I Really Tried to Like Love Live (Spoilers: I Didn’t)

love live SIP

The sameface-ening.

Let it be known that you can add Love Live to the list of shows I’ve vainly tried to get into and failed splendidly to do so. Most other occupants of this list, a list which itself is surely incomplete due to the biases of my ability to recollect, are at least shows considered generally worthy of efforts to enjoy – Cowboy Bebop, Mushi-shi, Evangelion. In fact, it’s a list I find a bit shameful as it looks rather contrarian of me (at least with Evangelion I’ve done decently with the Sadamoto manga), and I find it fairly bitterly disappointing that Mushi-shi left me cold given that I generally like that sort of show – I loved Mononoke and xxxHolic, after all.

(I failed, too, with Valkyria Chronicles, but that was a terrible show, so who cares? Ditto Cluster Edge.)

But even if Love Live isn’t a terribly good show, even if it isn’t well-acclaimed, I still feel a bit badly for disliking it. Quite a few of my friends really love the show, and I’ve been mildly addicted to the smartphone game (Love Live! School Idol Festival). The first try at the show was due to the friends, and I did manage four episodes before washing out. This time it was due to my enjoyment of LLSIF; I figured since I mildly liked a few of the characters in the game that I might then like to see a bit more of an expanded story for them. It’s a bit astonishing, but I found that the game’s characterization wasn’t really significantly thinner than that of the TV show. Finally, I’ll confess, I also was giving it another go because people were yuri-shipping the hell out of it, and, hey, I like yuri shipping! Give me some yuri shipping fodder!

Alas, Love Live is no AKB0048. Both had similarly scant premises, but where AKB0048 managed to develop its characters such that one could both identify them individually and invest some concern into their outcome, Love Live can’t quite bother. Maybe the error lies in being so leisurely in introducing the primary cast in Love Live, as we get a lot of the standard “rounding up the team” antics. But, no, really, the primary problem isn’t how they’re introduced so much as how little they’re developed – although maybe the need to introduce such a large cast in such a regimented fashion is the reason for the lack of depth to the characters.

Mind you, this shouldn’t come as any surprise when the basic facts are taken into account. Love Live was, right off the bat, intended as a multimedia project, and readers of Dengeki G’s Magazine got to vote on the idols and all sorts of aspects of the idols such as their hairstyles and outfits. No wonder the Sameface Syndrome that plagues the thing! (By the way, the person who wrote the original basic scenario for the story was none other than Sakurako Kimino, who wrote the Strawberry Panic light novels, and is also responsible for both Sister Princess, and Baby Princess – y’know, Sister Princess for people who thought twelve imoutos weren’t enough and who like to see toddlers lusting after their elder brothers.) So it wasn’t as if this was a show that was starting with much to work with, and it was specifically calibrated to be a cash-in on the idol craze. Yet with AKB0048, we saw a similar set of circumstances, with perhaps even LESS incentive to actually build something decent out of all the elements, and we ended up getting a pretty solid show out of the AKB48 juggernaut, Shoji Kawamori, and Mari Okada.

I’ve been told that the second season is much better. No matter – I am unwilling to wade through the kiddie pool of seven more episodes of season one to discover whether this is the case or not. There is also the large matter that I don’t like idol music much in general and like only a couple of the songs in the Love Live catalogue, and none of them have been songs featured in what I’ve seen of the show to date.

I honestly can’t get over how little there is to the characters. Honoka most certainly isn’t the first genki girl with a dream that she’s set upon despite being largely ignorant of what the specificities and implications of that dream are, and nothing is done to set her apart from the legion. The same can be said of almost every other character – shy, chubby-by-LL-standards Hanayo, strict student council president Elichika (whom, even if we didn’t know from promotional material, will obviously come around from being a curmudgeon about the idol club and become one of its members), “I’m not interested at all, but, uguu, of course I am, blushhh, stop being so hazukashii” Maki, dark-haired and serious Umi… super-moe Kotori loves alpacas, but alpacas seem to be popping up a bit these days, so no dice on being unique in that regard, young lady. The only one who really stands out much is Nico, and that’s largely since she’s wise to the fact that the idol business is all about selling characters, not reality, something much of the cast is utterly shocked to learn. (Actually, I was somewhat reminded of the episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena in which Nanami visits the leads and tries to get Utena to hate Anthy by doing things like putting snails into her pencil case while watching Nico try to maneuver her way to leader of the group without coming right out to say she wanted to be leader – and getting wholly thwarted in the process.) Scheming-type characters aren’t rare themselves, but Nico’s got the industry’s number, and there’s something to be said for that when everyone else is merrily and obliviously spinning around.

I guess what, too, discourages me from delving further into the show’s runtime is that even many of the folks who adore the thing admit that there is little to it on the whole. If even fans state that, yeah, this thing is shallow, what is there to do for a person who isn’t into idol shows to begin with?

So I’m disappointed. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am! Is it so terrible to want some fluffy show with girls working toward their dreams and that I can yuriship to eternity and back that is actually engaging? Is that such a frightfully strenuous demand? (Well, yeah, probably it is.) I guess at least I’m enjoying the game… and, whatever, Symphohear is getting a third season, so who cares!

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4 Responses to I Really Tried to Like Love Live (Spoilers: I Didn’t)

  1. schneider says:

    Aikatsu is a batshit idol anime for kids, but it’s well into its 80s now. Very well-written and enjoyable, though.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      I did watch the first few episodes, actually, and I did like some of its aspects, but the CG drove me away. Like I said, though, I’m not into idol shows in the first place (hell, I didn’t even like any of Macross except for the iteration that had a rock band instead!), soooo, well, maybe I’ll give it another go someday.

  2. TatianaSan says:

    5 episodes to see what Love Live is about seems a bit short, considering the entire group doesn’t even come together until 8.

    Also, “samefacing” is only really a problem if you’re unfamiliar with a franchise, and the anime doesn’t do enough to differentiate between characters. I had the same problem with Idolm@ster and Love Live where I couldn’t tell who was who. By the time the shows were halfway over though, I can differentiate them simply by voice and mannerism (this works extremely well in a gag in S2 where the girls try to imitate each other, and it’s easy who’s imitating who). I’m actually in the opposite opinion as this article though: I really couldn’t get into AKB0048 enough to go past 6 episodes of it, despite being the same ole batshit insane Shoji Kawamori stuff I like. I’m still trying to find out why I just couldn’t get into it, unlike Love Live that got me to watch its second season. Maybe it’s because Love Live has some extremely snappy scene composition and pacing the likes of which are rarely found in an anime of this genre, along with characters I like a lot more.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Uh, the samefacing is irritating visually even though I could tell them all apart (they stick pretty strictly to their types, and having different hairstyles and colors helps). I also know who is who already since I’m fairly addicted to the smartphone game. As for five episodes not being enough, that’s roughly 20% of its runtime; surely by then I know whether its going to be my liking or not (and I usually only give a show three episodes to win me over).

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