Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 16th 2014
Love Live! School Idol Project
The girls of μ's may not have made the cut last year for the Love Live, but that isn't going to stop them from trying for it again! With three of their members getting ready to graduate, Honoka and the others are determined that they will place this year, especially as they start to realize that come the spring, μ's will be six instead of nine. The race for the top of the school idol world is tinged with sadness as μ's tries its hardest, this time not to save their school, but to forge a lasting bond with themselves.
In its first season, Love Live was a charming, peppy story about a group of girls trying to save their beloved school from closing. They did this by forming a pop idol group known as “μ's” and trying to win both attention and a school idol contest known as the Love Live. The second season finds them having won the former but not the latter. Their school is benefiting from the new attention that the nine lovely ladies of μ's won for it and the younger sisters of two of the girls are eagerly hoping to attend. μ's center Honoka is now the president of the student council, having taken over the position from third year μ's member Eli, and everyone seems to be feeling pretty good about themselves and their situation.
And that's when it dawns on them: at the end of this year, Eli, Nozomi, and Niko will all graduate.
This is the gateway for the second season: μ's may not have won the previous Love Live, but with the group's impending breakup, it suddenly becomes important to them to try again. This impetus for entering the contest is one that is easier for viewers to really get behind; despite the rosy world of fiction's best efforts, for most of us, high school was a pretty miserable time, and the idea that the girls loved their school so much that they went to great lengths to save it felt fairly thin. Wanting to do something important as a group before their friends leave, however, is a more universal idea, and while not everyone has such a large close-knit group, it is still an idea that is easy to get behind without too much suspension of belief.
Because the cast is all assembled when this season begins, there is much more time to focus on the individual girls and the dynamic that exists between the nine of them. This is developed enough that by the time the end of the season comes, we feel genuine regret at the impending dissolution of μ's as we have known it; whether or not the third years were your favorite characters, there is a real sense of loss when they graduate. This makes the season succeed more on an emotional level than its predecessor. That is not to imply that the entire season is vaguely depressing, however. The episode where we meet Niko's family is quite funny, and the first episode's tribute to the goofy quality of musicals is pretty great. On the other hand, two episodes are less successful than the rest – Honoka and Hanayo's need to lose weight does not send a healthy message largely because, as most people who engage in dance or other forms of exercise know, muscle gain can increase your weight. The episode comes off as a cheap attempt to make fun of the girls' fondness for food. The other episode that doesn't quite work is the snow storm. Perhaps this is just cynicism from someone from a snowy clime, but the melodrama is palpable, with barely two inches of snow causing ludicrous amounts of difficulty in reaching their destination. If you are not from someplace prone to snow, this will likely not bother you, however.
There is some improvement in animation in this second season, with less reliance on the weirdly creepy CG dancers, although they do make the odd appearance. The songs are just as catchy as ever, with “Snow Halation” and “Kira-Kira Sensation” being stand-outs. (Several songs made it as high as number three on the Oricon charts.) There is also a nice tribute to the first season with a repeat of the opening theme, which really brings us full circle in terms of the narrative. Colors remain bright and eye-catching, with each girl's candy-bright coloring helping her to stand out from the rest of the cast. Each μ's member has her own distinct look and figure, which remains a highlight in terms of the visuals; while everyone is well within the realm of “anime cute/pretty,” there are no cookie cutter characters.
The greatest success of Love Live's second season is not the music or the dancing, or even the overarching plot, but the way that the characters care about each other and make us care about them. From Honoka's great plot to save her beloved school we have moved to a story about a group of good friends who depend on each other, both in and out of μ's. That is the real strength of this season and what ultimately makes it a little bit better than the first. Love Live has a lot of heart, and while it almost certainly whitewashes the seedy world of idol singers, it has enough charm that it doesn't really matter. While the characters still don't quite receive equal attention, their friendship comes across clearly, successfully engaging viewer emotions towards the end. It isn't a perfect show and it does still engage in some objectifying of teenage girls, but it is a lot of fun and one of the most enjoyable entries into the idol genre, a position it solidifies with this second season.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : A-
+ Less CG dancing, more getting to know the girls. Genuinely emotional in some places, lots of fun all around. Nozomi is less grabby this season.
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