In my Love Live! School Idol Project character posts for Apartment 507, I’ve often touched upon the idea that many of the characters of Love Live! highlight a mix of innocence and maturity. Umi is disciplined yet prone to panic. Maki is cool on the surface but can get easily flustered. Nico performs the role of the naïve idol, but is in fact incredibly pragmatic. Out of all of the μ’s girls, it is Elichika Ayase (Eli to friends and family) who comes across as the most adult. I believe that this stems from her identity as a Half-Russian character.
Ayase Eli is a senior at Otonokizaka Academy and its student council president. Half-Russian and half-Japanese, Eli competed in ballet in her younger days, which makes her an excellent dancer. When first introduced (along with her best friend and student council vice president Toujou Nozomi), Eli opposes the formation of a school idol group at the Academy. She sees the other girls as being unaware of the hardship that comes with competing against the best of the best. Eventually the girls win her over and Eli becomes their choreographer.
Eli’s Russian side is presented through her blonde hair, her little sister Alisa (who has lived in Japan for less time), and her catchphrase: “Harasho!” In Russian, хорошо basically means “ok” but is used in Love Live! to mean “wow!” or “oh my! Being half-Russian gives her a hint of foreign exoticism that also feeds into her role as a kind of motherly or fatherly figure. Russian ballet has a reputation in Japan for emphasizing perfection, as seen in many of the ballet manga that have been made over the years.
To Eli, the early attempts at dance and choreography from the other girls amount to nothing more than sloppily flailing limbs. Eli is also aware of the fact that Nico tried to be a school idol in her first year with her friends, but Nico’s former partners couldn’t keep up. As a result, Eli tries to protect the girls from impending disappointment; while they’re playing at being School Idols, others are taking it ten times more seriously.
Kind and Mature
This isn’t to say that Eli is lacking a softer side. She’s shown having fun with the other girls, sharing in their victories and defeats, and even has a silly musical number in Love Live! The School Idol Movie with Nico and Nozomi. However, even in that performance she comes across as the most mature. At the end when they all slump down from exhaustion she can be seen holding a fancy teacup, as opposed to a stuff animal. And when looking at her greatest flaw of taking on too much responsibility and overworking herself, even that element of her character speaks to being a mother/father figure.
A Caring and Supporting Girl
Eli Ayase is the backbone of μ’s. Though all of the girls support each other, it is Eli’s experience in the world of competitive performance, her caring yet strong-willed demeanor, and her sense of responsibility that helps keep them from falling. In terms of her character, she embodies various surface elements of Russian culture, but is also never treated as “foreign” by the girls themselves.