jobs done. This is going to be tough work… Never knew the student council was going to be lots of work, eh? Hanayo stumbles upon some shocking information. She gathers everyone and they run around everywhere in school trying to find Honoka. After all that running that could have made them great marathon runners, they finally find her and relay the shocking news: There is going to be another Love Live! Thanks to the popularity of the last one (which was won by A-Rise), this time the competition won’t be based on popularity rankings and will go by regions. Think of it like those sports anime, inter-high competitions of each region will slug it out before the top teams qualify for the Nationals-cum-finals. Their hopes are extinguished when they realize they have to fight A-Rise for a spot in the next round. They’re from the same Tokyo region and this is the most competitive idol region across Japan. This sucks. Well, you’ll never know if you don’t try. Just when everyone gets hyped up to join, here comes Honoka pouring cold water on it. She doesn’t think they have to participate. Say what?! This is an atrocity! They interrogate her and her it seems she is more than happy to sing and dance together. They don’t need some fancy competition, right? After all, their goal of keeping the school alive has been achieved. So to prove her point, she takes her groupies to hang out with her after school. See how fun this is? Erm…

Of course the rest cannot accept this as competing in Love Live has been their dream and they believe Honoka must be overwhelmed by her student council duties. Honoka’s sister, Yukiho is also appalled she doesn’t want to enter. She hints that she and Arisa will enter Otonokizaka next year in April, the same time this next Love Live will start. You know what this means? One rainy day, Niko challenges Honoka to a race to climb the stairs. If Honoka wins, they’ll not participate in Love Live. Niko makes a great start (by getting a head start) but trips. Then the rest tell her the seniors like Eri, Nozomi and Niko won’t have time anymore and since Love Live is only open to students, do you know what this means? If they miss it, that’s it. Even if they get eliminated in the preliminaries, at least they can say they tried their best. After all the motivating talk by her friends, Honoka is back to her usual self and agrees to join. Honoka then becomes God. GOD?! Because she is so happy that she yells to the Heavens for the rain to stop and it did!!! F*CKING HELL, NO WAY!!! The sun is even shining through the clouds! What does this mean? As long as you’ve got the determination, you can do anything! Even stopping the rain?

Episode 2
First obstacle… For the next Love Live, they cannot use songs they have sung. That means only new songs because if so, many will be covering songs of professional idols. Everyone turns to Maki… Oh no. What does this mean? Another training camp! Maki is such a rich girl that in last season they went to her beach villa. Now they go to her other villa in the mountains! Everyone is so captivated by the scenery that they forgot to wake up Honoka who was left sleeping in the train! Nobody even noticed… So in the villa, Maki will be composing songs, Umi writing lyrics and Kotori designing their dresses in their respective rooms. However the pressure is getting to them… Writer’s block? We take a slight detour when a squirrel steals Niko’s wristband. Along with Rin, they couldn’t stop running downhill and amazingly miss all the trees and bushes. Am I playing some sort of platform video game here? Eventually they fall into a river. Back at the villa, the rest notice how quiet it is. Then they realize. Maki, Umi and Kotori have escaped! They’re sighing outside! Oh, the depression! I guess the pressure got to them. So it is decided they split into groups and help them out. Eri and Niko will help Maki compose songs. Honoka and Hanayo will help Kotori with the designs while Nozomi and Rin will assist Umi. Despite the luxurious villa, they have to spend their time outdoors in the wild and as far away as possible. No distractions? But seriously… They’re already facing some hitch. Because the temptation to sleep for Honoka and Hanayo is too great to resist! Rin cannot believe she has to do mountain hiking since Umi is such a big crazy climber. How many more mountains will they climb? And Eri has a fear of the dark… So well, it doesn’t seem any progress is made as we see the groups soaking in the hotspring, lying outside watching the stars and having campfire roast potato. Eventually Maki, Kotori and Umi couldn’t sleep and walk back to the villa where they finally find their groove. Next morning, the girls return to the villa and find the trio asleep. At least there is some progress. When they return, they start practising and Niko suddenly realized she has been had. That damn squirrel still got her wristband!

Episode 3
Due to the large number of participants, each idol team can choose a venue for their performance which will be uploaded live on the internet. However they only have one shot at it. Although the top 4 schools of each region will advance, Muse is disheartened to know they still have to face A-Rise. What’s the big deal? So what if they are guaranteed top spot? There are remaining 3 spots, right? As they need to stand out and attract viewers, the topic of sexy dress comes into discussion. Umi and Eri stand for it and might be willing to drop out! Oh no you don’t! First thing to do to garner support is to broadcast throughout their school their ambitions and goals. Umi and Hanayo are also made to do their introductions since they are naturally shy. Then Honoka had to scream into the microphone to rev up everyone. Did your eardrums explode? They go searching around the school for a venue they had not performed before. Zilch. Looks like they performed everywhere. They can’t do it in Akihabara since it is A-Rise’s turf and doing so is like declaring war. While the girls are admiring the promo video of A-Rise outside their school, UTX High School, suddenly the group leader of A-Rise, Tsubasa Kira takes Honoka by the hand and runs into school! Is this some sort of abduction?! The rest go after them and they meet the other A-Rise members, Erena Toudou and Anju Yuuki who welcome them to their school. Hanayo wants their autograph…

A-Rise mentions they know all about Muse since they have been keeping an eye on them since they can feel they are a team of rare calibre. They note Honoka in particular who is shining brightest out of the 9 of them. They know Muse so well that they can explain each of their good traits! What are they stalker?! Maybe except for Niko… Doesn’t she have any good traits? Maybe… Thanks for the flowers. Niko was a big fan of A-Rise before Muse was formed. A-Rise doesn’t hesitate to say they will not lose to them. Despite being the country’s number 1 idol, that is in the past. They want to continue staying as a group that can please the audience better than anyone. That’s why they won’t lose. But why do they look so shocked when Honoka says they won’t lose too? Is it that determination in her eyes? Was it they never expected her to say that and quietly bow down to their dominance? A-Rise allows them to use their school for their performance venue. The preliminaries are here. A-Rise struts their stuff first and they’re pretty damn good that it might just be the demoralizing factor for Muse. This is what happens if you see somebody’s video and pay too much attention before your act. They’re getting negative already that they can’t measure up to them. So are they giving up? Hell, no! You’ve come this far so give it your best shot! So it’s Muse’s turn to perform their flower maiden concept performance and it seems A-Rise is pretty impressed too.

Episode 4
Everyone is nervous. The results of the preliminaries are out. Those qualified in descending order: A-Rise, East Heart, Midnight Cats and… Mu… Mu… Mutant Girls?! WTF?! What kind of idol name is that?! Turns out to be Honoka’s dream! But it could be a premonition because the same thing happens for real. The top 4 in descending order: A-Rise, East Heart, Midnight Cats and… Mu… Mu… Muse! For real?! Yup. It’s them. Hooray! As the next contest is in December and only one of the 4 may advance, this means they need to practice hard and beat A-Rise. However they notice Niko is missing. It seems she can’t come to practice and have something important. They tail her to see her shopping for ingredients. Could it be she has a boyfriend? When they are spotted, Niko runs. And man, she’s good at running. Thanks to her non-existence boobs, she managed to slip through tight places. As Muse is contemplating what is wrong, suddenly here comes mini Niko! Did she turn into a little girl? Actually she is Niko’s sister, Kokoro. She knows them and takes them hiding and running from who knows what. The paparazzi? Then the biggest shock the girls get to know from her mouth: They are Niko’s backup dancers! Eri calls Niko but she’s not picking up the phone. Kokoro brings them to their home and meet another little brother, Kotarou. Yeah. The backup dancers are here for a visit. The girls then realize something amiss. The posters of Muse have been heavily edited with Niko’s face cut and paste as the centre! Her room is filled with such Photoshop pictures! And she’s good!

When Niko gets home, she’s got some explaining to do. However she runs again after seeing Umi’s death stare. Unfortunately she won’t get far as she bumps into another sister of hers, Kokoa. Niko tries to fool around. They’re not amused. So they can accept that her parents are away for a business trip and she has to take care of her siblings and thus can’t practice. But why the lies of them being backup dancers? She won’t say since it has always been that way. This is her house and what she says is none of their business. The girls leave as they ponder what she meant. Eri remembers when Niko was a first year, she wanted to be an idol. To her siblings she must have been a super idol but when thins fell apart, she couldn’t tell them the truth. She tried her best to be a school idol and even handed out flyers but since Eri was busy with student council work and wasn’t interested in becoming an idol, she didn’t give her much attention. Niko continued to go it alone despite lack of audiences and her other members quit. If she had reached out to her then, would things have turned out differently? One day, Honoka surprises Niko by bringing her siblings to school because they said they wanted to see her on stage. Niko is dressed up like a super cute idol and as Muse takes the stage, Niko announces that this is the last time she will sing as herself. She is not quitting but from now on will be performing as Muse. She is going to be a new person. Her dream is to be the number one idol in the universe and she shines brightest when she is in this group. This is not the end but a new beginning. So let the performance begin.

Episode 5
Honoka, Umi and Kotori are having a field trip at Okinawa. Too bad it is raining heavily. There might even be typhoon. Honoka trying to be a shaman to cast away the rain? I think she is more suited to be an idol putting the sun in the heart of her fans! Yeah! So Rin has been selected as an interim leader to practice for a fashion event this weekend. At first she is reluctant and has no confidence but with the rest putting a lot of faith and encouragement in her, she takes up the job. She’s nervous on her first day and she believes the rest pushed this job to her because they didn’t want to do it. Her confidence is all-time low that she believes she is not the cutest like the rest and not fitted to be an idol. Hanayo laments she might not have gotten over it. During elementary school, she was often teased by boys as she was dressed kind of boyish. Then more woes. Thanks to the typhoon building up, the return trip is cancelled. Honoka and co will be stuck and this means Rin’s leadership is extended. To her horror, as the leader and centre, she is required to wear a girly bridal dress during the performance. She can’t take it and snaps. How far can she run? Anyway she still thinks she can’t do it and so Eri suggests having someone else as the leader. Hanayo is suggested and Rin doesn’t hesitate to entrust everything to her. But Hanayo wonders if she is really okay with this. She is. Really? Yes. As in really, really? Yes. Really, really, really for sure? No doubts about it. So the girls practice like usual and Hanayo even calls Honoka to tell what happened for advice. Come performance day, Rin is shocked that the rest wants her to be the leader. They have practised their coordination so that Rin can be the centre. More words of encouragement and believe why they put their trust in her. Probably Hanayo’s statement sealed the deal. She is the girliest of the girliest, cutest of the cutest that she wants to hug her to death! Is Rin some furry animal? Rin dons the wedding costume and goes out on stage. Safe to say, the show is a success. Better still, Rin has got more confidence now.

