Saint Snow’s Dazzling White Town Is From Another Time

Saint Snow, the rival characters in the Love Live! Sunshine!! anime, just released their much-deserved debut single, Dazzling White Town. While I’ve only been able to hear the online preview, and I’m not a music expert by any means,  I find that it further solidifies my high opinion of the sister duo.

One of the best things to come out of the Love Live! franchise, Saint Snow’s aesthetic and musical style tend to be more aggressive than Aqours, which is something I generally prefer. As the counterparts to the main heroines, Saint Snow are allowed to take their music to places Aqours largely doesn’t go. Kazuno Sarah (voiced by Tano Asami) has an elegant yet powerful voice, and I like the incorporation of rap brought by Kazuno Leah (Satou Hinata), as it introduces something otherwise absent in the Love Live! universe. In my view, their performance of “Believe Again” is the absolute highlight of Love Live! Sunshine!!: The School Idol Movie

Previews of all three songs

Something I find interesting about this single is how all three songs encompass different genres. “Dazzling White Town” is an EDM tune that reminds me of groups like Snap! and M.O.V.E. “Lonely Snow Planet” takes cues from heavy metal like pre-2000 Metallica. “After the Rain” sounds like pop rock akin to Vanessa Carlton and Alanis Morissette. All three songs come across to me as coming out of the 1990s to early 2000s, with “Dazzling White Town” being my favorite of them. I also love the retro game aesthetic and fashion found in the music video.

While it’s unlikely for anything within Love Live! to get extremely experimental, I do think one of the advantages of being associated with a multimedia franchise grounded in fictional characters (as opposed to being solely a musical act) is that there’s greater latitude for them to go into different genres. When a regular band tries something different, they risk alienating their fans. For Saint Snow, their followers care about Sarah and Leah, and I think it potentially allows for the composers, lyricists, and performers to travel stylistically.

I think Dazzling White Town is capable of reaching people well beyond the expected Love Live! fandom, and I would even dare say that it’s capable of standing alone without the association. I hope Saint Snow also eventually gets a full album to call their own, and that the group continues to have a life even as Love Live! Sunshine!! has winded down.

That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Saint Snow anime spin-off either, as I think they have the look and feel to be the stars of their own show. At the very least, a Ruby+Leah special would be great.

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Idols in Flux: Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow

After months and months of waiting, the film Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow finally hit US theaters for a special two-day event. Although cut from the same cloth as the first Love Live! film, it manages to go in interesting directions while also working extra hard to wrap up the loose threads of the Love Live! Sunshine!! TV series, all while putting an emphasis on fun, friendship, and family.

TV SERIES SPOILERS BELOW

After the third-years Kanan, Dia, and Mari graduate, Chika and the rest of the remaining Aqours members decide to continue as Aqours. When they find out that their new school doesn’t have a high opinion of them and the other former students of Uranohoshi Girls’ High School, they resolve to use their school idols skills to win over the skeptics, but they seem to be in a funk. Thanks to some advice from their former rivals, Saint Snow, they seek out the third-years to figure out what they’re missing—a journey that takes them to Italy and back.

Much like the first Love Live! The School Idol Movie, Over the Rainbow is a direct sequel to the end of a TV show where the main characters travel to a foreign country to figure out what they want to do with their immediate futures. Where the new film differs is that by having Aqours continue on—unlike the group μ’s from the previous series—it feels less like one last hurrah and more a move into the future yet unseen. If μ’s comes across as mythical because of how they came and went, Aqours is more historical in that their story keeps going.

The film can feel disconnected at times due to the way it often emphasizes the simple idea of seeing the girls of Love Live! Sunshine!! enjoying themselves and having a good time at the expense of greater coherency, but it makes for an entertaining piece that never feels boring or tedious. Central to this positive atmosphere are the multiple song and dance numbers that push the film squarely into “musical” territory, though the best song of the entire film comes from a somewhat unexpected source.

Also of note is the movie’s side story about the Saint Snow sisters, Sarah and Leah. The latter’s guilt over botching a crucial performance in the TV series is the central pillar of their narrative here, and the way it’s both explored and resolved a alongside Aqours’s troubles is possibly my favorite part of the whole thing. I actually considered titling this review “Saint Snow: The School Idol Movie.” Seeing them also made me realize that Sarah and Leah are basically if Ruby were the older sister and Dia were the younger.

Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow is undoubtedly meant for existing fans first and foremost, but the overall positive vibes and the emotional journeys the characters take feel relatable and resonant for even those unfamiliar or skeptical of Love Live! as a franchise. It encourages viewers to accept change as an opportunity and to believe again when hope seems lost.

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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