When Love Live Sunshine was announced it was subject to a large amount of discourse. Fans and critics of the original accused it of it coming about solely due to a desire for more money. Love Live was already one of the biggest selling and farthest reaching multimedia projects of this generation; to announce a sequel with a new cast, a new set of girls, and a new school, many expected Sunshine to be exactly the same as the original series. To give a different cast the exact same roles, plotlines, and themes as the original. And from that be a success solely because “well its Love Live” rather than through any merit of its own. This kind of backlash happens when anything is ever announced. It happening to Love Live was nothing special since that is just how social media operates. However Love Live has always been direct in its relationships with it’s fandom. Memes that catch on are reflected in the game or anime. People’s ships and headcanons are directly referenced in small ways. Love Live wouldn’t be Love Live without such a dialect between the fans and the creators.
This week’s episode of Love Live Sunshine finished with Aqours’ first concert. It was an eventful concert, mirroring and then subverting μ’s’ own one. However what made it truly special was Dia – the student council president who’s opposing Aqours – criticising them as only being able to have a successful concert because of the school idols that came before them. In other words, Aqours’ first concert was only a success because people wanted school idols due to μ’s. Their success was not due to their own merit. Dia, as a character, has already been shown to be an idol elitist. In the previous episode she quizzed Chika – the leader of Aqours – on her μ’s knowledge only to deem her unworthy of calling herself a μ’s fan. That on its own was a cute scene, ridiculing the kinds of gatekeeping attitudes that thrive amongst nerd cultures. However this move by her at the end of the concert was for more cutting. Here she mirrors the very drama and criticism that surrounded the Sunshine announcement. That anything the show does well or succeeds at it only does because of the Love Live brand.
Chika’s reason for making Aqours differs from Honoka’s – the leader of μ’s- motivation for making μ’s. Whilst Honoka was trying to save her school from closure, Chika is simply trying to improve herself. To be the best Chika she can be for her own sake. This results in is a completely different engine powering the show. The original Love Live had some issues with how the saving the school plotline worked against the absurd fun and wonder of the show. Most of its melodramatic moments simply lacked the dramatic weight the show needed to make them work. Sunshine is free from such contrivances. Love Live has never been a stagnant show, but the brief focusing on how transient school idols are only ever felt odd in the original. This time around this is captured in that main engine. Sunshine is still an over the top musical, but now its dramatic beats are powered by the same motivations that push the show forward. So when Chika responds to Dia’s criticism, it is more than just two characters in a show communicating. It is the show itself responding to the idea that Aqours will live in the shadow of μ’s forever.
Sunshine knows it has big boots to fill. It is always going to be compared to the original Love Live. If people don’t like Sunshine people will just act like it was obviously going to be bad. If people like Sunshine then it is only because it has the Love Live name. Sunshine knows this, and is better for it. For being a sequel also lets it have faith in its audience. Have faith in itself. The reason Aqours immediately gets a crowds to their show is because μ’s already did the hard work of getting people invested in Love Live. They know their core formula works. It is thanks to Love Live that Sunshine feels it can go so far with its ridiculous situations. That its style of humour will land. Sunshine intends to use this backbone to its fullest. Yes, it is undeniably a sequel that is piggy backing off of what the original Love Live discovered. However, that doesn’t mean Sunshine can not do its own thing, and shine, of its own accord.
Love Live and Love Live Sunshine are available to stream on Crunchyroll, Funimation, or Daisuki depending on your region. All screenshots were taken from the Crunchyroll releases.