“There are 3 types of people in the world. Those who prefer Love Live!, those who prefer Love Live! Sunshine!!, and those who think ‘Nico Nico Nii’ is some kind of video streaming website like YouTube.” – Kei from DEJAPAN, 2017.
What makes idol anime shows so popular in general?
- Super cute girls with unique personalities… and unique singing voices
- Catchy idol songs and cosplay-friendly costumes
- Fanservice and/or yuri moments
- More official merch than you can wave a King Blade at
When Love Live! started, it took idol anime up a notch. Otaku and normal people alike have gone nuts for these girls. It was that popular, from near enough the moment it aired, that people have even made videos trying to work out why.
Even so, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The story needed to switch to new school idols eventually, but it was always gonna be risky. How did they make the smooth transition from Love Live! to Love Live! Sunshine!! without a fan exodus? We’ve got a few ideas.
Some idol traditions have to be kept
Taking the show to a new school with new girls keeps some things fresh, sure. That they’re entering (and trying to win) the same contest can’t be helped. The idea that the success of µ’s means Aqours has a harder time doing it is a fun twist.
Look even closer, and you’ll see a bunch of little touches that emphasise the continuity. Like the µ’s plushies and other goods inside a UFO catcher game. It doesn’t feel like a sub-par sequel or a low-budget knockoff, put it that way.
The setting for Sunshine!!, Uranohoshi Girls High School, keeps up the ‘school with a weird name’ thing from the original Love Live. ‘Otonokizaka’ means something like ‘hill of sound trees’, and ‘Uranohoshi’ is ‘the beach’s star’. Do Japanese schools really have these kinds of names? We can kinda understand the tree-related ones.
And how about that group name, huh? Hint: idol group names are rarely pronounced exactly how they look. On the upside, you can write Aqours using a normal keyboard. Writing about µ’s involves an awful lot of copy-paste.
They’ll be great waifus – when they’re old enough
Total newbs would be forgiven for thinking that Love Live! Sunshine!! is only about Ruby. (Let’s face it, creating a character as adorable as Honk was a tall order from the start…) It’s tough to be a normal Japanese girl and blend in at school with a name like Ruby. Luckily, big sis Dia is around to help her feel less weird.
But, hey, wait a second – wasn’t it Chika who wanted to put an idol group together in the first place? Yes. Yes it was. And when you look at the regular popularity polls, girls like Kanan and You aren’t exactly hiding at the back. This isn’t The Ruby Show. (It’s not as catchy, anyway.)
A group with 9 members means there’s a girl for everyone to support. The diversity of Aqours – in looks, personality, and talent – gives the group a wider fanbase. Plus, different hair colours and styles make the cosplay simpler.
It’s much easier to create a diverse group by drawing them. You can’t guarantee who’s gonna show up at auditions.
And when someone stands out, they tend to stay that way. In real-world idol groups, usually you’ll see the same 1-2 girls up front in every performance. Like ‘immovable ace’ Maeda Atsuko from AKB48, who dominated the group right up until she graduated. Sure, it’s a safe strategy, but it gets a bit boring.
So Love Live does things differently. With a vote to decide the member ranking before every Aqours single, the centre girl’s been different every time. HAPPY PARTY TRAIN was finally Kanan’s time to shine, for example.
Idols in 2D, idols in 3D
3 hit singles and 2 sell-out tours show that these girls are on a roll.
(Hey, and 30 million people playing an idol smartphone game can’t be wrong.)
The latest live tour – HAPPY PARTY TRAIN – is on track to stop in 3 Japanese cities this summer. It’ll arrive in Kobe, Nagoya, and Saitama. The lead single with the same title took #1 on Japan’s Oricon music chart last month.
It’s not just projections and pre-animated screenings, either. International otaku can see Aqours in the flesh at Anime Expo 2017. The real voice actresses behind the 2D girls are equally adorable. And, as maybe you know already, they are (Aqours girl in brackets):
- Inami Anju (Takami Chika)
- Aida Rikako (Sakurauchi Riko)
- Suwa Nanaka (Matsuura Kanan)
- Komiya Arisa (Kurosawa Dia)
- Saito Shuka (Watanabe You)
- Kobayashi Aika (Tsushima Yoshiko)
- Takatsuki Kanako (Kunikida Hanamaru)
- Suzuki Aina (Ohara Mari)
- Furihata Ai (Kurosawa Ruby)
To keep fans happy, it’s important that the real-world group can perform when it matters.
And they’re as talented as the girls they give their voices to. Shukashuu dances like a pro, Rikyako AND Suwawa speak passable English, Arisha’s a legit actress, Aiai has great art skills, and King’s an otaku-gamer-cosplayer in real life.
Destination: merchandise paradise
One final thing. It isn’t a top idol anime without the merch. For Love Live! Sunshine!! lovers, a quick peek at the latest goods can be downright dangerous. It’s a cycle that keeps some anime shows going – make merch, sell merch, make more merch, sell more merch.
DEJAPAN’s got Aqours HAPPY PARTY TRAIN tour goods available to buy for the whole 2nd round of sales. Don’t miss out!