When it comes to saving a school from being closed, there are multiple ways which are often used in anime these days, my personal favourite being the creation of a tankery team or becoming an Idol group. It’s the latter of the two being covered here. Love Live! Sunshine!! is the sequel/spinoff to the 2013 Love Live! School Idol Project. I’ll come clean now, since watching School Idol Project a few years ago, I became a fan of μ’s (muse) and Love Live in general, so I was pretty excited to get my hands-on LL Sunshine. The 13-episode first season comes to us via Anime Limited.
One day while in Tokyo, Chika Takami a second year at Uranohoshi Girls’ Academy sees the finals of Love Live and decides she wants to be an idol herself, with μ’s being her inspiration. Along with her old friend You Watanabe and new transfer Riko Sakurauchi they create the school idol group called Aqours (pronounced aqua), with first-year students Yoshiko Tsushima, Hanamaru Kunikida, Ruby Kurosawa and third-year students and former idols themselves, Kana Matsuura, Dia Kurosawa and Mari Ohara.
Being an idol show, music (which is in Japanese before anyone asks) is a key part of LL Sunshine, and unfortunately, this is Sunshine’s weakest aspect, with only the opening “Aozora Jumping Heart” and the first episode ending/inset song “Kimeta yo Hand in Hand”, being the only two songs which I got stuck in my head after watching the series. Which is a shame because the original Love Live had so many good songs in it. Dance sequences are well done, they do switch between CG and traditional animation, it is noticeable but it’s not off-putting like in other series which do a similar switch in animation style. The music isn’t my biggest issue with Sunshine, it’s the fact that it tries to be too like the original series to the point that there was a sub-plot which highlights this. Unlike in the original, the main reason behind forming Aqours was because Chika wanted something to do as she’s never quite found her place, it was only later that the main goal of Aqours was to save the school from being closed down and merging with another nearby school. However, the part where it feels more like a copy of the original School Idol Project are the characters in terms of their traits and motivations. Although I do have a slight issue with the characters coming across as a bit of a copy of the original, they are all well introduced and most of them are given one or two episodes that focus solely on them, with group focused episodes filling in, in between.
Because of how the plot shifts to saving the school from closure and with characters which do come across as the same from School Idol Project, LL Sunshine does have moments where it feels like I was just watching a remake of School Idol Project, which is a shame because Sunshine had the chance to be its own show but it decides to fall back on an already tried and tested method, heck Aqours first concert (when it was just the 3 second years) was the exact same as μ’s first concert (which was also just the 2nd years). The similarities between Aqours and μ’s does get addressed when Aqours realise they need to be different to be successful.
Like normal I’ve watched the dub for LL Sunshine, to which I felt was a bit hit and miss. Most of the cast is well established from other series with the likes of Jad Saxton (Chika), Jeannie Tirado (Riko), Apphia Yu (You), Jamie Marchi (Mari), Michelle Rojas (Kanan), Morgan Garrett (Dia), Morgan Berry (Yoshiko), Megan Shipman (Hanamaru) and Sarah Wiedenheft (Ruby) comprising the members of Aqours. While on paper this is a good cast list, in my opinion, I didn’t think some of the actors quite fit their roles, the most prominent one being Mari. In the original Japanese dub, Mari mixes in English in her normal speech on account of spending time in America, whereas in the English dub it’s Italian (her father is Italian-American so it kind of makes) but it doesn’t really fit as well as what it does in the JP dub. The standout performances for the dub are Sarah and Morgan Berry both of which happen to voice the two most dynamic charters out of the group. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of the VA’s in Sunshine but this time I was a little disappointed with the dub.
Legendary studio Sunrise (Mobile Suit Gundam) returned from School Idol Project to provide the animation, which is spot on. As I previously mentioned the CG for the dance sequences are well done and the bright colours and visuals of the idol world are clearly shown which makes LL Sunshine visually pleasing to watch during the music sequences. Anime Limited’s release of Love Live Sunshine covers the first season of 13 episodes, comes with an art book which is filled with character profiles and a set of Aqours stickers.
Even with the obvious similarities between Sunshine and School Idol Project, if you were a fan of the original then you will enjoy watching Sunshine, and the same can be said for if you haven’t watched Love Live before, with Sunshine being a perfect entry point into the series.