With the large fan base and general success of Love Live! School Idol Project and μ’s spanning both seasons one and two, the series returns with Love Live! Sunshine!! With the disbanding of μ’s in the previous season, Sunshine follows a new group of girls who, put in a similar situation as Honoka, band together in an attempt to save their school as well. Riding on the name and reputation associated with Love Live!, Sunshine had a lot to live up to in terms of quality.
The plot of Sunshine!! is very similar to the School Idol Project in both premise and progression. The series follows Chika, a student who is inspired to take action to save her own school after hearing about the humble beginnings of μ’s. At the beginning of the series, Chika attempts to form her own school idol group by recruiting her childhood friends to aid her in her endeavors. As the series goes on, Chika actively and aggressively attempts to recruit her schoolmates. The storyline essentially follows an extremely familiar formula giving off the impression of a laziness rather than ingenuity.
Sunshine veers away from the formula slightly by creating unique characters with features that set them apart from the first set of girls. For instance, Yohanne is portrayed as being a very odd character, interested in the occult and supernatural. Instead of developing her character as a student of the school who would naturally come to interact with Chika and the group, her character was made excessively odd and standoffish. My issue is that the ladies of Aqours resort to common tropes and allow those tropes to define their characters. While the first group did fit into specific tropes, those characteristics felt secondary to their nature. What Love Live! Sunshine!! produced was a group of one dimensional characters that religiously stuck to their trope allowing it to define them as characters. It was rather difficult as a result, to connect with the group or to feel invested in characters outside of Chika and her closest friends.
Chika takes the lead serving as the series analogy to Honoka from μ’s. I felt that in contrast to Honoka’s approach, Chika’s recruitment attempts felt more forceful. The result was a different dynamic within each group. While μ’s felt extremely invested in their group, I felt that Aqours was more of an odd mashup that didn’t quite unify as naturally as the former did.
Being Love Live! however, what Sunshine!! delivers on is the music. They managed to produce songs that fit the vibe of idol music, consistent in quality with the music of μ’s. What the show manages to do well is that it does a great job of making the new songs from Sunshine!! feel distinctly Aqours. Despite failing to create identities that warrant connection with their characters, the anime manages to establish a unique identity and character for Aqours as a group that easily differentiates them from μ’s. This identity of Aqours is seen most in their music and their performances.
Of particular note is Mirai Ticket which is truly the epitome of their performances as a group. The song captures their dreams as a group. The performance in the final episode solidified their impression and served as the anchor that made an otherwise bland series into something memorable.
Love Live! Sunshine!! falls short of many of the expectations that I had coming into the series. While it would be a relatively entertaining series on its own, it was near impossible for any new group to overtake μ’s from the first series. Thus, Sunshine!! felt inferior to the original in all aspects making it quite a disappointing watch. Despite this, Sunshine!! does manage to live up to the school idol genre, producing quality music and performances for Aqours that establishes their identity as a school idol group.