love_live_S2

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2  (Cert PG)

2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 309 minutes approx.

It was just shy of a year ago when we first met the perky Honoka Kōsaka and her motley crew of idol wannabes eventually named μ’s (aka Muse) as they entered an intestate High School idol competition in order to save their beloved school Otonokizaka Academy.

Considering how huge the Love Live! franchise is in Japan – and the whole Idol group phenomenon – a second series of this anime branch of this sprawling tree was not just inevitable but almost a necessity for both the fanbase and the bean counters behind the franchise, so here it is.

Not much has changed since the first season except for the rather seismic – but not unsurprising – development that Honoka has replaced fellow μ’s member Eli Ayase as Student Body President. This was reward for μ’s encouraging more enrolments for the school to save it being closed down. Straight after her acceptance speech, Honoka treats us to a Disney-esque song, walking through the school corridors warbling her manifesto in a cheery fashion.

However Honoka faces an early test of her leadership – there will be a second Love Live! competition, bigger than the last one. This nationwide contest dictates there will be regional qualifying rounds, meaning μ’s will have face the victors of the last contest ARISE again – and defeat them! But Honoka doesn’t think μ’s needs to enter as they have already proven themselves.

Surely this isn’t the end of μ’s already? As this occurs in the first five minutes of episode one you can breathe a sigh of relief –  of course this isn’t the end! The journey charted in this second series is part re-hash of the first season and part new adventure, taking into account that the cast are now a year older and some of them are due to graduate at the end of the term.

The story of the challenges is therefore split into two camps – that of the group struggles and of the individuals. Ranging from Honoka having to adapt to a leadership role which she is perhaps a little too ditzy to undertake with any gravitas and real authority, to group members suffering a crisis of confidence the whole thing is handled with the show’s trademark bubblegum approach, punctuated with a song or two.  

Fear not that μ’s are not killed off otherwise there would be no series, and they are forced to enter into new territory as the new Love Live! contest rules require that a newly written song be performed. This requires a training camp (of course) to get everyone involved and inspired to write lyrics and to strengthen that all important bond which is due to dissolve with the end of the school year.  

In the meantime we learn a lot more about the rather egregious Nico Yazawa, whose bolshie behaviour is both a driving force and often a source of negative energy for the group. But, like many characters who overcompensate in the personality department there is a reason behind this which reveals a human side to this firebrand, although we do learn that her ego isn’t entirely the result of false bravado.

One major difference in this series is that μ’s are now an established School Idol act and whilst that doesn’t mean sell out concerts at the Tokyo Dome or no 1 chart hits, it does dampen the road to success story for the group. In other words, they can now put on a concert at school and ensure a full house and their reputation within the Love Live! competition now carries some credibility.

In order to create some drama the obstacles come from within, such as Honoka learning she has put on weight or the group find it hard to create a memorable motto. Much like a shonen fantasy were a situation is resolved by a fight, μ’s conclude their mini-adventures with a song, either in concert with a full routine (sans sound system or backing musicians) or as a fantasy escape from their real life worries.

The poignancy of the group’s impending break up is a focal point in the latter part of this series and is milked for all it is worth. The younger sisters of the cast arrive at the school with aspirations of continuing the μ’s legacy once their elders move on. Interestingly, idol groups in Japan are run in a similar way – group members have a finite life span before “graduating” to either a solo career, acting, TV presenting etc.

It is little surprise to learn that the music from this show is a vital component of the franchise’s multi-media success, allowing the fictional μ’s to rub shoulders with real life idol groups such as AKB48, Perfume and even kawaii metallers BABYMETAL in the music charts. This is reflected in the accurate and authentically replicated dance choreography of μ’s, whilst at the same time exposing just how conventional and formulaic these routine are.

Another joint trait between the groups is the multi-personnel line up which allows merchandisers to exploit the “favourite members” fans may have, something this anime can encourage and enhance by being able to develop the personalities over the course of 13 episodes. If you have a favourite μ’s member than more power to you – this writer can’t even tell half of them apart let lone remember their names!

One doesn’t have to be a fully-fledged supporter of the entire franchise to enjoy or follow this series, although knowledge of the first season is essential. Love Live! School Idol Project is an odd beast in that it has the potential to run for a while yet is limited in its scope, risking repetition at every turn.

This second season delivers more of the same brightly coloured perky visual confection as its predecessor with a cliffhanger ending that will have devoted fans begging MVM to licence the film to complete the story of μ’s!

 

 

Extras:

English language 2.0

Japanese Language 2.0

English Subtitles

 

Disc 2 Only:

Textless Opening

Textless Closing

Original Japanese Promos

 

Rating – ***

Man In Black

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