Is Love Live! Superstar!! the Best Love Live Yet? – This Week in Anime

As the first Love Live! series to get a third season, Love Live! Superstar!! continues to keep things fresh my reinventing the previous series’ formula while making more room for its characters to grow.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Chris

Steve, the spooky month of October is already well under way, with airing anime serving up some appropriately creepy creatures. We’ve got all the devils of the just-premiered Chainsaw Man, the returning ghostly spirits of a resurrected Bleach, and even some witches (From Mercury). And the just-wrapped second season of Love Live! Superstar!! has presented us that most frightening being of all:



YouTubers
Steve

Truly nothing more demonic than an influencer who happens to have the kanji for demon in her name. But in the cutthroat world of school idols, one needs all the sharp edges they can muster. That’s why Superstar had to come back with a second season. To pound into us the lesson that idoling is no joke.



Except when it is.

The freshman outing for Superstar was something of a trend-bucker, cutting its number of initial idols down to just five for the season, rather than the usual nine. This meant it had way more space to develop those characters, but with the inevitable second season, they knew they had to bring it back up. For the true value of Love Live! is to have as many girls as they can work with executing just the gooberest, gremlinest antics an idol anime can get away with.





And what an absolute delight it has been! Love Live!, at this point, is an institution, so you’re going into it knowing what you’re going to get out of it. That’s part of the appeal. But as a mild experiment in mixing, stretching, and refining the usual Love Live! formula, Superstar has emerged as probably my favorite iteration of the now-classic quest for school idol supremacy. I think paring the cast in the first season was super smart, and the extra space it allowed the first years this season was very much appreciated.

As for where the rest of her inferiority complex comes from, well, they’re working on it.



I like, too, that the Liella’s first real conflict this season is them suffering from success. They did so well at the school idol thing last year that all the new students are too intimidated to keep up with them. They have to resort to conning naive out-of-towners into joining their cult—I mean club.

I love how the first season was built on slowly uncovering just what weird little goblins all the Liella girls actually were (remember how we thought Chisato might be mostly regular, until her devotion to the Church of Circles came out?), so their first new recruit in S2 must be Kinako, The Normalest Girl.



Though I should stress that Kanon herself also stays relatively devoted to sensibility amongst all this idol idiocy, to the point that we find out later that one of her main reactions to Kinako was a relieved “Oh thank god, someone else who’s actually normal!”


Moderation and balance is key to school idols, as in all things. Sure, “being from Hokkaido” and “occasionally dressing like Pippi Longstocking” aren’t too exciting when it comes to personality traits, but you have to keep in mind that Kinako is evening out the other end of the scale, and there be monsters (and I’m obviously talking about Natsumi).



Though it’s also worth noting we meet a mad scientist with heelies, so Kinako really has her work cut out for her being the normal one.


Plus Kinako’s normalcy ties into that early point of the plot, with the Liella Second-Years having a full season of School Idol effort under their belt manifesting in that aforementioned skill gap. When even Keke is leaving you in the dust in practice, you know you’ve got some catching up to do.


Again, it’s a classic Love Live! tradeoff. Yes, you need to do regular cardio, but you get a cute workout outfit in exchange. Balance.

As with Sumire’s newly-appreciated fame, it gives us an opportunity to see and appreciate how far a character like Keke has come compared to her previous personal foibles. And pass that knowledge onto a new generation like Kinako. It’s the real aspirational appeal of Love Live!: Anyone can put on that cute workout outfit if they want, and build their way up to that level.




Like sure, previous Love Lives can have a bit where one character gives another character a training regimen. But this one lands way more effectively because we’ve seen the difference it’s made between seasons for Keke.
Yeah, and I’m very interested to see how they intend on following these lines through into the third season, when we’ll (presumably) have three tiers of idol experience to explore.

We can also think about it this way: Natsumi is going to be somebody’s senpai, and that’s terrifying.

Hey, she should have no problem running some sort of mentorship. After all, her influencer course is guaranteed to take you to the top of Million-Subscriber Mountain, or your money back!*




*Void where prohibited. Price and participation may vary. Money back may not be guaranteed if proprietor of influencer course takes funds and runs away to Mexico.
An Idol You Can Trust™



And I guess it’s no secret that Natsumi is by far the most fun of the new bunch, purely by virtue of how much she absolutely sucks.
For years, Sunrise‘s engineers have toiled away in the Love Live! labs, trying to answer the question: Can you make a ‘Nico’ who is actually even more trash than the original Nico Yazawa?




It may have cost them a fortune in research funds, but they at long last have their answer.
I don’t even know if I’d call Natsumi Liella’s Nico. She’s like a whole new beast, reared exclusively on the toxic teat of the content farm. It’d be grim if it weren’t for the consistently hilarious glances under the hood of her floundering online empire. Stuff like watching her fine-tune the perfect clickbait thumbnail. It’s a work of art.


I was so worried that the “you will be ashamed of your words and deeds” part of her arc would contextualize her money-grubbing as way to support her destitute family or something. Bo-oring. But nope, just like every other YouTuber who talks about the stock market, she just failed out of literally everything else and fell back on the ancient art of the grift. And I love that for her. She’s perfect. She belongs in jail. She’s the school idol we deserve.

It’s the art of war. Kanon can’t stop her, but she does get Natsumi to redirect her nefarious powers away from manufacturing drama and towards the group’s benefit.




…it’s a work in progress. Despite being endemically online, Natsumi didn’t get the memo about the pink sauce yet.


Like Superstar itself, Liella’s success is all about experimenting with the formula. Luckily, their other new recruits come straight from the Science Club.




