Impressions – Love Live! Sunshine!! Episode 2
If anyone wasn’t already convinced after the first episode of Sunshine that it would retain the qualities of the original, then surely this second episode sealed the deal.
So this episode is mostly about Chika trying to recruit Riko, with lots of comedy on the way to the drama. It was already clear from the first episode, but Sunshine retains all the wonderful quirkiness of the original; everyone is crazy fun, and I had a great time watching Dia enthusiastically exposing her love of µ’s; even Yohane’s short lived appearance was great! I feel that, maybe due to the size of the setting, everything is that much “tighter” compared to the original; a lots of connections are already established, and by now it’s not hard to determine what everyone’s major trait is (even Mari’s appearance in the first episode was quite effective in that regard in spite of its shortness). At the same time, there’s still lots to discover! Why is Dia so knowledgeable about µ’s? (She even taught me that bit of trivia about the four who skipped during the opening of Bokura wa Ima no Naka de in the encore of the second Love Live!) Who is Mari exactly? Why is Kanan away from school? What’s the deal with Yohane? Quite like in the original series, the 3rd years remain the greatest mystery, while the 2nd years are the “core” of the group which is established right away.
But at any rate, I love how Sunshine has been so… efficient so far. While the original series took its time building every character (someone like Rin remains very much in the background until that wonderful episode in the second season), and the first season had lots of slice of life moments, leaving the meat of the adventure for the second season, Sunshine has been wasting no time so far… just look at all that wonderful Riko development here!
It’s only the second episode, and we already know lots about her. The fact that she used to be a talented pianist who was stop in her tracks due to stage fright (?), and who’s now looking for something new in order to finally reunite with that feeling of fun, and above all to change herself… It’s great that we know that much about her after simply two episodes, she already feels properly fleshed out, and she’s extremely attaching. In that regard, the final scene can’t be overlooked. Chika and Riko struggle to connect, but finally manage to join hands, and just smile; Chika finally takes the intangible inspirational power of µ’s and brings to a physical level by inspiring Riko to finally move forward again, and by taking her hand to this new place. It’s a beautiful moment, and definitely embodies a lot of what the franchise is about. Other scenes, such as the lyrics writing one, also bring out the notion of inspirational power quite wonderfully. I don’t know if the series will always be that effective in its approach, but if it does, then admittedly that’s something it does over the original.
I generally find the show’s awareness of its predecessor impressive. There’s obviously the sheer belief in the original’s inspiration power, as exemplified by this episode’s very progression. But there are other throwbacks to the original, such as the question about love experience, which Umi suffered herself. The few seconds during which Riko performs Yume no Tobira were also absolutely wonderful! And then there’s, of course, Dia’s own passion for µ’s, which she miserably tries to hide; I can’t help but smile just thinking about her burning love of the group.
Yet at the same it’s not overplayed; it doesn’t feel like some sort of awkward tribute to µ’s (something which I had feared admittedly), but definitely a new start, albeit one that is µ’s-inspired. The way it has been fleshing out its cast is proof that it doesn’t intend to rely fully on µ’s, but to create its own adventure, while paying a much-deserved homage to µ’s and their influence on Sunshine!!. Now obviously that means fans of the original will find the progression in this episode far more powerful and convincing than others; if you’re a fan, you obviously feel that µ’s are inspirational; if you’re not, then you might feel a little estranged by what happens here.
There’s certainly a difficult equilibrium to maintain between the callbacks and allowing Aqours to develop properly; and so far Sunshine!! has been striking that balance magnificently.
I loved this episode; it was just as fun as I could hope, and also did well to get me attached to Riko and everyone else, with the final scene being genuinely touching. I honestly felt pretty confident about Sunshine’s worth as a successor to the original after the first episode, but now there are no doubts left. Aqours can confidently take the torch; looking at this second entry, they won’t have any problems making this adventure very much their own. I’m genuinely impressed by how it’s managed to make me love everyone, even someone like Chika whom I had doubted, so quickly. Here’s to more of this weekly!