Once upon a time, Love Live! was a virtually unknown idol franchise. Thirteen years later, it’s an industry juggernaut responsible for a massively popular mobile game, sold-out concerts at major venues, and one anime after the next. But the most recent animated Love Live! work takes an unusual direction compared to its predecessors. Titled Yohane the Parhelion: Sunshine in the Mirror, this TV series features the cast of the second generation, Love Live! Sunshine!!, and casts them in an alternate universe of magic and fantasy as opposed to schoolgirl hijinks and musical competition.
Yohane vs. Yoshiko
Normally, “Yohane” is the self-given nickname for Yoshiko Tsushima, a dorky girl from the group Aqours who is the chuunibyou of the group. Yoshiko acts like occult powers actually exist and deep down, wishes they could. However, in Yohane the Parhelion, Yohane is her real name, and she lives in a world where the fantastical is commonplace. In this version, Yohane is someone who went to the big city to try to pursue a singing career but must now reluctantly come back to her small hometown and figure out what to do next. Along the way, she reconnects with old friends and meets new ones (many of whom are also originally Love Live! Sunshine!! characters) and discovers the magic inside of her as well as its connection to the greater forces of her town.
Love Live! …but Not?
In certain ways, Yohane the Parhelion doesn’t actually feel like a Love Live! anime. It has the characters, and it even throws in a bunch of great musical performances, yet it doesn’t capture the same general vibe of the main anime adaptations. A big factor is that while Yohane and the others are indeed alternate versions of existing Love Live! characters, it’s more akin to an Osamu Tezuka “star system” approach: The appearances are the same, and there are similarities in mannerisms and such, but they’re not entirely the same people. It’s a thing where some fans (the ones who only want to see the characters they’re familiar with) might not appreciate how much they’ve changed, whereas others (like myself) enjoy the changes made to the characters’ identities.
A Gateway for Newcomers
The result of those differences is that Yohane the Parhelion is not quite an idol anime in the traditional sense, but I also think this can work out in its favor. While the series has some in-jokes if you’re familiar with Love Live! Sunshine!!, being unaware of them provides little to no barrier to entry for anyone who’s never seen any Love Live! Before. The characters stand on their own, and the differing focus can make it more accessible for those who don’t care much about idols in general. That said, without the idol competition aspect giving some sense of urgency, Yohane the Parhelion can feel slow despite being only 13 episodes.
More Spin-offs Please
While I ultimately prefer the primary Love Live! anime titles, I appreciate the fact that this franchise is able to have spin-offs such as Yohane the Parhelion. Whether Love Live! sticks with Sunshine!! or branches out to other generations, I’d like to see more from this “star system” approach.
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