Thanks to the timely save by Mito and her godlike PR skills, Aqours is finally approved as a legitimate club at their school by Mari. I still find it silly that Mari has that much power but whatever, I know Love Live! can get silly like that. What’s also funny is that this show spent three episodes getting the idol club approved, only to then give them the exact number of members it originally needed anyway in this episode. That renders the last episode’s plot a little moot but to be fair, the next two members need some convincing.
The new recruits happen to be Ruby and Hanamaru. Both girls still have their reservations about becoming school idols. Hanamaru hasn’t given the prospect much thought one way or another and Ruby is afraid of upsetting her sister. However, the two of them have gotten a lot more interested in becoming school idols after seeing Aqours’ performance last episode, with Ruby going as far as following the group’s activities in secret. Sensing Ruby’s enthusiasm and wanting her to be happy, Hanamaru proposes that they join Aqours as trial members and keep it a secret from Dia.
For the trial, Aqours first has Ruby and Hanamaru join them for dance practice. The girls decide to use the rooftop, due to the courtyard and field being taken by other clubs (and also because μ’s did that in the original series). Immediately, it becomes apparent that Ruby would make for a good idol as she is able to do the dance routine perfectly without breaking a sweat. I guess the question to ask then is how she’ll do on stage. She has the stamina and finesse but I’m curious if she can handle performing in front of a potentially large crowd.
After that, the club builds their stamina by running up some stairs. Hanamaru finds the activity exhausting but when Ruby offers to wait and go at her pace, Hanamaru tells Ruby to go without her and encourages her to do what she wants instead of worrying what others will think of her. The scene uses the stairs as a sort of metaphor for Ruby’s arc. Ruby running up to the top signifies her pursuing what she desires. By encouraging Ruby to run off, Hanamaru is telling her friend that it’s okay to defy Dia and become a school idol. Mind you, Hanamaru’s words and actions are a little flawed here as her telling Ruby to not worry about her undermines her own feelings about becoming a school idol.
I expected Hanamaru to catch up with Ruby and the others. Surprisingly, she heads back down. Technically, this is so she can talk to Dia, who she contacted beforehand, though the image of Hanamaru walking down the stairs does feel symbolic. Just as Ruby heads to the top to pursue her dream, Hanamaru retreats to let go of hers, content that she at least gave her friend a much needed push. As for confronting Dia, I got to hand it to Hanamaru. That’s a really bold move, given Dia’s attitude. Up until now, I haven’t given Hanamaru much thought. With this scene, I grew to care a good deal about her. I really like the lengths she goes to support and stand up for Ruby. At the same time, it’s a bit of a bummer that she feels the need to throw herself under the bus for her plan.
Thank goodness this doesn’t last for very long as Hanamaru is convinced by Ruby and the others to join the club at the end of the episode. Imagine if this show dedicated a whole episode for that. I’m not sure how I feel about the characters talking about Rin from School Idol Project. Earlier in the episode, Hanamaru finds a magazine about school idols and stumbles upon a picture of Rin. Hanamaru finding out that Rin was hesitant about being a school idol and grow to like being one helps convince her to join Aqours. Hanamaru admiring and drawing inspiration from an alum is fine but considering that we already have Chika and Dia being big μ’s fans, I think the show is pushing it by adding in a third fangirl. How strange that the show specifically compares Hanamaru to Rin too. None of the characters receive this treatment.
Curiously, we don’t get to see Ruby and Dia’s conversation regarding the former’s desire to join Aqours. Not knowing how Dia reacted leaves a lot to the imagination but I suppose the important takeaway is that she lets Ruby be a school idol. Whatever Dia’s beef is with school idols, it’s still second to her sister’s feelings. I do wonder what exactly happened that made Dia hate school idols so much. Ruby tells Hanamaru that Dia used to love them but then something happened in Dia’s first year that caused her to change her tune.
Dia isn’t the only mystery here. There’s another scene where Mari meets up with Kanan, the two apparently being old friends. Mari requests for Kanan to become a school idol once she can return to school, saying that it’s her reason for coming back to Uchiura and Uranohoshi. This prompts an angry yet also teary-eyed response from Kanan. Judging by the conversation, it doesn’t sound like this is the first time Mari has tried to recruit Kanan. If that’s the case, I’m guessing the first time around didn’t pan out very well. Considering that Mari knows Dia and Kanan, it would not surprise me if the latter two also know each other and that all three of them were buddies back in the day. If Mari recruited Dia to be a school idol before, that may explain the student council president’s change in attitude towards school idols.
Watch Love Live! Sunshine!! on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Tubi, and VRV (via Crunchyroll)