Love Live! The School Idol Movie
(As this is a direct continuation of the TV series, please assume spoilers for both seasons.)
With the graduation of the third-year students of school idol groups μ's from Otonokizaka Academy, the group has decided to dissolve, but those plans are put on hold when the school director informs them of a concert event which promises to lift μ's and the very concept of school idols to even greater heights. As the defending champions of the Love Live competition, μ's must find it in themselves to decide whether to carry on as everyone wishes, or go out with one last swan song.
Well, seeing as they place so much emphasis on school idols, and school is something that is inherently transitory, it's pretty obvious that this can only go in one direction, and with that realization comes a certain sense of wistfulness knowing that this is really going to be the last chance we'll get to see these characters in anime format.
Note that the theatrical showings of this movie feature about a two-three minute intro summarizing the TV series, but I honestly wouldn't recommend going into this movie without having seen the series or the game, as it's largely assumed that you are familiar with the characters, and moreover, spends a preponderance of its time on just one (Honoka) -- we'll get to that in a little while.
The first half of the movie takes place in New York City (because reasons!), which is actually (with the exception of a few typos here and there, and the noticeable lack of New York accents amongst the otherwise fluent English speakers) fairly accurately depicted. There is a short scene where three of the girls take a cab to the *wrong* part of the city that's actually pretty dang funny, despite being played for obvious melodrama for about two seconds. (Gosh, Umi, get over yourself, Queens isn't THAT awful.) The first of the "same-year-trio" musical bits also pops up here somewhat out-of-the-blue, which is a reminder that the showrunners have evidently gotten some of their narrative inspiration from Glee (a series that was often a cross between musicals and magical reality -- "musical reality" if you will), leading up to a rather nice performance in Times Square (the redundantly named, but still cute "Angelic Angel") that, alas, still features some of that 3D tomfoolery that we'd complained about previously in the TV show. Along the lines of "musical reality", there is also a rather mysterious character, a jazz-singing busker on the streets of New York, whose presence is never fully explained (and I presume, intentionally so). (Note that the busker's music was actually changed for the international release, as it was in fact originally "As Time Goes By" (made famous in Casablanca), but replaced by jazzy "la-la-la"s in overseas release, ostensibly to avoid paying fees to ASCAP.)
Coming back to Japan for the second half of the film (with the other two "trio" songs), μ's (but mostly really Honoka) collectively decide their future even as they learn to cope with their newfound fame. With the help of erstwhile rivals, but now friends, A-RISE, they set up, essentially, the world's largest school idol block party, which would have been a lot less weird if it hadn't had all that damn 3D CG again. Honestly, what ends up happening should surprise pretty much no one, because everything is either foreshadowed or hammered into our faces from the get-go, but it all turns out pleasant enough, as long as you like the music, of course (and that's a big "if" for a lot of people).
Ultimately, that's what makes Love Live! The School Idol Movie somewhat frustrating for me to review. As a fan of the μ's girls, I really enjoy seeing and hearing them on the big screen. As an anime reviewer, I have to point out everything that's gone orthogonal in the process.
Without the benefit of time (apart from the six! musical sequences we get), we revert back to focusing largely on Honoka - to the point of going into her very psyche (as if suddenly this is some super flowery remake of The Fantastic Adventures of Leda or something?!?) - but she remains a teenage girl prone to melodramatic ideation and sort of a Mary Sue-style protagonist whose emotional struggles feel contrived at best. I still end up rooting for her, because she's never truly negative or mean or pessimistic, but it's clear that the writers of Love Live in general have a serious problem with coming up with organic and realistic dramatic scenarios, and it's really telling when you see A-RISE talk about "doing a concert together" but they sort of end up just dancing on the sidelines rather than getting to really be partners -- a serious missed opportunity out of many. (Heck, I wouldn't mind an A-RISE OAV. That'd be pretty cool.) And if you're hoping for more than a couple of scenes with your "best girl" ... good luck with that.
Another weird thing is that, after all the silly innuendo of the second season, the creators again sort of opted to go back to the conventional constraints of "what should be expected of an idol singer film" and turned the yuri back down a smidge, along with the goofy humor, something that is really sorely missed. Instead, when we aren't watching the musical interludes (which are pretty good), we get more of the overheated, and borderline tedious drama that we all complained about in the first season, and which, pointedly, has never been the reason anyone has downloaded the original game. (There is one HILARIOUS scene with Nico and Maki, though -- there ain't no sinking that ship, folks.) Ultimately, the denouement is satisfying enough, and all's well that ends well. This isn't an anime critic's movie, but it's an anime fan's movie, and this is one of those rare times that I'm perfectly okay with that.
Even with the occasionally strange pacing, questionable writing choices, the disappointing overemphasis on drama queen Honoka instead of further developing the rest of the girls, and the persistent and jarring use of substandard 3D artwork meshed with much better-looking 2D animation (which is nevertheless just on par with the above-average-for-television work on the series and not really the greatest production values for a full-screen movie), I still found this encore performance a thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable experience overall, and a decent (though not great) finish to what has been for me a surprisingly delightful anime series.
The fact that, despite all that's technically wrong with this film, I *still* debated giving this four stars anyway, should give you an idea of just how much fun this franchise has been for me.
Love Live: The School Idol Movie has occasional flashes of what made the series so enjoyable, mixed in with a lot of things that should have been severely edited with red ink. Die-hard Love-Livers will give this another star or two on sheer principle, while folks who never made it through the TV series won't be changing their minds. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Apart from a handful of mildly fan-servicey outfits, a lot of overblown melodrama, and the occasional innuendo between the girls, there isn't really a whole lot here to offend too many people, unless you're severely allergic to Japanese idol pop.
Version(s) Viewed: Theatrical feature, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Love Live! The School Idol Movie © 2015 PROJECT LoveLive! Movie
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