Two episodes into Love Live! Sunshine!! and I feel that this series is so far a step above where the original Love Live anime was at this point. The music is better, the characters are more likable overall, and the story features better characterization. Whether Sunshine can keep that up for its entire run remains to be seen, but at this moment, I am optimistic that this series can follow up and possibly even surpass the original series.
Episode 2 mainly focuses on Chika’s attempts to recruit Riko to be a music composer for her school idol group, while she continues to encounter opposition from student council president Dia. While the former provides the meat of the episode, the latter is worth noting because of some interesting things we learn about Dia.
The Secret Fan
We know from the last episode that Dia has been particularly opposed to a school idol club at her school, but one of her objections—that Chika would need a music composer—suggests she might know more about school idols than her serious nature might suggest. Indeed, in this episode, we find that Dia is actually a huge fan of µ’s, as she grills Chika on her lack of knowledge of the group. The serious yet passionate way she questions Chika over trivia that she considers “general knowledge” is comical in its own way, culminating in Chika accidentally turning on the school’s PA system and Dia unknowingly broadcasting her love of school idols to the entire group.
As funny as this sequence is, interspersed with an equally amusing second encounter with Hanamaru and Ruby, it does reveal some hidden depths to Dia’s character. There is certainly more to her opposition to starting a school idol group than just not liking school idols, and it already makes her a rather likable character even before she inevitably joins the school idol group. These characterization points should also make her character more fun once she does join the group.
As a side note, if you did not know beforehand, this episode confirms that Ruby is Dia’s little sister. Ruby does know of her sister’s opposition to starting a school idol group, and Ruby herself also seems to be a school idol fan, but how their relationship will affect things remains to be seen.
Hitting the Wall
The main focus of this episode is Riko and her story before arriving at Uranohoshi. She focused on playing piano for a long time; however, she hit a wall and had been unable to enjoy making and playing music. In a particularly traumatic moment, she was on stage at a piano performance but completely froze up and ended up leaving the stage without playing. At the same time, she feels that she cannot just quit playing piano, so she pushes on, trying to find inspiration in the ocean while fending off Chika’s persistent attempts to recruit her as a school idol.
Many people can relate to or understand Riko’s feelings of having lost the joy in an activity she was once passionate about, yet feeling unable to quit that activity. There are many reasons we might feel compelled to stick with something we have long lost joy for, either out of written or implied obligations, taking comfort in the familiar, feeling like that the activity is a part of our identity, or feeling like we have invested so much time (and perhaps money) into that thing that giving it up would feel like a waste. Christians also have the potential burden of feeling that the activity is God’s calling in their lives.
Chika gives Riko an option besides just pushing on or outright quitting: if Riko becomes a school idol and finds herself able to change and have fun again. She can then go back to the piano. Likewise, sometimes when we hit a wall with an activity in our lives, all we need is to take a break and do something else. That new activity can give us the extra inspiration or support we need to climb over that wall when we return, or help us address the issues that hold us back. Or it can just be a fun diversion to clear our minds and recharge our batteries. One way or another, sometimes a break is all we need.
We’ve still yet to build some semblance of a school idol club, but just as episode 3 of the original anime featured the first actual performance, so I am looking forward to what episode 3 of Sunshine brings. Hopefully, we get another great song (the actual anime ED debuted this episode, and it is far and away my favorite of the Love Live anime endings). Also, with how much I am liking all the girls, trying to determine a best girl or a ranking of the girls is going to be painful, so for now I am just enjoying the whole cast. There is a lot to look forward to as the rest of the girls get more time and characterization, and I am definitely anticipating the formation of the full Aqours group!