Original Run: July 11, 2021 - October 17, 2021 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Idol, Music, Slice of Life
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Love Live! Superstar!!. Reader discretion is advised.***
For years, Kanon Shibuya (voiced by Sayuri Date) has dreamed of enrolling in Yuigaoka Girls’ High School’s music program. However, due to her crippling stage fright, she falls short of her goal. Despite her talent for singing, Kanon resigns herself to a life of mediocrity.
That all changes when Kanon meets Keke Tang (voiced by Liyuu), a school idol superfan from Shanghai.
Keke overhears Kanon’s beautiful voice and insists the two of them form their own school idol group. Although Kanon is hesitant at first, she eventually falls head over heels with the idea. Over time, this pair soon forms into a team after the inclusion of:
- Chisato Arashi (voiced by Nako Misaki)
- Sumire Heanna (voiced by Naomi Payton)
- Ren Hazuki (voiced by Nagisa Aoyama)
Together, these five form the school idol group Liella. Now, as one, Liella turns its attention to the ultimate prize, the legendary Love Live competition.
The long and short of it is, I was not thrilled when I learned there would be a fourth – I said – FOURTH Love Live series. The idol anime genre is already brimming with Love Live clones, knockoffs, and hangers-on. And not to put too fine a point on it, the most blatant copycat out there is the Love Live franchise itself. Don’t even get me started on the bore that was Love Live Sunshine.
No, dear readers, Love Live! Superstar!! (Superstar) was not something I had high hopes for.
As such, it may surprise you to learn I did not hate this series. I say as such because I couldn’t believe how enjoyable Superstar was. I’m not sure what compelled this franchise to try so hard with this installment, but I’m glad it did.
But before we continue, let’s get one thing straight. Through and through, this was a Love Live story. Therefore, if you have had no interest in this series during the three previous attempts, I doubt you will find any excitement in this one.
On the flip side, if you’re thinking now is the time to give Love Live a shot, well then, Superstar wouldn’t be the worst place to start.
Although I have a soft spot for the original and think it is the only story this franchise has ever needed, this fourth iteration is its true successor. I hesitate to suggest Superstar was mercifully different and fresh because, frankly, it wasn’t. Nevertheless, there was a strong sense of satisfaction.
There is no denying the massive success that was the first Love Live anime. As I am writing this review in October 2021, the girls of µ’s (Muse), despite debuting in 2014, remain noticeably prominent in Japanese pop/anime culture. Unfortunately, when any series finds success, it will eventually need to make a choice. Will it: 1) Expand on what it has done, or 2) milk itself dry.
Since the original, the latter option has been the favored go-to. Granted, I’ll concede that attempt number three, Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, wasn’t atrocious. It wasn’t worth your time either, but, yeah, it wasn’t atrocious.
Be that as it may, Superstar felt like a proper attempt.
Aside from this franchise’s ever-improving visuals – this was the best-looking rendition of Love Live to date – Superstar freed itself from the heaviest shackle that has consistently weighed this series down. For the first time, we finally got a manageable group of characters to follow.
In the original, Sunshine, and Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, we needed to keep track of no less than NINE main characters. Heck, Nijigasaki was even worse with its ten. In Superstar, due to what we can only consider a divine blessing, there were just five.
Superstar’s Liella was far more well-rounded because this show had the room to explore who everyone was. We received a much deeper, more meaningful look at lead heroines. The star-of-the-week formula that permeated through the three predecessors was not a thing here.
Kanon Shibuya was an all-around musical talent. Not only did she have an outstanding singing voice, but she also wrote the music for her group. The problem for her was, Kanon was susceptible to severe stage fright.
Keke Tang was the most energetic member of Liella. She was also the one with the most to lose. She came to Japan from Shanghai to pursue her dream of winning Love Live. Failure to do that would see her return to China.
Chisato Arashi was the group’s expert dancer and the one responsible for their choreography. As a childhood friend of Kanon’s, Chisato has always wanted to prove that she could support the people she cared about when necessary.
Sumire Heanna was the group’s resident diva. Having been in show business since childhood, Sumire had an overinflated opinion of herself. Except, her up-turned-nose attitude was a front concealing her frustration born from years of subpar roles.
Ren Hazuki…well, we’ll get to Ren.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Geeze, I don’t know, Odyssey. That all still sounds pretty generic,” I don’t disagree with you. Again, Love Live isn’t a franchise of deep characters and personalities.
However, Superstar was far more successful because this story took the proper amount of time to get to know who everyone was. There were more opportunities to work as a group; Liella was a much more stable unit.
Thus, whenever they performed, you got the sense they earned it. After all, we saw how much effort everyone put into being a school idol.
If you are not a fan of idol anime, there is little chance of getting into the genre by watching the fourth installment of THE idol anime franchise. Every trope, stereotype, and cliché you can think of concerning this type of series was in Superstar.
There is no getting around that.
If that doesn’t bother you, or you – like me – are indifferent towards it, then this show will be a pleasant surprise.
That said, Ren Hazuki was a laughably broken character.
Ren was the classic I-hate-school-idols-even-though-I-really-want-to-be-one person. At her introduction, she was adamantly against the idea of any idol groups forming at her school. Ren even went so far as to abuse her status as the daughter of the school’s founder to get what she wanted. And the entire time, her reason for doing what she did was because “school idols wouldn’t bring the academy prestige.”
However, it turned out that Ren’s true motives involved protecting her mother’s legacy. Ren didn’t want her mother’s school to go under.
So, how did that sentiment involve being anti-school idols? It was due to Ren utterly misunderstanding her mother’s intentions.
Ren’s mother was a school idol who tried to save her academy from shutting down back in the day. Sadly, Ren’s mother’s actions could not stop the closure. Naturally, according to Ren, that meant it was the school idol’s fault, which was, apparently, a method doomed to fail. Except, Ren’s assumption went against any sense of cause-and-effect logic. Not to mention Ren’s mother told her being a school idol was a time in her life she did not regret.
As a result, Ren was deadset on being the bad guy that didn’t need to exist. Her entire motivation was the byproduct of the grossest misinterpretation I have ever come across in anime.
Needless to say, Ren Hazuki was the worst thing about Superstar.
Well, I didn’t think I would ever come to this point again with this franchise.
Actually, I still think this series is beating a horse that died years ago. And yet, from out of nowhere, we got an installment that wasn’t bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say this was as good as the original.
Accordingly, Love Live! Superstar!! has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Love Live! Superstar!!? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.