Episode 6
Akihabara will have a Halloween theme and Muse is invited to participate as well as A-Rise. Although this is not a ranked performance, it will be a great chance for them to boost their popularity and catch up to A-Rise before the next elimination round. And since they’re going for impact, that scary look on Umi’s face indicates she’s really going to give them the greatest impact they’ll ever have. Some of them attend a live interview on the streets of Akihabara but couldn’t match up to the enthusiasm of the host. Eventually it is A-Rise that takes the spotlight. Umi comes up with the idea of impact by having them introduce themselves dressed in different club outfits. I don’t know. Does it feel like they’re just fooling around? Next idea has got to be the funniest. They try to become another person! It’s hilarious to see Umi as Rin, Hanayo as Niko, Nozomi as Honoka, etc. I won’t say they’re perfect but it’s very close. So much so the original is just appalled. Do they really act like that? Yeah. Everyone so weird. Then this is the ultimate impact and change. Thinking they shouldn’t promote themselves as idols and something wilder, Muse suddenly becomes… KISS!!! Hard rock, punk rock ass! It’s scaring away people! Oh yeah. They really made an impact. And now the chairwoman calls them to her office for an explanation. So wanna perform for the rest of their performance in this outfit? No way! Back to brainstorming. Since it still doesn’t get them anywhere and with no time left, they have to start making costumes and other stuffs. So in the end, everyone becomes themselves. They got so infatuated trying to renew themselves to match A-Rise, they probably forgot that each of them are unique and are best the way they are. And the best part is how they all come together, learn and accept one another. Muse puts on a sterling Halloween performance and gets motivated for the next round. Meanwhile Yukiho is lamenting reorganizing the disorganized books and volumes in Honoka’s room. Then she sees a letter. It must be something big that it is enough to make her go into shocking I-can’t-believe-it reaction spasms.

Episode 7
That letter is actually Honoka’s physical measurements. So? She gained weight! Despite doing some exercise, Honoka is still lax about losing her weight. So Umi gives her a dose of reality by making her wear their idol outfit. That scream… Traumatic… She gets lectured that the extra weight will make her movements sluggish and affect her performance. Thus she will undergo a diet! And while they’re arguing about this, they notice Hanayo happily enjoying her big onigiri. It’s the rice season! Notice something else too? Yeah. She put on weight too! And so the duo undergo strict dieting regiments courtesy of Umi the merciless. One day you’ll thank her. So run! Keep running! Tire easily? That’s because you’re dragging all that excess weight. More running! However along the way, the rice shop seems tempting. Hanayo tries to resist but Honoka persuades. In the end they lose out. So there is a big suspicion that the duo start looking forward to their runs. Then Umi discovers this folly… In the aftermath, Umi reports that Hanayo has got her weight back to normal but Honoka did not. I guess back home, she continued eating like no tomorrow. Suddenly students from the art club come in. They are perplexed that their budget was approved even before the meeting. Kotori realizes it was her mistake. She put it in the approved bin prior because of all that distraction going on with Honoka’s dieting. This is going to be a big problem as the word has spread around. Eri and Nozomi can only do so much so the trio work hard to find a solution. At the meeting with all the club representatives, Honoka admits their mistake, apologizes and hopes they can request to withdraw it. She continues explaining that this year the school avoid closure but has lesser students. Thus the budget isn’t much and they have draft and formulate allocated funds that would meet 80% of their respective club’s requirements. It won’t be much but please bear with them and hopefully this amount will increase if the enrolment for next year increases. I guess it wouldn’t seem nice after seeing them bow their heads and put in all the hard work. So everyone agrees to it. Best ending of all, Honoka lost weight because she has been working so hard that she skipped meals. Now that her weight is back to where it original is, she’s going to start eating! Oh no you don’t, says Umi!

Episode 8
Muse is in an interview but Honoka got fired up an unknowingly fires the first salvo that they’ll win! But the issue now is that they need a new song for their next performance. Nozomi suggests a love song since they never had one before. Well, everyone is looking at Umi. She’s the lyricist, right? And everybody is so tense in wondering if she was in a relationship before. She has not. Relieved? Something feels wrong… Maki doesn’t think they can master it in time but Eri and Nozomi don’t want to give up yet. So they try imagining and mental pictures about romance. What’s the camera for, Nozomi? Well, I just thought Maki played the tsundere part to perfection. While Niko was trying to show off her acting chops (the girls aren’t impressed) and something steamy is about to happen but the camera’s battery went out. Good thing? Because Eri and Nozomi continue to want to work on this, Maki suspects something strange. Why are they pushing so hard? No, I don’t think she has this hidden agenda of joining A-Rise. So the next group discussion on romance has them watch a cheap romance movie. Some are so touched, some are sleeping, some just unimpressed. But the most exaggerated one acting like it’s some horror movie is Umi! Turn it off! So can the idea of a love song materialize in time? They’re up against A-Rise so petty tricks like this won’t work. Then it’s like Nozomi has given up and it’s okay if they do their best with the songs they have. Eri doesn’t feel comfortable with her decision. So Maki later confronts the duo and although Nozomi won’t tell, Eri reveals Nozomi’s dream. She wanted all 9 of them to make a song together by linking their words and feelings. That’s why she suggested a love song. Nozomi continues that Muse is a miracle to her. She has always lived alone and changing schools frequently that she doesn’t have any friends. Till she met Eri was like her personality but distanced herself and couldn’t fit in because of her strong identity. After they became friends, they still couldn’t reach out the other people like them. But now those people are connected in a group sharing the same feelings. It would have been nice if it was a song but it doesn’t necessarily have to because Muse has some achieved something big and her biggest dream came true long time ago. Maki calls the others over so they can all discuss the new love song everyone will help contribute. Yes. Maki will write a new one. Everyone learns of Nozomi’s dream and loves her even more.

Episode 9
It’s a very snowy day and tonight is the final preliminary round. So we see some of the Muse members having their sisters wishing them the best. Then everyone meets up but the new student council trio have the school’s open house to take care off so they won’t be there so early yet. At least Honoka is calmer and cooler this time in handling it all. The other 6 head to the stage venue where the final preliminary will take place. Very big. Very grand. So awesome. They also meet A-Rise there and as usual, the declaration they will not lose. Who wants to lose anyway after coming this far? And now for the big drama problem. The snow has been falling all day that it is wreaking havoc on all transportation. It is about to get worse. This means Honoka and co are stuck at school. Oh dear. An hour till the competition starts. Silly? Desperate? Crazy? But you have got to give it to the trio because they are going to walk through that thick blizzard just to get there! So freaking cold! Yeah. It felt like an eternity just reaching the school gates. When the blizzard simmers down, the trio are amazed to see many of their school mates shovelling a pathway to their venue! Serious! The entire way!!!!!! No way!!!! I mean, yes way!!!!! The damn blizzard almost wiped out their hard work. I know you’re in awe with their steadfast but can you get a move on before the snow piles up again? And so running there has never been faster (isn’t it supposed to be slippery?). Muse finally reunites. Honoka becomes an emotional wreck as she hugs Eri. Crying so hard. Crying so loud. So cold. So scary. Brave girl. And we have everyone to thank for who made this possible. Finally it is time for Muse to put up their snowy white performance and their brand new song called Snow Halation. Thank goodness the snow has stopped. Otherwise how to catch their dazzling performance and for every one of their supporters, friends and family to come watch them.

Episode 10
The freshmen and sophomores of Muse meet up at the shrine for New Year’s Day (the seniors are helping out with Nozomi’s shrine). Maki is the only one turning up in a kimono. I guess the rest didn’t bother to dress. Was there any consensus on that? Along the way they meet A-Rise. From the way they tell Muse to win Love Live must really mean that Muse has won the final preliminary round! There’s a plague as prove sitting in the room! OMG! Congratulations! When Arisa tells Eri her wish to join Otonokizaka to join Muse, this has them thinking they need to get the group together and discuss their future. As Muse practises, they also discuss the next round that they’ll be in. Almost 50 groups will compete and it will be much harder since it will be online as fans will be selective of only the groups they like. As the large number of participants, it is impossible for fans to remember them all and thus many have came up with a catchphrase. They need one that captures their own uniqueness as well as the group as a whole. Time to crack their brains. Later Tsubasa speaks to Honoka. She admits A-Rise’s defeat since all was fair. They’ve been pondering about their future since winning Love Live is no longer their goal. Tsubasa can’t help think about the reason they lost. They’ve practised as hard as them, they had great teamwork as them and certainly have won the hearts of fans with their great performance as them. In fact they believed they tried their hardest and gave their best yet. So what went wrong? You asking Honoka? She doesn’t even know where to begin. So Honoka seeks Umi’s advice and she thinks it may have something to do with the catchphrase they’re looking for. Can Yukiho help? She doesn’t know why but Muse makes her feel like she wants to root for them not because Honoka is her sister or a local group. Muse then makes mochi as thanks for their friends’ support. Niko coming up with a bad pun catchphrase. Something that takes the cake. When Honoka sees the board of wishes at the shrine, she notices most of them are well wishes for Muse. Suddenly she gets inspired of the catchphrase that perfectly describes them. The reason they could go so far, accomplished a lot and still keep on going is because of these people and their support. They try their best, the fans support them, they move on and make their dreams come true little by little with everyone’s strength. This is what it means to be school idols. This is what it means to be Muse. And so their catchphrase: Making dreams come true together.

Episode 11
Arisa is so over the moon that she passed her entrance exam into Otonokizaka. Yeah. She can’t wait to join Muse. Although Yukiho passed too, she doesn’t seem too happy. Even Honoka thinks she should be shouting and screaming banzai. Because Yukiho lets loose this bombshell question: What will happen to Muse after graduation? Umi has now a lighter practice regime since their priority now is to stay healthy. However the girls cannot help avoid the topic of what happens to the group after the seniors graduate. Everyone has their opinion. Some say carry one and some wonder if they should. Eri thinks it is Honoka who has to decide since it is certain that the graduation will happen and they can’t continue working as school idols. Arisa continues to be an eager-beaver and shows off the moves she has learnt. Ready to join anytime? Then Yukiho asks her. What is it that she loves so much about Muse? I don’t mean for her to sound like a sourpuss… Arisa does a lot of thinking and then she confronts Honoka. She has made her decision after Yukiho’s words made her realize something important. She won’t join Muse. She loves Muse when they are the 9 of them and since she is not part of it, she’ll aim to create a school idol group she can belong. Soon, Honoka calls the rest of Muse to hang out. She thought a change in pace might do the group some good. So they really enjoy everything they want from playing games at the arcade, shopping at the idol store, bowling, zoo (imitating penguins and flamingos?), art museum (imitating statues?), praying at the shrine, amusement park ride… Wow. It’s really a fulfilling day. Finally the all-important sunset view at the riverbed. Then the inevitable. Honoka has discussed with her friends and despite their different opinions, everyone came to the same conclusion. With a heavy heart, they announce to the seniors that after the performance, Muse will disband! Because Muse will always be the 9 of them. No more, no less. As expected, everyone starts getting emotional when Honoka realizes they’re going to miss the last train. It was just a ploy to distract them because they won’t stop crying if they start. They take a final commemorative group photo. I wonder how everyone can fit in that cramp booth. Heck, can everyone’s face be seen without something funny happening? After all that laughter, I guess the real inevitable stuff has to happen. Hanayo starts the ball rolling when she starts crying. Oh no! Don’t you start now! Ah, what the heck. Let it flow! Don’t hold it in! Cry all your heart out! Tears flowing, lots of hugging, oh man, such emotional scene. That was really good, right? And with that behind them, all that is left is to practice. A week left to their final performance.

