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The Supersized Laughs of Love Live! Superstar!! – This Week in Anime


This season’s Love Live! Superstar!! sees the idol series downsize the cast from nine to five members but that doesn’t mean the series has scaled down its personality. Nick and Steve breakdown the charm points of the new idol-hopefuls.

This series is streaming on Funimation

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.


Steve, I’m glad you’re here. They say loneliness is such a sad affair, and I could hardly wait to talk about this franchise with you again. So please come back with me again, and play your sad guitar.

Don’t you remember you told me you Love Live!, baby?

Nick, while I appreciate the commitment to the bit, I think we should constrain our Carpenters references to discussions about Keke’s knack for obscenely large woodwork.

But, long ago and so far away, we fell in Love Live! together, covering the second show and your uh, guitar sounds so, uh…okay yeah this bit is over. But you know what never ends? School Idols, baby!

I can’t say I blame them for incepting another idol iteration so soon after Nijigasaki, because even though the franchise has been around for over a decade now, certain people still seem to have trouble grasping the concept.

The school idoling will continue until morale improves. Or until people stop liking singing goofballs.
The day that happens is the day I crash the moon into the Earth because it will be the day humanity has lost any hope of redemption. I fully understand there are folks who aren’t into Love Live!, and I’m far from an Idol aficionado myself, but if society at large shuns a face game this good, there’s no saving the human experiment.

I mean, as you can see above, we’ve been through this song and dance on past episodes of This Week In Anime, but there’s just a spark to Love Live! that eschews all of my cynicism. And considering the first anime series is what got me into this mess, Superstar in particular is special due to the return of director Takahiko Kyōgoku.
I have and will continue to assert that the 2nd season of OG Love Live! is one of the best seasons of anime comedy ever, as long as you ignore the diet episode. So having Kyogoku back behind the wheel was fantastic news. He has an incredibly deft hand when it comes to handling this material, and it manages to make Superstar feel distinct despite being less than a year removed from the last iteration. This thing’s got god damn integrated episode titles!

Seriously, every other anime should take notes and do that, no matter how inappropriate it might end up being. Superstar also carries a deliberate brightness and buoyancy to it. Scenes are frequently fantastically staged, and the faces are good and plenty. Trust me, I’ve got a whole folder to pull from for the rest of the column.

It’s no secret I think this season of anime is a sparse one. There’s some good shows and some fun oddities, but Superstar has been my rock for the past few months, despite the Olympics’ best effort to keep it away from me. But you cannot keep these girls down for long, even if you’re an international century-old event.

On the bright side, the Olympic delays probably helped Superstar’s production maintain its pretty damn impressive level of polish, but it is a shame we’ve only JUST now reached the halfway point of the season. We don’t even have the full school idol gang together yet! And that’s even taking into account that Superstar halved the usual squad size down to five.

Thankfully they compensated for quantity with quality. Like I’m used to the central orange girl of these shows being a solid 5/10 character, but Kanon legit has a great shot at being my favorite this season. She’s a great foil to the rest of the cast, has a genuinely compelling central motivation, and her pet owl has the same hair swoosh as her.

What more could you want?

I’m def on board with the change too. Even with a scant six episodes, each of the main five has an appealing roundness to their personality—tho not nearly as round as that delightful owl, of course.

Really though, Kanon was what made me think Superstar has the potential to concretely improve upon its predecessors. Much of this show is running on the established LL formula, but Kanon being the central heart of the group AND a recovering cynic who can’t quite give up on her dreams is a strong twist. Plus she plays an instrument that isn’t piano for once.

Man I really hope Superstar has the courage to let her take that bad boy on stage. Give us Love Live! Wonderwall, cowards.

Can’t wait to hear her The Wonder Years cover band perform. Bet they have a sick rendition of “Came Out Swinging.”

Kanon makes history as the first Love Live! protagonist who 100% listens to Neutral Milk Hotel.

Kanon has a lot of complicated feelings on La Dispute’s Rooms of the House that nobody will listen to.

In episode 9, Kanon invites Chisato over to listen to her original vinyl pressing of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.

Oh fuck we’re spiraling into dunking on our college CD collections. Pull up! Pull up! The power of Kanon’s casual design is too much for us!

Oh man, that was a close one. Point is, though, Kanon is good. But she needs a gentle nudge into the direction of school idoldom, and that’s why Keke is there to push her right off the cliff.

Keke marks the second character in the anime franchise to actively move overseas to become a School Idol, which either means immigration is much more reasonable in the Love Liverse, or or customs is intensely irresponsible. Either way I’m glad she’s here to wreak havoc.

It’s kinda nice, too, to have the secondary character be the one cuckoo for school idols. Nijigasaki sorta did this, but Keke is in a league of her own—a feisty force of unstoppable idol nature, provided you don’t ask her to run more than 10 meters.

The spirit, she is willing. But the flesh is is specialized for coordinated cheering sections and nothing else. Even in the big “everyone running” parts of the OP she’s fighting for her life

I really love this show’s commitment to sight gags. Take Keke’s apartment, whose defining decoration is an oversized and ornately-framed poster of her favorite school idol duo, which she then proceeds to worship in front of her friends. There are no half measures in Superstar.

Kyogoku is just so committed to this kind of animated comedy, and I love it. It feels like damn near every comedic scene will take every opportunity possible to fit in an extra couple of gags or punchlines, sometimes entirely in the background. Did we need an incidental bit joking on these girls’ big ol anime heads? No, but we’re better for it anyway.

The classic Love Live! flavor of galaxy brain schemes is all over Superstar as well. Need to overcome stage fright? Well, Chisato has the perfect solution: fried octopus balls.

