I’ve said it enough times that people are probably sick of it, but it really is nice that Superstar made the move of introducing our cast across two seasons. That approach served the story and characters incredibly well in season one, giving them all the room to breathe, and that’s continued to be true here. In any other series, Kinako being brought into the Idol Collective would mean her being relegated to the background for a few episodes while we jumped straight into recruiting the next girl. But with only three newbies left, the show can afford to spend time not only developing these characters before it’s time to join Liella! but also let Kinako’s position within the group gestate organically.
It’s not something that’s strictly necessary – you could certainly communicate Kinako being the group’s newborn deer taking her first shaky steps into idolatry in just a couple of comedic scenes – but this approach allows the whole dynamic to have a lot more texture. Kinako isn’t just comically falling over herself during practice, she’s also fretting about holding the others back and second guessing whether she can really do this. And it allows the others to build a rapport with her along the way. Kanon takes up the role of the supportive mentor, and is wonderful at it, but there’s also some fun continuity with Keke handing over her secret conditioning regimen. Keke constantly dying during basic exercise was one of the funniest running jokes of the first season, and seeing it come full circle to be used as a way of connecting with the new girl was just real damn gratifying.
Though not everything goes smoothly there. While the older girls’ instincts to handle Kinako delicately are kind, they also come off like somebody nervously holding a baby hamster, afraid even the slightest bit of pressure would crush it. And Kinako picks up on that, taking their compassion as pity that just reinforces her own insecurities. But that makes it all the more satisfying when she finally finds the courage to tell them to just follow their dreams – she knows she’s behind and will have to work harder, but anything worth doing requires effort, and by god she’s going to become a school idol with them, so stop worrying about leaving her behind. In classic Love Live! fashion this is all capped off with some ridiculous rainbow-colored flower petals swirling around her, because this is still a universe that runs off of whatever would be most dramatic in the moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s also interesting that it’s Kinako who has nearly all the interaction with the other first years. It makes sense since they’re in the same class, but it also puts her in an awkward position as both Idol Neophyte and Ambassador, struggling with her anxiety over holding the rest of the group back while also taking on the burden of recruiting new girls . And it’s incredibly funny to watch her fumble it with Mei, who continues to be wonderfully tsundere for school idols, but also delivers an important message when the club is wavering over attracting new recruits, showing there’s more to her personality than just her (very funny). ) gimmick. I’m also curious to learn more about her and Shiki’s past – them having a pre-established dynamic before even joining the group could hold a lot of promise, and while Shiki is more aloof (and weird) they make a good pair already. Natsumi is still off in her own youtube hole, but the reveal she trades stocks has me very hopeful for her horrible idol gremlin energy. Just don’t let her start shilling crypto garbage, please.
Then there’s the NEW new girl who walks in looking like she just stepped out of an Aikatsu! series to mysteriously utter Kanon’s name like a Gundam antagonist That’s a swerve I wasn’t expecting, considering we already knew the four new members of Liella! and the group had a built-in rival with Sunny-Pa. So who is this chick? How does she know Kanon? What role will she play in this season’s story? How did she get her hair that particular shade of purple? Mysteries abound.
Love Live! Superstar!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.