Episode 12
Niko is given the honour to represent Muse and pick from the lots (the performance turn I suppose). I guess it is favourable so it’s not surprising she wants to brag about it but the rest don’t pay much attention to her. After more practice, then it hit Hanayo. This will be their last practice together. Oh no. Please, don’t start it. Niko won’t have history repeat itself and wants them to focus on Love Live. After they pray at the shrine, it seems they haven’t the heart to go home. Honoka suggests they have a sleepover at school. Kotori is able to get her mom’s permission. She’ll overlook it this time since applications need to be submitted 2 weeks prior. Yeah. Don’t spoil their fun. Cheeky Nozomi reveals Eri’s phobia of the dark but this darkness is perfect moment for them to look at the stars. They head up to the rooftop and see an amazing sight of the city lights. Honoka shouts out at the top of her voice, the feelings she wants to convey and she has had since meeting all of them. Morning comes and it is the day of Love Live. The stage is even grander and bigger. Before Muse’s turn to perform, they make their last preparations and drive to give their best. Let’s make it awesome. And they don’t disappoint when they go on stage. After their sterling performance and last bow, they can’t contain their emotions at the backstage. Lots of hugging. Lots of tears flowing. Looks familiar this scene? And then they here the crowd calling for an encore! All their friends and family are supporting them. Even A-Rise. And so out they go again on stage after changing into another outfit. Can’t disappoint their fans and supporters, can’t they?

Episode 13
Honoka is a happy girl because she’s done with her farewell speech. Everyone meets Niko’s mom and younger siblings. Then they see Niko putting up a very kiddie behaviour, pestering her mom to come see something. Guess what? There is a trophy that they won Love Live! OMFG! THEY WON!!! But Umi has got a long face because Honoka is late to come clean up the student council room. Nozomi spots a new (temporary) hairstyle while Eri continues to linger and fell attached to her old student council room she will be missing soon. Honoka gives her a big hug and a thank you speech enough to almost make her cry. That’s a no-no before the ceremony. At the graduation ceremony, this time Honoka is well prepared and ever ready. She also talks about her love for music. With Maki on piano, she even sings a song dedicating to the seniors. The other younger Muse members join them and soon everybody. Don’t worry if you don’t know the lyrics. Just hum along! Later Niko clears out the clubroom. It feels almost empty because most of the idol stuffs are hers. She makes Hanayo the new club president. Who else has a better knowledge on idols? Can’t burden the student council trio either. Reluctant at first, she accepts after support from her friends. With Rin as leader, Maki is made vice president too. Nobody is left out. The seniors want to take a last look around the school and Honoka thinks they should all go together since it’s their last time together. Since she said the taboo word, she is made to treat them all drinks. Yeah, it tastes so good when someone else pays. They visit the alpaca stable (expecting offspring!), the auditorium, basking in the grassy field and finally the most frequented place: The rooftop. Yeah. Lots of memories coming back, eh? As the seniors are about to leave school one last time, suddenly Hanayo receives a big news. So big that she can’t say it here as she drags Honoka back into school with the rest curious enough to chase them. So what is it? Another season? Another Love Live? Or just this ending musical performance for us? And someone please tell me where this place Honoka announced they’re going to go together, a place that we’ve never seen to make our dream comes true? Tell me! I’m such a dumb guy…

One Last Hurrah… And Sweet Victory!
Well, even if there is no more future sequels or spin-offs, the real Muse will still be around and doing their usual stuffs that they have been doing since. So is this a fitting farewell to another idol themed anime or this is just the start of a new beginning? One thing for sure, they have left an impact in the hearts of many with their own unique music and dances. After 2 seasons of Love Live and Muse antics and adventures, I suppose it is time the curtains come down because you know, things don’t really last forever or will they go on forever. Even this idol thingy will die out one day. But hey, let’s not talk about that. As far as this series is concerned, although I am still not a big idol fan nor can I see myself converting into one in the nearest possible future or reincarnated life, there are some funny moments, dramatic moments, friendship moments, heart tugging moments, draggy moments, yawning moments… I know, this show isn’t perfect or it will be my cup of tea, but at least I have this same feeling as them, that satisfied feeling that I can move forward, leave it all behind and be proud of it. Although all I did was just watch 2 seasons of it ;).

There was this dilemma of mine whether or not Muse was going to win Love Live or even make it to the preliminaries. Because from the structure of the show (how far could you go with just over a dozen episodes?) and the way they are focusing on other stuffs instead of preparing for the competitions, it had me thinking that maybe they won’t make it after all. Then they’ll focus the rest of the remaining episodes on something else. Maybe the other characters. Because for each time, we are shown that they are being normally happy in the aftermath. Like the outcome of the competition didn’t matter. It feels like a ploy to get our guards down before they plop the biggest and shocking news that they made it through. It keeps you guessing about the results. Did they win or not? Did they pass or not? Why are they acting so nonchalant like as though it didn’t happen at all? And then the news. And it was absolute sweet victory that they won the Love Live. Icing on the cake. Perfect parting gift. With the lack of hurrah and bravos surrounding their victory, it’s like to make you think it never happened because you don’t see anybody ma king a big deal out of it. I mean when they defeated top favourites A-Rise, shouldn’t the idol world media and paparazzi be hounding them? So I suppose with this season, it is like revenge for making for last season’s failure since the first season was more about to save the school, which was the main reason why the idol unit was formed.

Unlike last season where there is this danger of them being disbanded, this time around they are disbanding for good. It is with mixed feelings that they do so because Muse can only be with 9 of them and nobody else. It may be a trend today of replacing band members, adding new ones or kicking out some but nothing beats the original. Sometimes when you change members so often, it is like a different group and might as well disband the original one and form a new one instead of using the old name. Also, I think that if they want to continue being Muse is also possible. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be high school students to be idols, right? They might not have to compete in school idol competitions anymore and maybe in some other competition criteria. So I don’t see the idea of them disbanding and stopping becoming idols just because some of them are graduating. It’s not like they’re not ever going to see each other ever again, right? Right?! Unless…

This season also sees some episode focusing on some of the members like Niko’s household, Rin temporarily having a go as the band’s leader and Nozomi’s wish. It’s great to see some character development for them although overall the characters still largely remain the same as we know them from last season. For example, Niko is still the biggest joker and the comic relief of the group. I guess every group needs one like her. In that sense she is my favourite because she makes me laugh with her antics (even if it is not on purpose), no matter how much everyone ignores her or she doesn’t realize her Niko-Niko Smile is looks quite embarrassing (but you have to give her points for doing it every time). And there are some sides you don’t see about her every day… Funny… So Niko, you’re really the most amusing girl of the bunch and please don’t take it to heart because I really love seeing you when you get all funny and stuff.

Then there is Nozomi who is a little devilish sometimes. For instance, the time when everyone was chasing down Niko, Nozomi can’t squeeze into some tight space because her boobs were the major blocking force. So she sends Rin to do the job and you can see her satisfied smirk on her face! It’s like she’s got revenge on something. Eri continues to be the kind and gentle person unlike her strict ways in the previous season so much so you might have forgotten she started off as a cold person then. Same case with Umi’s fear of performing in public. Maki although is mixing well within the group, she still sounds a bit distant from the way she speaks and all. A bit tsundere too… As usual, you can’t beat Hanayo’s enthusiasm for all things idol and her love for anything that is rice, Rin’s energetic or her penchant to talk like a cat (~nya) and Kotori is getting better in designing her outfits for Muse. Lastly there is Honoka who has turned from someone incapable and unreliable into someone more responsible and mature although basically she is still the same fun and loving person we know. Naturally that is why she is unofficially the leader of Muse if I should say. It’s like she has dramatically changed this season and before you know it, she’s much more than the person we knew from last season.

The drawing and art remains the same as last season. This means the use of CG effects when Muse is taking the stage. Although not obvious but you can tell the difference. I won’t say it is horrible. It feels rather okay. I mean going from 2D to CG, that transition takes some time to get used to. The dance choreographies are also okay. As I said, I’m not a crazy idol fan so I don’t really know how to appreciate such moves. But hats off to them and every other idol group, real or fictional for coming up with such dance routines, step designs and arrangements. It really takes lots of effort and practice to get them right and look perfect. I don’t remember about last season but for this season, I can’t seem to help but notice the pink blushes on the characters’ cheeks. It is like a permanent feature on their face and at times I just can’t take my eyes off it. I just kept staring at it. I know, it makes the girls look lovelier. Can’t argue about that, can’t I?

Music as usual plays a big part of the series but honestly for me who isn’t really a big fan of idols, I can say that they sound rather okay the most. I won’t go crazy about it. Sore Wa Bokutachi No Kiseki is this season’s opening theme and sounds like your typical pop idol girl group with lots of energy and passion in it. Donna Toki Mo Zutto is the pop rock ending theme and just like in last season, despite there is only one song, there are a few versions of it. Nine of them to be exact because each of the Muse members will have their turn taking the lead singing this piece (albeit you’ll only be hearing that version once). Sometimes you can guess who will be singing it by figuring which of the characters has the most focus in that particular episode and you can see that character being highlighted right at the end of the animation. The rest of the insert songs are okay. A-Rise’s ones are also not too bad but still my favourite remains the first insert song of Muse from the first season, Start:Dash! I wish they would at least play it once more again here but the real Muse unit has got lots of songs under their belt.

Somehow watching the end of this makes me feel that this series and Muse in particular have come a long way despite it is only 2 seasons long and only a year in this anime’s context. But yet we have seen them achieved so much, grown so much and bond with each other so much that even the sharpest blade or scissors will not make the slightest cut on their string of friendship. And when they turned the final episode into one last (almost) dramatic farewell episode, thank goodness they didn’t spam the tears again (unlike in the couple of penultimate episodes where the tears flow freely) because who knows I could not even have hold it in although the final episode wasn’t really on that high level of emotional scale. Because you know it is already going to end. You know it is goodbye. The inevitable has arrived. But don’t be afraid. Because once you reach there, you’ll remember all the memories and the good times they have brought to us. There’s plenty of that to get us through for the rest of our lives. Thank you and horosho!

