Love Live! S2 – Review

Yep, I finally got around to reviewing Love Live S2’s physical release. The show pretty much stuck to its same strengths and weaknesses in the second season, leaning even more heavily into its strong dorky comedy early on, falling once more into unearned and overplayed drama in the last act. It’s not a truly great show, but it’s an extremely enjoyable one, and that’s a fine thing to be. Love Live is basically the default idol show – fun and polished, perhaps just a bit impersonal, but still a very endearing time overall. I hope Sunshine can live up to the original’s legacy.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

Love Live!

Episode 1

Opens with a dorky-as-hell musical number, of course

Really great character animation and expressions, as ever. Love Live is much less strong in the abstract than it is moment-to-moment – it’s these constant bits of energy and character that bring it to life. Its characters aren’t complex, but they feel lively because they’re animated with so much energy and humor

A wipe cut using Nico’s butt. This show is genius

And once again, the music is full of humor by itself. Silly horns and twinkling keys for Nico’s comedy routine

And the characters play off each other very comfortably

Their running yanking the “don’t run in the hallways” sign off the wall. Love Live sometimes oversells, but is also often good at staying understated with its jokes

A great jazz-guitar track for the first-year gang and Nico running around looking for Honkers. And again, the show has a wonderful sense of pacing and energy across these scenes, with small punchlines scattered throughout

A second Love Live!

The show leans into the silliness and melodrama, laying on dramatic strings at even the slightest hurdle. It knows everyone’s here to have fun

Oh no, they’ll have to face A-Rise in the regionals!

Honkers is hesitant, so the episode kinda dithers on that

Nice split shots for them on the phone

This whole plot is about Honoka fearing her own idol thirst. Amazing


The episode actually begins and ends with a musical bit. This show

And a horse winnies. Holy shit

Episode 2

Only new songs!

I love Hanayo being the drill sergeant of new Love Live announcements. Really making the most of her few character attributes

This incredibly overdramatic posing by Eli. This season is going WAAAAY harder on the intentional camp

Time for a trip to think up a new song!

Expressions are excellent. Direction is high-energy

Maki believes in santa what is going on

This Nico and Rin gag is almost an extended Looney Tunes-style piece, complete with big-band musical accompaniment and lots of small inter-gag jokes. Plus great faces, etc. This show is really confident in its silliness

This ridiculous camping three groups thing allows the show to play with new pairings in very silly ways. Kotori and Hanayo, Eli and Maki, Nozomi, Rin, and Umi. More genre gags, more new jokes

This potato marriage sequence is amazing

“If someone is tired, someone else will pull them along.” Honoka articulating the large group friendship that gives this show a great deal of its charm

Maki’s piano part as a diegetic transition tops the episode off nicely, pulling it all together

Episode 3

A-RISE get the ominous corporate villain framing. This show is going over-the-top in a way that’d you’d think wouldn’t work, but its shamelessness is actually just fantastic. Endearing, self-aware, energetic

Hanayo just freakin’ losing it over seeing the A-RISE lead

Nico sending A-RISE flowers all this time is wonderful. As is this whole over-the-top scene

Wow damn, A-RISE’s performance is phenomenal. Great animation, great choreography. The song is kinda crap, but all of them are

Muses’s performance still kinda hamstrung by CG. And the direction is less dynamic and effective here than in the everyday scenes

Episode 4

“…and that’s the dream I had!” this fucking troll-ass show

The music continues to be perfectly reflective of the comic mood shifts

Umi’s also becoming a bit more gag-oriented, since this season is just like that

Nico’s got some issue, now

In this season, instead of brooding on a character’s problems, the other characters stalk them by hiding behind lamp posts and then chasing them when they run away

And Nico tries to hide in her natural foliage, an idol scene

My god this Nozomi boob joke

They run into Nico’s sister Cocoro, who is adorable

“Is Nico the target of an assassin?”

“Super idol Nico Yazawa’s backup dancers, Muse” oh my god Nico

Nico-Nico-Ni on Nico’s voicemail matching her sister is fantastic

Oh my god, Nico has created an entire alternate life to tell her siblings about. Holy shit Nicooo

“It’s always been that way. I can say what I want at home. Please leave.”

