I do not have a lot to specifically talk about this week, because this week’s episode is largely setup. With the success of Aqours’s latest PV, the School Idol Association invites the group to Tokyo to perform at a special event. It is an opportunity the group naturally jumps at, being both a chance to further their group’s popularity and also a chance for these country folks to visit the big city for once. Sure enough, a lot of the show features the antics of the girls as they try to dress appropriately for the city and explore what it has to offer.
However, the focus is on the event, which doubles as a competition among various school idol groups. Aqours gets to meet a rival school idol group, while Dia, back at home, worries over what might await them in Tokyo. The episode has plenty of setup and foreshadowing, which makes it hard to talk about anything in particular as a lot of what I would talk about depends on how things play out in the next episode. Nevertheless, I will take a look at some of the themes that might be coming up again soon.
In the original Love Live anime, the school idol group A-RISE was a major driving force for the anime. The girls of µ’s were originally inspired by A-RISE to become school idols, and then in the second season, they became proper rivals when the group members met up with µ’s themselves to recognize their progress. One thing I greatly appreciated about A-RISE is that, despite declaring a rivalry with µ’s, they did so out of respect, without any hint of animosity or plans for sabotage. They made it clear what talents they recognized in each of the other girls, and when it came down to the inevitable competition between the two groups, they relied on their own skills and confidence, not on trying to break the other teams. It is a kind of rivalry that is rather refreshing in a medium where rivals frequently are arrogant jerks, even to the point of playing dirty.
As for Aqours’s new rivals, Saint Snow… well, they sure are arrogant. They do compliment Aqours on their recent PV, and do not outright belittle them, but they nevertheless make a show of their own abilities to assert their confidence in their skills, and perhaps to intimidate the Aqours girls a bit. They are certainly not the friendly rivals A-RISE were, to be sure, and that does mean my initial impressions of them are not as great as they were of A-RISE. However, they do avoid any blatant disrespect of Aqours, which means it will probably be easier for them to become friendly rivals later on. Or they could turn around and become jerks after the competition. We shall see next week, I suppose.
One thing that Chika mentions that stuck out is how much scarier the upcoming competition is for her, because of how many more expectations are on the group now. Before, they could do their school idol activities with less pressure as they were a relatively low-ranked group, but now, with all of the town supporting them and their rankings in the double digits, the expectations on the group weigh on her more.
Riko is all too familiar with the weight of those expectations. Having come from a school like Otonokizaka that heavily prides itself on its musical accomplishments (school idols µ’s being only one of those), and already being an accomplished piano player in middle school, Riko had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, during one recital, she broke down, leading to her musical slump.
Expectations are not always a bad thing, and some people thrive under the pressure of those expectations. However, when one fails to live up to those expectations, the feeling is never a pleasant one. Again, I find it hard to talk about this subject here as what angle I approach it at does depend on how exactly the next episode goes, but for now, it is worth thinking about what role expectations play in our lives, whether they be others’ expectations for us or our expectations for others.
Facing the Fear of Failure
Perhaps the most ominous bit of foreshadowing from this episode comes from Dia, while the others are at Tokyo. She ultimately decides to let her sister Ruby go to Tokyo, but she cannot help but feel that bad things are waiting for them, which she mentions to Mari. A lot of her worries are likely based on the third years’ own past school idol experiences, which still largely remain a mystery. One thing is for sure, though: Dia is worried that if Aqours were to fail at Tokyo, it would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Mari’s response is simple: yes, failure will probably haunt them, but that is something the Aqours girls need to face if they truly want to become school idols that can save their school. It is a simple little message on how we cannot move forward if we are constantly afraid of failure. Unfortunately, it also does not bode well for what will happen to the girls next episode…
If all the foreshadowing in this episode is not enough of a hint, the title of the next episode from the preview makes it obvious things are not going to go well for Aqours. Just how badly things will turn out, and how they respond to it, remains to be seen. In a show as generally upbeat as Love Live, it might be a bit jarring, but it will almost certainly be exactly what they need to grow. So as painful as the next episode might be, I will be looking forward to seeing what results from it.
In the meantime, this episode gives us some things to think about regarding what makes good rivals, how expectations affect us, and how we must face the fear of failure. The next episode will likely give me the material to go more in-depth on at least one of these subjects, which is something I am also looking forward to. The only remaining question is, when we will finally add the third years into the group properly, and when will we finally get to learn more about them? Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.