Otonokizaka High School is on the verge of being shut down due to a declining enrolment of students over the years. In order to save their school and avoid being split apart, a group of girls literally band together to forma school idol group. They want to bring their school to the forefront of everyones minds, and encourage prospective students to consider Otonokizaka once more. However, not everyone in the school thinks forming an idol group is such a great idea.
Love Live! is really my first brush with an idol anime series, because something about it just caught my eye. The main protagonist here is Honoka, the quintessential bubbly and determined personality that draws everyone to her. Forming the band µ’s is her idea, and she ultimately grows and develops in parallel to the idol group she has created. There are, however, eight other girls in this idol group, and only 13 episodes in which to develop them all. This show did struggle here, with the main focus being on Honoka and her two immediate friends Umi and Kotori. Quite honestly, the group could have been cut down to at least a third of their number and nobody would notice, such was the depth of the characters. I’m not sure if this idea is to differentiate from shows such as Idolm@ster and AKB0048, but I didn’t quite understand the need for them all. However, watching a stage full of them in their costumes performing their (ridiculously catchy) songs was a delight. Watching every episode, I never skipped the opening sequence.
As an idol anime, there is a lot riding on production in order to sell the performances to the viewer. As you can see from the link above, it was enough to thoroughly impress me. CGI and visuals were wonderfully consistent and the choreography almost had me dancing myself and yelling ‘start:dash!’ The girls’ struggle from the initial failure to a steady progression in popularity is nicely done – from the scouting, the disagreements, the monitoring of Internet interest to eventually signing autographs and having their own promotional memorabilia. It would seem that some of the less-developed characters were dismissed in order to cover these aspects in greater detail.
I would have enjoyed a bit more involvement in the actual competition of ‘Love Live!’ itself or, at the very least, a bit of more interaction with the world outside – fans, local venues, other successful school idol groups, and maybe a bit more competition that wasn’t just between factions of µs’ many members. Love Live! also incorporates many slice-of-life elements here, so there is a big focus on ‘the journey’ rather than ultimate achievements. Whilst I thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, it was dealt with in such a warm, heartfelt way with a great message of friendship that I really didn’t mind at all.
Although most of Love Live! is taken at face value, no one can say that it is a shallow story. It draws the reader in through it’s great presentation and dazzling idol routines, and I look forward to when its second season is released this year.