Okay, so Love Live episode 2 sheds light to my weird lukewarmness and why I feel that way. I think none of it is fault to the stuff, but hopefully you will see why this is the case. Basically, it clashes ideologically.
Let’s start with the fundamental. Asako Nishida. I like her artwork! A lot, in fact. Enough to buy an artbook she put out. But in this show I feel it’s… I don’t know. It’s unique I think, but it kind of jars me out of its everyday setting. I presume “School Idol” channels, in part, the “Idol You Can Meet” AKB-pioneered concept. It makes a small clash with fantasy.
The fact that the main trio always reminds me of…this other trio in another fantasy work. Granted, Hikaru, Umi and Fuu are not uncommon motifs, but unless they’re going to get Captain Planet in the mix I’m not sure why is there an elemental signifier in my idol anime.
The problem with main characters is that they are the main characters. Who is the main character in the iDOLM@STER? Who is the main character in, say, Chance Triangle Session? And then there are the Creamy Mamis of the world. Love Live is neither. Just think about it for a moment: what would AKB0048 be like if there was a main character? I don’t think it will work. I also just want to put in the disclaimer (as weak as it is) regarding figurehead/representative characters and how they’re not really main characters–like Haruka is not the main character in iM@S but she is the one spokesperson for the franchise.
It’s not a simple thing as to why main characters doesn’t work for an ensemble cast of idols. “Doesn’t work” probably is not the right term; maybe it’s just that the dynamic of the narrative is now about what the characters try to accomplish, not so much who the characters are and what they accomplish while they do their things. I think it might come down to both a matter of individual preference for it, and if it makes sense in terms of character development. It is a delicate balance but I believe going with main characters is not the best way to do it. Maybe Love Live can prove me wrong.
A much better comparison to the glitz-filled life of Love Live is the relatively down-tempo and half-baked seriousness that is Tari Tari. At least at this point, we have a similar plot regarding a group of people trying to put on a show against the administrative odds of the system. (But who’s the main character in that one?) I think the more important thing to point out is that by end of episode 2, Tari Tari has had its club identity established and a concert has happened. I guess that won’t happen until next week’s Love Live–it takes care of a major plot point like that because it is about what happens, not so much the characters.
At this point of the series, we are introduced slowly to the growing list of eventual idols under μ’s. I think it’s safe to say that THE main character is burdened with the things she has to do, and meanwhile the other girls simply just have to be themselves in order for the group to come together. In that process, too, the main character will slowly spread out the burden to the other girls, and important things like the associated screen time, lines, and attention will get their ways around. In fact, it’s already happening despite the main character having as much impact this week as she did the last. I think the show is better off for it. I know I liked episode 2 greatly more than 1.
The problem with Honoka, and many of the other girls, in this plot-driven environment, is that they cross the line. What line is this? Remember K-ON when the girls aimed for Budokan? That line. Because, by doing so, it would turn it from a real-feeling fantasy into a dreamy-feeling fantasy. It is perfectly realistic to have a bunch of girls hang out in an after-school music club. It’s not realistic to see high schoolers play in a nationally known venue (although empirically speaking, who knows). The crossing of this line will change the nature of the story completely, and I feel that’s in another way a clashing with the nature of the idol group in question. Because AKB48 is an already existent, independently real thing, its spinoff anime can do whatever the hell it wants. Because iM@S is not a real thing, its spinoff anime needs to play to the nature of the concept of the franchise. (Unless somehow we’re talking about Xenoglossia which is kind of not even in left field; more like the other side of the country.) What is Love Live? Just what kind of message should this anime be sending IRT the idol group itself? I don’t know and the more I watch this anime I feel the less I know.
And maybe this is all just me reading too much into it. If the idea behind Love Live anime is to pilot a story that is engaging and interesting, they very well could with what they have right now. If the idea behind Love Live is to market an anime idol group based on a moving anime, regardless what that anime is really about (besides that it is about the idols), maybe it will work; it really depends on the marketing and how the idol part of the equation play out. It is just that I am not sure if this is the most excellent way.
For the meanwhile I’ll just shut up and enjoy the ride–at least as long as it takes for me to remember their names to their faces.