What’s it about? Ayumu and Yu are two second year high school girls attending Nijigasaki High in Tokyo. After being moved by an idol concert in Odaiba, the two girls try to track down the idol club at school only to find out it’s been disbanded! Ayumu decides at the end of the day that she should make her own idol club.
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club (hereafter Love Live Nijigasaki) is the newest addition to Sunrise studio’s Love Live! franchise. Like predecessors Love Live! and Love Live! Sunshine!!, it follows a new group of teenage idols based in a high school, which allows the series to avoid the horrific mistreatment–and genuine ugliness–of Japan’s cruel and exploitative idol industry by focusing on teenagers organically coming together to create music via after school club activities.
Staff for this entry include Kawamura Tomoyuki (Good Luck Girl!, Mitsuboshi Colors) as Director with Tanaka Jin (Laid-back Camp) handling the Script. Additionally, Yatate Hajime (a pseudonym for the entirity of Sunrise studio’s animation staff) handled the original work for this series, with Kimino Sakurako (Love Live!, Love Live! Sunshine!!, Strawberry Panic!) on Concept and Yokota Takumi (Warlords of Sigrdrifa; Wave, Listen to Me!) handling Character Design.
It would be easy to tread the same ground as Love Live! And Love Live! Sunshine!!. In fact, I expected to find similar plot beats and a charming series that stayed close to the two that came before it. Logically, that would have been a safe bet: charm (and really, really good music) are major components of Love Live!.
In many ways, viewers of either one of the previous anime entries will find a lot that connects Love Live Nijigasaki to its predecessors: we meet-slash-see a good amount of the idols, we find out who the main character for this unit will be, and ultimately, learn that the school’s Idol Club is in dire straits. It’s there for one simple reason: it’s a good foundation to build upon. It works.
However, Love Love Nijigasaki kicks off its first season with a dynamic premiere that hints at a deeper plot for all the characters that will eventually make up the Nijigasaki High School School Idol Club, along with a dynamic pair of protagonists that are instantly endearing and really show a sharp change in the franchise.
Mix all that with beautiful animation, solid talent, and a well-thoughout premier, it seems that the girls of Nijigasaki High School will be a part of a really lovely story centered on femininity and growing into your own ambition. Yet is that enough to make Love Live Nijigasaki a good premiere?
From the jump, Love Live Nijigasaki feels very different than the original and Sunshine!!. The characters go beyond likable: they’re incredibly relatable, with a friendships -and woes- that are palpable through the screen.
One notable thing is that this new entry of Love Live! is very heavy on the Yuri vibes: vibes that are plentiful between our two leads. In fact, one could say that the Yuri is strong with these two, though past entries have shown that Love Live! most likely won’t go with a canonical romance between these two leads.
While I would caution you not to watch this with the goal of on-screen queer representation–though I desperately want a Queer Love Live character–I would encourage you to engage with this new entry as a queer-friendly, Yuri-adjacent show (something AniFem comtributors have highlighted before). To date, there’s never been an overt LGBTQIA+ message in the series, but hey: you can always find queerness where you need it.
That’s not all that’s good about Love Live Nijigasaki: in fact, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, especially when you look at the animation for this newest entry, which is just downright beautiful.
Love Live Nijigasaki features two styles: 2D and 3D. Most of the time, the show has very eye-catching 2D, but when the insert songs start, the idols go into a 3D style that occasionally flips back into 2D, especially during close-up sequences or moments where the camera lingers on the girls expressions as they perform.
In the past, Love Live!’s 3D animation has been my least favorite part of the series. The 3D sequences have been glaring, and often have felt stiff in comparison to the already enjoyable 2D animation. However, I’m very happy to say that Love Live Nijigasaki has finally gotten the series to a comfortable place with its CGI sequences, making for a 3D style that looks just as good as the normal 2D animation. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them as the series go on.
Additionally, the animation, when paired with the music of the show, really shows the extra polish that went into the series: and let me tell you, the music is very, very good. Earworm-levels of good, enough that you’ll find yourself humming bars from both songs after your initial viewing.
While the sounds aren’t necessarily new or even fresh takes on the genre–idol music is made to sound good in a somewhat generic way–the voice actors behind the characters bring strong vocals that make it clear why Yu reacted so emotionally. I found myself getting teary-eyed at both insert songs, though I’ll admit there’s a bit of Love Live! nostalgia at play. Still, they’re good songs that make it clear that Love Love Nijigasaki is taking the franchise to a new level.
While this is only the premier, it’s hard to say that Love Live Nijigasaki won’t be one of the best shows this season, simply for the animation and the earworm songs. Add in the plot, and Love Live Nijigasaki easily becomes a top-tier contender, especially amongst idol anime.
Moreso, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is brilliantly optimistic in a time where optimism is hard to find. It’s a show that feels like the viewable equivalent of a hot drink and a nice slice of cake: it’s good all around, perfectly sweet, and a reminder that there’s always good, even in a difficult situation.
Even though the series continues to avoid any mention of Japan’s idol industry and the on-going negative treatment of the primarily AFAB people and women who make up the majority of idol entertainers, Love Live is still a series well worth watching, especially as a vehicle for these very important conversations.
With likable characters, a pleasant plot, and the promise of more insert songs and new friendships, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is a strong recommendation for both interested newcomers and seasoned Love Live! fans.
Count me in for not just three episodes, but the rest of this season.