Love Live! School idol Project 01 – The Greatest idea ever!
January 11, 2013 8 Comments
What would you do if it had suddenly been announced that your school, or perhaps university was going to close down? Protest? Throw toilet paper at passers by? Rob a bank? Find the true path to inner peace and realise that it was all part of the grand scheme of life? Or start an idol group with the intention of making the school more popular and bringing in new applications? Probably out of all of those options the last may be furthest from anyone’s mind, but it appears to be at the forefront of Honoka’s mind as she learns the terrible news that her school is due to close down. In Love Live! School idol Project the school in question, Otonokizaka is situated at the crux of three well-known areas of Tokyo, Akihabara, Kanda and Jinbo. All three are cities in their own right with distinctive cultures, attitudes and atmospheres that allow them to market themselves to other cities and communities and create specific images that are meant to encapsulate what they are all about. Being stuck in the middle of this melting pot of culture, style, fashion and ideas will never be easy, and it will always be difficult to distinguish yourself from everyone around you.
This is precisely the predicament that Otonokizaka School finds itself in; surrounded by much more popular areas with a rich and varied cultural tradition and long history it is small wonder that the number of girls enrolling has dropped. Having your school closed down can have a significant impact upon the students, especially for those who are either just starting at the school, or are half way through. It becomes a lonely existence, one with long few classes and clubs have long since vanished even though they may officially exist on paper. It will become an ever-lonelier existence as each year eventually graduates, leaving behind the final round of first years, a single class that is alienated from society in many respects due to its comparative isolation. Naturally the students aren’t the only ones to suffer, with those who graduated from Otonokizaka School, and those who have worked there and put their all into creating a good environment for education sharing the pain of departure. Honoka’s mother is a graduate of Otonokizaka School, and for a brief moment we see her reliving her memories of the school and everyone she knew there. At the same time there was also a hint of sadness in her expression, perhaps as she realised that no one else would be able to share in similar experiences.
Through this sadness we see Honoka run around without a care in the world and interject moments of comedy and light-heartedness where the story could have easily been borderline depressing. Her ability to recover from such a shock, only to walk around in her own delusional universe pretending that nothing is wrong helped to turn a serious story into one that is funny, entertaining and also light-hearted despite the sad subject matter. Her antics, along with the first thing she thinks about as soon as finding out that Otonokizaka School will be closed down is her complete lack of studying and bad grades takes the edge off of the more serious subject matter, without ever covering it up. Honoka’s almost boundless optimism and ability to ignore the little, but important things, and in some cases the really large and important things in life makes her an endearing character that tempers the more serious and withdrawn students that we have been briefly introduced to. She seems to be one of those ‘stupid’ characters who isn’t really stupid – she is obviously academically weak, with an apparent inability to study, but she also seems to understand, at least in part, the work that needs to be put into an idol group. In many respects it is her boundless enthusiasm for her own idea and the way every other character in the series orbits around her, even if they don’t yet know it that makes Honoka such a fascinating character to watch.
There are some other interesting character and encounters in this first episode as well. Honoka’s younger sister Yukiho for example is set on applying for UTX, a famous and very popular school in one of the neighbouring cities. To Honoka this is a betrayal of her family history and everything that she holds dear, with Yukiho effectively adding to the problems of Otonokizaka School by choosing another school. However, it makes sense since the state of Otonokizaka means that any new students arguably don’t have much of a school life or future with a flagging student population and very few, if any achievements to its name. UTX on the other hand is a famous school with many activities and a well known school idol group A-RISE, it is therefore the complete opposite of Otonokizaka with numerous achievements to its name to make it an obvious choice for many students. And this is the central problem for Otonokizaka, in a school market where achievements that are easily quantifiable and tangible mean everything, a long school history and a wonderful learning environment don’t necessarily mean very much. They are important, but it is the public image, one that can be sold to prospective students from across the country that matters, with UTX using the fame of A-RISE to its advantage.
A school with a varied student life, numerous clubs and the possibility to really improve your future prospects will almost invariably be the most desirable. Much of this may of course be an illusion, with the board of governors and others who finance and run the school cherry-picking the people that they think can be easily advertised and used to strengthen the schools position, but it is an enticing illusion. At the same time, the variety of courses and school environment, along with the numerous opportunities that UTX appears to offer make it the obvious choice for Yukiho, rather than a school like Otonokizaka that lacks choice, student life and variety. The problem is that this has clearly created a vicious circle; with the increasingly small student population limiting what the school can do, thus making it harder for anyone to really achieve anything, which invariably puts potential students off of applying for the school in the first place. That the governors haven’t done anything about it suggests that they have given in to the inevitability of Otonokizaka’s decline and eventual closure.
Everyone appears to have given in to the apparent inevitability of their situation, with Kotori’s mother (the school chairwoman) telling Student Council President Eri that there is no point into rushing into a badly made plan. But, perhaps that is precisely what they need, someone to come up with a random plan and jump into it; its not a case of worrying about success or failure, but it is about putting all of your effort into attempting something rather than giving up before you have even tried. By jumping in at the deep end Honoka is taking the sort of chance that no one else appears willing to, and attempting something that even her good friends Kotori and Umi suggest is a waste of time (at least at first). If nothing else it gives these girls something to work towards rather than simply sit there and get on with their school life knowing that Otonokizaka will close down. Obviously the plan seems harebrained at best and completely insane at the worst, especially considering Honoka isn’t necessarily the most thoughtful type and comes across as the sort of character who will try to run before she can walk.
The animation in this first episode was actually rather beautiful, although the CGI did seem a little weird – but I have yet to really see a good use of CGI characters in anime yet. There is something about CGI characters dancing that just seems unnatural and a little strange, something that is blindly obvious in AKB0048, but at the same time there this slight unease with the animation didn’t necessarily detract from my overall enjoyment of the series. Honoka is great to watch, especially as she runs around trying to enact a plan that is clearly a stroke of brilliance, thought up by someone who seems to meander through life. The music will be hit or miss for most people since it is J-Pop, and I must confess that I am not the biggest fan of J-Pop, but the songs really fit the series and added to the enjoyment of watching what is a serious or also silly anime about saving a school through pop idols. The clearest indication that this series was going to be entertaining came within the first few minutes when I realised that I was grinning ear-to-ear, and any series that can manage that for an entire episode is bound to be pretty good. And the sheer energy that the characters, particularly Honoka exhibit, along with the random pieces of singing and dancing just made this first episode a treat to watch. I am intrigued to see what madness Honoka comes up with next and how she manages to rope in every other main character into her stroke of genius, because its just mad enough to work.