Review for Love Live! School Idol Project S2 Collector's Edition
Having just watched Season 1 of Love Live on Blu-ray for review, it’s no surprise that I turn to Season 2 next, which MVM released with a similar Collector’s Edition presentation. Usually when you hear of cute girls doing cute things in anime, you’re instantly put in mind of the slice of life genre, but it’s nice to see shows like Love Live, which prove that cute girls can do cute things in other genres as well, although if they strike a pose and exhort you with “Nico Nico Ni!”, it’s best to run for the hills...
Honoka Kosaka is facing the end of her dream high school life. She’s just started the second year of high school at Otonokizaka High School, only to learn that it will be closing down, due to a lack of new students applying. After a momentary depression, Honoka decides that the only thing to do is to attract more students. The big thing in high schools right now are the School Idols, pop stars representing the best and brightest schools, although Otonokizaka is one school that has avoided the phenomenon thus far. Seeing the awe that students from other schools have for their idols, Honoka decides to start her own School Idol Club at Otonokizaka, along with her best friends Umi and Kotori. It may be an impossible challenge. The Student Council President is just as determined to keep the school open, but starting a new club at this point seems foolhardy and worse, potentially presenting false hope to the students. She isn’t likely to approve a School Idol Club. And even if they can get a club off the ground, they’ll have to put in a lot of hard work... and they need talent.
At the end of season 1, the girls had managed to save their school from closure, and they didn’t even need to enter the Love Live contest. But as Season 2 begins, the show’s popularity means that another Love Live has already been scheduled. Not that Honoka is too enthused by the prospect. She’s snowed under with work, having been recently elected Student Council President to succeed Eli, and she doesn’t initially think that it’s necessary for μ’s to enter. It’s when she realises that for the third years, Nozomi, Nico and Eli, it’s their last chance to shine as idols before they graduate, that she is inspired to take μ’s all the way to the top. It won’t be easy, as they’re up against the biggest school idol group around, A-RISE.
Thirteen episodes of Love Live! School Idol Project Season 2 are presented across 2 Blu-rays from MVM thus.
1. Another Love Live!
2. Aiming For Victory
3. Door of Dreams
4. Best Idol in the Universe
5. A New Me
6. Happy Halloween
7. We Have to Do Something
8. My Wish
9. Melody of the Heart
11. Our Decision
12. Last Concert
13. May Everyone’s Dream Come True
Love Live gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs, and it’s a good one. MVM have inherited the NISA authored discs, as they went on their road to regionalisation via Madman in Australia, and the level of detail, the clarity, the rich colours, all make the best of the HD format. You don’t have to worry about compression, banding and the like, and this Blu-ray is a strong improvement over even the second DVD release of the show.
The image is clear and sharp throughout, with a bright and vivid aesthetic to the character and world designs. In terms of design style, it’s pretty standard anime fare, but the quality of the animation is detailed and expressive, and the characters are all individual and memorable in their own right, perfect for the fan that will latch onto their favourites, and buy all the tie-in merchandise. This is one show that will switch from 2D traditional to 3D CGI cel-shaded for the music videos, the same way that Super Sonico handled its music video sequences, to better animate the complex choreography of the dance moves, although in terms of maintaining character consistency when it comes to facial features, Super Sonico does it a little better.
This time, you have the choice between PCM 2.0 English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles, and a signs only track. I was happy with the Japanese dub this time, with the actors suited to their characters, the stereo doing justice to the show’s action, and more importantly the music. The subtitles are in a white font, and are logically formatted as per the DVD re-release. They are accurately timed and free of typos.
You get 2 Blu-ray discs in a DVD Amaray case with some nice artwork inside and out. This slips inside a double layered, thin card slipcase, which has room for the 32 page μ’s Music Scrapbook [2nd Season]. This has character profiles, cast interviews, and episode guides, and plenty of artwork.
The discs present their content with animated menus.
All of the extras are on disc 2, and amount to the textless opening and nine textless closings (this time they really are textless, no subtitles at all). You get three of the original Blu-ray Announcements running to 48 seconds, a 21 second Original TV Spots and 1:33 of Original Trailer for the show.