The skeleton, sadly, is not one of those new recruits.
Not yet. With an unprecedented third season coming, anything’s possible.
For now, though, both Shiki and Mei are very good additions on their own. Shiki for her coolheaded nature and curious collection of concoctions, and Mei for her tendency to make this face.

Mei’s face game, even compared to the storied efforts that drive Love Live!, is on such another level that they had to concoct lore to explain it.


Look at her. Moisturized. In her lane. Thriving. Wota-ing.

You certainly can’t argue with the results, speaking to Shiki’s propensity for taking plenty of extremely-platonically-affectionate pictures of her lab partner.





Epic moments in gals being pals.





Amazing that they renewed this for a third season after such a shameless, uncensored display.

The sheer level of nerdery on display in this episode makes it one of the most wonderfully memorable in a season that’s just hit after hit. Like of course Ren’s dad springs for stuff like a Satellaview and an Atari Jaguar in lieu of his absent affections. Ren won’t need to drum up interest in the school by beating other idol groups in the Love Live! if she can just defeat them in Kasumi Ninja instead.



It is also, insanely, the first place where Love Live! broaches the subject of actual-factual dating. Though in this case, it’s on account of the other members mistakenly thinking that Ren and Mei are in a relationship, as opposed to the former reaching out to the latter for rescue from being dragged into gaming hell.


I agree Love Live! tends to work best in its comedic moments, but I think it’s true overall appeal is that of musical theater, with all the deliberate camp and heightened emotional landscapes. Here, they let Sumire and Keke’s drama reach it’s natural boiling point, in a way that feels true to both characters, and with a resolution that feels more than earned.







Or, to put my thoughts in fewer words: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
That was pretty much everyone’s reaction as this episode aired, as I recall. And I Iove the way it codifies the pair to just be extremely married for the rest of the season (and presumably, the next one).


Real married couple hours. Big time.





Besides, it’s not like Sumire needed to act as a fake villain at any point here, since Superstar’s second season brings in a proper villain to propel its story!

Love Live! finally embracing an actual heel school idol is the most important development in the franchise’s history imo. Love this goofy black swan Phantom of the Opera ass edgelord.

My joke running through the whole season was that Sunrise accidentally picked out a villain from their Gundam arm instead. We talk about the theater aspect of Love Live!, and Wien Margarete is all drama.


My favorite thing with her is how she naturally gravitates to the tallest place to speak from, like a cat trying to assert dominance from the top of a bookshelf. It’s always funny.


She’s so ridiculously extra. Her entire reason for performing in the Love Live! is so that she can destroy the Love Live!




I’m surprised she only goes as far as grabbing the mic to interrupt the announcement of Liella beating her, as opposed to just stealing the whole trophy like Shooter McGavin running off with the jacket at the end of Happy Gilmore.

The revelation that she’s got brood-prone Austrian blood really explains everything. Posing in front of the Plague Column. Vague-posting on Instagram. She’s the whole package.


I found myself wondering if her follower count had always been that low, or if she’d just experienced massive bleed-off in the wake of her stunt at the semi-finals.

Compared to the likes of the aforementioned Natsumi, Margarete does have something of a sincere backstory reason for her attitude, and it’s one that ties into that expanding of Love Live! ideas that Superstar is so interested in: What happens to the performers who don’t succeed at their dreams using the competition as a Hail Mary? How are they expected to feel about these protagonists for whom events line up perfectly, for which the rain itself stops and clouds part?





Yeah, I liked seeing Margarete wrestle with her pride and her passion, without really reaching a definite conclusion. Granted, she also doesn’t get a whole lot of time to weigh her messy swirl of emotions, but something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

Just like with Natsumi, I hope she retains plenty of her thorniness moving forward. I definitely could have predicted she’d be integrating into the cast somehow for that forthcoming third season, but nothing could have prepared me for the way that finale so soundly pulled the rug out from under me!

I mean, rug-pull aside, they took the coward’s way out not letting Kanon study abroad—that would’ve been a novel development to build the third season on—but the prospect of Margarete being a little piece of shit freshman at Yuigaoka is tantalizing enough to soothe the sting of betrayal.

The fact that they seemed to commit to it so soundly is what made it work as a shocker at all, even as I agree it was a cop-out. After all that effort setting up a full reverse of the original Love Live!: School Idol Project Season 1 finale, too! It’s especially effective since I think Kanon is handily the best orange-haired Love Live! Center girl in the franchise, and this ending arc marks a tidy emotional journey for her.

Pretty sure I already made this joke the last time we covered this, but seeing as she’s definitely the first Love Live! leader to have a favorite Sonic Youth album, I have to agree with you.

So while it would have been extremely neat to see the third season actually ship her off for a portion, I can also admit that I’d have missed her a bit.

For sure! And going back to my first point, part of the appeal of Love Live! is its familiarity. It’s become a big time comfort franchise for me. But Superstar’s grasp of school idol craft—from the concerts to the comedy—puts it on the pedestal, and I can’t wait to see more of these girls and gremlins and gremlin girls.

Agreed! Even an oddity of an ending like that can’t dent all the other good this second season of Superstar did in feeling fresh alongside all that other franchise familiarity. This show and its weird NHK-delayed prime-time airing slot turned into a real “Rush to watch it as soon as it was up” experience (or rather, “Whenever Crunchyroll managed to get it up with working subs, never on time”). And for all the reasons we’ve talked about, I can confidently declare this one the best Love Live! yet, as far as I’m concerned!

Regardless of our individual opinions, I think we can all agree that it was also the roundest installment to date. And isn’t that most important?


I don’t know that anyone could say no to that!

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