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This Week in Anime – Is Love Live! Superstar!! the Best Love Live Yet?

As the first series to get a third season, continues to keep things fresh my reinventing the previous series’ formula while making more room for its characters to grow.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @BeeDubsProwl @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Steve, the spooky month of October is already well under way, with airing anime serving up some appropriately creepy creatures. We’ve got all the devils of the just-premiered , the returning ghostly spirits of a resurrected , and even some witches (From Mercury). And the just-wrapped second season of has presented us that most frightening being of all:

Truly nothing more demonic than an influencer who happens to have the kanji for demon in her name. But in the cutthroat world of school idols, one needs all the sharp edges they can muster. That’s why Superstar had to come back with a second season. To pound into us the lesson that idoling is no joke.

Except when it is.
The freshman outing for Superstar was something of a trend-bucker, cutting its number of initial idols down to just five for the season, rather than the usual nine. This meant it had way more space to develop those characters, but with the inevitable second season, they knew they had to bring it back up. For the true value of is to have as many girls as they can work with executing just the gooberest, gremlinest antics an idol anime can get away with.

And what an absolute delight it has been! , at this point, is an institution, so you’re going into it knowing what you’re going to get out of it. That’s part of the appeal. But as a mild experiment in mixing, stretching, and refining the usual formula, Superstar has emerged as probably my favorite iteration of the now-classic quest for school idol supremacy. I think paring the cast in the first season was super smart, and the extra space it allowed the first years this season was very much appreciated.
It’s a really cool setup, because it allows Superstar’s particular group of School Idols, Liella, to have something that previous crews didn’t: A real Senpai/Kouhai dynamic between the established members and their newbie first years. Thus, this second season gets to focus on stuff like mentorship, or skill gaps from the new girls being less practiced.

Also, it lets us get to see stuff like Sumire getting the fans and admiration she always wished for, which is really heartening knowing that’s where so much of her first-season inferiority complex stemmed from.

As for where the rest of her inferiority complex comes from, well, they’re working on it.

I like, too, that the Liella’s first real conflict this season is them suffering from success. They did so well at the school idol thing last year that all the new students are too intimidated to keep up with them. They have to resort to conning naive out-of-towners into joining their cult—I mean club.
I love how the first season was built on slowly uncovering just what weird little goblins all the Liella girls actually were (remember how we thought Chisato might be mostly regular, until her devotion to the Church of Circles came out?), so their first new recruit in S2 must be Kinako, The Normalest Girl.

Though I should stress that Kanon herself also stays relatively devoted to sensibility amongst all this idol idiocy, to the point that we find out later that one of her main reactions to Kinako was a relieved “Oh thank god, someone else who’s actually normal!”
Moderation and balance is key to school idols, as in all things. Sure, “being from Hokkaido” and “occasionally dressing like Pippi Longstocking” aren’t too exciting when it comes to personality traits, but you have to keep in mind that Kinako is evening out the other end of the scale, and there be monsters (and I’m obviously talking about Natsumi).

Though it’s also worth noting we meet a mad scientist with heelies, so Kinako really has her work cut out for her being the normal one.
Plus Kinako’s normalcy ties into that early point of the plot, with the Liella Second-Years having a full season of School Idol effort under their belt manifesting in that aforementioned skill gap. When even Keke is leaving you in the dust in practice, you know you’ve got some catching up to do.
Again, it’s a classic tradeoff. Yes, you need to do regular cardio, but you get a cute workout outfit in exchange. Balance.
As with Sumire’s newly-appreciated fame, it gives us an opportunity to see and appreciate how far a character like Keke has come compared to her previous personal foibles. And pass that knowledge onto a new generation like Kinako. It’s the real aspirational appeal of : Anyone can put on that cute workout outfit if they want, and build their way up to that level.

Like sure, previous Love Lives can have a bit where one character gives another character a training regimen. But this one lands way more effectively because we’ve seen the difference it’s made between seasons for Keke.
Yeah, and I’m very interested to see how they intend on following these lines through into the third season, when we’ll (presumably) have three tiers of idol experience to explore.

We can also think about it this way: Natsumi is going to be somebody’s senpai, and that’s terrifying.

Hey, she should have no problem running some sort of mentorship. After all, her influencer course is guaranteed to take you to the top of Million-Subscriber Mountain, or your money back!

