Love Live!, A-RISE, and the Music of Antagonists

As much as I love μ’s, the main group from the original Love Live!, I dig their anime rivals A-RISE (especiallyt their leader Kira Tsubasa) just as much. The reigning champions of the Love Live! school idol tournament, they represent the top of the pyramid, and their music in contrast to μ’s is techno/dance-heavy, with a high-budget sense of professionalism.

In episode 6 and 7 of Love Live! Sunshine!!, we’re introduced to Saint Snow, a duo whose slick dance moves and techno-style music are the first sign that the girls of Aqours have a lot of catching up to do. Given their similarities to A-RISE, I’ve come to wonder if that style of music has come to represent the “adversary” in the franchise.

It’s clear why A-RISE was placed in that position. Initially, μ’s are the underdogs, and A-RISE with their super ritzy high school and position as top idols are there to contrast with the homegrown, down-to-earth feel of the heroines of the story. Saint Snow, though they also hit some stumbling blocks, carry a similar contrast to the rural Numazu area that Aqours comes from.

There’s also a contrast in motivation that seems to come with this style of music. In episode 12, when Saint Snow meets up with Aqours once more, it’s clear that Saint Snow see being school idols as a competition. They want to stand on top and see what the view is like from the summit. This is presented not as a wrong way to approach being school idols, but exists in contrast to Aqours who are in it more for the experience, even if ostensibly they’re doing it to save their school. Similarly, in The School Idol Movie, Tsubasa from A-RISE expresses her ambition to continue being an idol even after she graduates, whereas Honoka is implied to not quite follow that path.

Is there any possibility that the “rival” sound will become associated with the central characters of Love Live!? Or will it at best always be relegated to subgroups within the main cast, such as BiBi and songs such as Cutie Panther?

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6 thoughts on “Love Live!, A-RISE, and the Music of Antagonists

  1. One umconfortable thought I came up along, seeing your posts about female anime-idols, is that how minor in proportion and scale is their masculine counterpart. Is it because japanese female viewers are less interested on it? Girl groups are easier for both genders?

    I´m sure there are real japanese boy bands that are almost idols, equal perhaps in relevance to AKB48, perhaps, but given how mainstream is anime nowadays, it is surprising producers haven´t thought of making the same productions, albeit just changing the gender. It is because “kawai” or “moe” is still only a “feminine” trait? Is dancing and singing that unattractive to japanese males?

    Mind you, I´m talking about the representation of male idols in anime, they don´t get a serialized treatment similar to Love Live!. The easy answer would be that the type of viewer they aim to win over is mostly male, but I think there´s more to it than that…

    Anime is a complex cultural product from Japan, very bastardized by severe exploitation since the mid-late 2000´s, but also a very conservative industry. Such a simple change, with little to no creativity involved,relatively risk-free and yet… they can´t.

    Your thoughts?

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    • I’m sorry but what? While male anime idols aren’t going to be as big as the female counterparts, have you seen the amount of all male idol anime in the past few seasons? There’s guaranteed to be at least 1 or 2 male idol anime per season. Last season was B-Project. New season starting now with Dream Festival.

      While they may not grow to be as big as Love Live (and the Love Live franchise is an exception), there are plenty of dedicated female fans who enjoy male idol anime. This has been proven with a 4th season of Uta-Pri.

      Also I think you are living in some sort of bubble. Some of the biggest boy bands/idols in Japan have outsold female idol groups like AKB48 consistently in the charts. Look up Johnny & Associates and you know how absurdly big male idol groups are in Japan.

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      • You´re correct. I didn´t know about these franchises, and what mostly comes to Europe is certainly skewed to certain tastes or viewers, or what the distributors deem “acceptable” to be “sellable”. This is normal, though.

        From what I see, in the Western world we don´t get the full scope of all the variety of entertainment franchises that are available in Japan. Uta-Pri is not aired in my country, for example. Neither the game is distributed here, too.

        Glad to know that´s how is it in Japan.

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    • Making anime adaptations is more like advertising for your game or even a vanity project. You don’t need it until you’re already #1 and need growth.

      Some male idol franchises (there’s more): SideM, Idolish7, EnsembleStars… Tribe Cool Crew?

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  2. Tokyo 7th Sisters (it’s going to be the new cool thing I promise) has a similar thing going where your unit sounds kind of standard and the current rival KARAKURI is an electronic K-pop type of group. But your real rival in that game is the expectations left by your split-up predecessors, so it might just be a Love Live reference…

    The music in that game has much better well-known composers (kz, higedriver, satsuki-update) making it, so everything sounds professional no matter what.

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