The Nico Nico New Sound of μ’sic: Love Live! School Idol Project Review

Like anything else in life, some anime can really take you by surprise in the best ways possible. You might go into a show expecting not to get anything too special out of it of perhaps the opposite. Best case scenario, you’re blown out of the water by what you’ve seen; for me, Love Live! School Idol Project certainly fit that bill. It’s touching story, and heart driven cast have exactly what it takes and then some to command attention. Of course, if it weren’t for a friend who knows her stuff I wouldn’t have any idea such awesomeness existed so I’m thanking her and let me tell you why you should be too.

From top to bottom, left to right: Eli Ayase (Yoshino Nanjo), Umi Sonoda (Suzuko Mimori), Honoka Kosaka (Emi Nitta), Nozomi Tojo (Aina Kusuda), Maki Nishikino (Pile), Nico Yazawa (Sora Tokui), Kotori Minami (Aya Uchida), Hanayo Koizumi (Yurika Kubo), Rin Hoshizora (Rido Iida).

Spurring on this tale of rising idols, Honoka Kosaka and her childhood friends, Umi and Kotori are passionate girls with valiant hearts. With their school recently under the threat of closure due to a severe lack of applicants, the impulsive Honoka sees becoming school idols as the best solution. As time progresses they gather more lifelong friends and band mates, as well as a following eventually operating under the name of μ’s (pronounced “Muse”) once the group is complete. The band’s aim also changes during the second arc as they set their eyes on much wider goals and an ultimately bittersweet dream.

Achieving your most worthwhile dreams never comes without extreme dedication.

Of course the road to stardom is not easy and wrought with difficulties, all of which are directed and written with palpable tear-tugging, hard-hitting emotion. These girls go through soul crushing moments in their pursuit from day one which is what partially makes Love Live such an addictive anime. That is to say, seeing μ’s take an occasional heavy fall with grace and endurance is nothing short of endearing. One of the early cases for which it sunk in deep was when Honoka, Umi and Kotori practiced and asked for everyone’s support only to find an empty auditorium awaiting them when the time came. Instead of being crippled and stunted, they performed for an empty audience, swearing to one day fill the room.

A fowled Nico is still an adorable one.

Another element of μ’s’s journey that gets focused upon prominently is the strength of the bonds the girls share with one another. All 9 members aren’t BFF’s right off the bat and one even has an antagonistic role during the majority of the first season so the blossoming friendship that rises from their time together feels genuine. Their unity also gets tested occasionally, due to individual circumstances and the fact that three of its members are third years. The latter becomes a pressing issue that the girls are sadly forced to face as Eli, Nozomi and Nico’s graduation drew near. As the end came closer I was anxiously waiting to see how Honoka and the others would come to terms with such a sorrowful truth.

Nozomi gives off such a mysterious, all-knowing air..

It’s always clear that the characters fit each other perfectly and were planned out with care. Each is unique and memorable, from personality down to humorous quirks, creating a strong camaraderie on-screen. For example, Nico has a habit of being devilishly sneaky and/or trying to gain authority in matters over the others which usually ends in laugh-out-loud failures or being jokingly ignored. Furthermore she carries one of the cutest and catchiest catchphrases of recent otaku times. On the other hand, Rin’s tormented past led her to initially shelter her femininity out of fear, slowly shedding her tomboyish shell with constant encouragement. Then there’s the tarot-reading, boob-grabbing Nozomi who adds a pleasant air of mysticism to the series that I still haven’t quite pinned down.

Hanayo trying not to succumb to her love of rice.

Since the series is seated well within the idol genre (as well-being part comedy/drama), there are a number of big song and dance numbers spread frequently throughout the anime. Thankfully the ballads are sung well by the cast, with some plot progression beautifully reflected in the overall tune and lyrics of the songs themselves. The music ranges from bouncy and poppy to soft and stirring, perfectly marrying storytelling with delightful performances. Additionally, a few of the tracks, such as “Aishiteru Banzai” and “START:DASH!!”, with just about everyone getting a moment to vocally shine across both seasons. The rest of the smaller background tracks aren’t too shabby either and have their own cutesy charm.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b8yyVczZ10&w=560&h=315]

As far as the dancing is concerned, it is, like the singing, very good and well-choreographed. Only gripe lies with the animation to a degree as two different styles are used and bounced between, one being hand-drawn while the other being CG. The former looks gorgeous, pristinely fluid and carries a completely natural sense of movement; the latter ends up making the characters seem stiffer and somewhat off beat. It’s a totally minor blemish but one that wouldn’t have even been present if CG models weren’t mixed in at all. That aside, the character designs are great and the girls numerous wardrobes/costumes look fabulous in motion.

Love Live ends on a major cliffhanger with the girl’s future up in the air. A movie is in the works so hopefully it won’t be too long before we get a proper conclusion. Even if not, I won’t complain because Honoka and her friend’s rocky journey to the top of the charts was loaded with laughter, heart and sweet music.  You can watch the entire anime on Crunchyroll now so check it out when the chance arises. As always stay tuned cause my next review may just turn out even “dandier” then this one…