Time for another versus but this is my first time doing one on idol themed animes. There are quite a number of idol themed animes over the years and I’m sure everyone who is into anime or idols can name a few. Or perhaps you don’t even have enough fingers to finish counting them all. Anyway today’s versus blog will pit female idol groups from the anime AKB0048 and Love Live! School Idol Project. Both these animes are so far the ‘most prominent’ female idol animes in my repertoire. Idolmaster? Didn’t watch that. Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream? Haven’t watched that yet. Aikatsu? Don’t think I want to watch it. Kirarin Revolution? That’s an idol anime? Lovedol? Abandoned it many years ago. Lemon Angel Project? So old that I even forgot about it. Uta No Prince-sama Maji Love 1000%/2000%? I said female idol groups…

Setting
AKB0048: In the future of the 21st century.
Love Live: Current present day.

Location
AKB0048: In between space and planets of the galaxy.
Love Live: Tokyo, Japan.

Realism
AKB0048: Futuristic sci-fi.
Love Live: More down to earth.

Main group in focus
AKB0048: No Name.
Love Live: Muse.

Members in that group
Coincidentally, both groups have 9 members each. Also, all members are voiced by actual members in the group.
AKB0048: Chieri Sono, Nagisa Motomiya, Orine Aida, Yuuka Ichijou, Suzuko Kanzaki, Sonata Shinonome, Makoto Yokomizo, Kanata Shinonome and Mimori Kishida.
Love Live: Honoka Kousaka, Umi Sonoda, Kotori Minami, Niko Yazawa, Maki Nishikino, Rin Hoshizora, Hanayo Koizumi, Eri Ayase and Nozomi Toujou.

Selection process
AKB0048: Potential candidates were thrown into the battlefield to protect the Successors as they are staging a guerrilla concert. Those who gave up are out. Of course, everything was just a big mock.
Love Live: Honoka, Umi and Kotori try to stage their first live performance to recruit more members. It was disheartening that they thought nobody showed up but slowly those who did will subsequently join them.

Seniors
AKB0048: The Successors of AKB0048.
Love Live: Nil.

Supporting staffs
AKB0048: Tsubasa Katagiri (manager) and Ushiyama (trainer).
Love Live: Nil. They only had themselves.

School/Academy
AKB0048: The mobile base and battleship Katyusha and home planet Akibastar.
Love Live: Otonokizaka Academy in Tokyo.

Oldest member in the group
AKB0048: Mimori and Kanata. They’re from the 75th generation Understudies.
Love Live: Nozomi.

Rich girl
AKB0048: Chieri.
Love Live: Maki.

Joker girl
AKB0048: Sonata and Makoto. Yes, nicknaming penchant girl and cowardly-cum-grumpy girl make them real funny jokers.
Love Live: Niko. Yes, her child-like appearance and aspirations to become an idol makes her a real funny joker.

Spectacles girl
AKB0048: Suzuko.
Love Live: Hanayo. However she substitutes them with contact lens.

The cook
Refers to the one who is very good in cooking.
AKB0048: Papa Cook.
Love Live: Niko.

Sisters
AKB0048: Kanata and Sonata.
Love Live: Honoka and Yukiho. Eri and Arisa.

Daughter of an important person
AKB0048: Chieri is the daughter and heiress of the giant Zodiac Corporation’s CEO.
Love Live: Kotori is the daughter of Otonokizaka’s chairwoman.

Ice queen
They usually ‘defrost’ and warm up later.
AKB0048
: Chieri.
Love Live: Eri.

Tsundere
AKB0048: Yuuka. Remember her feelings for Mamoru?
Love Live: Maki. Sort of.

Tomboy
AKB0048: Yuuko and Sae.
Love Live: Rin.

Miko outfit
AKB0048: The underground shrine where Sensei-sensei resides, Tsubasa wears one.
Love Live: Nozomi works part time as a miko priestess.

Song composer for the group
AKB0048: S-Quadruple AKA Sensei-sensei.
Love Live: Maki.

Choreographer for the group
AKB0048: Ushiyama.
Love Live: Kotori and subsequently Eri.

The biggest threat
AKB0048: Entertainment in the future has been banned. The heroines are considered terrorists for staging guerrilla concerts across the galaxy.
Love Live: The school is under threat of being closed down for good as the enrolment rate is declining and very low.

Main enemies
AKB0048: DGTO (Deep Galactic Trade Organization) and DES Enforcers.
Love Live: A-Rise. Well, I don’t really consider this as their enemy but more of their rival.

Initial resentment
AKB0048: Megumi Wanibuchi from the 76th generation resents those in the 77th generation because they seem to have higher chance of succeeding compared to hers who have been around longer than them.
Love Live: Eri wanted to save the school her way but doesn’t approve of Honoka’s method of forming an idol group. Niko wanted the group to break up as she feels they are a disgrace to idols that she holds in high respect.

Mascot of the series
AKB0048: Little light blobs called Kiraras.
Love Live: None that I can think of.

Collapsed from fever
AKB0048: Mimori. A sign that she will be inheriting a Successor’s name.
Love Live: Honoka. She overworked herself for the group’s first performance.

Spartan Training
AKB0048: In addition to singing and dancing, the members need to know basic combat and self defence moves and how to handle weapons as well.
Love Live: In addition to singing and dancing, the members undergo stamina and endurance training. Thank Umi for that.

Place of practice
AKB0048: In the studio.
Love Live: On the school’s rooftop.

Non-concert activities (selective)
AKB0048: Photo shooting events, hand shaking events with fans, variety shows.
Love Live: Part time maid job at a maid café, summer camp at Maki’s villa.

Beach episode
Some fanservice but don’t put too much hope on it.
AKB0048: Episode 10 of first season when the girls are there for a photo shoot.
Love Live: Coincidentally, also episode 10 when the girls are at Maki’s villa.

The competition
AKB0048: The General Elections that would bring back the Centre Nova position. Only Mimori and Chieri made it into the top ten.
Love Live: The top 20 school idols will compete in Love Live to see who will be the best of them all. Muse never got a chance to participate because they have to withdraw when Honoka got sick.

The centre position
AKB0048: After the General Elections, Yuuko took over Takamine’s spot. But in the end, it is Chieri who took that coveted position.
Love Live: Everyone will take turns singing as the centre.

Disappearance
AKB0048: Acchan. She went missing shortly after taking on the Centre Nova position. Subsequently it is Yuuko when she took that position.
Love Live: Umi. Erm… Actually she went temporarily went ‘missing’ because she had this fear of performing in public.

Low morale
AKB0048: Chieri after her father was mysteriously assassinated right before her eyes.
Love Live: Honoka when she blames herself as the cause for her group’s withdrawal from Love Live competition.

CGI effects
Both series uses the computer graphics imagery when the idols start singing in their performance. Very obvious…

Favourite insert song
Please note that this is based on my own personal choice and taste.
AKB0048: Cherry No Nagisa. And no, it doesn’t sound sissy, mind you.
Love Live: Start:Dash!

Number of episodes
AKB0048: 2 seasons of 13 episodes each. Total 26 episodes.
Love Live: 1 season consisting 13 episodes. A second season is being planned. There is 1 OVA released.

Studio production
AKB0048: Satelight.
Love Live: Sunrise.

Conclusion
I’m not a true idol fan so there is much that I am missing or do not know. Thus you may find this versus somewhat incomplete. It’s hard to choose from which is the better one because Love Live is more down to earth so you can relate to a lot of things easily. Whereas AKB0048 has some action and sci-fi elements to it so it makes things more exciting rather than being ‘mundane’. It doesn’t get better to see cute girls piloting badass mechas and kick ass, no? But it can be a little far-fetched sometimes. Both animes also have cute characters. That’s a given since you’re dealing with idol girls so you must have cute girls to appeal to the audience, right? Personally, I prefer those in Love Live as they are more anime-like whereas those in AKB0048 look a little bit cartoonish. Both sides also have their fair share of songs and dance moves but the ones in Love Live seem more unique. Because AKB0048 has more episodes and characters, there is enough for character development to grow and to drive the plot. Ironically, the main characters in Love Live have more individual personalities compared to their counterparts in AKB0048. It boils down to what kind of idol group(s) you support that determines which idols are the best. But with the glut of idol groups from Japan and around the world, looks like we won’t be getting short of any idol supply. As long as there are fans out there, idols will never die.

Can’t get enough of idols? Don’t worry, there are lots of them going around in Japan to fill your idol craving. So many of them that it’s just scary to think of its magnitude and effect it will have. Thank goodness I’m not idol crazy. Anyway, after my stint of AKB0048, an idol themed anime based on the world’s biggest idol unit, here am I once more trying my hands at another idol themed anime. Don’t get the wrong idea that I am starting to have a thing for idols. But what makes Love Live! School Idol Project different from AKB0048 is that this is more grounded to reality. Yes. No futuristic setting. No hi-tech equipment and tools. No magic. No missiles and gun fires. No idols kicking butt. And most important, no oppression and ban from government on anything idols! Wohoo! Idols are free to perform wherever and whenever they like.

So, if there is nothing that threatens the sanctity of idol groups, what kind of storyline will the anime take? Will it be interesting? That depends on how you like to look at your idols. For our group of idol girls in this anime, they need to stop the closure of their school. Heh. How can that be interesting? I’m sure many of us do not feel any more connection with our school (like yours truly and guilty as charged) but for our girls here, they love their school and despite still in high school, they don’t want to see its future shut down just because of low enrolment numbers. Welcome to the real world. Money talks. Numbers are everything. Logically if many people start enrolling, the school can’t shut down, right? So what better way than to attract people to their school by becoming school idols and sing their way into the hearts of the people, right? Everybody loves idols, right? It’s the current craze now, right? Right?! And so, this is the basis for what this anime is about and the reason why they sing and dance, aiming to become top idols.

Episode 0
In this preview episode, we are given an introduction to the series such as the seiyuus that voice the main heroines of this show, the various and numerous promotions and events that led to the inevitable production of this anime and also clips of some of the featured songs and their dance moves. We also have a glimpse of their live concerts whereby the seiyuus of the anime characters and have been voiced by the same person ever since this project’s inception. Talk about lots of consistency, dedication, hard work and perseverance. Not only their voices have been the same but the moves and dances have been also identical in the anime. Lastly, the final promotion of each of the heroines about the anime itself. That’s 9 times over, right? So if you are a very big fan of female pop idols, yeah, there are lots of events, activities and merchandise to grab. So are you ready for the love of your life?

