Impressions – Love Live! Sunshine!! Episode 3
Sunshine’s third episode will definitely remind fans of another third episode – that of the original series’ first season, to be precise. Not only are there tons of references (once again), but both episodes are similar in structure; which makes it all the more impressive that I ended up loving this episode as much as the second (which set itself apart from the original, as opposed to this one).
Long story short, the third episode of the first series was when µ’s second years performed their first live, at school; and here, Aqours’ second years also perform their first live at school in the third episode. At the same point in time, the same climax repeats itself; not that we needed more proof that Sunshine was intent on taking the basics from its predecessor, eh?
The second episode was definitely more surprising in how it fleshed out Riko early on, something the original didn’t do to this extent. I already mentioned the difficulty of finding an equilibrium between faithfulness to the original and building a new story that’s more than a mere tribute; so far Sunshine has done brilliantly in that regard, but this third episode almost challenges itself by making the similarities blindingly obvious. In these cases, it’s the differences, and how much they impact the greater picture, that matter; and thankfully this episode hit all the right notes.
Here the differences lie mostly in how the big event occurs, what happens within the general structure of having an episode build up to a first live. The climax occurring at the end of the episode, let’s go through the build-up first.
First of all, Mari’s appearance is noteworthy. Thought the original Love Live was campy? Well then… as much as I love µ’s, it’s hard to say anyone among them was quite as quirky as the new king of randomness, Mari. Mari’s family runs a hotel in Awashima; Mari’s family is rich; Mari’s family has donated consequential amounts of money to Uranohoshi; as a reward, the school gave Mari, a third-year-student, the title of… director. The franchise has never been quite this random; she even speaks random English words because she can. SHINY!
And guess what? She’s friends with Dia; but unlike Dia, she’s happy to see school idols! So she’s come back (it’s her first time at this school in two years) to lend the trio of second years a helping a hand. But the help doesn’t come cheap; they have to fill the gymnasium… which is impossible even if every student comes.
And this is where a major difference lies. µ’s didn’t have any form of pressure imposed by the higher-ups, they didn’t have to fill their school’s gym, and that means the efforts made are different. Chika, Riko and You all go to town in an effort to have people from different schools come to their concert. That makes the build-up quite different, as there’s much greater focus on the need to gather an audience.
Other than that, we’ve got more of the usual comedy… and it’s always effective. Between Riko trying to avoid Shiitake and Chika unwillingly using Fear as a means of making people come to their live, there’s no lack of fun moments, even though this episode’s the most dramatic to date.
The episode as a whole is filled with great character moments that help emphasize everyone’s quirks and give more insight into the way everyone thinks; a good example of the latter is when You talks to one of Chika’s sister about her childhood friend. She shows just how much she understands Chika (seriously I wouldn’t be surprised if You turned out to know more about Chika than Chika herself…). Plus, humor has always been an important part of Love Live, so it’s good to see Sunshine consistently nail it just like its predecessor.
Oh, and let’s not forget the good ol’ references! First of all, a subtle one; Chika’s training shirt is yellow and has her first name’s starting syllable on it. Not that Honoka being Chika’s favorite µ’s member would come as any shock… (oh, Chika, you don’t know how much I understand you). There’s also Mari groping Dia’s chest, which is definitely reminiscent of Nozomi’s own bad habit… and who can forget Yohane appearing in an outfit all too similar to Nico’s when she goes outside?
Finally, we arrive at the climax. The setting is similar, the outfits are similar, the time spent behind the curtain is similar; they’ll say it later, but their goal is mostly definitely µ’s, to shine just the way the nine girls from Otonokizaka did before them. And honestly… this is where I think Sunshine does most brilliantly. But I’ll address this a little later.
Once again, although the structure is similar, the performance itself goes differently from µ’s own first live. There are a few people to start with, so the performance starts quickly although disappointment is present… and then the power goes out and despair kicks in. Chika tries to push on, but quickly breaks down. But hey, this is Love Live! people are good, and get what they deserve. Dia secretly brings the power back, Chika’s big sis arrives in the nick of time along with her colleagues, and a bunch of other people complete a significant audience (although it’s hard to say the gym is filled either; but once again, Mari’s challenge was likely more of a test of Aqours’ determination and potential than anything). The live ends a success, Yohane even taking her mask off in admiration for the brilliance of the three young girls standing on stage in front of her eyes. The audience may not be enormous, but it’s certainly better than what µ’s had; and I found this resolution satisfying. They couldn’t reproduce the impact of µ’s first live so went for something different while also leaving a big, apparent margin for progression.
But going back to the µ’s-Aqours connection, once again it’s very obviously present. Dia even warns Chika; that the success of this first live is in no small part thanks to µ’s pioneering role in the current popularity of school idols. And Chika knows it. The show screams its love for µ’s, and that’s when it’s closest to the viewer (at least assuming the viewer is a pre-existing fan, which should be the case for a non-negligible portion of the audience).
I’ve seen lots of fans commenting on their original doubts regarding Aqours, acknowledging that the available material had made them support the new nine girls. I feel that this is partly thanks to Aqours’ love of µ’s. We, as fans, can connect to how much the show proclaims its love of the original; Riko goes as far as repeating Honoka’s words that school idols can go anywhere; that they can achieve any dream. This, here, is precisely the franchise’s one greatest appeal, and the straightforwardness with which Sunshine!! adheres to and revers that is a great factor in the immediate appeal of Aqours as µ’s successor.
I remember that many people feared that Aqours were going to replace µ’s; underlying that, I feel, was the fear that Aqours were going to erase µ’s, to overwrite their existence, forcing us to forget about µ’s. No one would want to be told that fond memories of time spent with dear friends were going to be erased; anyone would reject that. No one would ever desire for Aqours to sink µ’s, to make everyone forget about them, and this is something we as fans all feared. But Sunshine has proven all of that wrong; Aqours might be succeeding µ’s, who’ve disbanded both in anime and in real life (although the real life part is a bit more complicated), but the anime shows that Aqours in no way mean to erase µ’s. While giving us a new start, full of new lovable characters moving toward their own dream, Sunshine celebrates µ’s heritage; what they gave to Chika and friends, and what they gave to us as fans. No one wants to forget µ’s, and Sunshine certainly doesn’t. It loves µ’s just as the rest of us.
And that, for me, is the brilliance of this new chapter in the franchise.