Anime Review | Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 18.04.2016

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Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 (UK Rating: PG)

When her school is at risk of closing down, Honoka Kosaka has to find a way to attract new students to keep it alive. After seeing the massive popularity of School Idols, Kosaka decides she's going to form her own idol group to attract new enrolments. This first season from MVM comes with all 13 episodes in both English and Japanese, with clean opening and closing videos and promotional videos and trailers…and it is available to buy right now!

The Love Live project is massive, brought about by music company Lantis teaming up with the anime studio Sunrise, and popular Japanese magazine Denkegi G, to produce a series that incorporates one of the biggest mobile games in Japan - arcades, manga series, CDs and this anime series.

The popularity of idols in Japan has always been huge but it truly has exploded over the last few years, with groups like AKB48, Morning Musume and Tokyo Girls' Style. With such a huge following, it's easy to see how it would make great source material for an anime and in 2011 Idolmaster tried it first, but the anime ended up quite the flop. It didn't even feel like much of an idol anime and instead ran through the usual anime girl tropes, seeing each of the girls heading off on adventures. This is where Love Live really excels - it feels like an honest representation of what a school idol group would go through.


 
This first season focuses on the actual creation of the idol group the girls form - μ's (pronounced as "Muse") - meeting each of the individual members and seeing them learn what it means to become an idol and busting their behinds training everyday to get there. Try doing some push-ups while keeping a big smile on your face - it isn't easy. On top of their efforts to train and to succeed in becoming an idol group, they also have to try to save their school. They raise their popularity and gather new enrolments to the school by putting on performances and hoping to enter the grand nationwide Student Idol competition, entitled Love Live.

The series is a slice of lifestyle story, with the day-to-day lives of the girls taking centre stage as they work towards their dream of becoming idols. Throughout this first season, most of the episodes are dedicated to each of the eventual nine members of μ's joining up to the idol group, with an episode dedicated to each. There are some of the usual anime tropes used in these - a trip to the beach, a night in hot-springs, a school festival, and so on. Thankfully, though, even though there are some of the usual anime tropes in the storytelling, the characters are well developed and likeable. Sure, there are some of the usual archetypes here. The shy girl, the authoritative student council president, the tsundere, and the hyper tomboy, but, each of the characters are actually likeable and developed. This is one of the biggest assets of the show - it's very much character-driven and the characters are good enough to care about even with such a large cast; enough so as to get the audience to be split upon its favourites.

It's clear just how much effort has gone into this series. The art and animation look smooth and fantastic. There is one strange feature, though - during the girls' performances, the style completely changes into an odd 3D CG. It just looks slightly… off and ruins the entire presentation when it switches between the two styles.


 
The quality is high in the audio department, too. It's not just the Japanese voice actors who are delivering quality performances, either, as even the dub elitists will find little to complain about here with some great English performances, too. The songs, however, are not quite the same quality. There are the occasional catchy J-Pop pieces - try and get Start Dash out of your head… - but many of the others feel quite forgettable.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
The idol culture of Japan is huge and Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 is by far the best idol anime out there, with great characters, enjoyable light-hearted stories and some catchy music. The finale does a great job in setting up what's coming next and happily there's more to come soon, since a second season and a movie have been released in Japan and, hopefully, MVM will get them here this year.

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