Episode 1
Otonokizaka Academy will be shut down due to the low enrolment number. Honoka Kousaka fainted when she realizes this is not a dream. There goes her high school life she is looking forward so much. In denial, she really thinks it is a dream. Till she sees the bulletin board again. There, depression once more. She is concerned that because she has not studied, the closure of this school means she has to take an entrance exam for another school. That’s bad, right? But as her friends, Umi Sonoda and Kotori Minami put it, the school is staying put till all of them graduate. Even so, they feel bad that the first years will have no juniors below them. The student council president, Eri Ayase and her vice president, Nozomi Toujo ask Kotori if she knew anything about this beforehand since the board chairwoman who announced Otonokizaka’s closure is her mother. She knew nothing. Honoka feels it is wrong for the school to just ‘disappear’ so she thinks if the school’s enrolment increases, it won’t have to shut down. What is it that this school has to attract students? Well, their long history doesn’t seem that great. What about their past clubs’ achievement? Nothing great either. In fact, there is even one scandal of disqualification… When Honoka returns home, she is disheartened her little sister, Kotoha is applying to a different school. Throwing a tantrum won’t get her anywhere because Kotoha too knows it’s a waste of time trying to apply into a school that is going to shut down. Honoka is adamant she will stop the school’s closure. Yeah. Then pigs will fly. Early next morning, Honoka surprises everyone by getting up early and leaving on her own. Actually she is going to scout UTX High School (the school Kotoha is going to apply) and is enthralled to see why so many are flocking over. It has a group of female pop idol, A-Rise doing the promo. Astounding. That’s when an idea hits Honoka.

In class, Honoka tells her friends about this idea of forming a pop idol group to attract students and thus preventing its shutdown. Because based on her minimal research, schools with popular idols attract more students. Umi is not fond of this idea despite Honoka’s persuasion they get to wear cute costumes and shine brightly but negative Umi is not convinced. Being an idol is out of the question for her. Meanwhile Eri and Nozomi see the chairwoman. They too voice their displeasure of the school’s closure. She tells them instead of worrying about trying to prevent the closure, they should focus on efforts to improve the quality of time remaining for the students. In short, there is nothing they can do. Honoka is attracted by the piano and singing of Maki Nishikino. Instantly she asks if she is interested to become an idol. Instant reject. Umi couldn’t concentrate on her archery club because she kept thinking about the possibility of becoming an idol. It really throws her off her target. And balance. So Kotori talks to her and then shows her how Honoka is trying to learn some dance moves by herself. It’s tough but she’s not giving up. And so the trio hand in their application to Eri to form an idol club. Eri is sceptical of them forming one since they are in their second years. Besides, they need 5 members to officially form a club. Borrowing words from the chairwoman, hastily throwing in ideas to prevent the school‘s closure won’t change its predicament and they should be focusing on their time left here. Despite the disappointment, Honoka won’t give up yet.

Episode 2
Honoka hands in her request to Eri for permission to use the auditorium for their concert after the entrance ceremony. Eri remains sceptical but Nozomi takes the trio’s side. They just want to borrow it and not use it for club activities, thus the student council have no right to object. Kotori designs their outfit but Umi objects because she feels the skirt is too short. Besides, she thinks her legs are too fat. Honoka suggests they go on a diet then. But the first order is to come up with a name for their idol group. Let’s say they have a bad naming sense that would make them sound like jokers. So Honoka gets an idea to put a survey of what their group is to be called. It will also garner interest in the group as well. Next is to find a place to practice and since every place possible is filled with people, the rooftop is their only option. But they can’t get started because they don’t know what song to sing! Heck, they don’t even have one! Hanayo Koizumi sees the idol poster and is interested but this shy girl is taken away by her tomboyish friend, Rin Hoshizora.  Niko Yazawa also looks at the poster but with a contempt look on her face. Umi visits Honoka’s home and is appalled that the duo have forgotten about dieting since they are munching away the snacks. Are they serious about becoming idols? Honoka tells them about Maki and her piano and wants to invite her. Then they try to persuade Umi to write lyrics since she used to write poems when she was young. She is forced to because the rest sucks. Yeah. That puppy dog eyes really did help convince her. In exchange for doing this, she will be in charge of their practice schedule. Showing them a clip of A-Rise’s dance, they have lots of stamina and are able to smile while prancing around. She makes Honoka do some push-ups. Easy? Now try doing it while smiling. Tough, no? And so Umi becomes a Spartan in training her buddies to build their stamina by running up the stairs of the shrine. They see Nozomi working here part time as a miko priestess.

Honoka looks for Maki and once again tries to persuade her. Same answer. Not doing it. Why? She just doesn’t want to. Then Eri steps up to talk to Honoka. She wants her to stop this. Their school has never had an idol group before and if this plan backfires, what will others think? That’s why she wants her to stop acting as though saving the school is easy. This throws Honoka off her feet and she starts feeling gloomy that it is not fun and games like she thought. They are running short of time and have not begun on the many preparations. Honoka’s confidence receives a major boost when her other classmates agree to help her out whenever they can. She is even happier when she sees a suggestion in the survey box. It is the Greek alphabet of muse. And so it is decided that they will be called Muse (because writing this alphabet would be a pain for this blog). Honoka goes to look for Maki again and once more she is awed at her piano playing. Again she tries to persuade so Maki tells her reason why she doesn’t want to join because it feels the kind of music they sing isn’t serious and lacks depth. She is more into classical and jazz. Of course Honoka says being an idol isn’t easy either and has her do push-ups while smiling. Then she gives her Umi’s lyrics and wants her to read it. If she is not convinced even after reading it, she will stop bothering her. Honoka praises her singing, the reason why she would love to have her composing songs for them. That evening, Maki sees the trio doing their stamina training and realizes their resolve. She sends them a CD of a song she wrote and the trio are very impressed. They also note their online idol ranking has gone up a notch with a vote. They can thank Maki for that. Yeah. Rank 999. Only 998 more spots to the top.

Episode 3
As the trio continue their training, they spot Maki spying on them and ring her in. Although she is still in denial mode, they let her listen to the song they wrote that they have recorded themselves. In school, a couple of girls recognize Muse because of the video uploaded on the internet. Honoka is happy and is going to give a little sneak peak demonstration but she finds Umi suddenly ‘missing’. Seems she is hiding because she has a fear of performing in public. The best way to overcome her phobia is to let her help them out handing flyers for their concert tomorrow. So they think. She’s more scared than ever. Just think of them as vegetables. Looking weird, eh? It might be demoralizing that nobody is interested in taking a look at their flyer but Umi hits the first one: Hanayo. She thought of taking the short cut and giving all her flyers to her. There’s not short cut to success. Back at Honoka’s home, Kotori shows the dress she has made. To Umi’s dismay it wasn’t what she expected because the skirt is still short. Umi pulls out of the group and says they only have themselves to blame. But when Honoka starts spouting about the hard work and effort they put in, blah, blah, blah, Umi feels bad and changes her mind. Next day after the school entrance ceremony, the trio continue to hand out flyers. But it seems to be tougher than thought since many of them are interested in joining other clubs. Just before the concert, the trio put on their idol costumes. Honoka and Kotori are appalled Umi is wearing track bottoms. Looking very odd. They pull down her pants and make her look in the mirror. And then psycho her how cute she looks. Hanayo wanted to attend the concert but pushy Rin takes her to go look at some sports club to join.

Moments before the curtain rises, Muse is ready to give their best performance yet. And they are going to go all out before the sell-out crowd… Oh… Nobody… Not a soul! Man, this is very disheartening. Honoka is on the verge of tears but tries to put up a brave front. Her classmates feel bad for her because they did all they can to help and yet nobody turned up. Suddenly Hanayo runs into the auditorium. She is puzzled because she thought there is supposed to be a concert. Did she enter the wrong hall? Muse gets their confidence back and to perform even if it’s just one spectator. But that number won’t stay for long because as they perform Start:Dash!, they are soon joined by Rin who came rushing in to look for her friend and is amazed at the performance. Nozomi is listening outside and also catches Maki doing the same but hiding behind a corner. Eri is watching from the broadcasting room while I do not know if Niko has been hiding within the seats of the auditorium all this time or just snuck in. At the end, everyone is awe struck by their performance. But Eri had to pour cold water on their efforts because she doubts continuing this would make a difference. But Honoka insists they will keep singing and dancing. She hasn’t felt like this before and wants to keep believing. They’ll keep trying and do everything they can to get this feeling out there. This feeling in their hearts that brought them here.

Episode 4
Hanayo would love to become an idol as it is her childhood dream. However she feels she can’t as her voice is too soft and shy. Honoka and co are at the alpaca stable and see Hanayo as the caretaker. They remember her as one of the audiences at their concert. Honoka becomes pushy in asking her to join. Or desperate rather. I hope she doesn’t scare her off. When Rin asks Hanayo what club she wants to join and can tell she wants to join the idol club. Hanayo doesn’t have the confidence and asks about Rin herself. Rin considers herself tomboyish and thinks she won’t fit in. Later Hanayo sees Maki secretly taking a Muse recruiting flyer but notices she dropped her student ID. Meanwhile Eri goes to see the chairwoman about wanting permission for the student council to save the school because she thinks the idol group would just make the school more unappealing. The chairwoman disagrees and shows Muse starting to gain popularity because somebody uploaded their video on the internet. Hanayo arrives at Maki’s big mansion to return her student ID. Bringing up the topic of Muse causes Maki to be clumsy as she bumps and crashes into her furniture. Is she interested in joining the idol group? Maki says it is impossible because it is decided she will go to a medicine school so music is over for her. But she did hint that if Hanayo becomes a group member, she’ll help her out once in a while.

Hanayo then goes to Honoka’s home. She opens the room door and sees Kotoha trying to make her breasts big! Oops. Wrong room. In the next room, she sees Umi in her delusion performing to the crowd. Hanayo thinks she is done for when the girls corner her. Can she really forget that embarrassing scenes? Once everyone gathers, they see the uploaded video and wonders if Hanayo will join them. She is still unsure so the rest tell her about their own flaws and would have easily failed in becoming professional idols. But as long they have motivation and a goal to aspire to, they can keep trying. They don’t expect an answer from her now and hope she could take some time to think about it. Although Hanayo tries reading aloud in class, she embarrasses herself by biting her own tongue. Later Maki talks to her and practises with her to speak up her voice. When Rin enters the scene to pester Hanayo to join Muse, I don’t know how it becomes a competition between Rin and Maki to be the one who will take Hanayo to them. WTF. Does she have a say in this? Apparently not because they drag her there while arguing about it. At the rooftop, Rin and Maki give all the encouragement to Hanayo to join. In her own voice she finally expresses her wish to join Muse and they gladly accept her. Why are Rin and Maki crying like as though they are seeing their daughter growing up? Anyway they are not to be left out and Muse extends their recruitment to join them. Care to be part of the idol group? For them to be so defiant at the start, suddenly they just accept? As Rin and Maki wake up early for the training (this is going to be a daily affair), they see Hanayo casting away her spectacles and using contacts instead. She looks cuter and less nerdy this way.

