Love Live! Sunshine!! Ep. 13 (Season Finale): Is Your Heart Shining?

So here we are at the last episode of Love Live! Sunshine!!, and what a ride it has been. This final episode is little more than a quick wrap-up to this season, one that puts the story at a good stopping point while leaving plenty of room for a continuation. The plot is pretty thin here, with the girls still struggling to get even one applicant for the school’s open house and a small thread about some of the other girls at the school wanting to help them out for the upcoming Love Live preliminaries. Oh, and Chika’s mom finally makes an appearance.

One day I will stop being amused by anime moms that look younger than their children. Today is not that day.

Other than that, the girls give us a theatric recap of everything that has happened before going into their preliminaries performance, which admittedly lost my attention. I get that they wanted to tell their story to everyone watching, but as the viewer, we’ve seen all this already and it makes the whole segment come off like a mini recap episode. But that’s okay, because this whole episode was really just an excuse to give us all one last insert song before closing out this season.

Ticket to the Future

This episode might not have too much content, but it does reinforce some themes used previously in the show. The moment where all the other girls of the school show up to support Aqours at the preliminaries is nice. Even though their initial plan to have them all sing with them became impossible due to rules, having all of them there was still great. Not only that, but it provides its own effect where Aqours inspires these girls, who then support them, and in this way they make Aqours more than they would be if they were just the nine girls.

As I mentioned in my coverage of episode six, this is a great portrayal of community. As Aqours tries to find its identity apart from µ’s, I think this community aspect is critical. µ’s came from the big city of Tokyo, and while they had their supporters, it rarely felt like their work was truly that of a larger community. In contrast, with Aqours coming from a much smaller and more close-knit village, their group does feel as if their surrounding community is a member of their unit as well. Again, this is all stuff I have talked about earlier in the series, but it is nice to get one last reminder on this theme.

The final insert song, Mirai Ticket, is the perfect closer to this season. Not only is it a great, energetic song, but the performance itself has some nice highlights, particularly as the group inspires the other girls from their school and their family members to come down and cheer them on from up close. It really does go to show how much the town and their school means to Aqours, and it pays off as we finally see the zero for their number of open house applicants turn into a one.

Even the dog is getting into the performance.

Looking Back

Again, the final episode had very little to it, so I think I should take this time to go over my final thoughts on this season of Love Live! Sunshine!! as a whole. As a fan of the original series and of the franchise as a whole, I knew going in that I was going to like Sunshine regardless of what it was going to turn out as. However, what Sunshine turned out to be pleased me far more than I had expected. It was one thing to expect some similarities with the original anime and another thing to see how many direct parallels the two series had with each other, but for Sunshine to take all that, turn it on its head, and use it to push Aqours towards their own story was special. In a way, it played directly to its audience’s expectations, and in doing so, made the impact all the stronger when those expectations were finally broken. Add in some nice storylines that look at the challenges faced specifically by idols, instead of being largely interpersonal drama, and story-wise Sunshine is both better than the original and a standout show among anime shows in general.

Of course, any idol franchise lives or dies by its idols, and here Sunshine definitely shined as well. The Love Live franchise has overall been good at this; there was no girl from µ’s that I did not love, and the same is definitely true of Aqours. Even the girls I did not think I would like as much, namely Dia and Mari, turned out to be stupidly lovable. That said, the girls could definitely use more development; we get some basic frameworks for their personalities and backstories but at the moment they are still just frameworks. Granted, even in two seasons the original µ’s girls never got much development either, and to an extent that is fine for an idol franchise, where the audience has strong basic personalities to latch onto. (This is a subject I could–and probably will–go into more detail later.) Still, a little extra time to let the girls’ personalities shine through and maybe even gain some extra depth can definitely help, so here’s hoping that a second season can provide that.

And then, there is the music. My goodness, the music in Sunshine has been absolutely amazing. Every song in the anime, from the OP and ED to all the insert songs, has been stellar. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but in a series so rooted in music, it is really nice to hear how these songs have such strong vocal lines and instrumentation.

Does the show have flaws? Of course it does. The interpersonal drama is still very much hit-and-miss, and as I mentioned, many of the characters could use more development. I also have multiple nitpicks like I do with pretty much any show. However, for me, the strengths of this show more than make up for its weaknesses, and I definitely would love to see more of this show.

Next Stage?

No second season has been announced yet, but will one happen? Probably. There was about a year between the two seasons of the original, so we will probably have to wait until next summer for the continued story of Aqours. Sales definitely do not seem to be an issue, as Love Live continues to be a dominating franchise in Japan that also has a solid international fanbase. And, of course, we still have plenty more story to cover.

In the meantime, if you have been following my posts on this show up until now, thank you. As difficult as it was to get posts on this show weekly, I am definitely glad to have blogged this show, as it has helped me better grasp its themes of personal worth, friendship, and the challenges that come with trying to realize your dreams. Hopefully these posts have helped you as well.

Please keep in mind that I do not plan to make episodic posts a regular thing, and I probably will not do it again until season two of Sunshine. That said, in addition to continuing on with The Secret Stars of Anime, I do have some additional things I am planning to write about, so look forward to that. In the meantime, stay tuned for the end-of-season reviews where I will give one final review of the first season of Love Live! Sunshine!!, and until next time, Ganba-ruby!

“Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru kai?” The last line said in the anime… and the first song ever made with Aqours.

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