Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club ?
With all our idols present and accounted for, it's time for that most revered of traditions: the training camp episode. Sadly none of the Nijigasakids have a fancy villa or beachside cabin to visit, so instead they get to camp out in their convention center of a school campus. But don't worry, that won't stop various and sundry hijinks, shenanigans, and tomfoolery from coming our way. Especially since Nijigasaki's equivalent to Umi and Dia is Setsuna, who's far less effective at wrangling her herd of cats. That's not great for sticking to their training regimen, but it does allow for goofy fun like the first years trying to spook their upperclassmen, or the whole club playing tag instead of their typical jogging routine. It's never quite as all-out ridiculous as some of the stuff μ's or Aqours got up to in their heyday, but it's still an enjoyable time seeing the cast all together to bounce off each other and generally act like dumb teenagers given just a bit too much freedom for their own good.
Though of course this episode can't be all jokes and poolside fanservice, as there's some interpersonal drama brewing in Nijigasaki. Yuu and Ayumu have largely fallen into the background after getting the club to reform, but they return to the spotlight as both find themselves contemplating just what the future holds for them. For Yuu, seeing the crowd at Diver Fes has left her restless, unsure of what she wants to do with herself now that she's started to pursue the passion Setsuna's performance awoke in her. The answer is, refreshingly, not to become an idol herself. Instead she takes some words of support from Setsuna and decides to turn the club's upcoming debut concert into the Lollapalooza of School Idolatry, conveniently called The School Idol Festival (Downloadtodayonitunesandgoogleplay, in-apppurchasesverificationrequired). It's a cool idea, and exactly the kind of thing a newly converted idol stan would come up with when really wanting to put her faves on the biggest possible stage, plus the rest of the club seems totally gung-ho about it! Well, almost, anyway.
Ayumu has kind of gotten the short end of the stick – she had to share her own focus episode with Yuu and Setsuna, all while establishing the rest of the cast and introducing the defunct idol club narrative. She's gotten some good gags and I appreciate her terrible, nonsensical hairdo, but otherwise she's faded into the background to let the rest of the cast strut their stuff. Which is why I'm thankful it seems like our season-ending drama is centered around her character, and specifically her feelings for Yuu. There's a lot that could be said about Love Live!'s willingness to code its various character relationships as blatantly romantic without ever actually portraying anything definitive, but that's also a discussion encompassing a lot of anime and even niche media in general, and to a point I'm willing to live with well-natured ship-teasing and subtext so long as the show can deliver believable and relatable emotions while walking that tightrope. So I'm only being slightly glib when I say that Ayumu is struggling with codependency as her girlfriend makes new connections and finds new forms of love. Sorry girl, that's your lot as the childhood friend to a harem protagonist. Try asking You Watanabe for advice on how to cope.
Jokes aside, this is actually a pretty effective conflict. Ayumu has always been nervous and hesitant to come out of her shell, and it seemed from the start like she was mostly pursuing idol-dom because it was something she had in common with Yuu. That was a good idea for a while, but now Yuu is starting to go where Ayumu isn't prepared to follow, and that distance leaves her increasingly insecure. We can see it when she catches Yuu and Setsuna in a pratfall misunderstanding straight out of Nisekoi, or when she's the only one not to jump at the idea of the Festival, and for the first time all season this particular issue is left to boil at the end of the episode.
Doubtlessly this'll be resolved with a heart-to-heart, everyone learning to believe in their friends and themselves, maybe some crying at sunset – the usual for Love Live! – but it's conflict grounded in character writing and I appreciate how everything was set up way back in the premiere. And who knows, Nijigasaki has managed to surprise me plenty already, and this episode gave me everything I could reasonably ask of it, so I'm ready to follow this rainbow to wherever it ends.
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