One of the complaints I hear a lot about Love Live! Sunshine!! is how it feels too much like a carbon copy of the original Love Live! anime, just in a different setting. The characters are similar, the episodes introduce characters and songs in the same places… Unfortunately, the latest episode does not help counter this argument, as once again, the school the Aqours girls go to is in danger of shutting down, and they must raise attendance numbers to save it. Considering that saving a school was the foundation of the plot of the original anime, I can understand why some would be put off by Sunshine’s adopting the same plotline. After all, the girls were initially motivated simply by the desire to shine on stage, which gave the series at least one notable distinction from the original, a distinction which it has now mostly lost. For now, though, there are enough small differences as well as the possibility of things branching off later on that I will give the show the benefit of the doubt.
At the very least, the show is quite aware that it is copying a plotline, and has given us a great moment where Chika’s reaction to the news is to be a bit too happy about being able to follow in µ’s footsteps to be a school’s savior.
The episode itself otherwise centers around the girls’ trying to film a PV (promotional video, oftentimes also doubles as a music video) that highlights the good qualities of their town and school, in order to help enrollment. At least this plot is somewhat different from the original anime’s PV-shooting that focused more on deciding who would be the center of the group. On the other hand, it does share its plot with, of all things, the most recent OVA episode of Locodol. (Yes, they released another one after the Christmas/birthday one.) The girls there had to film a PV to promote tourism for their town, too. Even the final message of the episode was more or less the same. At least it is a good message, and one I have considered covering at some point with Locodol, so while this post will focus on Love Live! Sunshine!!’s episode, I can use it to cover both shows’ episodes and kill two birds with one stone.
Ordinary School Idols Tried Becoming Local Idols
The problem presented to both the Aqours girls and the Nagarekawa Girls of Locodol is that their respective towns are not particularly interesting locations. The towns are fairly rural and lack notable tourist attractions, while having a number of inconveniences. A more popular idol group could probably draw people to their town with their very presence, but neither Aqours nor the Nagarekawa Girls have that kind of popularity yet. As a result, their initial attempts at PVs turn out to be too ordinary to be effective.
Thankfully, they do find something good to show off about their towns once they start getting the rest of the community involved. In the case of Sunshine, this happens at the town’s yearly beach cleanup before the start of beach season. Riko, for whom this is her first time participating, notices the camaraderie shown by all of the townspeople and realizes that this is what needs to be the foundation of their PV. The result is a nice video that shows off the various people in their community alongside a beautiful insert song, Yume de Yozora wo Terashitai.
The interesting thing about this development is that it does take some of the focus of the PV away from the girls themselves to draw more attention to the greater community. This does somewhat go against the usual concept of an “idol,” or one that draws attention (or, by one definition, worship) to herself. For the Nagarekawa Girls, who also bring in the rest of the townspeople to help film their PV, it fits the theme of their show; Locodol has always been about how the girls are not like traditional idols, but rather more like civil servants who perform for the town’s sake. For Aqours, though, this does end up being a significant, and in a way, refreshing break from the usual idol activities.
The message in these episodes of these two shows is clear: community can be powerful. There are so many towns, cities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and other places that might not have a lot to them in terms of other qualities, but their communities are so strong and tight-knit that they become attractive to others. By the same token, many such places seem attractive in terms of what material benefits they offer, but their communities are so lifeless or even toxic that no one wants to stay with them.
This applies even more strongly to churches: you can have very sound doctrine, amazing music, or a very popular or charismatic pastor, but without a strong community, the church will wither away. However, many churches without high-end facilities or well-known pastors flourish and do great things for God’s Kingdom because their community is extremely strong, welcoming newcomers and working together to serve the people around them. Unfortunately, sometimes a church gets too well-known for who preaches there (sometimes not intentionally), turning those preachers into “idols” of sorts; good churches, though, will know how to put the focus back on the community.
In addition to all these PV antics, the latest episode of Sunshine also gave us more hints as to what is going on with the third years. It seems that Dia, Kanan, and Mari tried becoming school idols in the past, which means something probably happened during that time that, among other things, made Dia hate school idols. Hopefully these mysteries will soon be solved and the final three of Aqours will join, but until then, the girls look to be taking a trip to Tokyo, which is almost guaranteed to be a wacky time for these country bumpkins (and Riko). See you next week!