Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Love Live! Superstar!! (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.6
One of the cool things about Shiki and Mei, that didn't click with me until this episode started, is that these two have a full-on backstory totally separate from their new roles as (eventual) aspiring idols. Sure, previous seasons have had characters who were friends before joining their series' idol groups, but they were usually just “we were friends as kids” or “we wanted to become idols together, and now we are!” Those aren't bad, but they're respectively generic and fused to the central premise of the franchise in a way that kind of limits the scope of that relationship. But with our red and blue girls here, they've practically got a whole anime season's worth of their own story, which not only establishes their personalities and unique interpersonal dynamic, but dovetails perfectly with them joining Liella! to boot. Even better, their dynamic is both complex enough to be engaging while frictional enough to be hilarious. What happens when an unstoppable tsundere meets an immovable kuudere? A pair of disaster girlfriends, that's what.
I'm not joking about the complexity thing. While the base motivation behind both girls is simple – they're bad at expressing themselves and hide behind defensive anger and cold aloofness to over-correct – the way that manifests makes for some great drama. Mei is somehow even more obsessed with School Idols than Keke, and while she applied to Yuigaoka to join her faves in Liella!, she can't find the courage to put herself out there and hides behind the excuse that she doesn't want to abandon the otherwise solitary Shiki. But that just makes Ms. Mad Scientist feel guilty, like she's holding her only friend back from following her dream. Couple all that with her self-doubt, and you've got a recipe for her pushing Mei away, insisting she's perfectly fine being alone, and a vicious cycle as Mei stubbornly refuses to buy that excuse. The irony is that, through recognizing their own insecurities in each other, both sides are constantly trying to push the other forward while never taking their own advice.
Of course, this is still Love Live!, so all of that drama is balanced out by some ridiculous nonsense, like Shiki trying to Idol-NTR Mei into joining the club, or the amazing reveal that Mei's constant glaring is because she's too stubborn to wear glasses to school. On that note, they better god damn show us Mei with those glasses at some point. There have already been precious few moments of music hipster Kanon this season – you jerks better not skimp on showing Mei in full nerd-alert mode. I want that girl in coke bottles and a snuggie, binge-watching Aqours compilations on L-Tube. I'd also like a compilation of all the frightened hamster noises Kinako makes every time Mei squints at her, while I'm asking. My only real complaint is that, if Mei is such a School Idol fanatic, she most definitely knows about µ's, which means she already has the perfect role model for how to be a beloved idol with a horrible attitude in gremlin queen Nico Yazawa. Know your history, young lady.
In all, it's a damn solid way to welcome both girls into the mix, all the more impressive that it manages it in just one episode. Part of that's thanks to establishing their personalities beforehand, but also for the remarkable tenderness they're able to establish between Mei and Shiki. When Mei finally lets down her walls, takes Shiki's hand, and earnestly invites her to do the same, it's supremely precious. Music, animation, direction – it all comes together to sell this as a moment of genuine vulnerability between them that hits perfectly. Shipteasing is this franchise's bread and butter, but it's times like these that make all the fluffier bits work.
It's also nice that Kanon isn't the sole veteran responsible for resolving this conflict. Don't get me wrong, Kanon-Senpai has been great, but she doesn't need to be the center of every storyline that brings the new characters into the fold. So it's cool that Chisato's actually the catalyst here – and that seeing Shiki and Mei's problems inspires her to question the club's instinct of entrusting everything to Kanon – before taking up the role of club president herself. It's a relatively small story, but it gives some much-needed focus to an established character besides Kanon, and ties the whole moral of the story into a neat little bow. While it's scary to step out of your comfort zone, staying there means you can't ever grow, and eventually something in life will come to pull, push, or toss you out of there. Better to step forward of your own accord and face a challenge head-on, whether that's taking on new responsibility, taking a chance on a new passion, or just learning to stop being so god damn tsundere.
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