The Love Live! Superstar!! anime has returned, and one of the biggest changes of the second season is the introduction of four new characters. This brings the main cast up to the traditional number of nine girls, and in a certain sense, it feels like Superstar!! is making things more in line with what’s expected of Love Live! But there is one angle that’s never really been explored, which is a clear senpai/kouhai (or club senior/junior) distinction.
The Difference with Past Love Live! Generations
In all other versions of Love Live!, the core groups are made up of high school first-years to third-years, but they will have all joined at roughly the same time and will therefore be on fairly equal footing. In fact, in certain series, the girls will emphasize treating one another as equals. Love Live! Superstar!!, on the other hand, begins the second season with Kanon Shibuya and the other members of Liella! positioned as the veterans of the club and having to consider how to treat recruits.
What Does It Mean to Be a Senpai?
While this season of Superstar!! indeed lacks that base of all the girls in their club starting off on roughly the same foot, it’s not like it’s trying to emphasize seniority as a necessary guiding principle. Rather, because this division exists, there’s a lot of time in episodes dedicated to exploring the challenges of having to bring potential members into the fold. In the previous season, the girls were unable to pass their preliminary qualifier for the big Love Live! competition, and their resolve to not repeat their loss makes them plan to train harder than ever. However, this has the consequence of suppressing interest because many would-be recruits fear being dead weight, and so now the senpai need to decide how to balance their short-term goals and the long-term health of their club.
Passing the Heroine Torch
Bringing in these younger characters also allows additional instances of the excellent character exploration and development that gave the first season of Superstar!! the best overall storytelling in all of Love Live! Kanon’s personal journey was defined by overcoming her performance anxiety, so now we get to see her take on the role of the guiding force for younger members, especially the first of them to join, Hokkaido native Nozomi Suzuhara. Nozomi effectively functions as the “main heroine” of the new girls, and so you still get the fresh-faced rookie experience at the same time you get Kanon aiming for higher heights.
(As an aside, it’s also kind of bold of the creators to name a second Love Live! girl “Nozomi.” Perhaps the fact that it’s been roughly ten years since Nozomi Toujou was introduced to the world shows how the franchise is moving forward.)
Change Is Good
Thus far, Love Live! Superstar!! has met the challenge of portraying the senpai-kouhai dynamic and making it feel compelling. The obstacles Liella! has to face in figuring out how to strike a balance between accessibility and achievement is an interesting topic. As for the new characters themselves, they breathe some more life into an already thriving story. Things are only looking up from here, and I have little reason to expect disappointment.
PS: Because the new season of Love Live! Superstar is out, the Love Live! School Idol Festival game has lots of bonuses and offers. It might be a good time to use those Japan Apple App store and iTunes gift cards. For a limited time, get an additonal 3% off with the code: “LOVELIVE”. Special offer code expires on September 28th, 2022.
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