Earlier this year, fans from across Japan flocked to the prestigious Tokyo Game so they could bear witness to the swan song of μ’s and now, after months of hype, the successors of the School Idol Project have finally taken to the stage with the first episode of Love Live! Sunshine!!, a reminder that there is a balance to retaining familiarity.
While the franchise has moved from Otonokizaka High to the seaside school Uranohoshi Girls’ and features a cast of fresh faces, similarities to past series’ in the School Idol Project were to be expected, yet this première episode now has fans wondering if there’s a fine line between familiarity and an outright reskin.
When the bubbly, orange-haired second year
Honoka Chika is inspired by the incredibly popular A-RISE μ’s, she and silver-haired friend Kotori You set out to start a school idol club of their own, only to come into conflict from third-year student council president Eli Dia, who is opposed to the very idea of a club – especially when it doesn’t even have five members, as well as the talented red-head piano composer Maki Riko, who initially refuses to join despite Honoka’s Chika’s insistence.
While some may find the opening formula too similar for comfort, the main appeal of Love Live! has always been its characters and aside from some surface-level similarities such as
Umi You belonging to both sports and idol clubs, the (eventual) members of Aqours have already shown themselves to be wholly unique characters with their own quirks, despite most of them only receiving glorified cameos in this introductory episode. Yoshiko’s chūnibyō skit in particular was a highlight of just how unique and humorous this cast can be; hopefully the series will really diversify once we get to more character-focused episodes.
Speaking of humour, I loved how this initial instalment wasted no time in using comedy to showcase how fun the characters can be. In School Idol Project for example, I actually really disliked Eli to begin with because the focus of her scenes were more serious and plot-focused, whereas with Dia in Sunshine, her reacting in pain to smacking her hand against the table and childishly squaring up to Chika helps humanise the character, which will no doubt help her transition into Aqours.
Being a series about idols, music is obviously at the forefront of Love Live! Sunshine!! and I am loving what we’ve heard of the new group so far. Only two songs have been performed in the series so far, with opening theme “Aozora Jumping Heart” by Aqours and “Kimeta yo Hand in Hand” by Chika, You and Rika as an insert song, but in my excitement, I purchased the group’s two available singles at London Comic Con (“Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru kai?” and “Koi ni Naritai AQUARIUM”) and can tell you that you’re in for a treat! The episode’s 2D animation worked really well, especially with the more exaggerated facial expressions featured, but while the performance CG is an improvement over School Idol Project, I still can’t help but feel that it comes across as just a cheap cost-cutting measure, especially when it’s used for songs featuring only three members as opposed to the standard nine.
To be honest, I initially felt uneasy about Love Live! Sunshine!! because cast resets generally don’t have a reputation of going well and the members of μ’s had long established dedicated fan followings (with myself being an unashamed Maki fanboy), but even after this admittedly not amazingly-strong first episode, after listening to their music and finally seeing them in action, I’m looking forward to seeing if Aqours will prove a worthy successor.
Love Live! Sunshine!! is currently being simulcast in the UK & Ireland on Crunchyroll and in North America on FunimationNow. The series has been licensed for a 2017 home video release in the UK by Anime Limited.