This is review number one hundred and ninety eight. This is part of the Winter 2013 lineup. I have now finished all the relevant anime of this lineup. There are still some leftovers I’ll deal with later on but I’m pretty much done with the lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Love Live! School Idol Project. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a bunch of cute girls forming an idol group to save their school and deliver some subtle shoujo-ai along the way. Life is good. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a group of friends trying to find a way to prevent their school from closing. They love their school and they’ll do anything to keep it going. One day, Honoka Kousaka had a brilliant idea. She will form a school idol group that will attract people to attend their school and hopefully convince the school to remain open. The plan seems solid enough but being an idol isn’t easy. It needs tremendous dedication and talent. Honoka is prepared to give her best though and achieve tremendous popularity if it means saving her beloved school.
Taking the Pants Off
This anime is an idol anime. It’s along the lines of the Idolmaster and AKB0048. I rolled my eyes after seeing this particular anime on MAL and felt a bit defeated that it existed. I hate myself for watching every anime in a lineup and double checking my list to discover I missed this one. I watched this though and I instantly fell in love. This is an amazing anime in terms of concept and production values. I’ve always had a less than pleasurable experience with idol anime. They’re always devoid of actual experiences that viewers can emotionally invest in. The Idolmaster is a game and the anime was a mess. I learned in that anime that as long as you have an agency then you will automatically become famous. Yeah, you can work hard or not but it will pay off eventually. In fact, majority of the episodes involves the supposed idols in misadventures like saving some animals or eating cake rather than actually practicing till they bleed. They were laidback and they still became famous. The game adaptation was certainly muddled and I understand that.
After watching this anime, I finally have a reason though to fully express my hate for AKB0048. The one thing I wanted from AKB0048 was a slice of life anime featuring the idols working hard, experiencing disappointment, failing at times yet also succeeding wonderfully as well, sharing their passion with the audience and giving us great eye candy during their performances. I can ignore the stupid space themed story and the pandering to the lowest common denominator. That’s OK because they have a following and instant fan base because of the AKB48 culture. AKB0048 is very self-indulgent though. The producer and creator of AKB48 is pictured in the anime as a god-like being in a cave that the idols worship. Ego boasting is there ever was one. That’s why I wasn’t excited with Love Live. I just don’t think an idol anime can ever be entertaining. I was wrong. This one is and gives hope to future idol anime. The particular reason why this idol anime is amazing can be explained in one sentence: it remains grounded.
The history of the School Idol project is actually pretty interesting. It started with a bunch of anime music videos of the characters singing and releasing albums. The awesome dances and the songs have gained notoriety dating back in 2010. They have a bunch of albums released that eventually led to this anime. It’s so popular that even the voice actors are doing live shows. The anime is not just for idol fans though but for anime fans as well. This was a great element in the anime. It was trying to connect to anime fans using an idol gimmick. It has the challenge of convincing anime fans to watch an idol show without a famous group backing it. The approach this show used is to give a great story and do flashy dance numbers that capture the spirit of being an idol yet translated to appeal to anime fans. Love Live gave us the basics of being an idol. There is intense training and singing cute songs but there is also passion. Every idol anime have passionate characters because they have a strong desire to be famous. Love Live have school girls with a great passion for something new to them called “being an idol” and, along with the audience, their lives are slowly introduced to it and consumed by it. It’s like watching a sports anime and slowly falling in love with the sport. I’m sure there is a reason why competitive karuta became main stream after people saw Chihayafuru. The same approach was used in this anime. Let’s give the anime fans a reason to love idol groups.
I know I haven’t actually gotten into the actual meat of the show yet but when I first saw the few seconds of the anime, I instantly smiled. I just had a feeling of bliss after I slowly realized this is an idol anime but there are no stupid robots and supernatural themes to it. It’s a slice of life anime about idols. I encourage you to watch the opening sequence, think of how it compares to anything AKB0048 has ever given you then realize just how superior Love Live is. The concept alone was enough to make me watch it. I have some reservation about the direction of the show that I’ll explain later but that bliss I felt when I first saw the anime is still present as I write this review. I can finally say it. AKB0048 was awful.
The premise of the anime is actually a bit ridiculous. The school is closing down so the only way to save it is to form an idol group and sing to a lot of people. In paper, I also find it a bit laughable. The anime has seemingly set itself up to fail but I am amazed at how they handled the story. Their journey into saving the school is actually pretty secondary to the actual focus of the anime: the girl’s forming a school idol group. Remember, it’s a School Idol Group. They’re not an official group that makes money but something apparently famous in other schools and it has a huge following. In fact, a lot of schools have School Idol Groups and the characters are determined to be recognized and become popular. Saving the school is a bonus of sorts.
