Impressions – Love Live! Sunshine!! Episode 1
The first episode of Love Live! Sunshine!! has come and gone, bringing with it… pretty much everything I had expected.
When Sunshine!! was first announced, I was somewhat lukewarm. I had, of course, been exposed to the immediate outcry about the apparent similarities between the cast of the original series and that of this new entry in the franchise; as such, before more promotional material came about, I was afraid of overwhelming common points making both experiences too similar for me to fully enjoy Sunshine!!.
But then, drama CDs and the likes were released, bringing a first look into the characters’ personalities; and that’s when I started being excited. Ultimately, no matter how much I like the utopic concept that Love Live! runs on, it wouldn’t have had such an impact on me if I didn’t love the girls of µ’s so much. So, when I listened to the drama CDs, and finally got confirmation that Aqours were different from µ’s, the gates of hype were finally wide opened.
The subsequent wait for the first episode was difficult, and recently peaked with a marathon of the original series, which ended up… not being too helpful to my Sunshine!! hype. I won’t expand on this too much, but I had reserved my first viewing of the movie for this time, and the wonderful final note it provided to the story of µ’s, in which I invested so much emotionally, made it harder to move on. At any rate, I was still excited about Sunshine!!, in spite of the difficulty to let go of µ’s.
After making sure to avoid Twitter and such for spoilers, I finally got to this first episode. So, let’s get started, shall we?
From the abundant promo material, one thing was always clear – Sunshine!! is aimed at pre-existing fans. It’s got the same atmosphere, the same core ideas, and packs the whole with a different cast in a different setting. As such, this first episode had no surprises whatsoever; everyone with any familiarity of the franchise will know what to expect, and as such, whether they want to watch this or not.
As a first episode, I definitely enjoyed it quite a bit. Obviously I can’t say I’m in love with the new cast just yet, but combining earlier material with this first episode, I like everyone enough so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Aqours have in store for me. Everyone got introduced, and I believe only Mari didn’t get any dialogue. For now, just as they did before the show started, You and Kanan stand out as particularly likable to me; Shukashuu and Suwawa’s voices are pretty nice too, which helps. Let’s not forget Riko, who’s definitely a kind of character I enjoy… and she looks absolutely lovely. I also liked Chika, though I’ll get back to her a little later. Finally, Yohane looks fun. Really fun. And she clearly has the best reaction face game in the series, which is always a big deal in Love Live!
The other characters stood out less to me; Mari clearly didn’t get enough screentime for me to say anything about her, Hanamaru and Ruby had a short appearance in which they didn’t stand out much, and Dia, while fun, is generally less my kind of character. But that’s fine for a first episode; Love Live as a whole is definitely a franchise that grew on me over time, and so did the cast of µ’s, I’ll gladly give Aqours the time they need, especially as it felt quite fast-paced and effective compared to the first episode of the original series (maybe because it won’t have as many episodes?)
As for the setting, I wonder if, or when, it’ll come relevant. It seems that both You and Kanan are particularly involved in swimming and sea diving respectively, and drama CDs already had quite a bit of stuff related Numazu’s aquariums and other sea-related attractions, so I’m expecting similar things to become relevant in the future.
All in all, that’s pretty much what the episode did; show us exactly who we’ll be sticking with for the next 13 episodes (and possibly more), as well as where the drama will unfold. As an introduction it was good, and I was definitely intrigued by the variety of hints that the 3rd years had something to do with school idols in the past; speculation has it they actually gave a shot at being school idols themselves a couple of years back.
Also, and this is something that I particularly enjoyed as a fan, there were a lot of little throwbacks to the original series. Chika is an obvious bridge between the fans of the original and Sunshine!! itself; she resembles Honoka, even her home is reminiscent of Honoka’s… and of course, µ’s become her inspiration, just the way it became to the fans. But the references don’t stop there; the OP features You (accompanied by Yohane and Dia) showing her face just the way Kotori did in Happy Maker!; the show starts in Akiba and displays sceneries familiar to all those who watched the first season (UTX anyone?); Riko comes from Otonokizaka… and of course, there’s the feather that befalls her Otonokizaka uniform (a scene over which I’ll admit to getting a little emotional!), a reference to the ED of the second season. It was definitely gratifying to catch all this as a fan!
Finally, if I had to complain about something, it would be that Chika’s reason for starting her school idol club isn’t anywhere near as compelling as Honoka’s. While Honoka wanted to save her school, Chika basically just wants to do something with her life. Like I said, the idea that µ’s become her inspiration is definitely something fans will sympathize with, and I certainly do; but as a reason to take on something so large, it’s not quite as compelling. And, this is probably only me, but… Chika is a bit too similar to Honoka for me. I know she has her own quirks, some of which have yet to be shown (like her destructive puns), but she clearly falls under the same character archetype. Now don’t get me wrong, I like her; but, as someone to who Honoka means a lot, it’s a bit difficult to forget about her when I see Chika.
With all that said, I was pleased with this episode. While the aim is clear, and I don’t doubt the story will play out similarly to that of the first series, I’m excited anyway; it introduced everything it needed to in one episode, the stage is set, now it’s up to Chika and friends to get things moving. I never expected, and I’m still not expecting, to like Aqours as much as µ’s; I’m not asking them to become as big a source of positivity and joy to me as µ’s became; but as long as they can show me a good time, I’ll love the show anyway. And it looks like Sunshine!! might very well succeed in that.