Love Live Anime, First Season (English) Guest Review by Day

June 8th, 2016

LLSIPS1O happy Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have a returning Guest Reviewer and a unique perspective on something that I know of, but have not so much as lifted a single finger to engage in. But, let’s be real….any series with a large cast of girls and a presumptive male audience will be seen as “Yuri” by some portion of that audience. So, with that in mind, please welcome back Day!

Love Live is a multimedia juggernaut of which the first season of Love Live! School Idol Project is but one manifestation. The anime’s first season tells the story of a swiftly fading girls’ high school, Otonokizaka High, which faces imminent demise due to falling enrollment. Second-year Honoka Kousaka, cheerfully enjoying her shining youth (as anime teenagers are so given to), is devastated by the news. Luckily, Honoka lives in a parallel Japan wherein there exist “school idols”, girls who are regular high school students but also amateur musical stars, and it is in this that she believes she’s found the salvation she so desperately seeks for her school. Thus, Honoka sets out to recruit fellow students to her effort.

Set aside the silliness and creepiness of the concept of school idols, and what remains is a pretty bog-standard school club story populated by archetypes who rarely manage to elevate themselves above their assigned roles. Honoka’s the energetic can-do girl, blue-haired Umi is serious and uptight, anime-chubby Hanayo loves food… And while the stakes are allegedly high, the proceedings remain largely mired in the fluffy and the asinine, even after the eight (!!) episodes it takes to get the band together.

Ultimately, what irritates me about this show is that it takes a premise that could’ve made for a good sports anime and instead gives us a mediocre slice-of-life story. From the get-go we are made aware of A-RISE, a mega-popular group who looms large over the landscape of school idols, and who our plucky cast will eventually be fated to go head-to-head with. It’s a situation ripe for intense rivalries and melodrama, but after the initial bombastic introduction, they pretty much vanish. Instead, the girls struggle through daunting tasks like deciding who should be their leader, and convincing the student council president that school idols aren’t total trash. Occasionally, there are interludes featuring polished but bland music.

In among all this dull material, there are some items of note. The aforementioned student council president’s issue with the whole idol business is related to her own failure as a ballerina several years prior, which was a decent change from the generic “they’re a wet blanket” explanation for no-fun student council presidents. (Unfortunately, once she accepts that it isn’t a bad idea, her edges are totally sanded down and she ceases to be at all interesting.) One of the cutesier girls turns out to be the only one who has a part-time job and goals for her post-high school life. But best of all is twin-tailed Nico, who also happens to be the only fully-rounded character in the show. Nico is oft-scheming and oft-thwarted, initially stand-offish, given to bouts of duplicity, and the only one who seems to harbor no illusions, other than as regards her own ego. She’s frequently *terrible*. She’s great and I’m still shocked that something like series this would manage to produce something like her.

Now, of course, I wouldn’t be writing about this show at all if there wasn’t *some* Yuri angle to be found. But while the franchise writ large has been happy to proffer Yuri goggles for ages, and the fandom for Love Live has been merrily churning out Yuri fanworks, the evidence is nearly nonexistent here. Watching it, I myself felt mildly puzzled at the general absence of fuel; other than the obligatory breast-groping character, this seems to be shipping fuel for people who think two girls being within two feet of each other is reason alone for romance.

At the end of the day, I label the first season of this anime “eminently skippable”, unless you really enjoy low-stakes after-school club shows.

Art – 7 (it’s bright and colorful, and the girls are cute and don’t look like they’re eight years old)
Story – 4
Characters – 5 (I only hated one of them!)
Yuri – 1
Service – 2

Overall – 4 (a complete waste of time)

Erica here: Well, this sounds like perfect late night fevered watching, but I think I’ll continue to largely ignore its existence. ^_^ Can’t wait for your Season 2 review!

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3 Responses

  1. redfish says:

    My Twitter has recently been on flames about (especially target-audience-is-girls) idol anime being the New Dimension of Yuri for 2016 (though Love Live is rarely mentioned; the order by volume these days is roughly Aikatsu, Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, PriPara). Everyone seems to be putting together a book for next month’s Aikatsu event.

    So, even if the yuri is in the eye of the beholder, expect to see a lot of idols going forward. I recommend PriPara for those who want to dive in. It takes itself a lot less seriously than many others.

  2. Ashley says:

    The first season is relatively light on yuri service, but it is VERY VERY apparent from the very beginning of S2, not to mention all of the other works outside the anime. For instance, the light novels and manga are written by noted yuri author Sakurako Kimino of Strawberry Panic fame. There were even a number of PV’s for Love Live before the anime which already started some of the more popular pairings.

    But when season 2 starts, and into the movie, it ramps up.

    In general, because of the yuri, the music, the strong female following in the fandom, the adorable outfits, even the story of friends working together is all so great! Love Live really is the best.

  3. Gemma says:

    LoveLive! School Idol Project is one of my favourite anime of all time, with one reservation that really seriously bothers me, Nozomi’s boob grabbing, which is blatant sexual harassment. Because of this, I cannot share what is otherwise a completely charming anime with my daughter.

    I’m a songwriter and performing and recording musician, and I love the music. My favorite songs from the show are in heavy rotation on my iPod, and I am absolutely addicted to the LoveLive! School Idol Festival game. I am extremely excited for the third seasons, featuring Aqours.

    Yes, the yuri is absent from the series, although it is definitely implied, and it’s a lot more strongly implied in the Japanese version of the game, though the English version tones it down again.

    I cried so many times watching this. Maybe because stage performance has always been part of my life, it means something a little more to me than it does to most people, but I love it.

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