Love Live! Superstar!!
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Love Live! Superstar!! ?
Community score: 4.6
For years, I have stood in defense of Umi Sonoda of the original Love Live! series. As the show's requisite wet blanket, she gets a bad rep as a total stick in the mud, squelching the wacky antics of the other characters because she has no sense of fun. But the fact is that without Umi, μ's would have never survived. Any given school idol group naturally trends towards chaos, and you need at least one smart, responsible mom character to wrangle the rest if you want any hope of achieving anything. That fact becomes all the more apparent in this episode of Superstar as it's revealed Yuigaoka's newly consolidated idol club is an experiment in allowing a quintet of overstimulated toddlers to drive a speeding tour bus.
You'd think Ren, the stern and demanding student president, would be the guiding hand necessary to herd these cats, but it turns out she's just as much a hopeless goofball as the rest of them, she's just better at hiding it. She's also a wilting sunflower of an idol, losing her composure in the face of the very concept of internet streaming or hiding her ridiculous group names from the others, and it's pretty delightful to see her freak out while being dragged into the various and sundry shenanigans of this episode. Chisato also seems like a solid candidate for team babysitter, but this episode reveals she's got her own new age weirdness bubbling under the surface. I half expected her speech about the universal nature of circles to turn into a sales pitch about energy crystals, or to start quoting Aquarion Evol on the metaphysical nature of donuts. Really, I should have seen this coming considering she's a dance major. The girl's loopy, probably smells of patchouli, and that leaves Kanon as the reluctant and under-qualified leader of this band of buffoons.
That's a recipe for chaos, and it is gloriously realized across the entire episode. Superstar has been heavy on gags since the start, but “What's Your Name?” offers an unfettered rampage of ridiculous, character-based punchlines, all built around these kids just trying to figure out what to call their idol group. Which I totally relate to – title anything I write is a pain, but putting a name to a band is one of the most excruciating mental ordeals ever conceived. And I listen to bands called The Front Bottoms and [spunge], meaning my standards for a good name are obviously lower than the general public. Granted, there's canonically an idol group called george in the first series, but I imagine standards have gotten a lot higher in the Love Liverse since then. So with the main five having a combined IQ of 4, this ostensibly simple task becomes a hilarious descent into madness, exemplifying Love Live!'s humor at its fastest and funniest.
There's just so many different jokes all packed into every nook and cranny of this episode, packing even obligatory dialogue scenes with personality. We've got small, layered jokes that all work to flesh out or reinforce the characters, like the Idol Zoom Call telling us a little about each of them in their choice of attire, background, and (lack of) camera. We have pure chaos like the group's instantly devolving livestream, accentuated with the live chat egging the whole thing on. There's a metric fuckton of hilarious faces, snappy physical comedy, and blink-and-you'll miss it details that build up to make the whole episode insanely charming, all delivered with a confidence that makes it feel effortless. Plus, literally impossible jokes like Keke already having a banner prepared to reveal the group name Kanon came up with just moments before. It's hard to think of a single scene in this episode where I didn't have a big dumb grin on my face by the end of it, and that euphoria has yet to fade.
The ultimate resolution is a little bit of a let down, if only because I don't have a sharp enough multilingual background to totally understand where Kanon got the name Liella from. But it's a perfectly nice name and better than anything I could have come up with (Bad Brains was already taken and I gave up after that) and makes for a cute moniker to finally call this band of weirdos. I also dig that the theme is ultimately about connecting – these characters don't have a shared goal or dream, but that doesn't mean their friendships are any less meaningful than past groups, and that in an of itself is worth celebrating. All-in-all it's a solid cap to what is, for my money, the best episode of Superstar so far.
Love Live! Superstar!! is currently streaming on Funimation.
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