Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 Premium Edition
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Price: $64.99 – Available Here
Licensing an anime before it ever airs in Japan is something that many English publishers must do to acquire the rights to specific series. While some series might have a long standing fan base or fits into a particularly popular genre, occasionally risks are taken. When NIS America announced the license acquisition of Love Live! School Idol Project’s first season it caught me by surprise as not only are idol shows generally untested waters in the West, but the various promotional material released in Japan over the course of a few years to build a following never stuck with English anime viewers.
Now a year and a half later and Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 has been released to a fan base that may have already watched the second season and probably has spent time playing a certain rhythm game featuring the cast. That being said, is this release worth picking up for fans and newcomers?
Honoka Kosaka is in her second year of high school but it seems that her new year won’t be all sunshine and roses. At the start of the year, Otonokizaka Academy tells its students that they will be closing down because of their low number of students and the lack of applicants, the school will be shut down once the first year’s graduate.
The usually cheerful Honoka is so shocked by this news she nearly passes out, and although she doesn’t seem to bothered by the fact that the school will remain open until her graduation, she vows to do anything it takes to save the school. After catching her sister looking at other schools, she learns that some of the most popular schools around feature school idols.
With the help of her best friends Umi and Kotori, Honoka puts into motion her plans to start a school idol group and try to save the school by becoming popular and increasing the amount of student applications. Unfortunately this task isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only are these three amateurs unfamiliar with the idol scene, only one of them has been taking part in physical activities and none of them have experience writing lyrics or singing.
To make matters worse, the student council rejects their idea of creating an idol group as a way to save the school, refusing to give them any assistance. With the help of some fellow classmates, Honoko, Umi, and Kotori still continue to practice in an effort to save the school with their now named idol group μ’s. With a song, dance choreography, new costumes, and renewed vigor, these three face utter disappointment with their first performance.
Despite this, the optimistic trio continues to work towards their dream of saving the school while gaining new members in what turns out to be a light-hearted series filled with touching moments, great comedy, a varied cast of characters that mesh together to create a lovable, albeit underdeveloped cast, and a somewhat realistic approach to the trials of becoming an idol.
While many idol series tend to focus on an already established group or simply gloss over the amount of effort the girls need to put in and possibility of failure, most of the emotional moments within Love Live! occur during these failures. That being said, outside of some forced drama near the end of the series, Love Live! School Idol Project’s first season is a series that will make you smile more often than not and a lot of the enjoyment comes from the characters.
It is a bit disappointing however that, at times, a few girls join as a group and it feels like a few characters end up getting sidelined because of this. We see Umi, Eli, and even Nico, develop over time as they overcome their fears or take a step towards their goal but at the same time, other members are glossed over, even if they still have plenty of air time.
Although many of the nine girls that form μ’s are simply variations of character types, these girls happen to be so likable and their interactions with one another so fun that it doesn’t become an issue even if they happen to be underdeveloped. With as much charm that flows out of Love Live!, the optimistic nature of Honoka, and some amazing character-based humor it is easy to see why Love Live! has caught the attention of fans in both Japan and North America.
While the characters are amazing and the humor can be golden, a large amount of this success is thanks to the amount of effort put into designing these girls. Each girl has her own unique look and style, which is essential for a series that focuses heavily on performances and features as many costume changes that appear throughout Love Live! From their school uniforms to their exercise gear and eventually to all of the outfits they wear throughout performances, each girl is charming. As for the humor, a decent amount of the humor comes from character expressions and once again, since each girl has her own personality, they tend to react differently to each situation.
With a series as colorful and vibrant as Love Live! the performances are a real treat for the eyes. Once the performances occur, which is often, the animation style takes on a blend of standard animation techniques and 3D animation. The transition between the two styles is noticeable though just barely as the amount of detail on their outfits remains the same. It is worth noting that the 3D animation can be a bit stilted at times but it does little to bring down the overall quality present throughout the dances.
This release features only the original Japanese voice track which is actually for the best considering all of the voice actresses for the girls of μ’s are also the singers for each of the songs throughout the series. When not taking part in a performance, the characters all feature voicework that fits their archetype, especially when it comes to the likes of Nico and Rin.
As for the quality of the songs used for the performances and all of the background music throughout the first season, they are simply superb. While the background music tends to be a little bit forgettable at times, there are numerous times that the beats for μ’s songs are used which is a nice touch. The songs used in the performances is varied and will be a real treat to anyone who is a fan of J-Pop music. As for the opening theme, “Bokura wa Ima no Kanu de” is a suitable, albeit somewhat spoiler filled opening performed by μ’s while the ending theme is “Kitto Seishun ga Kikoeru and while it is generally performed by all of μ’s, a few episodes feature a specific character taking the lead vocals.
NIS America has returned to their oversized premium edition packaging for Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1, which means that the release comes with a large chipboard art case featuring colorful artwork of μ’s on each side, one featuring school uniforms and the other the opening theme idol costumes, a color art book and of course the two slim Blu-ray cases. The on-disc extras for this release include clean versions of the opening and ending themes, original Japanese trailers and promotional videos, and trailers for other NIS America releases.
Before we touch upon the art book, this release comes with a Weiß Schwarz card as well as a promo code that can be redeemed on the free-to-play smart phone rhythm game Love Live! School Idol Festival for an ultra-rare Honoka card.
Now the art book, which is stylized like a scrap book for this release, actually is rather packed with content. While it features the standard episode summaries, it also features character biographies and interviews with the voice actresses for each of the girls of μ’s. Interlaced among these interviews and summaries are pieces of artwork for the characters and as an added touch, the final page features “signatures” from the characters.
Love Live! School Idol Project might have a few problems with character development throughout this first season but it is overshadowed by the fact that this is such a fun and charming series that you cannot help but smile as you watch it. Endearing characters that mesh well together to create a great source of humor and colorful artwork and performances top off an idol series that is not only accessible to those willing to give it a chance, but deserves its popularity.
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