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What I Hate about Love Live

I really like Love Live.

But it’s not perfect.

I mean, it’s really not perfect.  Some things about it are bad.  In fact, they’re so bad that they pull me out of my suspension of disbelief and it takes a bit to pull me back in.

What bothers me is not the girls.  In all of the series, they are characterized really well and realistically.  There is just the right amount of comedy and drama, and they have believable personalities and backstories.

What bothers me isn’t even the premise of “Love Live”.  I mean, that’s something I could see happening, and even working.  A competition where a bunch of girls go singing and dancing for prestige for their school?  That’s an amazingly Japanese thing to do, and after the popularity of Love Live, I’m a little surprised something like it hasn’t actually popped up.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it had and I hadn’t heard about it.

No, the unrealistic part is the performances themselves.  And I’m not talking about the CGI – that doesn’t bother me.

There are a few things that are never mentioned, and a few more that are glossed over.  First off, these girls are supposed to be writing the lyrics and composing the lyrics themselves.  Who created the backing track?  That’s professional quality.  I composed a concert band piece a while ago – I have some musical education, and that still took me months and a lot of specialized knowledge.  Does “Love Live” have a kind of service that works with the girls?  I don’t know, it’s never mentioned.  And in “Sunshine”, the girls take a trip to Hokkaido, and a couple of the first years actually write and compose their own song – including a backing track, choreography, a stage, costumes, and roping a couple more girls in who’d never done idol stuff before – in about three days.  How does that even happen?

And then there are costumes.  How?  I don’t even mean just the making of the costumes – that would be difficult for girls that age, but possible, I suppose.  I mean the changing into the costumes.  I confess to not being overly familiar with the world of girls, but in “Sunshine”, there is a scene in the prelims where the girls come out in their school uniforms and do a little skit.  Obviously they preplanned it with the people running the concert because all the lighting is there…  but then after that they start their song… and their costumes are magically… different.  How does that happen?

And there’s the performances themselves.  How did the girls (Muse, Aquors, and Liella) even win?  I mean, they were good, I guess.  Definitely high quality.  But objectively, Wien was far better, Saint Snow was better too (well, I guess that faceplant kind of took care of that, so fair play), and A-Rise was better too.  I guess the point was that they have heart that won over the audience, but that got them all the way to winning the finals?  Their performances were well done, but…  nothing stood out.  And we didn’t even get to see the other groups.  I can’t imagine that these groups were the best that Love Live had to offer.  But, then…  maybe that’s a small gripe.  Maybe the rest were just that bad.

I know this is anime.  In anime, there can be a lot of little stylistic things that are unrealistic or played for comedy.  You kind of learn to accept and work with most of those things.  Like that huge bump on the head that some anime have the characters get bonked on the head, and go away in the next scene.  That’s not a big deal.  It’s an artistic choice, and it doesn’t really have much bearing on the plot of the anime.  But these are not stylistic things, these are structural things.  You can’t just wave them away.  They’re a problem.  You wouldn’t notice if you’re not paying attention.

And don’t get me started on the stages.  How did those girls learn to do the amount of electrical engineering and design work (not to mention crafting work that would take a team of set design artists months to make) to make those stages?  Even the “Love Live” folks would be hard pressed to make some of those stages.

So…  the only answer I can think of, comes back to a review on My Anime List.  It’s not an anime.  It’s an animated musical.

Fine.  I guess if you look at it that way, it solves most of the problems.  No one expects musicals to behave as a real story would.  I mean, in “The Producers”, the accounting office that Bloom is in somehow turns into a Broadway soundstage and back into an office again, and no one notices.  That’s kind of how musicals work.  Fine.

But if that was the direction they chose, their choices to make everything else as realistic as possible – using real landmarks from Akihabara, Shibuya, Numazu, Uchiura, Hokkaido, even New York City, makes it even more jarring.  They took so much care to make it as realistic and beautiful as possible, and then they just stuck all those completely unrealistic elements in to turn it into a musical?

This is taken to a really absurd level in “Nijigasaki”, where they took an actual convention center in Odaiba and turned it into a girls’ school.  Why?  What’s the point of that, really?  Couldn’t they have found a real high school?  Couldn’t they have found something that even looked like a real high school?  That felt so much like a liminal experience that it became emotionally jarring (as I mentioned, there were other reasons, but still).  The choices they made in some cases were completely inscrutable, and all seemed designed to simultaneously keep you in a sense of reality, and pull you out of it.

I dunno.  Maybe that’s why people like Love Live.  It’s got just that level of unreality that makes you want to live in its world.  Some of the other best anime I’ve seen also have that quality.

For me, I watched “Sunshine” through a second time.  It was significantly harder.  Because now that I knew the story (which is amazing), the rest of its flaws were far more glaring.  I don’t think there will be a third.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I’m having a tough time deciding if the plural of anime is anime or animes.  Shrug.

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