Thursday 24 March 2016

Movie REVIEW: Love Live! The School Idol Movie

Love Live! The School Idol Movie

What do you do when you've created a successful anime franchise that's already spawned two seasons, CDs, manga, light novels, video games and more? End things with a movie of course! And that's exactly what Love Live! School Idol Project has done - ending it's final episode with the perfect lead in to a full blown cinematic feature. Going by the full title of Love Live! The School Idol Movie, this film is the swan song of μ's before the band go their separate ways and the group is retired to make way for a new group of super stars in Love Live! Sunshine later this year. Given μ's monumental success, it's only fitting that they be seen out in style.

μ's perform SUNNY DAY SONG
Going out with a bang

Following on from Hanayo's shocking news at the end of the series, it is revealed that the organisers of the Love Live competition are planning to hold yet another competition - only this time they're thinking bigger than ever and want to hold it in the Tokyo Dome. In order to do this the Love Live needs to drum up more publicity than ever, so μ's are sent on an all expenses paid trip to New York to appear on television and spread the appeal of school idols even further. Despite their pre-planned breakup seeming imminent, with the third years still school idols until the end of the month they accept.

New York hijinks inevitably ensue, and upon their return μ's have an even bigger task to face - revealing to their fans that when the third years cease to be school idols, so will μ's in general. Wanting to end on their biggest high yet and share her love of school idols with everyone, Honoka has one last plan before μ's break up - and she's going to need A-Rise and as many other school idol groups as she can to carry it out!

Nico performs Angelic Angel
My favourite musical

A finale movie where a band/group head out to a foreign country and then return for an emotional goodbye? Now where have I seen that before? Obvious comparisons aside having μ's go bigger than ever for a feature film is the logical path to take, and you can't get much bigger than the Big Apple. While the attention to detail isn't quite as astounding as the level KyoAni showed off in the K-On! movie (where streets where painstakingly recreated right down to shop names and layouts), Sunrise's shot at New York is still a marvel to behold and provides a good source of amusement with all the not-so-suble Broadway knock-off shows they had to use in the place of licensed names. Travel stories always provide a good source of character interaction too, and Love Live! is certainly no exception there. Their arrival in New York is the perfect set up for a cavalcade of jokes and more intimate moments with the cast. It's a very strong start for the film, and massive shame that it only covers about 40 minutes of the film's 102 minute running time.

Honoka makes a new friend
This whole segment has some very strange implications

Unfortunately, the group's return to Japan is where the movie begins to fall apart a bit. With the tail end of the second season having already nicely covered whether or not μ's will continue after the third years graduate, the movie is simply retreading old ground on a less intimate scale. It feels less about the band as a whole and more about Honoka's internal conflict on the whole situation, which while understandable feels like it should have far more input from the members that are actually going to no longer be school idols. The film toys around with the idea of "go big or home", but isn't able to properly commit to being truly intimate or going all out. Honoka promises a big send off with as many school idol groups as they can muster, but once again A-Rise are the only ones that hold any real weight in the film. Even the accompanying big musical number paints anyone who isn't μ's or related to μ's as a faceless extra.

However the musical numbers are great, even if they aren't quite as ingrained into the film as perhaps should be. Despite their New York television appearance and the film ending on (what is presumably) an appearance at the next Love Live event in the Tokyo Dome, few of the film's big musical moments have any sort of real lead-in - they just kind of happen like music video inserts. The flittering backgrounds and over the top grandeur of them doesn't really help matter either, especially when a more low-key number that fitted better with the story would feel more appropriate. And although Love Live! is playing with a movie budget here the visuals don't feel anymore impressive than the show and the CGI is just as jarring as ever. But hey - the songs are excellent and getting three musical numbers with the group divided down in trios is a very nice treat.

Rin, Maki and Hanayo perform Hello, Hoshi o Kazoete
Singing in the rain

Hardcore Love Live! fans are undoubtedly going to enjoy The School Idol Movie, but for those with more of a casual interest in the franchise the film isn't quite the finale μ's deserved. Despite starting strong, the second half falls apart as it chooses to push spectacle over doing anything new with the cast. It's a film that puts fan service first, offering a memorable moments but as a whole doesn't live up to the strong ending of the series. However if there's one thing Love Live! never fails to do its put a smile on your face, and that alone ensures that the movie doesn't feel like a let down.

No comments: