There is a lot that happens in this episode of Love Live! Sunshine!!: we finally get a proper introduction to Mari, the group gets a name, and they hold their first performance. Regarding the group name, in the real world, before the anime was produced, real-life fans had the opportunity to submit potential group names and then vote on their favorites. This was how the names of both μ’s for the original group and Aqours for the Sunshine group were actually chosen. Of course, the original anime gave an in-series justification for the name “μ’s”, and likewise, Sunshine gives us a mysterious benefactor who draws the name in the sand.
Pronounced just like “aqua” (because the name defies phonetics as it is; also, silent s’s are cool), the name is both a reference to the seaside location of Sunshine and the general sense of togetherness the Love Live franchise likes to promote within its units. In-series, Chika, You, and Riko all seem to like it enough, and as such, Aqours was born.
But that is enough trivia about the group name. Time to talk about the episode and why it is amazing. Did I mention I really loved this episode? Because I really loved it.
Mari Flies In
This episode finally formally introduces us to Mari Ohara, the blond part-foreigner we saw a short glimpse of back in episode 1. From her first entrance, where her helicopter flies in and lands right in front of Chika, Riko, and You as they are practicing, you know she is going to be a fun character. For those who are familiar with the original series, comparisons to Nozomi are going to be inevitable; she too seems to be close with the student council president, very touchy-feely, very playful and mischievous… and also interested in pushing along Chika’s school idol group in her own way.
As it turns out, Mari is not only a third-year student at Uranohoshi, but also the school’s director, for reasons that basically boil down to “screw the rules, my family has money”. Given that power, she offers Chika a challenge: fill the entire school gymnasium for their first performance and she will approve their school idol club even without the necessary membership. Fail, however, and their group must disband. Chika takes on the challenge, perhaps a bit too eagerly as the group realizes that even the entire student body would not fill the place, meaning they will have to promote their performance to the general public…
The First Performance: Then and Now
Whether one should watch the first Love Live anime before Sunshine is debatable (I would definitely recommend watching it at some point, because it is rather good), but at this point, there are definitely clear parallels to the original series. After all, the original series also had the initial trio of third years performing their first live in episode 3, with a similar struggle of attracting an audience. That said, Sunshine provides some interesting contrasts to the original anime with how it handles its inaugural live.
In the original anime, the first performance is something of a tragic one, as the auditorium is empty and their only audience are the classmates that agreed to help with the technical production of their performance. While a couple other straggle in and some listen in in secret, the performance is ultimately a reminder of just how far they need to go.
For Aqours, though, right from the start an empty audience is not an option, as their goal is a full gymnasium. However, their performance certainly seems to get off to a bad start, as the audience initially comprises of only a handful of students, and while they start their performance anyway, things only get worse when a thunderstorm causes a power outage. This leads to a nearly heartbreaking scene where the girls try in vain to continue singing… but then the masses finally arrive at the gymnasium (either the storm slowed everyone down or the girls just got too eager and started early), and Ruby and Hanamaru (and maybe Dia) help set up some generators to bring power back. Seeing everyone in the town come together to support Aqours is really heartwarming and lets this whole performance end on a major emotional high.
This scene definitely has more of a cheerful tone to it, almost like something out of a Disney or Hallmark movie, which is fine. This is a different anime series from the original, after all, and I do like how the focus here is less on trying to forge a new path with school idols and more about following a path set by others before them. (Plus, if the performance had ended before then, that would be a bit too depressing…) The girls certainly know their success is primarily because of other school idols and the general goodwill of the town (and Dia is quick to remind them of that), but with their first performance, they have taken the first step toward making a name for themselves.
The First Step
The message of this episode is a classic one: if you want to get somewhere, you have to take the first step. Waiting around for things to happen accomplishes nothing. It is an old message, and yet, it never gets old, because as humans, we can be prone to thinking that we can find success if we just wait for the situation to be better, without realizing that sometimes, we can do something to make the situation better ourselves.
For Christians, I think it is especially important to realize that, as much as we hear about waiting on God’s timing, that “waiting” is not the same thing as “doing nothing”. Sometimes, there are things out of our control that we try to take control of anyway, and in those cases, we need to give up that control to God and “wait” on Him. However, in the meantime, there are plenty of things within our control, especially with regards to our personal development (a.k.a. self-control, which is one of the fruits of the Spirit), that we can work on.
That message works for all people regardless of faith. Aqours knew they couldn’t just force people to come to their performance, but they still did what they could in spreading the word and practicing for that performance. Know what you can control, and what you cannot; do not stress about the stuff you cannot control, and work on the stuff you can work on.
With the first performance over, it is time to recruit more girls into Aqours. After all, while Mari might allow the group to function even with just the three of them, school idols are always more fun as a larger group. Looks like next episode focuses on Hanamaru and Ruby, who have already proven themselves to be real champs with their help with the generators, so their inclusion in Aqours will definitely be very appreciated.
And on a side note, want to get into this show but prefer listening to anime English-dubbed? Maybe you got into Love Live from the English dub of the original series and are wondering when Sunshine will get dubbed… well, wonder no more, as Funimation have announced that they will be doing a broadcast dub of Love Live! Sunshine!! The first dubbed episode premieres on July 30th, so dub fans can look forward to even more awesomesauce starting then. (And if the very idea of Love Live being dubbed makes you wretch in horror… just pretend the dub does not exist.)