Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Love Live! Superstar!! (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.6
RIP Sunny Passion, we hardly knew ye. No, really, we hardly knew these girls – never even got a full musical performance from them, which was probably an obvious tell that they were never going to be our main cast's true rivals. Sure, SunnyPa were the top dogs, but they got hit hard by the Love Live! Super Bowl hangover, and Wien Margarete stepped right in to take them down, like the Buffalo Bills of Idols. That leaves Liella! scrambling and anxious, and considering they've already been upstaged by this chuuni little Josh Allen, they had better get themselves together fast. After all, it's universally agreed that they're the Cincinnati Bengals of school idols, and if they perform like that team has since the start of this NFL season they are not going to cut it. I mean seriously, losing to the Cowboys? With Cooper Rush behind center? I swear Zac Taylor isn't a head coach, he's a substitute teacher, and if he wastes a team this good for another year I-
Anyway, the point is Liella! is staring down a real challenge now, and that danger finally stirs the drama between Keke and Sumire that's been percolating on the back burner since last season. They managed just enough to keep Keke around for another year last time, but now nothing short of a national-worthy performance is going to hold off her impending repatriation. Along with that comes the now-familiar question of whether it's best for the rookie first-years to sit out the coming performances, so as not to drag down their upperclasswomen, and it's here that things finally boil over between Superstar's most cantankerous duo.
Whats follows is just about everything I could have asked for – and judging by the amount of yelling I've seen from Love Live! twitter the past couple days, I'm among a lot of elated company. For one, even in a single episode this conflict manages to show just how far Sumire has come from her debut. Originally the most mercenary of the first five, she's slowly but surely become just as earnest a member of Liella! as the others, and bringing back both her original motivation and the tiara from her time as Center last season is kind of genius. When Sumire haughtily insists the first years sit it out, the better to relaunch her own stardom, it's obvious to everyone in the know that she doesn't mean it. Rather, she's trying to play the bad guy for Keke's sake, because just as she doubted her own ability to be the center for the prelims, she's convinced that the “safer” option is their best bet to succeeding. Only this time, she's not afraid of embarrassing herself, but losing the person who helped her reclaim her dreams to begin with.
Keke, for her part, doesn't really seem to recognize just how much that tiara – and all the sentiment attached to it – meant to the galactic isopod, and just takes Sumire's meddling as her not understanding the true meaning of Idolatry. For her, the entire thrill of being an idol is in encapsulating the joy and sincerity of it all, and she refuses to taint that by burdening the others with her own issues. And y'know, she's not entirely off base. It's certainly possible that knowing their friend's continued presence rests on their success would cause the other girls to worry enough that it would start to fracture their chemistry as a group. It would turn what's supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime into a game of cynically min-maxxing their performances – exactly what Sumire ends up reluctantly lobbying for in this episode. What she doesn't get, though, is that Sumire isn't just meddling because she feels bad – she wants with all her heart to help Keke achieve her dream, both to pay her back for the support she's received, and to stay with her as long as possible.
It's an extremely good way to flesh out their belligerent frienemies shtick, highlighting the merits and flaws of both girls' points of view before climaxing in the patented Love Live! method of tearful confessions and hugs. And I mean, honestly, as good as that hug is I do think it's a little cowardly not to just let them kiss. You can't tell me that's not what they were setting up for here, visually. If we can have half an episode of everyone thinking Mei and Ren are dating, we can have an honest to god smooch alongside Keke finally saying “I love you” IMO. Otherwise, it's a pitch-perfect moment that lets Keke and Sumire connect in a tender, supremely effecting way and allows them both to move forward, knowing they can trust their friends – and most importantly, one another – to help them achieve their dreams.
Really, my only gripe with this episode is with the first years. After so many episode conflicts have centered around them feeling like they're dragging down their upperclasswomen, it was a little disappointing to see them quietly accept the idea of bowing out – even if the show itself makes that choice moot moments later. Kinako, Mei, Shiki, and Natsumi have been putting in the work and more than earned their places in Liella!, and I'd like if they could start acknowledging it themselves. Maybe that's something that'll come later as we get into the thick of the competition, but I really do hope these girls can start trusting in themselves. Lord knows they've been pulling their weight more than the Bengals' O-line have these past two weeks. I mean good god weren't they supposed to have rebuilt this lineup? Yet Joe Burrow is still taking more sacks than damn near anyone else and they're not even trying for deep targets anym-
Overall though, this is a stellar focus episode that lets Superstar's will-they-won't-they ship finally connect in a real way, and even if you're not into shipping an isopod and a panda, it's hard not to get teary-eyed nonetheless.
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