Review

by Kim Morrissy,

Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie

Over the Rainbow

Synopsis:
Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow
Uranohoshi Girls' High School's idol group Aqours won the final Love Live contest. While preparing to enroll at a new school, the first- and second-year students encounter unexpected trouble, and after heading for a graduation trip, the third-year students go missing. Now that they're separated, the Aqours members appreciate the weight of their togetherness for the first time. In order to move forward, they must decide how to react to their new situations.
Review:

It feels like Love Live! has settled into a rather unfair formula these days: introduce a merry band of cute girls, only to cruelly tear them apart after a few years. We went through this with the original Love Lives, and now it's happening again with Aqours. You'd think the same trick wouldn't work twice, but here we are.

Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow is an extended epilogue to the story of the TV series. The main point is to provide closure for the characters and give them one last chance to perform together before the third-years head their separate ways. Even a casual fan like myself felt touched at the final performance, where the girls decide the future of Aqours.

Unfortunately, Over the Rainbow isn't a strong film overall, providing little beyond a handful of feel-good moments. The thing that gets me most is how the delivery of the story contradicts its own messages at times. If the whole point of the film is to show that Aqours can still be Aqours even without the third-years, why do all the performances have to feature them? Kanan, Dia, and Mari even get a song just for themselves in a musical-like scene that was out of place and tonally inconsistent with the rest of the film. I suspect that the real reason why they're so prominent is to appease fans of their characters, but it ends up feeling like cheap fanservice.

The film is also filled with subplots that fizzle out and don't factor into the climax at all. For example, the first half of the movie is occupied with a subplot where the girls go to Italy to track down the third-years, which is reminiscent of the New York trip from the original Love Live! movie. It's a charming detour, but ultimately just a detour. A conflict is introduced during the trip, only to be resolved in the next scene and never brought up again.

What's worse, the conflict itself is all too typical: Mari's mother resists her daughter's desire for independence, so Mari has to convince her that the idol activities she chose for herself were worthwhile. This is the kind of plot that would have felt more meaningful if it had appeared earlier in the series as an establishing conflict, not when Mari was just about to quit Aqours anyway. As it stands, Mari's mother just came across as a convenient excuse to send the girls to Italy, because it every Love Live! film has to involve an overseas trip.

The next conflict revolves around Aqours's rival group, Saint Snow, and the question of whether they should join Aqours. I won't spoil what happens, but the subplot ends as abruptly as it begins. This is especially a pity, because it would have been interesting to see how Love Live! would have tackled the issue of whether a musical group can continue to function with replaced members. The Italy subplot works against the film, because it completely takes the focus away from the actual dilemma Aqours had been facing, making the ultimate resolution come across as an afterthought.

The final act of the film is the most emotionally affecting part, but in the end it works despite the events that came before it. There are some feeble attempts to tie the subplots together, like when Ruby says that her trip to Italy made her “become stronger,” but the “showing” simply does not match the “telling,” because Ruby hardly got any screen time at all during the Italy plot. I can't help but think that these three “after stories” would have worked better had they been presented as separate OVAs rather than acts within a single film.

It's such a shame because so many individual moments in the film are charming and funny. My favorite joke is when Yohane does her “Fallen Angel” shtick, only to fall off a ledge halfway through. The other characters look at her and say, “So you really are a fallen angel, huh!” If you're a Love Live! regular, you're probably used to cheesy jokes like that, and it's good to see that the film faithfully retains this quality of the series. Also, cute details like Chika wearing a hair clip with the colors of the Italian flag during the Italy segment were a nice touch.

The music, on the other hand, was somewhat hit and miss. Although the performances have never been the strongest part of the series due to the limitations of the CG animation and the generic composition of the songs, some of them are memorable because of the narrative context in which they appear. Over the Rainbow's performances lack that kind of impact. Interestingly, I would say that the first performance, which preceded the story of the film altogether, was the strongest both musically and visually. Whether this is more an indication of the weakness of the writing or the technical superiority of the film's opening act is hard to say.

Even if I was satisfied by parts of Over the Rainbow, I couldn't help but walk out feeling disappointed overall. With some restructuring of the plot and a bigger focus on character development instead of fanservice, Over the Rainbow could have been a special experience for Love Live! Sunshine!! fans. Perhaps the experience would have been improved if the characters had spontaneously broken out into song and dance more often, much like they did for the first Love Live! film. There's only one performance that felt truly spontaneous in Over the Rainbow, and it's one of the weakest scenes because it's so out of place. Oh well, better luck next time. This may be the end of Aqours, but the end of Love Live! seems far away.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-

+ Technical improvement in the CG animation, good jokes, a touching ending
Wonky pacing, half-baked subplots, story doesn't offer much that couldn't be inferred from the TV series

Original Concept: Sakurako Kimino

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Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow (movie)

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