The story is simplistic so the show is very character driven. The first half is actually more about the formation of the group and the various members joining it. There are some small subplots but it ultimately leads to certain characters joining the group. Most idol anime have really bland characters because of how large the group is. In The Idolmaster, the characters are a mish mash of certain generic stereotypes to set each other apart. It’s the same in this anime. The large number of members proved too much so certain characters have a generic personality. The anime was smart at introducing the characters though. The nine main characters all had a decent role in the anime before they join the group. The show often focuses an episode on one member and tracks her journey in joining the group. Certain personal conflicts serve as the structure for the episodes and the approach works magnificently. The anime was able to be interesting all throughout thanks to the characters and their unique conflicts. Simple things like being too shy, stubborn or ignorant are among the conflicts in the anime that was heavily featured. It not only make the characters stand out but the strong theme of “being an idol” was also nicely incorporated into the episodes to make it more interesting.
The main character is Honoka. She is the typical lead that has a never say die attitude and a stubborn personality that draws people to her. She has strong passion for being an idol that rubs off to other people encouraging them to become idols as well. She is also the typical careless airhead that looks helpless so her close friends always look out for her. The rest of the cast are the typical idol characters you’d expect. There is the shy one, the uptight one, the mean one, the loud one, the princess type, the shrine girl type and the supportive motherly type. These are the generic personalities they started out with but the girls gradually develop. Like I said, they all have personal conflicts the anime feature that helps in fleshing them out and making them grow. Once they become part of the group, they offer something helpful to the group and make the interactions more interesting. The way the girls interact is also one of the great things in the anime. There is really balance in the group and everyone has a say on everything. With nine characters, it’s understandable that some may be pushed to the side and just take up space. That doesn’t happen in this anime. Every girl was pivotal in the group and you can actually recognize one character is not there without the girls pointing it out themselves.
The idol aspect of the anime is pretty basic. It walks the line of trying to stick to the story and be believable while actually making the girls slowly popular because that’s the point. It’s pretty difficult though because if you rush their popularity then it feels like the whole thing is imaginary. Idolmaster and AKB0048 possess this particular trait and there is no way I’ll be praising this anime heavily if it has that trait as well. This show had simple aspects. The typical training till your body drops is present in the anime. Some basic ideas of what an idol should and should not do are present in this anime. As I said before though, it’s also pretty grounded. The girls started out as basic nobodies, worked their ass out and experienced a slow popularity. Their popularity is still questionable though, except for some actual characters wanting their pictures and a bunch of netizens, but you can still feel the slow popularity as oppose to instant popularity the other two idol shows possess. Perhaps the most amazing part of the idol aspect is this one thing I’ve always wanted to see in these shows: disappointment. I’ve learned a long time ago that even if you work hard, there is no guarantee that you’ll succeed. This was present in the anime. The girls would work hard only to meet disappointment and it was just amazing to see them defeated. It was a great way for audiences to invest in them and actually see them succeed. No other idol anime does this and I’m glad Love Live actually incorporated that harsh element into its design.
The anime is also Slice of Life. There are a bunch of girls and a laidback genre. If you do the math then you know exactly what to expect. There are some fluff episodes in this anime. There are some beach episode, karaoke episode and the school festival episodes that feature the girls enjoying their time together. I personally think this aspect of the anime wasn’t needed since the buildup of the story and the idol aspect is enough to keep the story going. I do appreciate it though because it was able to fully utilize the characters and their great personalities. A slice of life anime with nine characters to feature still has some value to it. The ultimate goal of the genre though is to feature the power of friendship. The girls all love each other and they support each other. Friendship is an important ingredient of the anime and it is heavily featured in the fluff episodes. It’s the typical stories about friendship so there is really nothing special here. It is still fluff involving some nicely fleshed out characters.
The anime had a strong first half. The story of how the group grew into nine was really enjoyable to watch. The anime was intriguing and the story had a nice build up. I personally cannot wait to see the girls save their school because it just feels like something grand is about to go down. It’s a predictable route but something that would make the anime really amazing. Apparently, the anime recognized that the predictability as well and steered out of it come the second half. The idol aspects soon dwindled in order to make room for the slice of life and the ever inducive power of friendship. There were more fluff episodes as oppose to the anime slowly preparing for the initial climax that will save the school. The whole thing got crazy and instead of the exciting journey of saving the school, the anime shifted its attention to the power of friendship. I’m trying not to spoil the anime but the second half feels very incomplete and unsatisfying. It doesn’t live up to the great build up the first half nicely established and it pretty much threw everything out of the window in favor of something irritatingly pedantic. It was just such a shame the second half doesn’t match the progression the first half had. Unless the anime have another season, this idol anime ended with a sour note. There are still some great moments in the second half and the idol aspects it presented still have the passion the show was trying to feature all this time. To be fair though, the fluff moments of the second half reminds me of K-on and that show thrived on the power of friendship and nothing more. The idea of cute girls doing cute things still saves the day for this anime and it does have a satisfying ending. Is it good? Yes. Could it have been better? Most definitely. I feel like the show started with a big bang and ended with a silent whimper though so it’s heartbreaking.
