The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Love Live! School Idol Project (2nd Season)

Apr 7th 2014

Hope Chapman

Rating: 4

Review:
For a few fleeting moments, I was tempted to write at least part of this preview in musical verse. After all, that's how Love Live!'s second season starts out: with a big happy Broadway number! Then I realized it was kinda hacky and probably wasn't worth the effort. I guess the care and enthusiasm that goes into Love Live! inspired me?

This is definitely a show with effort and thought behind it. All the charm and warm fuzzies from the first season have carried over into the school idols' second semester, with arguably even nicer-looking animation, certainly a better integration of 2-D animation with the 3-D models as witnessed in the episode's credits. (It's not perfect, but the transitions back and forth between mediums have been improved.) This episode will be largely impenetrable to those unfamiliar with the first season, so jumping in blind is ill-advised, but for returning viewers, everything you loved about the first series is back in the second as the girls get the opportunity to participate in just one more Love Live! before their senior members graduate. But one girl is unsure if they should compete...it can't be...the group's leader Honoka is having second thoughts?!

Love Live! doesn't do anything halfway, and this episode is bursting with wacky sequences and heartfelt moments from start to finish. Everyone in the 9+ cast of characters gets a moment to shine, and they're all just well-written enough to have disparate motivations and reactions to the episode's various twists. Everyone has something to do, and they all feel like just the right balance between actual high school girl and goofy cartoon character. This is a show that cares about and understands its characters on a level above "cute faces to sell to otaku," without ever taking itself too seriously or trying to be anything other than what it is at heart. Love Live! is a jubilant, heartfelt explosion of saccharine sentiment and cuddly comedy for all ages, and its second half (although let's not rule out future spinoffs thanks to the franchise's financial success,) is off to an excellent start.

Love Live! Season 2 is available streaming at
Crunchyroll.com.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Review:

There's just something infectious about Love Live!. Maybe that's due to the general good-hearted feelings of its nine heroines, or maybe I just really like perky Jpop, but there's a charm to this show that somehow raises it above itself. It helps that season two doesn't look like just a carbon copy of season one, at least in its first episode. With the previous season's goal of keeping their school open via raising enrollment rates accomplished, primary protagonist Honoka seems to have lost some of her excitement about being a school idol. After all, the school is saved, her sister will be enrolling, and now she's student council president. So when a second Love Live! competition is announced, Honoka feels no great need for her group to prove themselves again. Needless to say this horrifies the rest of the girls, and something needs to be done to shake Honoka out of her complacency.

That's a pretty big risk to take with the second season of a show initially built around Honoka's drive and determination. Essentially this first episode changes her character, and even if she does go back so that we can have a second season, showing us this other side of her colors our perception. What if Honoka's idol days were just a phase like all kids go through? Will her enthusiasm wane again if she gets busy with her other duties? These questions give the second season a different kind of menace than the first season faced, which is a good thing, because much as I enjoy this show, a second helping of more of the same could drag, or just feel silly. Not that this is the world's most serious show, but giving Honoka another side to her personality makes things feel a bit more solid in general.

There's very little singing and dancing in this episode, but for the ending theme (presumably the opening used at the end this time), which has another vaguely creepy motion capture dance routine. I'm not as thrilled with the choreography this time, but it's still fun to watch. There are two songs not counting the ending theme – an acapella recap of one of last season's and a very funny song like something out of a cheesy musical, where Honoka dances through the halls belting out her decision to run for student council.

I was excited to see this dollop of sweetness come back for a second season, and so far I do not feel disappointed. It isn't off to a spectacular start, but it is a solid one, and with different stakes – three of the members will graduate and be unable to perform at the high school level again – and Honoka's new feelings, this looks like it will deliver the same poppy perky fun as it did the first time around.

