Love Live! School Idol Project
ラブライブ！ School idol project
Seinen – Comedy, musical
13 Episodes (complete)
Crunchyroll / NIS America
Honoka loves her school. Unfortunately, Otonokizaka is probably going to shut down due to a lack of students. Honoka comes up with a brilliant idea to save the academy: create a group of school idols! Honoka recruits her two best friends to join, and together they hope their new idol group can raise enrollment. But they’ll learn being an idol isn’t so easy…
While a lot of anime and manga series feature heroes and heroines who hate school, Honoka loves her school. She’s not a top student, and she wouldn’t have to transfer, but Honoka really wants Otonokizaka to stay open. She learns about students who work as idols to promote their school. School idols are incredibly popular with merchandise, television broadcasts, and even a competition. So Honoka convinces her two best friends, Kotori and Umi, to sing and dance to lure more students. Because allowing boys to enroll in the all-girl academy was never considered, I guess.
Anyways, fortunately, Honoka, Kotori, and Umi are both cute and talented enough to sing, write lyrics, choreograph dance steps, and design costumes. (They had to get someone else to compose though.) They have to do some training, but even the more-subdued Umi gets into the role of being a school idol. They end up finding others who have an interest in the idol life, and soon their group u’s grows to nine members. (This is obvious from the opening.)
It’s a little hard to review Love Live: School Idol Project. The franchise didn’t originate with either an anime or a manga. Instead, it was a collaboration between several groups, including readers of a magazine. According to Wikipedia, participants voted on hairstyles, costumes, and names. So it’s a little hard to point out the series’ faults and strengths when I don’t know where they originated.
As expected, Love Live! is very music-centered. Unlike other series which may have one song per episode, this anime can have multiple songs in an episode. I knew Love Live! music was popular, but I can see why: the series really pushes the songs. (Evidently, some of the songs came first?) The idol aspects are the focus of the series. No love triangles, no random episodes. About two-thirds of the series is dedicated to forming the group, and then u’s concentrates on entering the big school idol competition. The last couple episodes decide to pile on the drama, and it just felt so forced. Talk about cheesy. I was bored.
Anyways, it’s always nice when a series sticks to its theme. This prevents the plot from veering off into several directions. I do wish the story included more about u’s battles and struggles. Overall, the group’s rise in popularity is pretty steady. I know some members have backgrounds in music and dancing, but they construct some pretty nice music, choreography, and costumes as amateurs. When they start out at a high level, you don’t really get to see them improve much over the series. When I saw the final episode, I didn’t really feel like their talents had grown. The vocals and choreography are basically the same as the first live’s.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the series has yuri undertones. The female maniac who loves groping other females is a fairly standard trope found across all genres. The “lean in so close they’re practically kissing” was clearly intentional.
Like most idol series, the characters are created to appeal to the masses. Honoka is a typical genki girl, Nico wants to be admired, and Nozomi is both wise and a groper. The only real flaws any of the girls have is being stubborn, but that’s to be expected in this type of anime. On the downside, some of the characters seem to just be along for the ride. One member, Rika, joins just because her best friend and new friend do. Her issue of not being girly enough is just brushed aside since it’s not a music-based problem. I feel like she should have received more attention since being a school idol was not in her plans. I do like how they divide up the work instead of putting one person in charge. Umi and Eli concentrate on dancing, Hanayo and Nico know a lot about idols, Maki is in charge of composition, and Kotori is the fashion designer. Still, everyone is charming in their own way.
The seiyuu for the main cast is divided into two groups: singers who were brought in to voice act and actress who also happen to sing. You can really tell what kind of background each seiyuu has. This is a good mix if you are tired of certain seiyuu or the usual anime voices; on the downside, the primarily-singers’ acting generally lags behind the primarily-actresses. They use their more natural voices, and they don’t always blend well during the episodes. The harmonies are excellent, though.
The dance sequences make hefty use of CG. I’m old school, so I’m not a big fan of CG in an otherwise 2D show. Fortunately, it looks much better than, say, Uta-Pri‘s third season’s less-than-stellar attempts. The choreography flows nicely, and no one looks completely out of place. Otherwise, the animation looks quite sharp. The anime’s colors are bright and pop right out of the screen. Characters move naturally, and their faces shine with detail and brilliance. It really feels like the crew put effort into the visuals instead of banking on the voices to carry the show. (P.S., and for visuals, I don’t mean lots of bikini or panty shots. This news will intrigue some of you and disappoint others.)
Honorifics are used. Rin’s habit of using her name instead of “I” is ignored. Her nya-ing is also omitted. The songs are subbed on Crunchyroll, including the opening and endings. I did notice the translation dropped at least one pun in episode 10: Honoka asks what about umi (the sea), but Umi thinks she’s asking what about Umi (the person). Some lines were altered slightly. For example, an instance of Maki calling Nozomi by her name is dropped in favor of slight teasing. Eli also uses a Russian word (written as “khorosho” in the subs), but I had no idea what it was or what it meant until I Googled it. But I’m sure most Japanese speakers were just as confused.
Love Live! is a bit of an idealized journey into idolhood, but the series is supported by some nice songs and visuals. Really, this is a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” show. If the idea of girls singing and dancing for school pride doesn’t appeal to you, then this isn’t the anime for you. It wasn’t bad, but I like the comedy of Uta no Prince-sama or the drama of Full Moon o Sagashite better. The last few episodes of Love Live! really dragged the series down for me.
Love Live! was followed up by a second season, also available from Crunchyroll / NIS America. The game Love Live! School Idol Festival is available in English for mobile devices.
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