Love Live! Sunshine!!
by Bamboo Dong,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Love Live! Sunshine!! ?
It's time for a beach episode! But in true wholesome Love Live! fashion, it was refreshingly tame and sweet. Even the one cursory mention of bikini bodies was neither salacious nor awkward. Love Live! has always done remarkably well at appealing to a wide fanbase, so it's no coincidence that it's always strayed away from too many lingering below-the-belt shots or out-of-context "kyah~!" faces.
Instead, this episode was a time for the girls to cut loose, enjoy each other's company, have a fun time making goofy meals (props to Mari's "stewshine" that inexplicably contains limpets and bear claws—especially for the classic shot of Ruby happily eating from a bowl that has an entire paw sticking out), and gather customers to a seaside snack shack. Now that Dia's guard is down, she's an unfiltered delight on par with Yoshiko's big personality. From her excited scheduling of Aqours's new summer training schedule, to her zest for helping Chika at the snack shack, to her utterly adorable interactions with Ruby, Dia's enthusiasm is both hilarious and contagious. The other girls look on with mild bemusement, but Mari is thrilled to have her friend back.
While there's plenty of comedy to go around this episode, there are plenty of sweet and dramatic moments as well. Early on, Riko gets an email notifying her of an upcoming piano competition. But aside from her own personal hang-ups over competing again, it's also scheduled for the same date as the Love Live! preliminaries. As she mulls over her decision, Chika can't help but notice her quiet behavior—and You can't help but notice Chika focusing more on Riko. Considering Chika and You have been best friends since childhood, there are undoubtedly some conflicted feelings waiting to be unearthed.
However, for the time being, Chika and Riko's feelings get front and center attention. Even though Riko tells Chika she's already made up her mind about joining the girls for the Love Live! preliminaries, Chika urges Riko to go for the piano competition. It's a lot like Kanan and Mari's relationship in a lot of ways—not only in the personal sacrifices to better someone else's life but also their closeness. The end of the episode is sweet and revealing. After Chika spills her feelings to Riko about her hopes for her friend, promising that the other girls will always be there for her, Riko pulls her in for an embrace and says, "I love you."
For a variety of reasons, I'd like their relationship to be more than just platonic friendship, largely because that's so glaringly absent from anime, but shows with all-female casts have a notorious tendency to sidestep same-sex romantic relationships, opting to instead build things up just enough to give fans something to ship (see Nico & Maki or Mari & Kanan). It might also be notable that Riko used "daisuki da yo" versus "aishiteru yo," which can connote "like like" versus "love." Even if it ends up falling short, it's nice to see the characters of Love Live! Sunshine!! connecting at a more meaningful level than just your rote on-screen friendships. My own friendships with my close female friends are precious and irreplaceable, so I've always placed a special value on other such friendships.
This week's episode is a good chance for fans to catch a quick breath of air after last week's emotional episode. Like the past few episodes, it's done an excellent job of alternating between comedic and serious scenes without either weighing the series down or allowing it to become too frivolous. This week was definitely a nice treat for fans of Dia, Mari, and You, who all got a chance to showcase their sillier sides, a role normally reserved for Yoshiko. Having the addition of the third-years is a big positive too, as it adds a new energy to the series and a richer feeling of camaraderie than ever before. It'll be interesting to see where this season ends up, and whether it will even choose to highlight the Love Live! competition at all.
Love Live! Sunshine!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
Bamboo's new life project is to make a plush shark hammock like the one Yoshiko has. Follow her on Twitter.
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