Paying It Forward: Love Live! Superstar!! 2nd Season

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 senpaikouhai 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.

Who Dares Interrupt My Corona-tion?!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2021

A low-angle view of the planet-sized Transformer, Unicron.

The end-of-the-year holidays are rolling around, and I feel like I’m in a strange place mentally and emotionally. I think it’s tied to the assumption that this year’s Christmas would be a far cry from the feelings of hesitation and dread that came with COVID-19 and hot off of the 2020 US elections, and how history might potentially be repeating itself. Virtually everyone I know is vaccinated, including many kids, but reports of the new Omicron variant make me wonder if I need to temper my expectations. And inevitably, it just makes me think of a certain planet-sized Transformer.

(Speaking of which, I got the new blu-ray recently. I don’t know for sure when I’ll re-watch the movie, but it never fails to disappoint.)

On a lighter note, I haven’t been looking at as much anime and manga lately, but there’s a very good reason for that: Super Robot Wars 30. It’s supposed to be over 100 hours, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I am enjoying the hell out of getting to use Gaogaigo and the J-Decker squad, though.

I also attended Anime NYC 2021, but due to my blog schedule, my coverage of it will be in December. Look forward to a review of Pompo the Cinephile!

I wish for safe and soul-comforting holidays for everyone, and I’d like to thank my patrons for the month:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Dsy

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from November:

Real Character: Love Live! Superstar!!

My review of what turned out to be the best Love Live! anime—emphasis on anime.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

My long overdue general review of thia fantastic volleyball manga.

Imagine Fourteen Balls on the Edge of a Cliff: Ogiue Maniax 14th Anniversary

An anniversary post turned into a reflection on the site Something Awful in light of its founder’s death.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 46 is more serious than silly, and it provides a window into Jin’s inner turmoil.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter involves sharing his thoughts on erotic manga artists.

Apartment 507

Six giant robot anime came out in Fall 2021. Here are my basic impressions of all of them.

Closing

The world is ever unpredictable, and I hope we do what we can as people to watch out and care for one another. Get vaccinated if you can, look out for your fellow humans, and understand that no one is free until we’re all free.