This drama works, because Nico actually has a character, motivations, circumstances

It’s also not dragged out

Even the thought of her making a custom toy for her brother is pretty endearing

“I shine the brightest when we’re together as nine. Far more than I did alone.” ding ding, that’s the theme

Episode 5

And Rin gets her focus episode. Solid stuff – once again a strong internal structure, with self-contained drama that leans on existing character truth while filling itself out with fun character-specific gags and little visual or narrative ideas

Lots of good conversations between unexpected side characters – Hanayo and Hanako having a meaningful conversation, for example

Episode 6

The jokes can occasionally get too broad or “wha whaaa”-ish

Almost every scene is centered around its own unique running gag – this time, the overall theme is “impact,” but you get small jokes like the characters using figures to talk, the announcer lady with too much impact, and Rin echoing what everyone else is saying, along with consistent running gags like Nico getting cut short

Lots of visual ideas and gimmicks, strong character animation. Great Nico cut here

Wow, this personality-changing scene is fantastic. Both in the character and voice acting, this is an impressive and really funny sequence

This episode’s “impact” theme is basically just an excuse to do fun gag routines with the characters, which is a great idea

Aaand then they dress up like KISS

“Sometimes we lose our way, but I don’t think it’s pointless. If we all come together and do our jobs, don’t you think there’s a wonderful future waiting for us?”

So yeah, comes back to friendship in the end

The songs and choreography remain pretty generic, and even though the CG has improved, it’s still a step down from the show’s usual visual style. It’d be nice if the songs were actually a highlight that reflected the rest of the show, and not just this sort of extra thing

Episode 7

Welp, we got a diet episode. Honkers and Kayochin need to lose weight

This sequence of Honkers being a bad influence on their run is really great. Once again, the show finds a new style of gag, this time with them just making sign language at each other about eating food

Honkers proving she’s responsibly by dealing with her own student council responsibilities

Honoka really taking charge in the budget meeting

“Because we were working so hard, I forgot to eat.” uhhhhh and they all learned a valuable lesson

Episode 8

Creating a love song for the final prelims

And the new gag is the characters trying out love confessions on camera. Maki does a pitch-perfect tsundere confession, Nico hams it up

Eli’s really insistent on them creating a love song, and trusting in Nozomi’s instincts. Maki doesn’t trust the whole situation

They watch a tragic romance movie to inspire themselves. Hanayo, Eli, and Kotori get really into it, Honkers and Rin fall asleep, Maki is uninterested while Nico only pretends to be uninterested, and Nozomi comments on Nico crying. These characters really have come together

This episode’s about Nozomi’s desires, and she’s naturally downplaying them, because she’s always accepted what’s best for the group. It’s a very specific and well-chosen dynamic

Wow, this Nozomi flashback tying her story into all the characters is fantastic. Easily the best dramatic sequence of the show

Should I actually talk about how much this season has doubled down on the shipping relationships? Because holy crap, it’s pretty inescapable now

Episode 9

“Don’t forget our season” as the last line of the OP. The slight hint of melancholy does help the show

Eli and Nozomi being as cute and gay as ever

Some light drama as Honoka is detained at school for an orientation speech before the final preliminary round. Once again, not getting too heavy or arbitrary

This melodramatic blizzard scene is a pretty great stand-in for how this entire season has a kind of tongue-in-cheek, deliberately overblown feeling to its drama that keeps the show from ever feeling too heavy, and clues the audience in to how this is really intended to be a fun time

Honkers crying in Eli’s arms is great. Finally able to be overwhelmed

Wow, jesus christ. Snow Halation is a triumph. Easily their best song, easily the best direction/choreography. Just straight-up staggering – the best moment of the show so far

If all the songs were this good, this would be one of my favorite shows

Episode 10

New year episode. Basically a cooldown after the last one, with a very mellow final “confrontation” with A-RISE

This is a very slow episode. Just kinda treading water, with a little melancholy about the third years

Some very beautiful blooming backgrounds. Nice colors

“Why did we lose? What is the driving force guiding u’s?” Their friendship, duh

Trying to think up a slogan, which ties into what their driving force is

I like this conversation with Tsubasa. Nice seeing someone reflecting on losing, doubting themselves

They’re pushed forward by everyone. So what, “All Together”?