I had a player incompatibility with disc 2, in that selecting the language options from the main menu caused the menu screen to lock up until the menu music had cycled around again (about 35 minutes worth, but you can use the skip button to get to the last two minutes). If you have the same Panasonic player as I, best to just press play and use the pop-up menu to select your audio options within the episode.
Love Live Season 2 is still fun. It’s the kind of show that you can put on and just switch your brain off and enjoy. That’s because Love Live isn’t just about the music, it’s also about cute girls doing cute things, the lifeblood of any self-respecting anime fan in the 21st Century, and Love Live does it pretty well, although there is one, notable music oriented anime that does it a lot better.
It’s easy, and indeed appropriate to wheel out the ‘if you liked season 1, then you’ll like this’ cliché, as Season 2 picks up where the first left off. It also delivers on the title. Season 1 saw μ’s attempt to succeed at the Love Live contest in order to keep their school from closing down. However, the goal of the group was saving the school, not winning the contest, and despite falling at an early hurdle, they did indeed manage to save the school. It satisfies in terms of narrative; you get the appropriate emotional crescendo at the end of the season, but if you’ve been sold on the Love Live concept of a high school girl idol group song contest, then Season 1 might have been a bit of a disappointment. Season 2 however isn’t, as the girls get to go to Love Live and compete to see who the best school idol group in Japan is.
That’s thanks to a little narrative trick, given that Love Live isn’t an annual contest. It’s just that the last contest turned out to be so popular, that they went and scheduled another one for the following Spring. This is important, as μ’s are a group made of up 1st years, 2nd years and 3rd year students, and come April, the 3rd years will have graduated. A big aspect of the story in season 2 is the impending graduation, the realisation that Nico, Eli and Nozomi will be leaving, and having to face the inevitable changes that will come to their group.
There are three musical goals to aim for in this season, the preliminaries, the final preliminaries, and the grand final itself, as this time there’s also a degree of rivalry with Tokyo’s number 1 school idol group, A-RISE. You can expect a nicely animated musical number on a regular basis. In between, it’s the usual light character comedy, with episodes focusing on various members of μ’s. Against all rational sense, Honoka has been made school council president at the start of this season, succeeding Eli and Nozomi, although it seems that it’s Honoka’s friends Umi and Kotori who do the heavy lifting of constantly reminding her to do the work.
There’s a nice Nico episode where we get to meet her adorable siblings, Rin gets an episode where she has to work through her tomboy tendencies and find her girlie side, in one episode Honoka and Kayo find that they have put on weight (lethal for a school idol, probably worse for an impressionable young, body-conscious anime fan), and there’s the difficulty of getting to a concert during a blizzard. It’s all light, fluffy and fuzzy good feelings from beginning to end.
The final three episodes really do ladle on the schmaltz though, which makes this series drop down in my estimation compared to Season 1. As mentioned before, it’s all about the Love Live final, the last chance for μ’s to hit the big time, before their 3rd year members have to graduate. And as the finals approach, the show really overdoes the sentimentality, keeps reminding the viewer that win or lose it will all be over for μ’s at the end of this series, and it is all... so... tragic! For the last three episodes, it seems that the girls are always on the verge of tears, and there is that inevitable moment when hysteria over their impending goodbyes overwhelms. And then Love Live milks it some more. When it comes to tearful farewells, this show has more endings than Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Until the last minute reprieve of course. There’s still the Love Live Movie to promote after all!
The sugary sentimentality at the end of this show might give you toothache, but Love Live is still an entertaining and enjoyable show. It’s just that I can’t help but compare it to K-On!, which is in a whole other league when it come to characterisation and storytelling. It too had its arc about graduating third years, and with poor Azusa being left behind, but it told its story far more elegantly, conveying the sentimentality and emotion without being obvious about it. K-On! is by far the better of the two shows, but Love Live is fun in its own right, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t have both. And once again, Blu-ray is so much better than DVD.