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The girls of m's are still working hard to assemble their group, train, and write songs that will propel their school into fame. With each new member, a new strength is also added until Honoka's seed has blossomed into a full-fledged school idol group. They even have a chance at performing in the Love Live, a major concert competition of school idols! But will misguided ambition and uncommunicative members cost them their chance?
If there is one thing that can absolutely be said about the candy-coated idol extravaganza that is Love Live!, it's that it has a lot of heart. From the moment main protagonist Honoka decided that she would become a school idol to save her school from closing, the series has earnestly ploughed ahead and taken her goal seriously, resisting the temptation to succumb to fanservice or self-referential humor. It may not be a deep show, or even an especially complexly plotted on, but Love Live! is a story that earnestly wants to make you happy.
In its second half, we find the girls of m's still facing opposition from third year Eli. Eli's derision is increasingly harsh, and not even the addition of several more girls to the original three can truly cover up the problem she presents. Fortunately for the show, this is nicely solved by Nozomi, Eli's friend who has secretly had m's' back from the get-go. As it turns out, Eli has a very specific reason for disliking the budding idol group, albeit one that feels a little thin: Eli, it seems, was an aspiring ballerina in Russia and this is influencing her view of Honoka's perky band of pop princesses. But as the opening theme foretold back in episode one, Eli eventually is persuaded that m's isn't so bad after all and joins the group, along with Nozomi, bringing us to our full compliment of high school singers. Now the trick is to get enough publicity to attract new students to the failing high school and thus forestall its closure.
Love Live! genuinely tries to make each of its heroines her own separate character with her own motivation, although that works better with some girls than others. All three of the first years fall by the wayside as the episodes go on, particularly Rin and Hanayo, who appear to just be there to fill the roles of “glasses” and “sporty” and to give Maki two more freshmen for the dance routines. Eli, Umi, and Kotori, on the other hand, all go through some real development, with Umi taking the spotlight as she struggles with her shyness and learns to enjoy performing. She also serves as the go-between for Kotori and Honoka when the going gets tough, perhaps giving her the most varied role in the group. Honoka's character makes an attempt at development, but never really gets there. Her only real crisis is in episode twelve with a bit of carry-over into thirteen, as opposed to Umi, who has problems right along. Honoka may be the core of the show and as lovable as hyperactive puppy, but she is also a bit static. In a different show this would have been more of a problem; as it stands, Honoka merely represents the sparkly sunshine that Love Live! exudes. In some ways the fairly undeveloped characters are a part of the draw of the show – with each girl representing a different “type,” there is someone for each viewer to claim as a favorite, right down to “girl who enjoys groping other girls.” Of course, this also means that there will be one or two of the singers who annoy any given viewer – and really, how are Nozomi's actions okay? - the cast is large enough that it all balances out.
Visually the motion-capture dancing continues to be jarring, particularly when the animation shifts from 2D to 3D and back again over the course of one song. Apart from this, things generally look pretty good. Attention is paid to each girl's personal taste in terms of her costume add-ons, and more remarkably everyone has a slightly different figure. As has been mentioned, there is nigh on no fanservice, which along with the jewel-bright eyes and bold colors helps to maintain a very innocent, family-friendly look. There is a general smoothness to movements that helps to keep the energy high, even during less active scenes.
As with the first half, almost every episode contains one song-and-dance routine that is as sugary and catchy as only J-pop can be. While nothing really stands out, even the background music helps to maintain the mood, and occasionally the lyrics of the song serve to enhance the tone of the episode. Also worth noting is the way that every so often this show can really grab its viewers emotionally. While nothing has quite the same impact as the curtain opening on an empty auditorium in the beginning, there are still moments that have a surprising amount of heft for what is essentially the cotton candy of anime, and the final episode draws some very nice parallels to earlier events. Episode twelve is probably the weakest in this set, with ten coming in a close second, but overall the show maintains a sort of happy energy that is hard to resist.
Love Live! is certainly not the best show out there, but it is a sweet, fun little treat. Thin on plot but stuffed to the gills with optimism and charm, its good natured attitude and catchy pop treats make this the antidote to the rainy day blues. (Just don't go outside even for a minute, or you'll get a fever!) When you're feeling down, give this a watch, because if nothing else, Love Live! has its heart in the right place and only seems to want us to smile.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Sweet, perky, and just generally charming. Each girl has her own look and figure, just a fun time.
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