“A Story Achieved Together”. Close!

This was definitely a lesser episode. Leaned into the kind of drama/self-importance the show can’t support, and felt slow overall, with few jokes or highlights

Episode 11

Alisa and Yukiho were accepted. So the question arises, “what will happen to u’s when the third years graduate?”

Nozomi trying to clear the atmosphere with a joke, Eli with practice

The question is whether they should keep calling it u’s

Nico thinks they should

Eli thinks they shouldn’t talk about it, Hanayo says that isn’t fair to the new students

This is a solid argument! Is u’s the nine of them, or should they keep the name

The team has a day out together, doing what everyone wants to do.

More melancholy lighting as they visit a beach together

“When the Love Live ends, so will u’s”

Nozomi tearing up. The group was basically her family

Nico doesn’t want it to end

“We’ll still be idols! But I want u’s to be only us!”

This drama actually works – they lean on Nico and Nozomi, and both of them have been given meaningful reasons to care deeply about this group

Episode 12

“Is this the last time we’ll practice together?”

This season’s getting a little too mired in its own “legacy.” The drama works better when it’s focused on a single character and kept from getting stretched out – here, even though the issue is real, the show leans on it far too much. It feel like a four episode epilogue

A whole lot of the characters making fond or melancholy expressions at each other

I guess these episodes are supposed to be riding on built-in affection for the characters, but the characters aren’t terribly strong when they’re not being used for fast-paced gags and storytelling

Making final memories, more nostalgia

Talking about connecting with everyone as school idols

So this is good. Talking not about what they’ll lose, but what they accomplished. Making memories and reaching out to people

The use of light and shadow for their performance is strong. This one can’t match Snow Halation, but eh

Hearing the call for an encore. Classic moment

Seeing for sure that they’ve reached people

These shots of Honker’s dad are great. Having fun with the fact that this world doesn’t contain boys

And then it jump right to the S1 OP. Daaamn

Episode 13

Love Live just stumbles so hard when it reaches for the heavy drama. Damn, show, know your limits

Looks like this episode will be yet one more victory lap. The show’s been reveling in its own reputation for four episodes now

Yeah, they’re just visiting places the characters went during the show. Love Live shouldn’t celebrate its legacy by wallowing in nostalgia, it should be a celebration. It should have fun

I like the fact that the show always downplays their victories and only shows them off after the fact, emphasizing how this show is much more about the time they share together than specific prizes

Meeting Eli in the student council room. More shimmering light coming through the windows. Nostalgiaaa~

This saccharine piano

Honoka includes a song in her graduation speech – the one Maki was singing when Honoka first found her

Maki’s just a strict tsundere this season

Visiting the whole school again

And just talking about how “everything happened here.” This is the most redundant episode ever

We’ve gone past Return of the King-tier self indulgence

2 thoughts on “Love Live! S2 – Review

    • Not to belabor the Nozomi boob joke, but it is surprising in that it feels fresh and fun, despite anime giving us hundreds if not thousands of unfunny boob jokes every year (hapless harem master tripping and falling into some girl’s chest, etc.).

      Two things work here: first the snappy pacing and direction that is a hallmark of Love Live’s success. Second, the joke itself is clever: Nico, running away from Nozomi, skirts between two parked vans. Nozomi tries to scoot between them as well, but finds her large chest makes it uncomfortable if not impossible. A lazy joke would end it there, with Nozomi wedged by her big boobs. But the brilliance of the gag comes when three of the other girls run up, and we switch to Nozomi’s POV and realize she’s figuring out who has the smallest chest and can thus continue the chase. It’s so fast we’ve only barely thought “is THAT where this scene is going?!” when we then see Rin making her way between the vans, crying out “why does it have to be me?”

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