And through the whole thing Keke is mugging it up in the background every which way and they never explain where she got that hat. It’s like three gags all packed into 20 seconds.

Animal-based accoutrement just inevitably gravitates towards Keke at all times.

Also there’s just a surprising enthusiasm for unusual or complex storyboards to really sell jokes. I’m used to comedy anime kinda getting by on timing and delivery, but here’s there’s real effort to keep things visually fresh every episode.

Not only that! Superstar pairs its exquisite directorial eye with a flair and fondness for great works of literature. Here, for instance, it pays homage to one of the most important stories of the 20th century.

One morning, as Sumire Heanna was waking up from anxious dreams, she discovered that in bed she had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

—whoops, sorry, I meant she became a school idol. Damn, I really gotta stop mixing those up.

Can’t believe we can call a Love Live! season Kafkaesque now.

And, in my defense, Sumire does often crawl around like a giant insect.

I’ll also give you one guess who my favorite character is.
Please Steve, the technical term is Idol Gremlin, and Sumire is part of a proud lineage of jerkbag school idols. And she’s very good at it too, since her first major act of characterization is accidentally sabotaging Kanon and Keke’s debut.

Sure, every Love Live! incarnation has its token gremlin girl, but Superstar’s genius lies in the fact that its idol troupe is at least 50% gremlins (counting Keke and Sumire as full grems, while Kanon is half-grem). However, Sumire is undeniably the queen of getting owned, and I love that for her.

She’s great, and outside of the tried-and-true gremlin aspects she actually hits on something the original Nico Yazawa really highlighted. Even in the idyllic utopia of Love Live!, being an idol is still performative as hell, and Sumire is just the one willing to say the quiet parts loud.

And look, speaking as someone who is on Twitter way too much, I respect a comrade whose initial motivation for all of this was to get more followers.

Well she better hope nobody finds out about her outstanding kidnapping indictment, or she’ll get cancelled faster than you can say “Isopod.”

What’s a little ritual sacrifice between friends?

Besides that it’s what got Yohane banned from Instagram?

Fair enough. And lucky for Kanon, Sumire ends up having bigger problems to worry about—namely one problem, and her name is Keke.

Their dynamic is an absolute 3-point swish of an idea. Pure idol mania vs a Private Idolatry Contractor, and in the center is a white hot ball of Ship Teasing energy.

Wouldn’t be Love Live! without those hilariously obvious canon ships.

Just normal friend things like blowing “Wait (The Whisper Song)” in her ear to win at thumb wrestling.

Meanwhile, the other set of Superstar wives really comes into focus this week.

Chi-chan was just biding her time until Keke was distracted to wedge herself back in next to Kanon, I guess.

Chisato as a character suffers a bit from being the least gremlin-like of the current cast, but on the other hand, the group needs someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Every idol group needs at least one responsible character, and since they haven’t snagged the student council president in a 10-pull yet, Chisato’s the best they’ve got. She’s consequently not gotten a lot of time to shine comedy-wise, but I do like the way her relationship with Kanon is characterized.

I know we joke about characters being married but that’s just straight up romantic in a classical sense.
That part was so good. I also love their emotional reunion towards the end of the episode, which has the grey skies grow bluer and sunnier as they communicate their feelings to each other. Schmaltzy as hell, but why the heck else would you be watching Love Live! if not for the heart-on-sleeve cheesiness?

Also it’s just tradition for orange girls in this series to change the weather. It’s a fact of life and everyone has to accept it.

Her memory lives on…

I mean Honoka is probably still alive tho (somewhere in the timestream).
But again, it’s those little extra touches that just make this all work. Even incidental dialogue scenes have added details to keep things engaging and communicate character, like Yuna from Sunny Passion mimicking Kanon’s stretching while they talk.

Oh yeah, Sunny Passion is a nice addition to the cast. The smaller group size means there’s not as much room for idol oneesans, but that’s why these gals are here to mentor our hopeless protagonists.

It’s fitting then that they look like they just stopped over from a season of Aikatsu! with that hair.
And those teeth.

Is that a staple of Aikatsu!? I don’t actually know anything about that series besides the memes my friends retweet.

I don’t know either, but I have heard that everything is Aikatsu!, so that has to include shark teeth. QED.

Anyway, the best part of Chisato’s episodes is that they end with another musical number from the cast, and I get to gawk at how good the CG animation has gotten in the last couple years.

It is ridiculous how much these concerts have improved over the ones from OG Love Live!. The ones in Superstar especially have been a consistent kaleidoscopic treat, blending traditional and CG animation so well it can be hard to tell when it switches. Worth noting, too, that Takahiko Kyōgoku directed Land of the Lustrous in the interim, so he’s definitely been in the vanguard of anime CG development.

I’ll be honest, idol anime music is typically not my bag. There’s occasionally a track that’ll stick with me but unless your girls are soundtracking a transforming plane-robot dogfight in space I’m likely to tune out during the music sections. But I’ve actually rewatched that concert like five times already.

Idol music doesn’t do much for me either. But admiring good dance moves from Sumire? I can do that all day.

Also the song lyrics are especially great remembering Kanon kanonically wrote them about her and Chisato. Even the seraphs in heaven above covet what they have.

Get a room you two. Or a suspiciously human-sized egg. Either works.

Or just hide behind the plausible deniability of that conveniently placed “i” in the last word.

So I guess if I had to summarize what we’re trying to say here as eloquently as possible, it would be: school idols good.

Pretty much! I don’t know if or how well this entry might play to people not already inoculated to Love Live!‘s particular style, but as an established zealot this has been everything I could have wanted so far. And we haven’t even gotten our fifth member yet!

I’m sure looking forward to how the girls finagle her anti-idol behind into joining their club. But it should be a fun, lighthearted romp—

Oh no.


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