Monday, 9 October 2017

First Impressions: Love Live! Sunshine!! Season 2

Love Live! Sunshine!! Season 2
Love Live! Sunshine!! is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

Though the Love Live! hype train certainly hasn't shown any signs of stopping over the past few years it's time for it to hit full steam once again as the second season of Love Live! Sunshine!! is finally upon us. When we last left the girls of Aquours they still weren't any closer to saving their school from closure, but they had gotten their first taste of the stage at the regional qualifiers as well as realised that they need to forge their own path instead of simply following in μ's' shadow. Now we're back for another 13 episodes of seaside song times, as Chika, You, Riko, Dia, Kanan, Mari, Yoshiko, Hanamaru and Ruby continue their path to idoldom.


While Aquours failed to make it to the Nationals, the girls seem undeterred as they begin to make preparations for both the next Love Live event and their school's forthcoming open house. However just as they're ready to begin practicing, Mari receives news from her father that the open house has been cancelled and plans are already underway to close Uranohoshi High. With the group's morale at its lowest and Chika hit the hardest by the news, the girls must find new motivation and determination to turn things around and make a miracle happen.

One of my biggest complaints about the first season of Love Live! Sunshine!! was just how closely Aquours wanted to follow in the footsteps of μ's until the very end. Rarely did an episode go by where there wasn't some reference to the group, and the show had been set up in such a way that the group really were just following in their shadow. This eventually served a pretty important purpose narrative-wise, but it didn't make things any more exciting for those tuning in and hoping for a show that felt significantly different than the original series. Now that we've reached the (presumably) halfway point in the Sunshine!! story things are looking a little more interesting. While the show still has the "save our school" aspect that's always going to be the staple of Love Live! (well, apart from the idols obviously), it's now beginning to show off just how much of a tougher time Aquours are going to have making their goal a reality.


At this point in the original series μ's may not have already won the Love Live and catapulted to stardom, but they had at the very least managed to save their school. Here not only have Aquours failed to get through the regional tryouts, but any lingering positivity they had left is immediately crushed by the news that the school's closure plans are going ahead and there's seemingly very little they can do about it. At this point following in μ's footsteps would be impossible even if they wanted to. It's a pretty soul-crushing way to open the season and it hits the viewer just as hard as it does the characters. The tense atmosphere the news created is also reflected in the lack of music the episode itself has. Usually a series opener will have an insert song in addition to introducing the new opening and end themes, but throwing one in here just wouldn't be fitting. It's an interesting shakeup even though it's an extremely minor one, and it's absence is very noticeable.

That said, Love Live! isn't a show about just accepting bad news - it's about coming together to make the impossible possible and overcome all obstacles. And while it does take the episode for this to happen, of course the girls come together and resolve to make a miracle happen. The path they have to take is going to be that much tougher than the one μ's had to take, and it's exactly that that's going to make Love Live! Sunshine!! truly stand out from it's predecessor. And even though they're facing a tough time ahead this episode still isn't without it's laughs. Yoshiko is still just as deluded as ever, Ruby as adorable as ever and Mari is still exercising her English language skills to mixed results. It's still the same cast we know and love from the first season, and if anything having this tough road ahead is just going to bring theme even closer.


If the objective of Love Live! Sunshine!!'s first season was to have its characters realise that they weren't their predecessors, then season two's objective is to have them truly make a name for themselves and this was an excellent way to start that. The road is long and the goals are clear, but while the series will undoubtedly end on a positive note there's the lingering possibility that Aquours might not actually be able to achieve what they've set out to do. Either way it's going to be a great time watching them try, and more of Love Live's distinct brand of uplifting, colourful fun is always welcome.

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