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After the success of their first School Idol Festival the girls from the Nijigasaki Idol club quickly plan their second event. They produce a lavish promotional film to spread the word. They soon find themselves in trouble when their trailer debut goes awry and they accidentally play a blooper video! Zhong Lanzhu is a Hong Kong transfer student who is a school idol. She saves the day by putting on a spectacular performance. Despite giving the girls a hand, she’s not interested in joining the club, as she sees the girls’ close friendships as frivolous and unnecessary, instead going her own way and marking them as rivals. If the girls want Lanzhu to join them, they’re going to have to impress her on the stage!
Season 2 of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club This is a step up from the first season, as we are thrust into a frantic opening episode. It’s stylish, funny, and immediately sets the direction for where this season wants to go. Lanzhu, who is a new character, helps to shake things because it gives the girls a rival to fight and also shows them what they have been doing wrong. This opens the story to exploring how these girls can improve, and find their feet with this rough and ready newcomer.
While Season 1 was very episodic in its character vignette approach, Season 2 tries to evolve this to tell a more cohesive storyline by connecting the characters’ viewpoints to this dilemma of trying to persuade Lanzhu to join their group, while also wrapping in additional plot threads, such as Yuu taking her first steps to become a composer. While this seems a good approach on paper, it doesn’t always work out in execution.
It is difficult to balance the plots and give them the time and depth they deserve. This is especially annoying when they’re used to introduce new characters, such as Mia Taylor who is a more experienced competitor for Yuu and who inspires and drives her forward. Or Shioriko Mifune who is set up from the beginning as the next president of the student council. It’s like it doesn’t really know what to focus on; for example, Yuu’s story is really compelling, but it gets lost when the show pitches more towards Lanzhu, which I thought was a shame. Some of the lighter plot threads fare better and feel more integrated into the show, like Nana’s double life as student council president and school idol Yuki Setsuna, but it’s often because these were already established from the first season.
The main plot moves forward by tying the girls closer together in their established friendships and uses this as an opportunity to introduce the group’s sub-units to go against Lanzhu’s denial that she doesn’t need any friends. This is actually a great idea as with so many characters now in the group, it’s difficult to allow them all to breathe in the same space, and by grouping them together you can get some good character development as certain characters bounce off each other. The series still struggles to fit everyone in and is unable to show certain established relationships or develop certain characters. Ayumu & Yuu, for example, feel more distant from the start than they should. This makes it less impactful when they move in different directions throughout the series.
It also doesn’t help that the script often isn’t nuanced or deep enough to really push the story it is trying to tell. Scenes are sometimes played too flat, where either the dialogue or on-screen action is unconvincing in what they are trying to get across, while it’s hard to grasp the emotions of the characters. There’s also the occasional joke that doesn’t quite land when translated into English.
It’s also a bit weird in that the climax of the story is actually in Episodes 8 and 9 as we see the second School Idol Festival play out, but I think the writing starts to improve here as it differentiates itself from Season 1, homing in on the unfolding drama between Lanzhu and the members of the School Idol Club. The outcome is predictable, but it does play to each of the character’s strengths, and I enjoyed seeing how far each of them have come since taking their first steps at the beginning of the show.
The last few episodes are both playful and thoughtful. The show alternates between cute, slice-of-life antics and deciding how the group will move forward as they each have to make important decisions for their futures. It reflects that the girls are able to be both individuals and part of a group at the same time. I think the season’s main message is finally conveyed at the end.
The ending isn’t quite as much of a big bang as the first season, but we do get a lovely celebration as the final episode recreates the group’s real life first concert in anime form. It’s a nice bit of fanservice and it brings the music into the spotlight, which has been a series highlight as well as a missed opportunity. The selection of music that we get from the group’s repertoire is fantastic and often hits at the right moment, like Lanzhu’s “Eutopia” or Mia Taylor’s “stars we chase”, but some performances are cut short or happen off-screen to keep up the show’s quite rapid pacing. This does hurt the story in particular moments (like Lanzhu’s performance of “Queendom”), as it is difficult to see what makes someone an amazing singer if we don’t see them perform. The music video style performance sequences also don’t work quite as well here in comparison to the first season. As this season is more story-driven, it doesn’t quite make sense to lose the in-the-moment feeling of a performance in front of a crowd, and I felt that some of the impact from these scenes was lost as a result.
Sunrise continues to handle the animation for the series, now under the Bandai Namco Filmworks label. The show doesn’t look quite as good as some of the other entries in the franchise and has a lower budget feel, particularly when held up against the more recent Love Live! Superstar!. It’s a bit dull. There are a lot of montages and still frames. It continues to make excellent use of its location, showcasing not only Odaiba, but also other parts of Japan, like Kamakura.
The character designs are still great, and each of the new members of the cast stand out nicely, each offering something unique and different, whether that’s Lanzhu’s striking red colour theme, Shioriko’s more reserved, mature aura, or Mia’s long, sweeping fringe. The Japanese voice actors are still my favorite, as they fit the characters perfectly. This being a musical, I don’t want any awkward changes in the songs. That said, the English voice cast isn’t bad, and I think I’ve grown to like them more than I did in the first season as they feel more comfortable with their characters. They are as close a match to the Japanese voice actors as you’re going to get, so I would say it’s just personal preference as to which language to watch the series in.
Love Live! Nijigasaki Idol Club Season 2. is brought to us by Anime Limited in a lovely collector’s edition package complete with a 32-page booklet and a set of 9 art cards featuring art from the Japanese Blu-ray volumes. On the discs you’ll find all 13 episodes of the series in both English and Japanese and English subtitles, along with promotional videos, trailers and clean opening and ending. The presentation is lacking, especially with the bland menu design. I’ve seen this with other titles in recent times. It’s lacking some extras and the more playful touch that the Japanese Blu-rays have.
The second season of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol ClubThis is a good sequel, even if it has some flaws. The show suffers from its blunt writing, its awkward execution, and its lower budget feel. Yet, it gives us a story that is more focused than its first year, with some strong characters moments and fantastic music numbers that fans will enjoy. You do get the sense that there is something great here that is trying to get out, and with more budget and attention this could have been a diamond in the rough, but as it stands, I don’t think what NijigasakiOffers give it enough to make you stand out.
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