This Week in Anime
How Has Love Live! Sunshine!! Changed The Idol Anime Game?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

Last week's Love Live! Sunshine!! took a surprising left turn, leaving fans on the edge of their seats for the season's second half. This week in anime, Nick and Steve discuss their favorite things about the girls of Aqours so far.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





You can read our weekly coverage of Love Live! Sunshine!! here!

Nick, you could argue, and rightfully so, that most of what we do here at This Week In Anime is indulge in idle anime chitchat. So this week, I wanna change things up and focus on idol anime chitchat.

Nick D
Oh HELL YEAH. It's time for Love Live! everyone.

Love Live! is BACK. It's season 2 of Sunshine, and THE. WHOLE. GAME. HAS. CHANGED.

we've got idol helicopter pilots

we've got idol air guitars

and we've got idol FAILURE

The unthinkable has happened! Hopes and miracles and CG concerts were not enough to save a rural high school from the harsh reality of declining birth rates. And I actually didn't expect the show to follow through on this threat, so color me impressed!

I'll say. After 3 seasons across two different idol groups all resolving their problems with the power of dreams and friendship, I was legitimately taken aback when Aqours failed to save their community center high school with their bake sale song and dance routines.

In hindsight it's not surprising at all, since they wanted 100 new applicants and I don't think the school even had 100 students to begin with.

Let's be real here - Uranohoshi is kind of a podunk school in the middle of nowhere and realistically it should have been shut down before it got to a graduating class in the single digits. But this is Love Live!, man. Even among its Idol Anime peers it's always been a fantasy where high schoolers can put on pro-level song and dance numbers with a school club budget in their free time.

It's a really good development, because it highlights what the entire premise of the show was built on—an underdog successor to an extremely popular success, both in real life and in-universe. Aqours have been living in the shadow of μ's, and here we finally have a clean break from the legacy that μ's left behind. μ's saved their school, Aqours failed.

It's a pretty daring choice. One of the biggest criticisms Sunshine S1 faced was that it was obsessed with the legacy of School Idol Project and would constantly remind us of the old cast even before it was introducing the newer ones. But not only has that disappeared in S2, they're actively changing Aqours' goals. It's no longer "Save the School (Possibly with a Dog that can Play Basketball)", but instead it's turned into the girls trying to make their mark on history in the last window of time that the school they love is still around.

And I like that! I desperately hope that the show follows through and that there are no last-minute bullshit twists that nullify this week's development. Because this is what makes Chika's character interesting to me. As the show has brought up dozens of time, Chika is just a normal girl. She's extraordinary in how she's brought Aqours together, for sure, but in the context of Love Live!, she's a mere mortal following in the footsteps of a giant. Honoka was basically a demigod, with mastery over both weather and time—and that's not a joke! She was the ur-school-idol, and no person can live up to that. So I'm excited to see Chika begin to carve her own path, separate from the path of Honkers The Great, but no less dignified.

Though all this talk does make Love Live! sound a bit heavier than it actually is.

you're not wrong

Because mostly I come to Love Live! for one thing:

The show's main appeal, as far as I can tell, isn't having the cast put on performances. It's having a group of weirdo losers get into as many goofy shenanigans as possible.

And this season has been pretty generous in that regard

Nearly every episode has moments that left me laughing like a jackass and reaching for my gif-making software.

Sunshine S2 isn't quite at the level of School Idol Project's 2nd season - which I consider some of the best anime sitcom material out there - but it's delivered consistently on the laughs for my money.

Love Live! is the anime equivalent of a musical, with all the silly and fantastical elements that the genre is known for. It leans into its comedy as hard as it leans into its melodrama, and for the most part it works! I will admit that I am more partial to its goofy escapades tho.

for example: Dia giving a dolphin the stink-eye

Or Dia in general

Dia would absolutely be my favorite character if not for Mari.

How did I know you'd love the walking human shitpost

I want to hug whoever on the production team decided that Mari's dialogue should now be at least half randomly-inserted English phrases.

Girl spends one year abroad and comes back acting like she's Ms. Worldwide.

Also this is one of the best sight-gags I've seen all year

I do appreciate that she's not just non-sequitur and punchlines. Her short breakdown with Dia when they learn the school's being shut down for real is honestly affecting, a good reminder that the characters have more to them than just their gimmicks.

Yes! To me she's the most invested in the success of Aqours (aside from Chika, who has to be because she's the protagonist). But Mari is kinda like a combination of Eli and Nozomi from OG Love Live!—both the supportive mom and the fearless shitposter mom.