Love Live! School idol project Season 2 is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Bamboo Dong

Rating: 4

Review: The girls of μs are back, and they have something new to look forward to—a second Love Live competition. Only this time, instead of relying on internet rankings, prospective school idol groups have to battle their way through regional preliminaries. The only problem? μs is up against one of the strongest school idol groups in the biz.

Sure, it sounds like a pretty well-worn path, but the magic is all in the execution. And, with a whole season under its belt, and plenty of time to iron out the kinks, Love Live! School idol project is an old pro. It helps that the characters already feel like familiar friends, so the series doesn't have to spend any time on introductions. And, with the school no longer in jeopardy, the girls can just do whatever it is they want to do the most—sing and dance their hearts out. They don't quite have the spit and polish of rival group A-Rise, but they have Guts, Hearts, and Gumption.

They also have some of the best animation in the idol anime genre, which is indispensable for shows that rely on group choreography and complex dance moves. Just comparing Love Live! School idol project with, say, the later episodes of Wake Up, Girls! is like steak and hamburger; where the latter had to fake it with awkward cuts and jerky closeups, Love Live! has the power of money and rotoscoping. That same money (backed by a cash-pumping multimedia project and legions of devoted, wallet-emptying fans) also goes a long way in providing the series with plenty of memorable music. Instead of recapping the previous season the old-fashioned way, with long-winded dialogue or narration, the first episode of Love Live! 2 uses a musical number. And by musical number, I mean like the kind of number you'd see in a Disney move, complete with confetti, out of place dance moves, and a shot of Honoka joyously sliding down a stair railing.

Like its predecessor, Love Live! 2 is about as wholesome as it gets. There's zero fanservice whatsoever, and almost all of the shots are framed from respectful angles. And because the girls are so gosh-darned genuine, it gives the show a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cheese. In any other series, a character chasing the rain away with the shout, "Stop, rain!" would draw eyerolls and guffaws, but not Love Live!. With Love Live!, just about anything is possible, because shucks.

Love Live! 2 is definitely off to a good start. The characters already have something concrete to work towards, and whatever ennui that Honoka had at the beginning has already been shaken off. Of course, if you're not already a fan of the series, this isn't really the best place to start. This opening episode is one of the least newbie-friendly openers I've seen in a while, so if you're intrigued by what you see, do yourself a favor and watch it from the beginning.

Love Live! Season 2 is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 3.5

Review: Damn! They got me again. For the record, I am not an idol fan. Don't like the concept; don't like the music; don't like the tie-in anime shows designed to sell merch, music, and—in this case—video games. And yet somehow Love Live! always manages to get me. It's too well-meaning, too infectiously enthusiastic to hate. It's always a little better-written, a little more creative, a little more heartfelt than you expect. Every episode I go in with a big chip on my shoulder, and every episode I come out having thoroughly enjoyed myself. This one included.

Having saved their school from slow death, μ’s is taking a bit of a rest. Honoka has accepted the position of student body president and is very busy with best buds Umi and Kotori trying to run things smoothly. The group's third-years are thinking about graduation, while the first-years are practicing under the suspect guidance of Nico. They all pull together, however, when the big new hits: Japan is holding another Love Live!—the contest to determine the top school idols in the land. Everyone wants to join, but μ’s leader Honoka shocks everyone by suggesting they sit it out.

Direction has a lot to do with Love Live!’s success. Watch the way this episode's heart—the relationship between the main body of μ’s and its soon-to-depart third years—floats unnoticed to the surface, buoyed by wordless exchanges and expressive eyes. Or how the (brilliant) opening transforms a recap into an ebullient Broadway number.  However, one shouldn't ignore the power of Live’s cast. The show's ensemble is lively and likeable, its members silly and colorful and yet clearly more than just girl-shaped containers for fetishized personality traits. Ultimately it is they—with director Takahiko Kyōgoku—who ferry us through to this episode's delightfully cheesy conclusion, selling a call-and-response climax that, honestly, we should never have bought. Damn!

Love Live! Season 2 is available streaming at Crunchyroll.


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