After their leader Honoka’s illness forced µ’s (pronounced “muse”) to pull out of the last Love Live idol tournament, their second chance to make a mark on the famed stage comes quicker than anticipated. Having saved their school from closure by forming an idol band to up applications, they promised to reach even greater heights after a well-deserved summer break. But time, as ever skewed to scrub to the next assignment, has brought them at top speed to the start of a hopeful and daunting new year. A round of surprise Love Live! regional preliminaries looms, and it’s three girls’ last chance to make a splash as school idols. But free-spirited Honoka affirms there’s always time for a show stopping song and dance. That is, until student council president duties come calling.
Yes, Honoka has found perhaps the one place at Otonokizaka High where her carefree nature won’t find any love. Taking over Eli’s role as student mouthpiece, she fluffs her first ever speech after getting distracted by singing out how far her friends have come as µ’s. Facing becoming a senior student like Eli, Nozomi and Nico, she must learn to manage the blithe blunders that endear her to us and her friends. But her upperclassmen can understand, as they still have some growing up to do too. The younger members remain mostly static in the renewed Love Live lead-up, but this seems a necessary flaw to keep focus on the series’ heart, now heavier with sacrifice and responsibilities that can’t be closed up in a notebook.
The last Love Live winners A-RISE are ever the fearsome rivals, and in a mad image scramble to make an impact beside the strident pop trio, who now have µ’s in their sights, they discover they have to stand up as themselves, for their fans if nothing else. The importance of honesty and conviction comes in shades from the mildly bizarre to the beautiful, as while Nico has somehow kept up appearances of being the leader of µ’s at home, Nozomi has been secretly dreaming of them all coming together to pen a love song. This new step for the nine of them is the strongest of the series, as they pull from their gratitude for their fans and each other for ‘Snow halation’, filled to the brim with a blushing and breathless delight.
Sprinkled like confetti across their personal and musical triumphs, though some moments of subbed dialogue warm the heart, much more mature are their times spent quietly together. A certain subtle gesture or sparkle in the eyes captures the joy and heartbreak that can’t be spoken aloud. At their prelims prep camp, where they break off to work on their act in tighter groups of three, expressions of closeness and grateful wonder pass between them with a mutual glance or silence mid-sentence. Never mind the garish parade of farewells at the end of the school year; it’s when they step onto their last Love Live stage that you remember this calm, and how they’ll miss µ’s as it is right then and there.
For our review of Series 1, click here.
English dub; Japanese dub with English subtitles; textless opening & closing; original Japanese promos.