Day: Let me begin by saying… I wanted to drop it when we learned that the school is threatened with closure!
But – I gritted my teeth, and I tried really hard and kept watching, and I tried to see the positives, which is to say, how they’re putting a slightly different spin on it… And I do think there is some potential if they’re going for more of an angle wherein they place the school within the context of their small rural town… BUT I STILL AM ANNOYED AT THE LAZINESS OF THE RECYCLING OF THIS DAMN PLOT STILL.
Patches: I agree. I think that it’s a failure of imagination AND as you pointed out earlier, they just might not have people available. But also, there is one additional angle/idea that I kind of like. They implied during this episode that Mari – Dia – Kanan tried this and failed.
Day: Yeah. And, if so, its a decent wrinkle. And they do seem to be giving it some more thought here, and potentially delivering the storyline executed better than the original did, but……..
And, by the way, on the one hand, having a couple of the girls be all, “YEAHHH BIG CITY SCHOOL LIFE” in response is a good idea, on the other hand it kind of draws more attention to the underlying problem, i.e. limited population.
Patches: Now, I don’t like that it sets up Chika as “magical”, but I like the idea that it’s why Dia hates idols, and why Kanan left school, that each of them is facing “reality” a different way.
Day: Too, by positioning it more within their town rather than it simply being about the school, it in retrospect demonstrates a further nuance to a flaw in the original series – that for all that it’s supposed to be about saving the school, µ’s doesn’t seem very organically integrated into the larger society of the school. And, in turn, I realize that the school’s situation isn’t really placed within the context of the neighborhood.
This maybe sounds absurd? odd? to pick at, but given that Otonokizaka was losing out to schools like UTX on enrollment, I think it should’ve at least acknowledged the question of what the school even meant to the neighborhood in which it was housed.
Patches: That’s what I liked best about this episode? That the girls came around to showing what was best about their town in a really nice way. But godDAMN if it wasn’t a boring-as-hell song/costume.
Day: The thing with the luminaries was great. I honestly liked the costumes a bit, although they did strike me as surprisingly understated… however, I figured the colors were meant to be evocative of the sunset in the background. The song… well, I know at the time I thought, “Well, it isn’t bad, but I’m going to forget it quickly.”, aaaand I did.
Patches: I thought the colors were lovely, just the top was very… not defined? I wasn’t a fan of the lines. The song to me, again, sounded like Riko trying her best to be Maki.
Things I liked, though: Man, YOHANE, our lady of darkness, continues to be great.
Day: Oh, actually, too, I thought the CG seemed a lot less polished than it had for the earlier performance! I’m not a fan of the CG dancing, but I’ll admit that its looked better than it did for the original seasons, but not this time.
I do adore Yohane. And I do adore Yohane letting the freak-flag fly, and that the other girls have no issue with it flying.
Patches: Yeah! Actually, I love that Hanamaru actively encourages it. She seems very trolly and astute.
I imagine that the best group to hang with in Aqours will end up being You, Hanamaru, and Mari since they have everyone’s number and can make the most mischief. In fact, it’s interesting to me that there are three of these sort of “intuitive” characters in the show where previously we only had Nozomi. For all that Aqours claims that it’s bound together by Chika’s sort of ambition/Pollyanna-ness, these girls are doing WORK to keep up the group chemistry.
Day: In a way, the intuition thing, it feels like the staff is having more faith in the audience’s ability to cotton onto things… without them being stated directly and in neon print.
Patches: In many ways, while “µ’s was nine”, it really was Honkers, whereas the Aqours members seem to be doing significant legwork.
Day: I think Chika is a good spark for things, but I don’t know that she could pull off quite the same sheer force of personality thing as Honoka manages. The pushback from Dia wasn’t really the same level as Eli’s pushback was. Dia basically got undermined by Mari, whereas Eli did have the backing of the school’s official hierarchy to an extent. Or, rather, the school’s adults weren’t going to force Eli to override her own judgement.
Patches: I go back to that bit early in S2, when µ’s basically had to wait for Honoka to come around/return their soul. I can’t see You letting it get there. Mostly because You is more proactive than Kotori, with good reason. Kotori’s independence is part of her appeal/central to her character.
