I don’t really have anything against idols. Honestly, I’ve always kind of admired idol culture from afar. Squads of cute girls, singing and dancing to massive crowds cheering them on, going nuts with their glow sticks, sending all their love to the stage as they worship their symbols of pureness and joy—it’s just something that I’m glad exists, even if I don’t care to follow much of it at all. When I go down a layer deeper, however, I begin to wonder if my understanding of idols is the same as the mainstream.
To me, idols are like when everyone’s in on the joke. Idols only work because we want them to. Everything about the culture is actually quite shallow, but we want to keep it alive because it makes us feel good. We want our heartstrings tugged at a little, and mostly we want in on this swell of happiness and whimsy. As the girls (or boys) perform their neatly choreographed routine about love and friendship and the power their fans give them, we find ourselves wanting to cheer them on, and it’s not because we’re profoundly moved by the sentiment. Themes like “never giving up” and “the power of friendship” aren’t at all new, or original, but they’re easy to get behind. They’re good lessons that are worth repeating, even if they’ve been repeated a thousand times over.
The simple answers provide comfort, and sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the complex conundrum of human existence, or what have you, and just have some fun. That’s what idols and idol shows are for me. They’re pretty manufactured, and I’m pretty okay with that. Idol groups are designed to reach many demographics, having an even and varied spread of personalities to go around. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single member of most any idol group that you can’t seem to connect with, because creators/producers want to cast the largest net possible. They want to always be able to satiate our basic human desire—our NEED to attach ourselves to things—so that we can all pick our best girls out of a line-up and end up buying their figures, wall scrolls, and keychains…and it works, despite this wide-spread technique’s tendency to leave the individual characters with very little depth.
And I think that’s my main issue with Love Live!. The show’s too shallow, and doesn’t do anything at all to make up for that. The episodic plot is a just a basic drama-of-the-week setup, sometimes with empty plot twists that make no damn sense, but don’t matter anyway because we know the ending will always be cheerful. And that isn’t to say a predictable ending is also a problem with the series. Idols wouldn’t be idols if they didn’t get a happy ending, after all.
The show’s just plain formulaic. It brings nothing new to the genre, with the only thing that really sets it apart from competitors being its juggernaut of a marketing budget. Sure, Love Live! has some catchy songs and cute/sometimes-sexy character designs, but is there any reason why it should be as popular as it is? On the writing side, the anime is fairly mediocre and has characters whose personalities are paper thin! I mean, one of the defining characteristics of Hanayo is that she loves rice. What Japanese person “loves” rice? That’s like any human being “loving” the air they breathe.
Overall, Love Live! just feels like a show built solely around a checklist: Cute? Check. Cheerful? Check. Shippable? Absolutely. And while these are all fine things, I find myself wanting more substance. It was fun for a season, but if they’re not going to do anything to shake up this stale, idol formula, I don’t think I need to stay around for the rest of season two. I respect the game. I just don’t want to play anymore (The game being the idol formula, not the actual Love Live! game, which is admittedly pretty fun). Thanks for reading.
Oh, and Honoka is too stupid to live. Sorry, not sorry. Nico best girl.