My familiarity with Love Live! lies largely with the School Idol Festival mobile game which, gacha elements aside, is a pretty solid rhythm game with a really earwormy soundtrack (my favorite until I discovered Revue Starlight). I actually haven’t finished the first two anime series. I got far into the first season of the original and I’ve seen bits and pieces of Sunshine!! but that’s about it. That might make me less fit to watch the new Nijigasaki High School Idol Club anime, but it is a self-contained story so I feel comfortable enough to try it.
Something I noticed with Sunshine!!, and it does seem to be a common point of criticism, is that it repeats a lot of the same story beats as the original Love Live!. Nijigasaki (the full name is a bit too long for my liking) looks like it may finally shake things up a bit. For starters, it’s not really about a bunch of idols saving their school from shutting down (boy does the school look super well-off this time around) but rather simply reviving their school’s idol club. Also, the characters will apparently be competing again each other as opposed to performing as a team like it was the case with μ’s and Aqours. You definitely see inklings of these aspects here in this premiere as the story begins with a popular school idol, Setsuna Yuki (Tomori Kusunoki), seemingly vanishing from public eye, leaving her idol club disbanded and her clubmates unsure of what do from here on out.
Curiously, the anime provides a tenth character to the original roster of nine, named Yu Takasaki (Hinaki Yano). Apparently, she serves as the anime’s equivalent to the unnamed player character of the second mobile game, School Idol Festival All-Stars. It’s a little strange. The past two Love Live! series didn’t bother creating an insert character in the same vein nor did they need to. I suppose Yu’s creation is necessary as the game had the player act as the childhood friend to one of the pre-existing characters, Ayumi Uehara (Aguri Ounishi). It probably would be weirder if the story begins with Ayumi all by her lonesome and it would take more effort rewriting her as friends with someone else.
I worry Yu might be too much of a blank slate but so far, the show is doing a good job making her part of the story. She’s motivated and compassionate while also having a bit of a goofy side to her. More importantly, she seems to be an impetus to the story as she’s the one who searches for Nijigasaki’s idol club and inadvertently motivates Ayumu to pursue becoming a school idol. I also like the chemistry between Yu and Ayumu; you really buy these two as longtime friends and the former contrasts nicely with the latter’s more timid personality.
Aside from the story, I’m of course very curious about the music. Again, Love Live! has one of the better soundtracks out there as far as these CGDCT multimedia franchises are concerned. Being that this is the third series, perhaps there’s little to worry and the premiere does throw in two performances to alleviate any doubt, one by Setsuna and another by Ayumu. That there is two seems like a deliberate choice as you get a glimpse at the more individualized performances Nijigasaki will likely flaunt. Setsuna’s performance is more a booming rock song while Ayumu delivers a more traditionally pop number. Both are pretty catchy and they’re pretty well-animated to boot (CGI in Love Live! sure has come a long way).
One of these days, I’d like to finish the first two Love Live! series but hopefully, Nijigasaki High School Idol Club will do the trick for the time being.
ED: “Neo Sky, Neo Map!” by Nijigasaki School Idol Club
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Watch Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club on Funimation