The sun is setting, and the dust on the well-worn road begins to settle. I look out to the traveler, as they are ready to depart.
“Leaving already?” I ask, my heart sinking as I already know the answer.
“I have to,” they reply, “It’s what we decided, together.”
“But I feel like there’s so much we can do still, so much more we can accomplish here!” I spit my words out in vain, I already know why this is happening, and I wholeheartedly understand. But to understand and to accept are two completely different concepts.
“It’s not like I’m gone forever,” they say, “I left you my card, and my number.”
“Yeah… but,” I try to find anything more to say, anything that will delay the inevitable for at least another second. But I fail to do even that.
“Alright, this is goodbye,” they whisper. “It’s been good, it’s been really good.” They kick up their legs, letting the horse they’ve been mounting know that it really is time to go. “Faito dayo.”
I turn and look around as eight others pass me, looking back at me and smiling the most bittersweet smile that imagination couldn’t have ever conjured up.
While on their horses, they join the one I’ve been talking to and they line up, their stallions walking off into the sunset, concluding the journey they’ve set out for themselves, the journey they started together. And all I can do is watch as they finish it.
I then turn around from this ridiculous setup, and I get on my computer.
I watched the Love Live! Movie.
If you don’t know, and you very may well not, since I keep most things about myself as secret as I possibly can, I’m a huge Love Live! fan. I mean, a huge Love Live! fan. I’ve watched and rewatched both seasons multiple times, religiously listen to the music, done plenty of fan art that I’ve uploaded on another blog, and currently at level 164 in the game.
So with all that being said, you could say I was a bit hyped for the movie, if you wanted to win understatement of the year. And as such, this review is going to be a bit special. Special thanks to The OG-Man for green lighting my little review, by the way. I know this show is beloved by him and many on this site, so I just wanted to share my thoughts with the Yuri Nation.
First off, it’s not a manga review (obviously), and secondly, it’s not going to really even be a review. More like an overview of my experience watching this film and going over what I loved about this movie, because I can hardly find anything to say to this film’s detriment.
That’s why I’m going to get this out of the way now, instead of typically putting it at the end of my reviews: 10/10.
Go see this goddamn movie.
Alright, let’s get into the meat of things.
Love Live! needs no introduction, but I’ll provide a quick rundown of things. Love Live! centers around μ’s, a school idol group who formed to save their school, which was in danger of shutting down. The group consists of nine girls, each with their own unique personality, traits, and backstories. We’ll be here forever if I get in depth with each member now, so I’ll just list them off. Second years feature the leader Kousaka Honoka, Sonoda Umi, and Minami Kotori. The first years have Koizumi Hanayo, Hoshizora Rin, and Nishikino Maki. And then the third years consist of Ayase Eli, Toujou Nozomi, and Yazawa Nico. Who’s your favorite?
Note from OG: Readers who have yet to experience why Love Live is as big as it is check out my reviews of the previous two seasons below.
I’ll avoid making spoilers for the actual movie, but I will have to spoil a bit of the TV anime in order to talk about it. So any readers who haven’t seen even the show yet… get out of here and do that instead!
The movie answers what happens literally seconds after the ending of the second season, in which the girls have just made peace with the fact that they will be no more, and are about to see the third years off. Hanayo received a message on her phone, and becomes surprised at the news. She runs back inside to the school, much to the confusion of the others. They followed in order to find out what this is all about. This movie finally answered what I had asking for almost up to a year now, “What the hell was that message about!?”
And that’s where we start.
I watched this movie with a couple of friends at a reputable theater, which is to say I had a fantastic experience. We sat down, and enjoyed the hectic ambience of people running back and forth, trading signboards and SR codes like it was the New York Stock exchange. People were in cosplay and the dark theater would occasionally brighten from pictures being taken. It was a surreal experience, hearing people yell out names and references to the show, having only talked to others about Love Live! online. By the way, I got the Honoka signboard and the Kotori SR. What about you?
After the pre-show, which even that I don’t want to spoil, the movie begins. And what I can report was that I got the most enjoyable and emotionally engaging one hour and thirty minutes of my movie watching life in 2015. That may be a crazy statement to some, but not to me. My bias is pretty obvious here, but this is a write-up on my experience, so I won’t apologize for it.
Now, like always, let’s start with the art, including animation.
It’s Sunrise, what do you expect? It’s gorgeous. And I mean gorgeous. μ’s never looked so good. Everyone and everything moves with so much detail and smoothness that I loved just watching them walk and talk. The classic Sunrise Smooth is in full play here. From the first shot in the movie, the way the lighting is held and just how good the characters look, you know you’ll be in for a visual treat.
Now, despite being the Love Live! fan that I am, I won’t lie, and I’ll admit that the CG in the TV show was pretty off-putting. Especially in the first season. The 3D models danced on the edge of the uncanny valley so well it’s almost impressive.
