Love Live! Sunshine!!
Episode 16

by Bamboo Dong,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Love Live! Sunshine!! (TV 2) ?

In another episode dominated by hijinks, Love Live Sunshine!! manages to still eke out enough heart and inspiration to create a story that's two parts whimsy, one part charm, and one part good ol' fashioned gumption. This time, they're confronted with an impossible dilemma—to choose between their ambition of becoming top tier school idols or recruiting new prospects to their school, even as they know that the two are inexorably intertwined.

After finding inspiration for a couple of new songs, Aqours is blindsided by another ominous phone call. This time, they learn that the school open house has been postponed by a week because of road closures, another sign that maybe this rural school with shoddy local infrastructure and poor public transportation options really shouldn't be recruiting new students. The postponement poses a predicament, though—now the open house is on the same day as the first Love Live qualifier, and there's no reasonable way for the girls to attend both events. The bus schedule doesn't match up with their needs, Mari can't get her rich dad's helicopter, Kanan's family's boats are out on scheduled business, and for whatever reason, they can't ask their parents to just drive them, even though two of their parents decide to carpool to their show anyway.

So instead, the girls are faced with the unenviable task of deciding between the two. On the one hand, they need to perform at the open house in order to attract more students and save their school. On the other hand, doing well in the Love Live would bring more exposure and potentially more interest in their high school. It's a tough decision and the girls initially decide to split up.

In the end though, Chika is able to make a miracle happen. She asks around and discovers that the satsuma mandarin orange orchard that's situated between the Love Live venue and the school is owned by a classmate's family, who will not only allow the girls to cut through their property, but will give them use of their orange packing monorail.

It's a little goofy, but this monorail bit is a perfect encapsulation of the spirit of Love Live Sunshine!!. One of the premises of this series has always been introducing the rest of Japan to the magic of Uchiura, the town where the show takes place. It's one of the elements that's set this series apart from the original Love Live, where µ's merely had to set their school apart from other Tokyo institutions. By contrast, Chika and the others don't have that option—their diminishing school is part of a bigger trend of population drift and the slow decay of rural areas. What they do have, Chika realizes, is their ocean, their community, and local products like oranges (there's actually a real-life collaboration between Love Live Sunshine!! and local Numazu region oranges).

So it works that the pivotal moment in this episode involves an orange orchard and the usage of a “monorack”, a device that I didn't even realize existed until I saw it in the series, as they seem to be more widely used in Japan and parts of Europe. In real life, they're basically motorized produce transporters on a monorail, but in Love Live Sunshine!!, there's a fun gimmick that turns one into a makeshift roller coaster. It's a good piece of slapstick that even involves the girls getting oranges stuck in their mouths, which plays better than it sounds.

The end result is a solid moment of Making It Work, and you can't help but love the girls even more for it. As Chika wisely observes, “No one tries to make a miracle happen from the start. They just try as hard as they possibly can to do something.” Maybe saving the school doesn't really make sense at this point, but you have to admire them for trying.

Rating: A

Love Live! Sunshine!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Bamboo's new goal in life is to have a plot of land where she can install a Monorack. Follow her on Twitter.

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