Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club ?
Now that's what I'm talking about, Love Live. After weeks of generally subdued character conflicts and emotional payoffs, the glorious dramatics of this franchise finally make a return from an unexpected source. I'll admit, next to Kanata, Shizuku was probably the idol I was least interested in at the start of this series. Sure, she's pulling double duty as both an idol and a stage actress, but her role has largely been to babysit Kasumi during her brattiest moments and fill space in the background. So imagine my surprise when this episode opened up with Shizuku and her Shadowself delivering dueling monologues about the internal strife inside her theater stage Mind Palace, with sweeping odes about how no one will ever hear her real song. All you need are some space-age planes and an upstart young pilot to convince me this was a scene from the next Macross series, and that is absolutely a compliment.
I've routinely complimented how Nijigasaki has handled its character writing, because it's generally done a better job than its predecessors at making its cast of girls feel more human, even if they're still sitcom characters bouncing through episodic storylines. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate larger than life emotions. It's the opposite in fact – I will absolutely eat up some well-delivered melodrama, and while “Shizuku, Monochrome” doesn't reach the level of Honkers banishing a thunderstorm with the power of her determination, it does up the ante a lot by having Shizuku's internal struggle made literal on the screen. And to the show's credit, that struggle still retains the relatable elements that made past episodes compelling. Shizuku has grown up anxious and self-conscious, terrified at the thought of people disliking her, and that's manifested in how she interacts with everyone; she figures out what role those around her want her to play, and does everything she can to embody their expectations while tamping down any side of her that might be disagreeable. Granted, this particular struggle is undercut by how mundane her “weird” side is (Oh wow she likes old movies what a FREAK right?) but even then the idea of hiding sides of yourself for fear of rejection is pretty damn real. Just, y'know, maybe you could let the "real" her be a little bit more strange or unaccommodating, guys. You let Yohane run a twitch stream dressed like a goth Joker, you could at least let your actress character be a Prima Donna.
That niggle aside, it's still super cathartic to see Everyone's Favorite Idol Kasumin shout some confidence into her girlfriend, with a touching assist from Rina who was in a similar place not long ago. And the ultimate sentiment – that Shizuku doesn't need to fear rejection, but instead embrace the people in her life who accept her for who she really is – is some pure, cheesy Love Live gold. The ensuing song isn't bad either, being probably the closest in energy to Setsuna's numbers so far. Shizuku's get-up is pretty neat too, a surprisingly classy homage to the silent film stars she emulates while still feeling, for lack of a better word, idol-y. Though my favorite moment of the whole sequence is her spoken-word opening. Something about leading into your song with a powerful personal declaration just sells, and it's a perfect choice for the actress of the group.
Now with the formal review out of the way, we need to discuss something important. This episode establishes that one of the films Shizuku enjoys is Audrey, a silent-era movie starring Pauline Frederick that, in our timeline, is considered lost media along with the vast majority of films from the time. This suggests that the point of divergence between our world and the Love Live universe (the Loveliverse, if you will) happens at the very latest somewhere in the early 20th century, since that's the only explanation for how this particular film might have been preserved. This is interesting, in part because the poster exclusively features the main actress, implying that the near-total extinction of men in the Loveliverse happened even earlier than previously theorized. It's still to be determined how much this revelation will shift our understanding of this world – much like the introduction of psychic idol performance powers, it proposes more questions than it answers – but it's a critical piece of the intricate and detailed puzzle that is Love Live's worldbuilding. I look forward to a gathering of minds in the comments about the implications of this discovery. Oh, also Karin gets her focus episode next week and is already styling on the entire cast, so I expect good things from that.
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is currently streaming on Funimation.
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