Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Love Live! Superstar!! (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.3
It's idol law that any group that wants to make it big needs at least one gremlin in their midst. They can come in different flavors and styles, but when you have a cavalcade of earnest, heart-on-sleeve girls trying to reach their dreams, you need a little comedic spice with at least one of them having a more cynical – or just chaotic – bent to her. The eternal God-Queen of that role is of course Nico Yazawa, hallowed be her Nico-Nico-Name, and other Love Live!s have filled the role with the likes of Yohane and Kasumi. But it's not until this episode that we see the return of the kind of duplicitous, cloyingly sweet power that made the world bend the nico-nico-knee a decade ago.
Enter Natsumi, who's been around for a bit in the background, but gets her full introduction here, and it's a powerful one. This girl wants two things: fat stacks and the youtube (er, L-Tube) ad revenue that will generate them. She's figured out that working gigs and side hustles are for chumps, so it's time to do what any aspiring internet millionaire does: come up with a scam to profit off the work of others behind their back. Give this girl a couple years and she'll be creating the school idol version of the Hype House and Fyre Festival. In a decade she'll be arrested for tax fraud and escape to foreign soil before the trial.
Joking and/or totally accurate predictions aside, Natsumi really is a piece of work. Even Nico, the girl introduced by stealing the other characters' french fries and who told her family μ's were her backup dancers, wasn't quite this coldblooded. Natsumi has precisely zero interest in idols of any variety, and is basically taking advantage of the other girls' trust by offering to be their “producer” for videos. Anyone familiar with youtube Multi-channel Networks knows what she's up to, and it would be very easy for her to come off as totally, irredeemably selfish. Which is why it's important that every ounce of animation and direction is being put into making her way too entertaining to hate. I genuinely lost count of how many distinct, unique, and often unhinged expressions graced her braid-framed face, whether she was waxing poetic about the importance of money, scheming behind Liella!'s backs, or just dying from a sore back after one too many delivery gigs. It's phenomenal, and works to make her palatable even as you want to grab her by the dimples and shake her really hard.
She's also pretty good at picking her marks, as most of the Liella! girls fall hook, line, and sinker for her pitch. Thankfully Sumire, as a former child actor, can recognize a con woman “producer” just from the scent of flop sweat wafting off her palms, and seeing her stand up to protect the group is honestly pretty sweet, considering where she started in season one. She may have become a School Idol for equally mercenary reasons, but she was at least open about it, and is not going to let some ombré-haired twerp with a selfie stick and negative amounts of shame take advantage of her gullible girlfriends. It's not even about the money, really – the National Collegiate Idolatry Association has declared school idols “student athletes” and NIL rules in the Love Liverse haven't caught up to other sports, so Liella! was always in it for the love of the game. She just doesn't trust somebody who would hide her intentions like that – and it's nice to see she's not alone, with Shiki also catching on quick and defending her newfound friends.
That's actually my favorite aspect of this episode: it's not solely about Natsumi. She's an integral part of it, obviously, but the decompressed pacing Superstar has afforded itself means they don't have to cram her entire arc into 20 minutes, and can instead let her path intersect with the other characters in interesting ways. Instead of hitting the pause button on the other first years' story – specifically their struggle to feel worthy of their place in Liella! – it gets to continue here, fleshing out the new girls' strengths and weaknesses as idols and letting them bond over their shared anxieties. I trust Natsumi's plan for a rookie training camp about as far as she can throw Kinako, but the prospect of seeing the newbies find their own way – while inevitably convincing Natsumi to join in earnest – is a great hook for the next episode.
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