It gets much better in the second season, I will grant you that, to the point that you could almost mistake the CG for 2D. Following that trend up to the movie, I had no problem. All of it looked amazing and convincing. I even forgot during song sections that there was CG used. And because of that, the CG wide shots of all nine girls no longer look stiff and awkward. They now move with the same weight and fluidity as the much cleaner 2D closeups, of which could only hold two to three girls at a time. When it comes to cinematography, that’s a whole new dimension of angles and shots to work with, and the movie definitely takes advantage of that. There was the occasional out of place CG, like during shots of New York City and the background characters were the odd ones out, but that’s hardly a complaint. All in all, pretty much everything was satisfying to look at.
I’m planning to leave story for later, so let’s go to the songs. I could do an entire ‘theneedledrop’-esque review on the songs in this movie, since there’s a lot to talk about. But for the sake of not spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the songs are pretty great. Plenty of diversity in the musical styles, so if you weren’t too hot on one song, you may feel another. The integration of the songs in the movie was an interesting approach too, but not too out of place if you consider some scenes in the TV show. Susume→Tomorrow and Happy Maker anyone?
But this is a franchise that revolves around music and dance, so it only fits that μ’s would close out on a proper and emotionally-destroying swan song. Do they succeed? I’ll answer that with only one word.
I want to go into that in more detail later, so let’s get more into the meat of the review; how’s the story of this movie? They could’ve easily just made a fan-service heavy movie, throwing all the in jokes and memes they could, put in a few songs and dance sections, and charge 10 to 20 dollars to see it. Just do all that, and call it a day. It would’ve been easy. But, did they though? I’d personally argue a hard no, and say that the movie went above and beyond my expectations in terms of plot, character development, comedy and writing.
The writing is the vehicle that drives the above mentioned things, and it deserves applause. The character interactions are especially satisfying to watch, since these girls have already gotten the bulk of their development in the previous two seasons, so whenever they’re in the same hotel room, they’re already a well-oiled machine and a close-knit group of friends.
And due to this, the comedy in this movie was spot on. Every character gets in a good joke, every joke getting a good reaction out the audience I watched the movie with. If the movie can get my friends – who aren’t very familiar with the franchise at all – to laugh, then that should show some testament to its humor. Umi in particular stood out, especially during their time in New York. Rin too. And Nico had that scene which was really good… Screw it, they were all funny.
But when it needs to, the story and writing can really buckle down and give you some real substance you have to sit down for and think about in the context of the franchise. Like I said before, I won’t spoil how, but through certain events and circumstances, the writing and dialogue gets so thick and meta (so surprisingly meta), that it almost feels like when Honoka or the others engage in conservation, they’re directly talking to the audience as well. And it doesn’t just stop at dialogue either. The entire act in New York just screams out how popular Love Live! is internationally in the real world. And that’s only a small example. The metaphors get thicker than alpaca fur.
Thematically, the movie is about expectation, in every sense and context of the word, and how the movie tackles that theme is equal parts satisfying and heartbreaking. I really want to talk about how this is handled, but in trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, I won’t get into how it’s done. Watch the movie, and you’ll get what I mean.
But what I feel the movie’s biggest accomplishment was that it felt like an actual movie. Not a one-hour and thirty minute episode of the show for a quick buck, but rather its own installment with its own emotional weight that leaves a lasting impact on μ’s and their legacy. It has its dramatic structure that follows that pyramid you had to fill out in grade school to a T, making this movie representative of something larger than itself, larger than μ’s. And you really feel it when you watch this movie. And from the various sniffles and tears that emanated from the audience as the movie was approaching its final moments, I’m not the only one who thought that.
Damn, I think I have something in my eye.
I don’t know what else to say that doesn’t make me sound like a broken record. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. 10/10. The only thing this movie failed in doing was keeping me emotionally okay by the end of it. I know it completely wrecked a lot of the girls in the audience I was with. Even the friends I went with enjoyed the hell out of it, which I considered a personal victory. If you can continue to talk about a film throughout the week after you watched it, something should be said about its quality. Also, conspiracy-theorizing about certain possible science-fiction implications in this movie is fun as hell.
So all in all, watch the Love Live! Movie if you have the chance. Hardcore fans and casual watchers alike. And come back here to talk with me about it.
Oh yeah, considering the nature of this site, how’s the yuri here? As typical with the TV anime, generally light, with some bit of fan-service every now and then. While every pairing in this movie gets put in the limelight in this film, they manage to throw in a few surprises that had a lot of comedic opportunity. Also some new fan art possibilities. As the movie ended and we were leaving the theater, a girl beside me said, “Everyone is so gay.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So now, I’ll conclude my disorganized ramblings on this. While this movie focused a lot on the graduation of the third years, it really felt more like the graduation of μ’s as a whole. We watch as μ’s sings its final hoorah, our eyes a little wet as the last song plays out. It’s a beautiful sequence, and a great song, the lyrics especially hitting you right in the heart. Have you ever had your soul weep? I haven’t had a case of post-anime depression this bad since probably the first time I finished the series about a year ago.
Now with Love Live! Sunshine!! starting up now in the heels of this movie, it feels like a passing of the torch from μ’s to Aqours. I personally am excited for Aqours development, and learning more about the characters. They won’t be μ’s, but they don’t have to be, because they just need to be the best Aqours they can be.
But damn… damn… will I miss μ’s.