Episode 5
Kotori thinks someone is stalking them. It turns out to be Niko but she tells them all to break up! Muse prepares to practice at the rooftop but it is rainy season. Bummer. Honoka and Rin thought they can practice in the rain but wouldn’t that make it more slippery? Unless you’re as athletic as Rin, maybe. At the fast food joint, Muse tries hard to think of a proper place to practice. And then Honoka just remembered. It takes 5 members to form a club and they have 6! Unknown to them, Niko is spying at the next table and she is appalled Honoka only recently thought of that. The rest realize she is the one who is stealing their fries and burger! Honoka is more concerned about her fries but Niko reminds her to break up as they are a disgrace to real idols before running off. Honoka takes her club application to Eri but she turns it down. Seems the school already has an Idol Research Club and it only has a member. Although it takes 5 members to form a club, once formed, it doesn’t matter how many members are left. Due to the school closing down, they want to discourage the formation of clubs and as long as this one exists, she won’t approve it. Nozomi suggests talking to the sole member of this club. Guess what? Yeah. Niko is the president of this club. Surprised Niko first locks herself inside the clubroom. Then she makes a run and escapes via window. Rin chases her but she ultimately bumps into the alpaca.

Muse is let into the clubroom and they are astounded to see Niko an avid collector of anything school idols. She even has the rarest Legendary Legend of Legend Idol box compilation. Suddenly Hanayo becomes miss-know-it-all. Getting down to business, Niko knows they are here for the merger talks and rejects them instantly. Although they don’t want to disband her club and just need a place to practice, Niko won’t listen. It is not that they practice and train hard every day. It’s because they lack persona. What persona? Niko demonstrates her cutsey Niko-niko smile move. Cute? Or just embarrassing? She believes such persona is to give fans what they want, idols need an appropriate persona. After that she kicks them out. Nozomi has anticipated this so she tells Muse that Niko was once the school’s idol. However she set the bar too high and everyone quit. Niko envies them and since her criticisms prove she takes an interest in them. Niko continues to stalk Honoka and friends and doesn’t believe how close they are. But she herself feels lonely like she’s missing out on something she wanted. One day when she enters the clubroom, she is surprised to see Muse waiting for her and eagerly awaiting her consultation of the next song they will sing. Wait a minute. Did Honoka just include Niko as part of Muse? I guess you can say Niko accepts being part of the idol group because she mentions that training from now on will be tough. Her first advice is that idols aren’t there to show people their smile, but make people smile! Remember that! And so Niko begins training her peers and starts off by doing the Niko-niko smile. She’s strict but she looks happy.

Episode 6
Nozomi goes around helping Muse with her interview to increase their publicity. Honoka is all for it while Umi is against it. Eventually she has to agree… The secret video of Honoka dozing off in class and being lazy… Is this what she bargained for? Feels more like invasion of privacy. We know what Eri will say if she sees this. Niko tries to put up her cutie idol act but what Nozomi wants is to film them in their natural state. Well, I thought Niko’s natural state looks pretty artificial too. I guess nobody is interested and left her to act all by herself. Nozomi continues to film and interview Muse but the way some are shy, uncooperative or just fooling around, it doesn’t seem it will give a good impression. So Nozomi films them while they are at their best during practice. One hour of hard dancing and singing without complaining. Nozomi visits Honoka’s house. Honoka’s mom tries to frantically put on some makeup seeing the student council is here. Honoka wanted to introduce Kotoha but they see her trying to fit into her belt. Just one more hole… Nozomi talks to Honoka about her contribution to Muse. Since the songs, lyrics and even dance steps come from other members, what mostly Honoka does is lazing around and getting wowed from watching other idols online. This makes her wonder how come she is the leader of Muse. Is she? And so Niko calls a meeting with Muse to decide the group’s leader. I thought Niko was the self proclaimed one since she is the president of the club, right? Apparently not. Niko gets all passionate in telling the traits of a leader. Get the feeling she is hinting herself? Why the sudden emphasize and need for a group leader? Because the leader will take the centre position. The rest ignore her and continue to be split in either Umi or Honoka as the leader. Honoka has no qualms if Umi takes over. She doesn’t care if she is no longer the centre since they’ll still be working together as Muse. As everyone is split, Niko tries to hint herself but is completely ignored. Does she want it that bad? Then why not just say it?

And so looks like Niko takes the hard way in determining the leader. First, a karaoke competition whereby the one who scores the highest gets to be it. Niko has already chosen the songs she is confident and will do well and tells those who aren’t interested to not participate since less rivals, better her chance. Guess what? All of them scored above 90 points. Good thing those practices paid off, eh? And they didn’t even take it seriously. Next is the dancing at the arcade challenge. Niko has the same confidence she can beat those amateurs at this game. Guess what? They all did well on their first time. Good thing those practices paid off, eh? Lastly, the aura test. Say what? Whoever finishes handing out their flyer means they have an aura to attract others and thus the winner. Niko is confident since this is her forte. But Kotori finishes first and Niko in dead last. Good thing those… Uhm, never mind. In the end, nobody really stood out and are more equal in the overall score. I see Niko, your chances of becoming the leader is pretty slim. So do they still need a leader? Honoka doesn’t think they should have one as they have been practising and singing just fine without one. She suggests they all take turns. Everyone gets to be the centre. This sits well with everyone and Niko even agrees (she has to). Of course, everybody knows that Honoka is their unofficial leader because she doesn’t let things get in her way, does what she finds most interesting and does it without hesitating. A video of Muse singing is uploaded. Nozomi shows it to Eri who remains sceptical. Nozomi just told them what she feels and hopes Eri would acknowledge them. They will be better if she helps. But Eri tells Nozomi to help them herself. She can’t because her cards state that Eri is the person they need most. Hanayo rushes to the clubroom to tell everyone some big news.

Episode 7
The big news is that there is going to be a Love Live event. The top 20 school idols of the nation will compete to find out who is the best (it will be streamed online too). Hanayo is thrilled that she wants to attend all those concerts but doesn’t have confidence about Muse’s participation. What’s more, Umi says their position is too low for them to qualify. To their surprise, checking their stats again it seems they have been picked as a rising school idol group. There are lots of encouraging comments on their video. Even Maki has fans from other schools waiting outside the gates. As a condition to participate, they need permission from the school so they head towards’ the chairwoman’s room. She agrees but Eri is against it since she herself said they shouldn’t sacrifice their school life for the school. But the chairwoman doesn’t see any harm for them to enter. Eri then demands that she too wants to help save the school but was turned down. Eri thinks she is siding them and leaves. The chairwoman has 1 condition for them to participate: All must not fail any of their subjects. Easy, right? Well, Honoka, Rin and Niko don’t seem to look so good. This is going to be tough. Honoka is so bad in maths that she thinks 7×4 = 26. She took 5 seconds to calculate that. Not good… Rin is weak in English but doesn’t feel the need to speak a foreign language since they’re Japanese (excuse, excuse). Niko asserts she doesn’t fail anything. I don’t think she can fool anybody on this one. So Kotori and Umi will help Honoka while Maki and Hanayo will help Rin. As for Niko, Nozomi will do the honours. Because if she fools around, she’ll give a breast rub she’ll never forget. I never knew Nozomi could be this scary. She might be enjoying it too. Umi sees a girl, Arisa watching a video of Muse that wasn’t uploaded before. Arisa is a fan of Muse and it was recorded by her sister. Who? Eri.

Umi talks to Eri and finds out she is the one who uploads all Muse’s videos. Never crossed her mind she would be the one since she is so against it. Without it, Muse would never have gone this far and got lots of viewers. But Eri doesn’t want her to get the wrong idea. She uploaded those videos to prove Muse wouldn’t get to their fans. However it backfired. She still thinks they are not cut out to represent the school and won’t acknowledge them. Even if they get more popular. Because she views all idols as amateurs, including A-Rise. Umi wants to talk to Nozomi (catching her in the act of molesting Niko’s boobs for fooling around) and wants to know why Eri isn’t fond of idols despite seeing them dance and sing. Umi is shown a ballerina clip of young Eri dancing gracefully. The shock is too deep for Umi as she understands why Eri said that. It made her think what they have been doing all the while. She heads to the student council’s room and hope she could request her to teach Muse to dance at least half as good as her. But Nozomi says that will have to wait and something more important comes first. The exam is in 5 days. If Nozomi wasn’t a demon making the idiotic trio study like hell, Umi becomes demon instructor number 2 because she is going to stay at Honoka’s house till the exam. Not letting up. The exam results are out and thankfully all of them pass (Honoka just barely but a pass is still a pass). It would be tad sad if such lovely girls won’t get to compete in Love Live. Muse is now motivated to seek the chairwoman’s permission but they hear a shocking statement. Outside her office they hear her telling Eri that the decision is final that Otonokizaka will stop accepting student applications next year and will shut down.

Episode 8
Honoka can’t believe it and pleads for more time. What the chairwoman meant was, in 2 weeks’ time they will be having an Open Campus. Middle school goers will have a look around their school and if it is poorly received, Otonokizaka will shut down. Eri will be taking action to ensure events for the Open Campus. But it seems the suggestions suggested by her fellow members seem boring. Is there any other attraction? Yeah. The school’s alpaca.  Oh, she got spit at. As Muse practise, Umi thinks this won’t do and their dance lacks impact. They discuss about Eri who is a great dancer and if you want to compare their dances, of course theirs look amateurish. Honoka feels she wants to get Eri to help train them to dance. Though some are against it, I guess there is no harm in trying. Eri reads her practice speech to her sister but Arisa finds it boring. Is this what she really wants to do? Honoka asks Eri to teach them to dance and she accepts seeing they are popular enough and thus willing to help out. Eri remembers the heartbreak of failing to be selected despite her magnificent dance. Of course she lost out to someone better but the bitter feeling still remained. Eri starts her Spartan training by making them do basic muscle training, stretching and balancing. Rin looks like she is having trouble. She’s in trouble. Shows how unfit some of them are. At the end of the day, she feels they aren’t up to it and tells them if they can’t keep up with it, just tell her sooner so she doesn’t have to waste time on them. Honoka thanks her and hopes she could continue to teach them.

