The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 123 – Love Live!

Love Live! 1

Japan is a country that loves its pop idols. It is home to the biggest bunch of pop idols in the world, the band AKB48 – and when I say “biggest”, I mean their band has more members than any other band in the world. It started with 48 and it now has 140 members. It is also the band that sounds most like a knocked-off assault rifle. You could imagine some arms dealer on the phone saying: “Look, I asked for two dozen cases of AK-47s, and you’ve given me a load of bubblegum pop!”

Love Live! is an anime that follows a group of wannabe idols. However, it originally began across all sorts of media. It began in 2010 as a project between gaming publication Dengeki G’s Magazine, music label Lantis, and the anime studio Sunrise. The first anime series was broadcast in 2013, with a second series in the next year and a film in June 2015. As you can gather from all the companies and from the fact it covers an group of pop idols, it is not an anime series aiming for top artistic merit. Then again, some of the 3D animation in the show make Love Live! feel that it is not aiming for anything artistic.

The series revolves around the girls at Otonokizaka Academy. Pupil Honoka Kosaka loves the school, but is shocked to find that the school is not getting enough pupils and therefore may shut down. Honoka learns that another school has been attracting members because three of its members have formed their own musical idol band. Inspired by this, she forms her own band, getting her two best friends Kotori Minami and Umi Sonoda to join her. Due to problems with the school council their first gig only attracts a tiny number of people, but it is enough to encourage them to greater things.

Eventually, by taking suggestions from around the school the band names itself μ’s, pronounced “muse”, named after the artistic goddesses in Greek mythology. Other girls soon join the band: pianist Maki Nishikino, tomboyish Rin Hoshizora, idol loving Hanayo Koizumi, and president of the school’s Idol Research Club Nico Yazawa. The school council, consisting of somewhat snobbish president Eli Ayase and bosom-grabbing tarot-reading vice-president Nozomi Tojo, also and up having a hand in the group. As the series progresses the band attempt to enter the “Love Live!” idol contest, in order to attract more people to the school and keep it open.

In terms of positives of the series, the music itself is enjoyable. OK it is not the most profound music around but it is still fun to listen. The comedy is nice too, and I am also very fond of the band’s name of μ’s – that’s an Anglo-Greek pun created by the Japanese. That is a trilingual pun, and you do not see that every day.

However, there is much in this series to dislike. For starters, while the music is nice, the 3D animation used in the dance sequences is clunky and detracts from it. The plot is also rather dull at times, while the concept is rather unbelievable: bunch of schools set up an idol band to save their school just happen to learn that there is school idol competition, which is convenient. Plus if you buy the British DVD release you will find that there only a few extras and that it is only available in Japanese, with no English dub available.

The biggest problem with this series is the lack of artistic merit. It does feel like it has been written by committee. It does not feel as good as other musical anime such as K-On! (No. 28), which is not only funnier and better animated, but is also more successful in terms of its music. While Love Live! has reached No. 2 in the charts several times, K-On! has managed to get to No. 1.

There is also one other more trivial problem: every time I say Love Live! for some stupid reason I keep wanting to say it to the tune of “Park Life” by Blur. I have no idea why, but it keeps happening, and chances are it will happen to you now that you have read this.

The first series of Love Live! is out now on DVD from MVM Films.