There wasn’t really any conflict or drama leading into this season finale. Hell, we wrapped up all the stuff with the new characters back in episode nine, so there certainly wasn’t going to be any big surprises or twists in here. Much like season one, Nijigasaki chooses instead to go out with an episode-length concert, but whereas season one’s ending felt like a victory lap, this one feels like a farewell.
Like, not in the sense that things are wrapped up or there’s no room left for more stories or gags with these characters. Nobody graduates or moves abroad or ascends to School Idol Godhood to oversee future generations of Love Lives. They could, theoretically, make another season or movie with this cast without having to change or ignore anything in this finale. If nothing else I’m hedging my bets with that title up top. But I dunno – after watching that big group performance, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was some kind of goodbye, as if the show was staring straight into the camera and bidding adieu to its fans.
And I mean that pretty literally. From what I can tell, they went so far as to include actual fanart sent in by Nijigasaki fans, constructing a huge wall of fan letters and messages in-universe for the cast before their big New Years concert. Like most marketing-driven properties, Love Live! has always been pretty tuned in and reactive to fans – by all accounts the changes to Lanzhu and Shioriko’s stories were in response to a pretty negative fan reaction to the game’s storyline – but this is taking a step beyond even that. Add in the sheer amount of cameos from characters exclusive to the mobile games, and this episode turns into a heaping bowl of fanservice for longtime Lives.
Granted, there are still some problems with that, mostly stemming from the issues that have pestered this season. Every single idol gets a new song to perform this episode, but there’s nowhere near enough time for them to each get the music video treatment, so instead we get 30-second snippets of every girl going out on stage individually, and that drags after a little while. There are some cute moments – Rina’s fans recreating her faceplate with glowsticks is absolutely adorable, and it was nice seeing her help bolster Mia’s nerves; Shizuka’s song just outright namedropping Audrey Hepburn – but it has the dual problems of each individual section being too short to mean much, but still taking up too much time in aggregate. There are just too many characters here that, by the law of Not Pissing Off A Character’s Fans, have to get roughly equal screentime, and that can’t fit into a 20-minute episode of animation.
After that though, things pick up. It’s incredibly sweet to see Yu get some fan mail and flowers of her own. I joke about her being Nijigasaki‘s harem lead, because she is, but she’s also a character in her own right, and one that could sometimes fall by the wayside in season one since she never got up on stage herself. But this season, for all its faults, let her shine as brightly as the rest of the girls, and her reaction to inspiring the same excitement that got her to pursue music is a great way to bring her full-circle.
But the real sendoff comes in the extra-long closing song, and if this really is the last of animated Nijigasaki, this is a pretty perfect swan song. It’s not my favorite song as just an isolated track, but the presentation put into this last performance really does feel like a heartfelt sayonara to the show and characters. Every girl gets a solid line in – and Crunchyroll even went the extra mile by color-coding the subtitle text – with a visual callback to the solo songs from their individual character episodes. There’s an entire portion of the song that’s just showing off the crowd, which I’m pretty sure included every single generic R-rarity character from the School Idol Festival mobile game. Not to mention the montage of seemingly everyone across the world watching the performance on everything from smartphones to billboards. It’s about as emphatic a “goodbye” as you can get without actually saying the words.
And if this is the final number for Nijigasaki, it’s as good a closer as you can ask for. While this spinoff hasn’t been perfect – and this season in particular has hit more than a few stumbling blocks – I have definitely enjoyed my time with it. If nothing else, Kasumin has clawed her way into my favorites of the franchise, and there’s been a few tunes along the way that are taking up residence in my writing playlist. It’s not the best that Love Live! has to offer, but it’s been a good time, and if they do ever want to bring this cast back in anime form, I’ll happily follow that rainbow too.
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.