Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club – Ep. 3

Seeing as this is the first Setsuna focused episode, I want to acknowledge the elephant that has appeared in the room after I first posted this review. In 2022, Setsuna’s voice actress Tomori Kusunoki got diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissues. While Kusunoki hasn’t fully retired from her voice acting and singing career, she is retiring from her work in Love Live! in March 2023. Her last performance as Setsuna is presumably the Nijiyon Animation short series. This admittedly doesn’t affect Season 1 itself as it came out a couple of years before the news broke out. For that matter, it probably doesn’t affect Season 2 either. Regardless, it’s sad but also understandable that Kusunoki has to leave the franchise and I’m with the fandom in wishing her the best.

Back to the episode at hand, things sure are moving along in Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. For starters, the club doubles its ranks as the rest of the former members — Emma, Shizuku Osaka (Kaori Maeda), and Kanata Konoe (Akari Kitou) — rejoin and Setsuna gives the okay for the club’s revival. It’s strange as Love Live! historically takes its time getting the gang altogether. I’m sure the show will give the characters their dues, I’m particularly curious about Shizuku’s juggling between being a school idol and an actor, but it does feel a bit rushed to me how they just rejoin the club and become aquatinted with Yu and Ayumu with little to no fanfare. At least Karin doesn’t join immediately. That would’ve gone too far for me.

Furthermore, you have Setsuna joining after the whole episode dedicates itself to having her come around. Considering how the last episode ended, I figured the next one would focus on her but it does feel surprisingly early to me. Doesn’t it take a while for the student council president to join the gang? I remember that being the case with Eli in the original Love Live! and I heard the same is true with Dia in Sunshine!!.

On the flipside, Setsuna is really growing on me. I really like the double life aspect to her character, alternating between the serious student council president and the more excitable school idol. Both halves seem at odds at each other but one trait they both seem to share is Setsuna’s diligence and passion. Part of me does wish the show leaned a bit more into that. There’s hints that Setsuna uses her idol persona to be less uptight and more mischievous than she could as the student council president but it’s surface level stuff at best. That said, I’m glad that the show doesn’t use the double life as a crutch to explain her decision to disband the club. It instead sticks strictly to what’s been implied before. She feels she was contributing to a toxic environment within the club and decided that removing herself out of the equation would be the best way for her peers to succeed.

Naturally, this is where Yu comes in. There’s a slight risk with that as even though Yu is the protagonist, she’s only recently getting to know Setsuna as a person. Honestly, I’m surprised how the original club members, the ones Setsuna must’ve known for a while now, don’t really contribute here and entrust everything to Yu. It would’ve been nice to hear more of their input, especially from Kasumi since she now empathizes with Setsuna’s decision to quit. Still, I think the episode does a good job justifying Yu’s role in this episode. Having a fan convince Setsuna to resume her idol career makes sense, even more so that it’s a new fan as the recency sort of represents a bright future for the idol. And like with Kasumi, Yu proves to be a great source of encouragement, arguing that Setsuna’s views aren’t inherently bad and telling her that what really matters is having fun with her career. Yu seemingly knows the right thing to say at the right time. The only thing I question is Yu telling Setsuna to not to worry about participating in the Love Live. Like hell that’s being put aside. What is this show called again?

I know Love Live! has a lot of yuri subtext but boy is it strong with Yu and Setsuna. Setsuna asks what Yu sees in her and Yu replies that she “loves” her and that she’s the first one who made her feel a certain way. I’m admittedly going off of subtitles here but even so, talk about phrasing. The visuals nevertheless encourage the ship, one shot particularly looking really intimate if you take it out of context. I’m really starting to wonder if Nijigasaki is a harem anime. Between Ayumu, Kasumi, and now Setsuna, they seem to get very attached to Yu. If the rest of the cast act like that and even fight for Yu’s affection, then this really is a harem anime…not that I’m complaining…

The music performances continue to confuse me a bit here. In the case of Setsuna’s performance this episode, it’s implied that she’s singing on that balcony in front of the whole campus but that actually comes across as rather awkward when you think about it. One, there’s no way the instrumentals accompanying Setsuna’s vocals or any of the stylistic imagery is happening in-universe. And two, I can’t imagine the crowd hearing Setsuna very well unless they have really good hearing, Setsuna is singing really loudly, or the gang had speakers set up in advance. Regardless, it’s a darn good performance. I like the clashing imagery of the fire and water as well as the visual of Setsuna swimming in an ocean and seeing her reflection. It really captures the double life she lives and how she’s setting herself free by becoming an idol again. Also, Tomori Kusunoki is killing it with her vocals in this show. I’ve enjoyed her singing before in other anime but man was she a good pick for Love Live!.

This post was originally published on October 23, 2020.

Watch Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club on CrunchyrollFunimation, and VRV (via Crunchyroll).

Read my Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club reviews

One thought on “Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club – Ep. 3

  1. I enjoyed this episode a lot.

    In fairness, Shizuku/Kanata/Emma were the other old members of the club alongside Kasumi, and none of them wanted to quit in the first place, so persuading them to come back was never going to be an issue. Although not getting a “let’s bring them back” storyline definitely does leave them under-developed at this point – that’s the drawback of this “one featured girl per episode” structure the series has stuck to so far. But if they’re each only going to feature in one episode, I’d rather they’re episodes that focuses on other aspects of their characters, not just giving them an episode dedicated to recruiting them into the club and then shoving them into the background for the rest of the series (which is basically what happened to my best Sunshine girl Hanamaru, and I’m still a bit grumpy about that).

    And I agree, Setsuna is a great character, possibly one of the most complex in the franchise. There are still more layers to her beyond what’s covered in this episode. It’s funny, when the Niji girls were introduced they were all given a quick “capsule” description; for instance, Ayumu was introduced as the “Hard-working idol type.” Setsuna’s description simply said, “? idol type,” which led to all kinds of fan speculation about what that meant. I think it’s the perfect description of her, though, both because of her complex character and for how much of herself she hides from others and all the secrets that she keeps.

    Liked by 1 person

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