Love Live! Sunshine!! is a thirteen episode anime series that focuses on a school idol group called Aqours. As you might expect, this is a spin-off of Love Live! School Idol Project. The anime was directed by Kazuo Sakai and written by Jukki Hanada. The studio that produced it was Sunrise.
Much like Love Live! School Idol Project with µ’s before it, Love Live! Sunshine!! tells the story of the formation of the school idol group Aqours.
Immediately, Aqours is going to draw comparisons to µ’s, so let’s get that out of the way first.
It definitely feels that towards the beginning of Love Live! Sunshine!! that Chika is trying nothing more than to emulate µ’s, after becoming inspired by them to tread the path of a school idol. Earlier episodes have a heavy reliance on µ’s to drive them forward, and this is further exacerbated when the characters discover that their school is going to shut down.
However, though the school shutting down does drive the characters as school idols, the way in which they try to imitate µ’s is actually addressed in one of the latter episodes. Though it puts to rest any fears that Aqours are just trying to recreate the success of µ’s, it may come a little too late. Still, it provides a pretty spectacular conclusion for that plot thread.
That’s not the only spectacular conclusion; the third years – Dia Kurosawa, Kanan Matsuura and Mari Ohara – are the characters least keen to join Aqours, and the resolution of that particular plot thread is arguably one of the more emotional scenes.
Of course, Dia, Kanan and Mari aren’t the only members of Aqours. The whole thing starts with Chika Takami, who is inspired to become a school idol after she sees µ’s.
The only character who shows no resistance towards joining Chika pursue her dream is You Watanabe. The episode that centres on You is in the latter half of the series.
The last of the second years is transfer student Riko Sakurauchi; she moved from Tokyo, where she attended Otokinozaka Girls’ High School; µ’s fans will remember that as the school that Honoka and the others attended. She’s reluctant to join, due to low self esteem after not doing so well when it came to performing a piano piece in front of an audience.
Then there’s the first years; Ruby Kurosawa is the shy type, which is her reason for being reluctant to join. Second is Hanamaru Kunikida, who felt she wasn’t athletic enough to be a school idol. However, with a little convincing from Chika and each other, Ruby and Hanamaru soon join.
Finally, there’s Yoshiko Tsushima, who is arguably the most unique character in both Love Live! School Idol Project and Love Live! Sunshine!!. She’s a chuunibyou – she believes she is a fallen angel and possesses dark powers, whilst referring to herself as Yohane. She is actually ashamed of that side of herself at first, but through Aqours she learns to embrace it.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Love Live! without some shipping material cropping up between the girls. Most notable is a particular scene between Chika and Riko, though that very much comes down to the viewer’s interpretation as to whether there was any romantic meaning to it or not.
You also demonstrates a thing for Chika.
The third years also have a few scenes between them; Kanan and Mari in particular. Out of the first years, Hanamaru and Ruby are almost never seen apart.
Love Live! School Idol Project had moments like that, but Love Live! Sunshine!! definitely takes it further.
Another thing you’d expect from Love Live! would be songs, and this series delivers. The opening theme ‘Aozora Jumping Heart’ is a really great tune, and Aqours’ performances throughout are rather spectacular. It’s not just the songs themselves; you also get the dance sequences and they are nicely animated.
Aqours aren’t the only school idol group that gets to perform; over the course of the series, they meet rival group Saint Snow – their song is pretty good as well.
Some characters’ stories are more compelling than others – Ruby’s shyness doesn’t exactly have the same emotional impact as the third years’ pasts, for example. Due to this, it feels easier to get emotionally invested in particular characters. Though this is the case, the characters do play off of each other very well.
Love Live! Sunshine!! looks like it will cover familiar territory to begin with, but then it hits its stride and becomes its own thing. It’s well worth sticking with it, and the music is pretty great, too.