Lanzhu the Heel: How Love Live! Nijigasaki Explores Differences in Personal Goals



Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club Season 2 introduces new girls to the anime, including Lanzhu Zhong from Hong Kong. Unlike other previous rivals in Love Live! such as A-RISE and Saint Snow, Lanzhu is the closest the franchise has ever come to having a full-fledged heel. The result of having such a character be prominent is that Nijigasaki Season 2 is able to explore contrasting motivations for being a school idol.

Lanzhu’s Approach to Success

To be fair to Lanzhu, she’s not malicious or out to humiliate the others. Rather, her disagreement with the School Idol Club comes from the fact that the latters’ members “do it for the fans.” In Lanzhu’s view, school idols should be above the audience, and relying on their support to keep going is a mistake. Lanzhu sees being a school idol as about how well she does for herself, and is willing to show up the other girls to prove her point.

A Clash of Artistic Philosophies

Lanzhu’s actions carry a degree of antagonism, but they also play well with one of the main themes of Nijigasaki: Everyone has their own individual qualities and ideas of who they want to be as performers, and this personal aspect should be celebrated. More broadly, Lanzhu’s presence emphasizes how people can have incredibly different reasons to endeavor creatively. For example, some people strive for praise and fan reactions, others want to hone their craft, and still others want to express something inside them. These categories aren’t cut and dry, and pretty much every girl in Nijigasaki has some combination, but Lanzhu’s is just especially pronounced because of how it focuses on reaching personal perfection.

A Tense Atmosphere, and for the Better

I’m aware of the fact that Lanzhu can be a controversial character. While I don’t know exactly how the story goes in the School Idol Festival All Stars mobile game (the source material for Nijigasaki and a place to pump your Japan iTunes cards), I know that Lanzhu messes with the generally chummy attitude one expects from Love Live! At least in the context of the anime, I actually think this “heel” behavior works well to enhance the story by providing this point of contention among its large cast in defiance of the traditional “puppies and rainbows” feel of Love Live! Rather than characters working together to save the school, Nijigasaki takes a more introspective approach, showing the consequences that emerge from trying to figure out the “right” way for them as individuals. And for that, we have Lanzhu to thank.

 

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