This is still an amazing show either way. The anime has a lot of things I’m sure even casual viewers will appreciate and I’m not even talking about the visuals and the songs. The characters are pretty amazing and the journey of being an idol is actually a really interesting story to tell. I wish other idol anime can be as good as this one. I’m hopeful idol anime of the future learns from the things Love Live has presented. I also want another season. The experience I had with this anime is really incredible.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty incredible. The girls look pretty simple but the details given to them is really amazing. They all have the same template but they don’t really look alike. It’s not just by their hair and height but there are also great details that set them apart. The color of their eyes, the individual hair styles, and simple accessories all help the girls look pretty unique despite the generic design. I’m fine with a generic look though if they are as great eye candies as the ones in this anime. The show is always mindful of making the girls really cute in almost every scene and trying to give them strong personalities as well. I am also a huge fan of the pink knees. I always find pink sort of reddish knees on girls appealing and it makes the girls a lot more cuter. Their simple mannerisms are also a nice touch. Even in identical uniforms, the girls nicely stand out. It a combination of all these simple details that makes the girls really great to look at.
The animation is outstanding. The anime is a simple slice of life but the movements are so precise. It has crisp animations that can match a KyoAni anime. It has precise animation from simple scenes like the girls running and eating while still maintaining the great eye candy aspect of the characters. Most anime with pretty characters would opt to just move the lips to make them perpetually attractive. The girls in the anime have free range movements while still being cute and pretty. A GIF can decently explain it more than me so here you go.
Then there are the performances. Sunrise (the studio) has really made a big statement to Statelight (AKB0048’s studio) that they are light years ahead of them. The dance scenes have a mix of CG in it along with the 2D scenes. The 2D scenes themselves are amazing with high frame rate and smooth transitions that nicely give off the idea that the girls are dancing expertly. There are some mix of CG though that looks a bit stiff with the way the joints are connected but the dance scenes flow along organically that you barely notice them. I really wondered why they would add CG scenes for no reason at all until I realized that maybe they were proving something to AKB0048 and Satelight…or maybe the whole 2D/CG dance scenes are catching on to which I say it’s stupid. Still though, the animation is outstanding. The move set is complex yet the anime was still able to capture the cute appeal of the girls while paying attention to the details of the dance scenes. They may dance the same routine but you can see that the girls have their own individual timing and their own individual moves that really makes the dance scenes a lot more believable. I love that Sunrise decided to be so anal with the details even though they have the choice not to. It’s really amazing and it’s really hypnotizing. I mostly skip OP sequences but I just can’t when it comes to this anime.
The soundtrack is outstanding as well. Most of the time, I give off a sigh of irritation when AKB0048 does a performance but I was actually anticipating them in this anime. The reason is simple. They’re really good. It has the cute appeal of idol songs but the lyrics actually mean something instead of just literally rainbows and butterflies. It isn’t balls deep in the idol structure. It is still an enjoyable and catchy song with good rhythm and measure. They aren’t just cute. They’re the kind of songs that appeals to anime fans more than idol fans while still being an idol song. I suck at explaining songs so just listen to the OP and you’ll understand.
The anime’s OP is “Bokura wa Ima no Naka de” by μ’s. The idol group of the anime is called “μ” which is read as muse. There is actually a backstory behind it where people voted over the name of the group on the magazine this anime crawled out of. Just read the wiki page. The song is an encouraging one about never giving up and doing your best that nicely fits the theme of the anime. The song has a nice catchy beat to it and I love how the characters sing in unison giving it a great personality. It’s a catchy song and it has a great idol appeal to it without the bubblegum pop most idol song possesses. The OP sequence is outstanding. The dance moves are so precise and the cuteness is really prominent. The way the characters move is so natural and the CG was a nice touch. The camera angle gave all the characters a decent time in the spotlight and the little mannerisms like winking and flipping their hair was given great attention. It’s amazing and I actually hope they were a real group. The song and performance really captured the wonderful spirit of the anime that you can basically see all the things you’ll experience in the anime. There are also some short montages in the OP. I’m not a fan of presenting all nine characters from the start though since it kind of spoils the moment for when the new members join. It doesn’t have much of an impact since you see them dancing in the OP anyways.
The anime’s ED is “Kitto Seishun ga Kikoeru” by μ’s. There are different versions in some episodes sung by some pairing or trio among the idol group but it’s basically the same song. It’s another song about never giving up but I want to emphasize that the lyrics is really great. It has the passion the anime greatly displays. The song itself has the same cute appeal as the OP but I love the individual lines in the verse then a big unison in the chorus. The ED sequence is just a montage of the girls going into practice. It does have a cute scene of the girls lined up with one of them playing the piano and another energetically playing the maracas and then all of them singing the chorus at the second line. It’s a nice touch and here’s a GIF of it.
9/10 “As it stands, this is the most enjoyable idol anime TPAB can recommend. The second half might bring the score down a notch though.”
I am really glad I watched this anime. It was enjoyable through and through. I still have my complaints but the positives really outweigh the negatives plus the fact that I actually enjoyed an idol anime, despite AKB0048 crushing my sanity as I write a review of it, is good enough reason to try this anime. If you love cute girls singing and dancing in great detail then you’ll love this anime. If you enjoy cute girls doing cute things without it being drawn out then you’ll this anime. If you enjoy highly quality animation about cute girls then you’ll enjoy this anime. I highly recommend it.