Previously on Love Live: School Idol Project season one, the fictional idol group known as “μ’s” (“muse”) banded together to stop their high school, Otonokizaka Academy, from closing its doors for good, but not without some internal drama along the way. As mentioned in the season one review, Love Live: School Idol Project was an overall delight with fun characters, amusing stories, and embarrassingly catchy music. With that said, the series experienced a dip in quality when the last few episodes ramped up the drama in an uncharacteristic way. For season two, animation studio Sunrise addressed that complaint and delivered a much more consistent season fitting for the whimsical series. That’s not to say everything went off without a hitch, but it got damn near close.
A lot has changed since we last left the nine-girl-idol group μ’s and its spastic leader Honoka Kousaka. With the help of her childhood friends and second-year students, Umi Sonoda and Kotori Minami, Honoka has assumed the role of student council president from fellow μ’s member and third-year student Eli Ayase. Despite missing out on the Love Live school idol competition last year, μ’s has continued to perform simply for the love of the game. When word of another Love Live gets out, the girls realize this will be their last chance to compete for stardom and perform together as a group, due to the third-year students – Eli, Nozomi Tojo, and Nico Yazawa – nearing graduation. Win or lose, μ’s must determine its future before the clock runs out.
Episode one sells the entire series with its flashy opening of Honoka accepting her role as student council president in the most Honoka way possible (big entrance, little substance) and the elaborate musical number that follows. We’re also given a brief, but solid, introduction to the rest of the characters. Nico Yazawa boss-ish and selfish attitude towards mentoring the first years – Rin Hoshizora, Maki Nishikino, and Hanayo Koizumi – while switching to her innocent “Nico Nico Nii!” persona tells you this girl is a handful. Maki’s quick and condescending remarks towards Nico’s childish gestures reveals her cold attitude. And Hanayo’s quiet demeanor is shattered when her idol obsession gets the best of her, upon hearing news of another Love Live. If you missed out on season one, season two of School Idol Project fills in the blanks rather quickly.
A great benefit to season two is that it doesn’t have to waste time with introductions and formations; providing more time to explore these lovable characters. Rin’s insecurities about her feminine side – originally teased in season one – is fully explored in episode five of season two, which has her stressing over being the future leader of μ’s and having to wear an elegant wedding dress for a fashion show. Before that, Nico’s bizarre passion for becoming the #1 super idol in the world is shown more sympathetically, when looking back at her past failed attempts. And Nozomi – who served as a guardian angel for the musical group during its humble beginnings – reveals her vulnerability when forced to confront her isolated past.
When not dealing with drama, School Idol Project 2nd season expands on the hilarious antics found in the original. The training camp episode, for example, has a visually silly bit where Nico and Rin are uncontrollably running down a mountain slope because of a pesky rodent, only to crash land Wile E. Coyote style into a large body of water. Later on in the series, the members of μ’s try to change their image, resulting in a comical tribute to KISS and a fun switcheroo of personalities. The English dub produced by NIS America and Bang Zoom Entertainment continues to be a treat with its strong vocal performance and entertaining translations (Honoka: Elis is a real boobshell. Kotori: I think you mean bombshell). There are moments where the cast sound too similar to each other, but it’s never a dominant issue.
Almost everything about season two of School Idol Project is an improvement. “Almost” being key, because there are some episodes that miss the mark, such as the uncomfortable weight loss episode (We’re supposed to believe Honoka has gained too much weight when she still looks unbelievably slim? Come on.) and the over-dramatic “Snow Halation” episode which really overplays its winter danger just to stretch its running time.
For those turned off by the use of CGI during the musical numbers in season one, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s not as obvious during season two. The CGI models are hidden better and blend more fluidly with the 2D animation, sans the final episode making the computer graphics center stage, against all good judgment.
Everything that was right with School Idol Project is elaborated in season two while prior problems are ironed out; exactly what a new season should do. It’s truly a shame this marks the end of the Love Live! TV series featuring μ’s, but it’s hard to complain when you’re having the time of your life.
Love Live! School Idol Project: 2nd Season is now available at retail.
Anime Review: Love Live! School Idol Project 2nd Season
Love Live! School Idol Project 2nd season corrects the previous season’s tone problem and delivers a consistently delightful run of 13 episodes. Characters who didn’t shine very well in season one are giving new depth here, while the humor remains strong from the first to last episode. Some stories fall flat, but overall this is a step up.