μ’s As Educators
So, it’s been a year. I can’t tell if the time has been long or short.
The final live only lasted a few hours. Since then a whole year has passed, and it’s most definitely been busy for Love Live! fans. In this context, one year may just be a short time. But on the other hand, I am sure many feel the weight of the first 365 days since µ’s ended.
No matter how you feel about the passing of time, many things happen within a year, and some things become clearer. As such, I believe it is a good time to reflect.
For me, it means writing a piece about what it means to “move on”. I cannot envisage talking about µ’s now without raising this question. With this inquiry come a few questionings, which (I believe) are clearer now: can one move on from them while continuing to embrace them? What about Aqours in this? And how is this consistent with what µ’s mean, anyway?
Through the concept of “moving on”, which has always been essential to my understanding of µ’s, I hope to answer these questions. I have no confidence I can succeed, but let’s try, shall we?
Let’s start from the very beginning (bear with me, I like to pretend I’m some kind of scholar in school idol studies). The Merriam-Webster defines the phrasal verb “move on” as follows:
“to go on to a different place, subject, activity, etc.”
This should be obvious to anyone, but in order to go on to something different, something has to be moved on from. The first question I want to ask is: what happens to what has been left behind?
In a world where restaurants pullulate every city, it’s easy to change your regular eatery. You get tired of this menu you know by heart, and walk a few hundred meters (at most!) to find this recently opened restaurant. You scan through the menu; you’re not sure what all the names mean, but they’re wildly different from what you’re used to. The place looks clean; a quick Google search indicates it’s well rated. You decide to enter once, and the experience seems a revelation: the cuisine’s exotic taste fills palate and satiates your appetite. You forget about the restaurant you were a regular at in an instant despite being familiar with the whole staff there.
You say “goodbye”, lock the memories in some remote part of your mind, only to explore them when the odd Proustian madeleine is thrown at your mouth.
But – and this is the heart of my question – what happens when you find yourself having to move on from something a little too precious to you?
µ’s’ case is peculiar. In this case, there is a definite sense of loss: our memories haven’t been overwritten by a mix of tiredness and the appearance of something greater. Something has definitely been taken from us. But it’s not mourning either. Being part of a media mix project like Love Live!, for which part of the content is still ongoing, it’s not like their presence has been erased entirely. Furthermore, its members are still very much alive and active – if anything their careers have been on the rise since –, and a lot of fans have decided to continue supporting them in their individual endeavors. Yes, a separation has been forced, but it doesn’t feel definitive, especially after the comments from the seiyuu insisting that they have not disbanded.
In truth, this may make the process of moving on harder. How can one do it if the lure of a possible comeback still haunts their mind? It is, for a lot of us I believe, a question to struggle with. Thankfully, it seems µ’s themselves had left a key on that famous shore for Chika to pick up. Allow me to explain.
Chika is an admirer of μ’s. I want to once again emphasize that she is not a groupie in the traditional sense of the term like Dia is. She isn’t the one who will dig up every little bit of trivia, or even know all the songs by heart. She likes μ’s because she sees them as inspirational. In episode twelve, she decides to stop chasing μ’s’ shadow and carve her own path – one that only Aqours themselves can define.
As seen with the meaning she gives to “shining” during episode 13, her thinking is still entirely predicated on µ’s’ teachings. Still, one episode prior, she hands Honoka her parting letter and takes the poster off the wall of her bedroom.
Though her actions, written like this, may sound somewhat contradictory, in my definition, she has moved on from μ’s. But this isn’t the process I’d defined earlier. It’s not a replacement, and it’s a conclusion she can only reach after much learning and questioning. It is a process with deep emotional (and, to an extent, intellectual) implications. So, how does Chika move on?
To quote Wittgenstein’s famous formula, “My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.”
The role of any educator (be it an object or a physical person) is to be a ladder: they help us elevate ourselves by giving us steps to climb (knowledge to acquire). Once one has reached the top (acquired all the knowledge the educator had to teach us), there is no need for the ladder itself. But that can only be realized at the very end of the learning process, when one has understood the teachings and integrated them in the deepest possible way. At the end of episode 12, Chika stands on top of the ladder, and executes the only movement left for her: throw it away.
And so, at the end of my line of thought, here is what I want to convey: µ’s are educators, and moving on from them is doing as Chika does. Understanding what their story means completely, carving this meaning in our minds, and after doing so, leaving them behind.
μ’s had ultimately set their sights on doing what they did to Chika, as shown with SUNNY DAY SONG, the song of all school idols – the song to show the world what a beautiful thing school idols are. At some point it wasn’t about their personal success anymore – it was about what they could bring to those who’d come after them. After all, they’re just nine girls who got together to achieve something no one thought they ever would (this is more or less true for both the anime characters and their seiyuu).
The characters’ story is just that, isn’t it? One of pushing forward, and striving to acquire happiness. A romantic take on what it means “to live”. In this sense, they are “educators”: they teach us a way to live, which we are then free to apply. But we can only apply it by throwing the ladder away: if we keep staring at it, we can never push forward. Chika has realized this story, and that’s why she does everything she does in episode 12 instinctively.
And, one year on, this is what we have. μ’s, whose physical presence is fading in the background as Aqours gain in visibility, have left behind the lesson which Chika conveys herself, and the lesson that we’ll all have understood spending time with them.
Having said that, this isn’t a call for people to do the same right now. If Chika spends 12 episodes being a µ’s groupie, and if Wittgenstein writes a good hundred pages before arriving at his ladder metaphor, it is for a reason: no one can reach these conclusions immediately, or be forced to reach them. They can only lie at the end of a very intimate road.
One year after their final live, μ’s have most definitely achieved their role. We all miss them; but they knew to end at the right time. And we should respect that.
So, this was my final live first anniversary rambling, a consideration of what it means to move on from μ’s. No one will forget about them – I obviously haven’t given I’m writing this –, but one can do as Chika does. Once the ladder has been climbed, no matter how difficult it is, one has to eventually throw it away, and look up to the next one. I’m sure µ’s would want that, too.