*Void where prohibited. Price and participation may vary. Money back may not be guaranteed if proprietor of influencer course takes funds and runs away to Mexico.
An Idol You Can Trust™

And I guess it’s no secret that Natsumi is by far the most fun of the new bunch, purely by virtue of how much she absolutely sucks.
For years, Sunrise‘s engineers have toiled away in the labs, trying to answer the question: Can you make a ‘Nico’ who is actually even more trash than the original Nico Yazawa?

It may have cost them a fortune in research funds, but they at long last have their answer.
I don’t even know if I’d call Natsumi Liella’s Nico. She’s like a whole new beast, reared exclusively on the toxic teat of the content farm. It’d be grim if it weren’t for the consistently hilarious glances under the hood of her floundering online empire. Stuff like watching her fine-tune the perfect clickbait thumbnail. It’s a work of art.
understands that in order to make a character like Natsumi amusing as opposed to irritating, you have to keep her in check in some fashion. In the case of our ornery Oni here, she’s either wound in by the efforts of other members of the team (particularly Sumire, who probably sees more than a little of her old self in the ambitious attention-hog)…

…or by her own propensity for failure. To the point that they even work that into her ‘tragic’ backstory!

I was so worried that the “you will be ashamed of your words and deeds” part of her arc would contextualize her money-grubbing as way to support her destitute family or something. Bo-oring. But nope, just like every other YouTuber who talks about the stock market, she just failed out of literally everything else and fell back on the ancient art of the grift. And I love that for her. She’s perfect. She belongs in jail. She’s the school idol we deserve.
Meanwhile, my worry was that she might get her edges sanded off as soon as she was properly drafted into Liella’s ranks (Yes I am still annoyed about how defanged Lanzhu ended up being in Nijigasaki High School Idol Club’s second season). So it’s delightful that even though Natsumi is talked around on the magic of School Idols by Kanon and some gay flowers, nothing about her approach or attitude really changes.

Meaning it’s still down to the others to reel her back any time she tries to start up Liella’s OnlyFans, OniFans.

It’s the art of war. Kanon can’t stop her, but she does get Natsumi to redirect her nefarious powers away from manufacturing drama and towards the group’s benefit.

…it’s a work in progress. Despite being endemically online, Natsumi didn’t get the memo about the pink sauce yet.
Like Superstar itself, Liella’s success is all about experimenting with the formula. Luckily, their other new recruits come straight from the Science Club.

The skeleton, sadly, is not one of those new recruits.
Not yet. With an unprecedented third season coming, anything’s possible. For now, though, both Shiki and Mei are very good additions on their own. Shiki for her coolheaded nature and curious collection of concoctions, and Mei for her tendency to make this face.
Mei’s face game, even compared to the storied efforts that drive , is on such another level that they had to concoct lore to explain it.
Look at her. Moisturized. In her lane. Thriving. Wota-ing.
You certainly can’t argue with the results, speaking to Shiki’s propensity for taking plenty of extremely-platonically-affectionate pictures of her lab partner.

Epic moments in gals being pals.

Amazing that they renewed this for a third season after such a shameless, uncensored display.
Oh my god, on that note, the Ren episode is front-to-back fantastic. Don’t think for a second that the newbies get all the fun this season, because Superstar takes the obligatory class president archetype and pits her against the most corrosive force known to mankind: gaming.

It’s a battle for her soul, and she loses spectacularly.
The sheer level of nerdery on display in this episode makes it one of the most wonderfully memorable in a season that’s just hit after hit. Like of course Ren’s dad springs for stuff like a Satellaview and an Atari Jaguar in lieu of his absent affections. Ren won’t need to drum up interest in the school by beating other idol groups in the if she can just defeat them in Kasumi Ninja instead.

It is also, insanely, the first place where broaches the subject of actual-factual dating. Though in this case, it’s on account of the other members mistakenly thinking that Ren and Mei are in a relationship, as opposed to the former reaching out to the latter for rescue from being dragged into gaming hell.
Gaming together or a secret lesbian tryst? That’s an honest mistake anybody could make (and naturally I love that Natsumi’s first reaction is to mine it for clicks).

But if we’re talking big romantic moments this season, we gotta step out into the rain and let the melodrama wash over us.

Oooooohhhh God. I know I said earlier that I thought the comedy was the primary lifeblood of , but that doesn’t mean I’m not an absolute sucker for this series when it perfectly pulls off an emotional boiling point like this.