By the way, did you notice that the 3rd years seem to be getting along now? During the song, they appeared to be interacting with each other unforced and cordially, which points to Mari getting some traction. She still has to get Dia and Kanan to fight through their failure, but they at least give her the time of day.
Day: Maybe! Kanan and Mari do still seem to have some issues to work out. I’m not convinced they resolved things totally in that late-night visit out of a Riyoko Ikeda story.
Patches: I think you’re right, though it would be interesting if they resolved the issue in a flashback. Like, given the room they have for story it would be fun if Kanan just sort of showed up in the group with little explanation and then we got back-filled.
Day: I really do like how messy their relationship is. Or, rather, how messy the relationship among all the third years is. It’s inherently more interesting than shiny happy people from the get-go.
Patches: Oh, for sure. I think a lot of this is also that they grew up quick due to that failure. And they’re trying to navigate what they want now that they’ve given up that dream?
Day: And maybe outside family matters? And the chasms between their respective families statuses? But maybe a little too much for this show to tackle…
Patches: I can see Dia/Kanan’s family getting really pissed when their daughters embarrassed themselves. And Mari sort of left school when they were yanked.
Day: Yeah, Dia’s family getting hung up on family honor… maybe Kanan’s family more oriented toward, “Look, ok, you failed, now can you please re-focus on our family business?”
Patches: Right. And maybe Mari just left without telling them. Mari prolly knew the thing about the school closing when she arrived, and is trying hard to fix this, but she’s only 17!
Day: Yeah but this is ANIME come on she’s basically a dinosaur, Sailor Moon saved the world when she was 14!!!!!
And, let’s face it, regardless of the outcome of their original attempt, or the status of the school, Mari’s going to land on her feet whereas that isn’t necessarily the case for Dia or Kanan. Dia’s family might have some local prestige and be decently well-off, but Mari’s family is in a league totally beyond anyone else locally. They’re millionaires, if not billionaires. Hell, if Mari wanted to be an idol, her mummy and daddy could bankroll it.
Patches: Yeah, which is the other reason why it’s interesting she’s returned. Unpacking her motivations will be a good task for the back half of the season.
Day: Got my fingers crossed!
Patches: I think it will be telling which if the third years we get next.
Day: Wonder who’ll be last.
Patches: Mari joining last is likely from where I sit. She wants Dia and Kanan to join, that much is true, but I think she believes she doesn’t deserve to be part of the group? And the initial PV implied this heavily. ALSO, she’s technically an outsider. Her hooks in are Dia and Kanan.
Day: Kanan still isn’t re-enrolled yet, so I’m curious to see how they get her past both the hurdles to her involvement, i.e. getting her back as a student and then also getting her into Aqours… although I suspect that they’ll end up being essentially one and the same.
Patches: I wouldn’t be surprised if she were enrolled next episode.
Day: At this point she kind of needs to be, as we’ll be past the 50% mark.
Patches: I have the sense the next episode will be packed, since not a whole lot felt like it happened in this one.
Day: This one’s focus was a bit meandering. I feel like they could’ve given a little more of the third years than they did… Oh well.
Patches: They’re playing them really close to the chest, which is good, but the clock in running down.
Day: And in a franchise which hasn’t always had super-hot clock management. But… I’m mildly optimistic, even if I am really irritated over the plot recycle. If this were the sort of show where there was a chance that these girls could end up failing, and having to watch their school shutter, I might feel differently, but, that isn’t this franchise. And, I’ll grant, too, that I don’t want to be so churlish as to ask the leopard to change its sports.
Patches: Well, I think I agree with you in regard to clock-management. But the fact that the 3rd years are so interesting has me really optimistic. Dealing with that stuff should make for interesting story telling by itself, but man I worry how they’re gonna loop in the Love Live.
Part of the problem with all the focus on setup is that it gets the show away from “working hard at being idols” which is why I watch idol shows. This episode had plenty of it, but it didn’t feel very real until the PV. So, I would love for the series to get its stuff out of the way so that it could work on training for Love Live, but it won’t. It will be interesting to see how it hooks us on the better characters without losing its focus.
All-in-all, I liked what the episode promised, but felt this episode in particular was one of the weaker ones.