A common complaint I hear about idol shows is that they’re too sparkly. Everything wraps up too cleanly and everyone always end up happy. But I feel like Love Live! Sunshine!! throughly debunked such generalizations back in in 2016 through its narrative and is continuing to do so this season. Furthermore, the series continues to branch out and away from the memorable storyline that is iconic to the original series, Love Live! School Idol Project.
For those of you who are new to the franchise, Love Live! is about school idols. In the first series, a group of nine girls came together to form an idol group called μ’s in an attempt to prevent their school, Otonokizaka Academy, from shutting down. While μ’s successfully prevents Otonozkizaka Academy from closing down during the first season, the group ends up being unable to compete in the national school idol competition known as Love Live! However, the girls manage to qualify for the Love Live! and end up winning the competition during the second season.
If μ’s fought for and earned their idealistic Cinderella story, then Aqours, the school idol group that is under the limelight in the spin-off series, Love Live! Sunshine!!, is currently trapped in a situation that is reminiscent of Nihilistic philosophy.
With Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy facing the same fate as Otonokizaka Academy, nine girls come together to form Aqours in order to draw in applicants to keep the school from closing down. The first season’s finale keeps the specifics ambiguous, but the second season’s opening episode reveals that their best efforts did not end up saving Urahoshi Girls’ Academy at all. Aqours not only fails to qualify for the Love Live! but they also fail to bring in more than 10 new applicants for their beloved high school.
The girls feel a sense of regret, but they resolve to press onwards and continue to be school idols to save their school until Mari, one of Aqours’ senior members and the current principal-in-name, reveals that the higher-ups have decided that Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy is scheduled to shut down next year. Despite learning that they failed to accomplish their ultimate goal, the individual members have decided to persist in being Aqours and doing what they can, even if everything looks utterly hopeless.
What I want to point out is that Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season is so far successful as a spin-off series and as a second season. While the premises is similar and there are parallels between characters, Sunshine!! is markedly different as Aqours continue to struggle despite experiencing nothing but failure. In comparison, μ’s was only hindered by personal drama as a strong majority of their goals were accomplished with ease. As noted earlier, Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season sticks with this underlying message by showing how Aqours is still scraping by and didn’t suddenly accomplish their goals despite the girls finally resolving to not blindly follow μ’s near the end of the first season.
There’s some precedent to the message, “Don’t give up despite things looking grim,” being prominent in anime. In the previous season alone, New Game!! and Action Heroine Cheer Fruits featured plot lines where the characters faced hopeless situations yet continue to try their best. The difference lies in the timing of such morals – the scenario occurs several episodes in for New Game!! while it happens near the end of Action Heroine Cheer Fruits. In comparison, the bleak news is revealed at the very beginning of a new season for Sunshine!!, so the audience gets to see the characters struggle with all their might for an entire season. If Aqours do manage to save Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy, then I can safely say that the result was due to hard work, that there will be a general consensus agreeing that Aqours earned it, and that the girls were finally able to prove that anyone can truly shine.
I can’t recommend just jumping into this second season without having watched at least Love Live! Sunshine!! But if you had loved the first season of Sunshine!!, then I whole-heartedly recommend picking Love Live! Sunshine!! 2nd Season up and watching this episode. With its characters demonstrating most of their cheesy yet individualistic tics, the girls of Aqours have proven that they’ll continue to be the same girls of yesteryear as they strive to accomplish a miracle.