This one brings in so many of those earlier established elements that already made Superstar work: Sumire and Keke’s delicious romantagonistic tension, alongside that whole skill-gap situation between the First and Second-Years, bringing about the brilliant move of Sumire shifting back to her old Season 1 ‘Heel’ persona in a singular effort to safeguard the residence of her now-dearest friend.

I agree tends to work best in its comedic moments, but I think it’s true overall appeal is that of musical theater, with all the deliberate camp and heightened emotional landscapes. Here, they let Sumire and Keke’s drama reach it’s natural boiling point, in a way that feels true to both characters, and with a resolution that feels more than earned.

Or, to put my thoughts in fewer words: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
That was pretty much everyone’s reaction as this episode aired, as I recall. And I Iove the way it codifies the pair to just be extremely married for the rest of the season (and presumably, the next one).
Real married couple hours. Big time.

Besides, it’s not like Sumire needed to act as a fake villain at any point here, since Superstar’s second season brings in a proper villain to propel its story!
finally embracing an actual heel school idol is the most important development in the franchise’s history imo. Love this goofy black swan Phantom of the Opera ass edgelord.
My joke running through the whole season was that Sunrise accidentally picked out a villain from their arm instead. We talk about the theater aspect of , and Wien Margarete is all drama.
My favorite thing with her is how she naturally gravitates to the tallest place to speak from, like a cat trying to assert dominance from the top of a bookshelf. It’s always funny.
She’s so ridiculously extra. Her entire reason for performing in the is so that she can destroy the

I’m surprised she only goes as far as grabbing the mic to interrupt the announcement of Liella beating her, as opposed to just stealing the whole trophy like Shooter McGavin running off with the jacket at the end of Happy Gilmore.
The revelation that she’s got brood-prone Austrian blood really explains everything. Posing in front of the Plague Column. Vague-posting on Instagram. She’s the whole package.
I found myself wondering if her follower count had always been that low, or if she’d just experienced massive bleed-off in the wake of her stunt at the semi-finals.

Compared to the likes of the aforementioned Natsumi, Margarete does have something of a sincere backstory reason for her attitude, and it’s one that ties into that expanding of ideas that Superstar is so interested in: What happens to the performers who don’t succeed at their dreams using the competition as a Hail Mary? How are they expected to feel about these protagonists for whom events line up perfectly, for which the rain itself stops and clouds part?

Yeah, I liked seeing Margarete wrestle with her pride and her passion, without really reaching a definite conclusion. Granted, she also doesn’t get a whole lot of time to weigh her messy swirl of emotions, but something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.
Just like with Natsumi, I hope she retains plenty of her thorniness moving forward. I definitely could have predicted she’d be integrating into the cast somehow for that forthcoming third season, but nothing could have prepared me for the way that finale so soundly pulled the rug out from under me!
I mean, rug-pull aside, they took the coward’s way out not letting Kanon study abroad—that would’ve been a novel development to build the third season on—but the prospect of Margarete being a little piece of shit freshman at Yuigaoka is tantalizing enough to soothe the sting of betrayal.
The fact that they seemed to commit to it so soundly is what made it work as a shocker at all, even as I agree it was a cop-out. After all that effort setting up a full reverse of the original : School Idol Project Season 1 finale, too! It’s especially effective since I think Kanon is handily the best orange-haired Center girl in the franchise, and this ending arc marks a tidy emotional journey for her.
Pretty sure I already made this joke the last time we covered this, but seeing as she’s definitely the first leader to have a favorite Sonic Youth album, I have to agree with you.
So while it would have been extremely neat to see the third season actually ship her off for a portion, I can also admit that I’d have missed her a bit.
For sure! And going back to my first point, part of the appeal of is its familiarity. It’s become a big time comfort franchise for me. But Superstar’s grasp of school idol craft—from the concerts to the comedy—puts it on the pedestal, and I can’t wait to see more of these girls and gremlins and gremlin girls.
Agreed! Even an oddity of an ending like that can’t dent all the other good this second season of Superstar did in feeling fresh alongside all that other franchise familiarity. This show and its weird NHK-delayed prime-time airing slot turned into a real “Rush to watch it as soon as it was up” experience (or rather, “Whenever Crunchyroll managed to get it up with working subs, never on time”). And for all the reasons we’ve talked about, I can confidently declare this one the best yet, as far as I’m concerned!
Regardless of our individual opinions, I think we can all agree that it was also the roundest installment to date. And isn’t that most important?
I don’t know that anyone could say no to that!



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