In 2021, the first season of Love Live! Superstar!! made a powerful impression on me. With its tightly written story centered around heroine Shibuya Kanon’s lifelong struggle with performance anxiety and stage fright, it stood out in a positively memorable way. One of the aspects that helped the storytelling was its relatively small cast of characters compared to the Love Live! franchise standard, so when it was announced that Season 2 of Superstar!! would nearly double the main group from five girls to nine, I worried that the series might lose what made it work so well. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and Season 2 has turned out to be a solid follow-up that does a good job of playing off its predecessor—and also introduces my favorite member in the process.
Love Live! Superstar!! 2nd Season picks up from where the first left off. The elite Yuigaoka Girls’ High School has accepted the School Idol Club and their group, Liella! Kanon has managed to overcome her issues and can sing loudly and proudly on stage. There’s unfinished business in that Liella! couldn’t make it past the preliminaries of the Love Live! competition. The character arcs are mostly resolved, do the question becomes, what story do they tell given that fact?
The answer is to introduce new girls and place an emphasis on a senpai–kouhai dynamic that isn’t really present in other Love Live! anime. While other series actively celebrate the lack of such hierarchical distinctions, Superstar!! 2nd Season puts it front and center. That’s not to say it’s big on seniority, but the perspectives provided by experience becomes a key factor in the narrative.
The senpai characters do receive episodes of their own (like a hilarious one about gamer addiction), but they seem to get less screen time overall, and even theirs will link back to the new girls in some way. This is likely by design, as it not only does this work to introduce all the first-years, but it provides a clear indicator of progress for the original five as seasoned school idols who must mentor the next generation. After all their hard work, Kanon and the other senpai have gotten so good that they accidentally scare off most of the new student body, who are too worried about not being able to live up to the standards set by Liella! Like the ongoing debates over fighting game design, Superstar!! 2nd Season asks what is the right balance between granting accessibility and rewarding ambition.
Superstar!! 2nd Season idoes a good job of differentiating the new girls from their upperclassmen, though they can at times feel a little less three-dimensional. The big sticking point is that they seem to adhere more to anime character archetypes, but they’re developed well enough that it becomes less of an issue over time. Also, I have to admit that I myself can be a sucker when the tropes fall in my favor, such as in the case of my Liella! favorite, Wakana Shiki. She’s an aloof scientist with a secret soft side, and her similarities to Nunotaba Shinobu from A Certain Scientific Railgun (including liberal peppering of English phrases into her speech) is both noted and highly welcome.
As Superstar!! 2nd Season progresses, it gradually brings the focus back to the original girls of Liella!, reviving and adding new angles to some of the challenges from Season 1. For example, a rival antagonist shows up who reignites criticisms of school idols as being inherently mediocre artistically, adding a bit of Zhong Lanzhu–esque flair along the way. But the lessons Kanon has learned from her own challenges and the results of that mean her answers to the questions posed to her reflect the positive changes she’s made.
Overall, Love Live! Superstar 2nd Season manages to be a great continuation that builds on a solid foundation. While it risks getting bloated, its broader character dynamics help to mitigate that concern. What results is an anime that shows what Love Live! is capable of.