Eri’s dilemma continues. She hears Arisa listening to Muse and enthralled by their efforts and it cheers her up. On the next practice, Eri has doubts whether Muse will improve or not so Honoka says they’re doing it because they want to and they want to save the school just as much as her. Eri leaves but Nozomi confronts her to ask what is it that she wants to do. She always thinks about others but never herself. She’s only trying to stop the school because she feels it’s her duty as student council president. Perhaps that’s the reason why the chairwoman won’t let her. Eri blows her top. She says she would have done something if it could get her somewhere. She starts crying lamenting it is hard for her to join the group now. As she sulks in her classroom, Muse comes to extend their hand for her to join. They heard from Nozomi and should’ve just told them sooner. Though Eri still has her pride, Nozomi knows how to work her way around to convince her. And so, Eri becomes the eighth member. There is even more delight in store because Nozomi becomes the ninth one and Muse is now a whole. Why is she joining now? She’s going according to her cards. Muse as the name suggests refers to the 9 signing goddesses. She is the one who came up with the group’s name. Muse puts up their performance in front of the middle schoolers on Open Campus and they really love their performance.

Episode 9
Due to the welcome response, the decision to shut down the school is postponed. Remember. Just postponed. Another good news is that Muse now has got a bigger room for their club. Thanks to Eri joining them, their popularity skyrocketed and sits at 50th in the rankings. But lately Kotori can’t join them for practice and always leaves early. A new shop selling memorabilia of school idols opens in Akiba. Muse is surprised they even have their own. Is this legal? But Niko seems to be frantic she can’t spot one with her own face on it! And when she does, look how happy she is. They see a picture of Kotori in a maid outfit on sale. And then Kotori comes by in a maid outfit to request that photo be taken off. Once she realizes her pals, she pretends she doesn’t know them and makes a run. She can outrun the rest but she can never beat Nozomi. She knows where she is and threatens a breast rub if she resists. That always works. As explained, she is known as the legendary Akiba maid Minalinsky. It’s mind boggling they don’t even know. She started doing this part time maid café job around the time Muse was formed. This is to change herself. She still feels she can’t do anything compared to her friends although they know very well Kotori has done her fair share of things. Eri notes it is normal that one usually feel they have no talent. But in a way it makes them work harder and improve themselves. Soon Eri announces they will hold a live performance in Akiba. Despite being the stronghold of A-Rise, they’ll get good publicity if they pull off a great performance. And so she entrusts Kotori to write the lyrics of their new song since she knows the place better than the rest. Since everyone is having high hopes for her, she reluctantly accepts.

We see Kotori write… Cute words… But it doesn’t make sense or at least connect. I know she’s trying but… Chocolate parfaits are delicious… Crisp Crepes I want one… Five toed socks feel nice… If you lay out lots of macaroons it is all colourful and makes you smile… Because of that, Kotori has a hard time concentrating in class and at this rate she might go crazy. That’s when Honoka decides to do brainstorming together. So our trio of second years work part time at the maid café with their other Muse members as customers. What better way than to find those words by experiencing the place itself. Kotori shows why she is the legendary maid with her gracious service. I want to be served by her too! Umi who is still afraid of meeting people is doing a more traditional maid’s job: Washing dishes at the back. Aren’t maids supposed to do this kind of jobs? She gets some encouragement from Kotori. She’s like a whole new person when she dons the maid outfit. Honoka gets an idea that she should just use the words that she talks with her friends or anybody in her lyrics. With that, Kotori’s mind flows better as she pens down the words. Muse then puts up their live performance with all of them in a maid outfit and it is a success. The trio also gained lots of experience being a maid. At the end of the day, Kotori wonders how long they’ll be together. She’s sad everything will end in 2 years. Honoka assures her that they’ll always be together. It makes her feel so much better.

Episode 10
Honoka thinks it is too hot to practise. Excuses, excuses. So she comes up with this idea of having a summer camp. She suggests having it at Maki’s villa. Since Eri gives the green light, I guess Maki has no choice but to seek her parents’ permission. Before they depart, Eri has them practise calling each other casually and do away with the senior-junior thingy. Maki’s villa is bigger than everyone thought. Who’d knew she was this rich! Umi has come up with a very rigorous training schedule. 10km swimming followed by 10km running? Wow. Is this Spartan training? I know they’ve got less than a month for the Love Live competition but isn’t this too much. So our lazy trio (that’s Honoka, Niko and Rin) try to worm their way out and they manage to get everyone to have in the beach. Eri approves of it since it will help bridge the gap between them. Nozomi films them as part of the PV. Nozomi notices Maki not mixing with the rest so she goes talk to her despite she is being herself, she actually wants to get along with everyone but just can’t bring herself to express it. Why is Nozomi sticking her nose in her business? Because she knows someone who is very similar like her. Niko surprises everyone that she can cook (despite saying earlier on she has a chef who cooks for her and thus doesn’t know a thing). After that wonderful curry meal, they want to go watch the fireworks. However Umi wants to practise after that. Still giving excuses not to? Since everyone is divided, they go soak in the hotspring before going to bed. It’s going to be a long day of practise tomorrow. However nobody can sleep. Except Umi. She’s already out. They hear something munching away and it turns out to be Honoka. She thinks eating snacks can help her sleep better? Maybe put on more weight, yeah. Nozomi initiates a pillow fight and blames Maki as the source. In no time, it’s every girl for herself. I can’t believe Umi can sleep through all that racket. Till the pillows hit her face. Now she has awakened into a demon! Regret waking her up? Her supersonic pillow throw is enough to put out unfortunate souls into deep sleep! Scary! She is taken out by Nozomi-Maki combo. Nozomi notes Maki is more casual with everyone now. The first light of morning comes. Maki wakes up and sees Nozomi looking over the horizon at the beach. Nozomi tells her how she loves Muse a lot and doesn’t want any member to fall back. Although it was the second years who created Muse, she has been watching them since and has an emotional attachment to the group. The rest of the girls wake up and watch the beautiful sunrise together hand in hand.

Episode 11
Muse has climbed their way to 19th and they are ecstatic if they keep it up, they’ll qualify for Love Live. Of course they can’t rest yet with the many school idols below 20th place not giving up yet since they are approaching the home stretch. This means more practice. Also, Eri suggests to do more performances (since doing something special won’t cut it at this point in time) and to use the upcoming cultural festival as their platform. Because Niko wanted to do something so badly, she ends up being the one who will pick the auditorium for their performance. She didn’t know it was via lottery style. Muse watches in baited breath as she spins. Can her luck bring it? Well, no. No auditorium for them. So depressed. Like it’s the end of the world for some. And some blaming Niko for screwing up. I hope that’s just a joke. They start thinking about other places to hold their performance and the only viable place is the rooftop. Although people down there can’t see them, Honoka suggests they sing out loud and this will attract people to come up and watch them. Great idea. And so the rooftop it will be. Kotori seems to be having her own dilemma. She has received a letter and asks her mom for opinion. She says it is up to her to decide. In another discussion, Honoka suggests of practising a new song that she heard Maki wrote. Do they have time to practise new moves? Honoka just wants to do her best. This means extra solo night training by her own initiative. She even comes up with new moves and works the hardest. Umi is concerned about her for practising up till so late and hopes Kotori would talk her to her senses but she says it’s up to Honoka to do what she wants. That night, Honoka and Umi call each other and think Kotori is acting strange. But Honoka thinks she is just excited for the performance. Honoka continues her midnight jogging even if it’s raining. Subsequently Kotori calls Umi about her dilemma. On the day of the festival, Honoka wakes up a little late (thank her mom for that, otherwise she would have slept through the day) and finds she is sick. Oh no. To make the day worse, it is raining. Honoka hides her illness (seriously, her friends can’t tell?) as Muse gets dressed up. They can’t back out now after they’ve come this far. They are only here because they kept pushing themselves and all they have to do is their best. Kotori doesn’t want to shock the group and will wait after the performance to announce. I wonder if it’s a wise idea for Muse to go out and dance in the rain. I hope the platform is not slippery. You know what can happen with all that dancing, jumping and moving about. Too bad you won’t get to see the effects of idols’ clothes being heavily soaked. Get what I mean ;p. Right after the first song ends, Honoka collapses. Though everyone panics, weak Honoka still won’t give up. She wants to sing the next song. The show must go on.

Episode 12
Muse cannot carry on with the performance and some of the audience start leaving. The girls pay Honoka a visit at her house and she’s recuperating fine. But Eri informs they will not be participating in Love Live. The chairwoman told them to reflect on this and what their original goal was. After discussing, Muse decided to abstain from participating and withdraw themselves. They are no longer in the standings. Eri also says it is no use blaming things now. Everyone is to blame. Honoka didn’t manage herself better and everyone else for not noticing. I bet they didn’t even notice this one: Kotori is seen packing her things at home and is sure she will tell Honoka about it tomorrow. Honoka is depressed back in school so much so Kotori doesn’t have the heart to tell her. Niko couldn’t bear to see it and sends Nozomi to do her breast rub. It always works. As they are out of the running for Love Live, they can take their practice easy and still perform, though they are not in a hurry to do so. They receive the good news that there is an increase in applicants for next year’s intake. Which means the school won’t be closed down for at least another year. Happy everyone? Yeah, but why isn’t Kotori? Umi advises her the longer she puts it off, the harder it gets. Niko celebrates with the rest of Muse about their school’s revival. She’s making a speech nobody wants to listen. Because Kotori continues to be indecisive, Umi decides to tell everyone on her behalf. Kotori will be leaving to study abroad in 2 weeks to study costume designing. She didn’t want to break their spirits and decided to tell them after the festival. Once she leaves, she won’t come back at least after she graduates from high school.

Honoka is upset she never told her. They’re friends, right? But she told Umi, didn’t she? There were many times she wanted to tell her but Honoka was so focused on Love Live. She wanted to tell her after the festival but she collapsed. She wanted to discuss it with her to make a decision since she is her first friend. Kotori runs away in tears. Umi says she may not actually want to go and struggled so long to make a decision probably she was thinking about Honoka. She wasn’t trying to keep it a secret either. Later Honoka mails to Kotori to apologize she never considered how others felt and only thought about herself. But it’s too late now, huh? Though Honoka continues to be depressed in class, Eri calls her up to the rooftop. Muse plans to do a final performance together for Kotori’s farewell. But Honoka blames herself if she had only took note of others, this wouldn’t have happened. Eri chides her for taking all the blame. It won’t do them any good now. Getting depressed won’t get them anywhere. Besides, there’s always next time for Love Live. But Honoka’s morale is so low that she wonders what is the point of competing since they’ve already reached their goal. Besides, they’ll never beat A-Rise. This upsets Niko because she joined them since she took this seriously and believed in her. If she is serious in what she just said, Niko is going to beat her up (only to be restrained by Maki). Is this alone enough to make her lose all her motivation? Eri asks what Honoka will do now. She will quit being a school idol. Umi won’t allow her to have her way and slaps her. Where has the Honoka she knew gone to?