I like Dia for similar reasons—she's alternatively supportive and standoffish, but it all clearly comes from a place of affection and wanting to see Aqours be their best. In that way, her episode in S2 felt like a post-mortem defense of Umi's roll in OG Love Live!. Somebody's gotta wrangle this crew of weirdos and keep them from getting distracted by bits of string or jangling keys, and if that makes her somewhat unapproachable or intimidating, then so be it.

And also someone's gotta be the giant shameless school idol nerd.

On that note, that's actually the second thing that surprised me about this latest season of Sunshine. It did what I thought was impossible: It got me to like Yoshiko Yohane.

....I'm just gonna pretend you said you always liked Yohane.

Look S1 just did not use her well, okay.

She seemed like their replacement for Nico, but where Nico was a genuine asshole with a heart of gold, Yohane was just a chuuni character. And we have plenty of those these days. Her role was basically to make a joke about being a chuuni whenever we needed to fill space, and it was the weakest material in Sunshine.

But season 2 not only gave her a spotlight episode with Riko of all people, it gave a way more sympathetic look into why she keeps up with all this fallen angel nonsense. It's pretty standard backstory, sure: an awkward kid wanted to feel special or different, so they turned to self-delusion and performative weirdness. But it was something that had been missing for me until then, and it gave me a reason to feel invested in her and see more to the gags than just "yep I'm a chuuni". It turns out that whenever she called out for her Little Demons, she was really asking for a date.

I do have to respect the audacity with which Love Live! establishes its "canon" ships, because it doesn't get much more blatant than this.


Okay now I do object a bit to that. Because the only ship worth sailing is Riko/Chika/You OT3 and I will have none of this cross-ship contamination.

No you see, Riko has to be with Yohane, because that frees up Ruby and Hanamaru to continue dunking on Yohane as a couple.

It's a delicate ecosystem, Nick.

Exactly, and Chika is enough of a human disaster that she needs two girlfriends to take care of her.

Though You could stand to be a bit more responsible.

We should probably get off the topic of Love Live! shipping before we burn the comments section to the ground, actually.

We could go on for hours. However, since you already brought it up, and because I know we're in agreement on this, we should both officially decree the best School Idol™, just to get it out of the way.

on three:


Nico Ya--okay good, that's settled.

my perfect garbage daughter

Sidenote: if Sunshine takes place five years after the Love Live! movie, that means Nico Yazawa is canonically old enough to drink.

I need the scene where Nico shows up as the grizzled old school idol veteran who sits down with Aqours to give them some gruff, tough love. DON'T DISAPPOINT ME, SUNSHINE.

That's a good thought actually. What do we want to see from Love Live! Sunshine!! now that it's quashed its heroes' dreams? We've got half the season (and the inevitable movie) left, so there's still a lot they could cover. Will they win the Love Live!? Will they be able to make a lasting mark before their school closes and the 3rd-years leave for the horrible abyss of adulthood?


I mean, it's Love Live!, so it's not gonna get too melancholic no matter where it ends up. But I'd like to see it continue to acknowledge the unfairness of life and prior expectations, while buoying that with the determination of can-do school idol spirit. Because while school idols and Love Live! don't exist in our world, they can still be fun, funny, and inspiring to us.

I hope for much the same. Love Live!'s always been fun and cheery, but its best moments are the heartfelt instances when all the goofiness and melodrama come together to get me invested in these anime girls' emotions. And also maybe give Ruby an episode dammit.

Look at her. She deserves it!

I wish you the Rubesty. Also it kinda looked like next week's episode will focus on the first-years, so maybe????

Much like Aqours, I know the sting of getting your hopes up, but I can't help but believe nonetheless.

I just need Ruby to say a single swear, and Love Live! Sunshine!! season 2 will be 10/10 AOTY. Do it Sunrise, you cowards.


Anyway, if you like Love Live!, you're probably already watching Sunshine, so just keep doing that. But if you're on the fence and not really sure about idol shows, give Love Live! a chance! I'm not into the idol scene AT ALL, but Love Live! really grabbed me with its charm and commitment to being as close to an anime musical as possible (with the exception of Dance with Devils, which has not only stage musical numbers but also singing pomeranians).

I'd rank it after Macross as my second favorite idol franchise, and easily the most accessible to folks who are maybe skeptical about the whole scene. Approach it with an open mind and it can be really funny, endearing, and an all-around fun show to watch week-to-week. Which is good because by every financial metric it looks like Love Live! with outlive us all.

I mean, erm—Love Live! is a deep anime for deep individuals like myself, so if you want to be a respected anime watcher, you'd better hop on this idol train.

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