Episode 13
Kotori and Honoka has not talked since and the latter continues to put up a gloomy facade. Eri has put Muse on hiatus and this does not sit well with Niko. Umi goes talk to Kotori and from the way she says things, it is too late for her to turn back now. Oh, really? With so much free time, Honoka hangs out with her friends and at the arcade while playing a dancing game, she is reminded of her times practising and dancing as Muse. After parting ways with her friends, she meets Niko, Rin and Hanayo practising by themselves. Though Muse is on hiatus, nobody said they should stop being a school idol. Don’t you remember? Niko loves idols, the reason she is doing this. She loves the kind of idols that motivate everyone to work hard and asserts her love is different than her half-hearted one. The rest love to have her back since she was the one who started this. Later Eri visits Honoka’s home to apologize about putting Muse on hiatus. Eri talks about herself. People view her as strict and calm but she finds herself hesitant, indecisive and always wanting to cry. However she hides her weak side and wishes she could be like her who is not afraid to show what she feels. Honoka thought her the courage to move on without fear of change because back then, her hands saved her. Kotori’s mom sees her daughter off alone at the airport. It’s better this way she doesn’t see anybody or else she won’t stop crying. Umi sees Honoka at the school’s auditorium. Honoka is here not because of Love Live but her love for singing. She admits being awkward and selfish but wants to keep going. Umi starts laughing. She says she has always been causing them trouble. They can never get her to listen to reason. Take a good example how Umi was forced to join this idol thingy whether she likes it or not. However due to that, she always takes them places. Great places where they can’t go on their own as they lack courage. She is mad not because she didn’t notice how Kotori felt, but rather she was denying how she truly felt. After a short song, Umi tells Honoka to get Kotori. Didn’t she decide to leave? Just like Umi, Kotori wants her to be selfish and wants to be led by her. She found favour with a famous designer and no one would tell her to stay. The only one who can be selfish with her is… Honoka rushes her way just in time to the airport to grab Kotori. She wants to be a school idol with her even if they end up pursuing different dreams one day. Easy as that, Kotori goes back with Honoka just in time for Muse to put on a concert in front of a full hall. At the end, Honoka makes an announcement of Muse Music Start.

OVA
This one only lasts 15 minutes. It begins with Hanayo being freaked out after hearing Maki’s weird dream of being chased through the dark corridors and getting trapped. Later when Maki goes to play the piano, she notices a key without any sound, as she tries to take a closer look, she is scared out of the daylights when she sees a little girl standing by the piano. Because of that, she becomes absent from Muse’s practice the next day. That scared that she turned ill, huh? The girls think of visiting her after practice. When they leave, Eri remembers she forgot something and returns to her classroom to retrieve it. Suddenly it turns dark. Colourful stage lights fill the path as she chases after silhouette of that little girl. When she comes out, Eri is reunited with the rest of her friends, they are surprised that the day has become night! They think they are inside some dream. Then that little girl pops out to confirm it. She is Maki in her young age (Niko is devastated she is cuter than her!). She says they are all interesting as they are very close together. She also says this is a never-ending party. As the fireworks light up the sky, she adds that she has known them for a very long time even before they became Muse. Before she could complete her sentence, she transforms into her high school self. She herself is surprised to find herself here but the rest are amazed of this magic she pulled. Did she? They are certain this is her dream. As for what little Maki wanted to say, it was that she always liked them all. Now we have a full length song and dance video of Muse. WTF. I don’t get it. What’s this OVA about? Unless it’s just a prelude and introduction to this song Music Start which happens to be their sixth and latest single.

S.O.S. (Save Our School)!
Guess I had a feeling it had to end this way. There is no way that a group with cute girls would just disband and end of a story. There is no way that a member would go far away and be separated from the rest of her friends. How else would they make a second season then? It would be impossible to be an idol unit via long distance relationship. It just wouldn’t work. By the way, a sequel has been scheduled to be released somewhere in mid 2014. Fans of the group would definitely rejoice on this news but for me, just like my stint with AKB0048, I’ll still be hanging around to see how far they will climb and eventually become top. The sequel is like giving them a second chance to participate in Love Live since they totally missed this one out due to a little ‘internal misunderstanding’. Maybe it is a good thing too that they didn’t get to participate because it gives them more time to practise and hone their skills. So for a big part of this season, we mainly see how Muse gathers all its members and from what it started as an idol group to save the school (and have already achieved it), they turn their sights to a bigger goal by becoming the nation’s top school idols. So that’s why I have this feeling that the sequel will see Muse take on all-time favourites A-Rise and even if they don’t take the crown from them, at least they will make it known that they have put up a good fight and letting the A-Rise trio that there is another idol group who isn’t so far behind.

Each of the characters has their own personality and with a variety of them, it is easy to see why they shine. A mix of different types of personalities has a great impact in the diversity of the group. You may have fans liking a certain character but in the end, they still love the group as a whole. Honoka is unofficially the leader because of her cheerful outlook and not afraid to let her feelings known. Some may say she’s selfish but I won’t say that it is to a point that makes her a dictator. Even if she seems pushy about it, eventually it is the other girls who agree to her ways, right? So it’s not totally her fault. It’s just that moment of weakness she had in the end that knocked her balance off a little. Because she has helped those in need, now it is their turn to help her back. Out of all the girls, the most amusing one is Niko. If I should say, she is more like the group’s joker. Not to say she is always like one but because of her child-like tendencies, the way she acts and thinks-she-knows-it-all makes her an amusing girl. But her passion for idols is genuine and you can’t pull a fast one on this area. She knows her idol stuff like the back of her hand. Nozomi acts like the big sister of the group, watching and keeping an eye out for them. Her breast rub technique makes her a character that has extreme sides. We can do it the nice way or the hard way…

Eri is one character whom I feel has undergone the most change. Before Muse was a whole, she was always playing the strict no nonsense student council president, not please with what Honoka and co are doing. It’s understandable that she has an image to put up with. Deep down in her heart, she perhaps had always wanted to be part of Muse but because she keeps delaying, the cold image of hers becomes harder to shake off. When she has cast away all that and become part of Muse, she becomes a better person. Heck, I think she looks prettier when she constantly smiles! Better than that serious frown she always had. Umi has also changed because she doesn’t fear performing in public as much as she does before. Maki also learns to mix well with the rest of her friends and Kotori definitely looks better if she has that dreamy look instead of that indecisive one. Was it really that simple? She just wanted a friend to tell her not to go and she won’t? Well, this girly thing I really don’t understand but it’s not my place to say. Rounding up the rest of Muse are the shy Hanayo and tomboyish Rin. With such a variety of characters, how can you not love them? Even the side characters are lovable themselves though I don’t think they’ll ever be part of Muse. Kotoha is a funny girl whenever you catch her in the act of some dieting or self slimming down stuff. Arisa exudes lot of moe while Honoka’s friends are truly friends because they help support her through times.

Hardcore fans would already know this by heart since it is common knowledge but since I only knew about this group via anime, I only learnt that the girls of Muse (in reality, the name was picked via handphone poll – heck, many of the costumes, hairstyle and position are determined via handphone poll) are played and voiced by the same people ever since their inception back in 2010. It’s like they’ve planned this for a long time and anticipated this would eventually happen. I guess this is only right since Muse also have their own fan base (and growing). Fans of a certain idol wouldn’t really like it if some character in the anime is voiced by a different person.  Based from the episode 0 I’ve seen, they have put in quite a lot of effort by staging various promotional events, live programmes and concerts to keep fans coming back for more. They’ve come a long way and you could say it is quite a successful project. Some of the members went on to lend their voice in other animes like Honoka’s Emi Nitta, Kotori’s Aya Uchida, Umi’s Suzuko Mimori, Niko’s Sora Tokui, Eri’s Yoshino Nanjou and Hanayo’s Yurika Kubo. Maki’s Pile, Rin’s Riho Iida and Nozomi’s Aina Kusuda only have this anime as their debut in voice acting. As for the rest of the supporting characters, they didn’t use big veteran names of the seiyuu industry since many of them don’t ring a bell to me (sorry) but they’ve got some experience in the industry. The only veteran seiyuu I recognized from the list is Kikuko Inoue playing as Maki’s mother.

Music plays a big part of any idol themed animes. I won’t say that I totally love their songs and moves, I just find them rather okay. I’m not an idol person so don’t hate me for that. Still, I think they sound pretty good and enjoyable. Of all the songs that I have heard and featured in this anime, the one that I like most is the insert song, Start:Dash! Well, at least I thought it made me tap my feet to its nice tune. The opening theme is Bokura Wa Ima No Naka De by Muse (who else?) and sounds like your typical energetic and happy idol song complete with its own unique moves for this piece. Kitto Seishun Ga Kikoeru by Muse (seriously, you’re not thinking it would be some other group, aren’t you?) is the ending the theme and although it is still the lively piece, it feels less energetic compared to the opening theme. Although this is the only ending song, there are many versions of it. I mean, with 9 members in Muse, there are going to be a version which is sung by only one of them or a duet and so on. The combination is endless although hardcore fans would know the ‘permanent members’ when they are not singing together as a whole and when they break into smaller units of 3. In my opinion, I think they sound better if all sing the song. Because some don’t really sound good if they’re singing solo… Whoops. I’m not the one to say…

The drawing and art of the anime is of course vividly bright and colourful. You can’t attract people having dull and monochrome colours, can’t you? In the course of the anime, you get to see Muse performing in some of their trademark costumes and perhaps even more in the next season. To add to the realism of the dance and choreography, CGI animation of the girls is used just like how it was done in AKB0048 too. At first it may look odd since we have been watching the 2D version for quite a while and then when the performance begins, it shifts into 3D animation. The difference won’t be very much but it is noticeable. More importantly, the animation using CGI is smooth so it doesn’t make Muse feel like a bunch of robots dancing on stage. Of course not the entire song is in CGI mode as some parts are still in 2D animation. This anime was produced by Sunrise and Aikatsu, another idol themed anime was produced under them.

Despite this series lacking all the action and sci-fi stuffs compared to AKB0048, this is still quite an enjoyable show. Unless of course if you aren’t into idols and music, then you may have considered a bunch of girls forming an idol group to save their school from closure to be tad boring. If you’re thinking that this show is intended for girls, I have a feeling it is targeted for mainly males instead. I mean, the main gender group that would love an all-female idol group would be guys, right? There would be girls too but don’t you think all that sexy dance moves and sexy outfit are to attract males? Is it their singing and dancing that we are more interested or is it something else? Well, sometimes I feel that for those who can’t make it to their favourite idol concerts (or even afford it), perhaps this is a reason why this anime is created. So you can watch it from the comfort of your room. But then again, which crazy idol fan doesn’t have every collectible and memorabilia of their favourite idol group, know every darn trivia about them and attended every concert or other events they organized?