Episode 7 – Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club Season 2

I worry I’ve come off as harsh during this stretch of Nijigasakilike I expect this franchise to have high-level stakes and palpable melodrama and end up disappointed when it doesn’t deliver as such. Because that is definitely not the case. I’ve watched and enjoyed this franchise long enough to know where its strike zone is, and I think there’s plenty of room within that to tell compelling, charming, even emotionally gripping stories to pair with the goofy Idol hijinks. My problem with Setsuna’s episode is that there just wasn’t much conflict to be had – Setsuna’s dual life shtick was always nebulous at best, and there was never really a sense that there would be any real upset if her secret got out. So when we capped off that story with a big musical number, it came off feeling perfunctory, rather than a spectacle meant to crescendo the journey these characters had gone on.

So I’m thankful Shioriko’s time in the spotlight manages to actually have a conflict to resolve. After half a season skulking on the sidelines and threatening to do something significant, we finally get a look into our fang-faced first year’s inner struggles, and there’s some good stuff here. She’s certainly not the first Love Live! character to convince herself she couldn’t be a School Idol, but I like how her reasoning comes naturally from her backstory. Seeing the sister she idolizedno pun intended ok yes, pun intended) break down over failing to win the Love Live! taught her to just stick to the safest, stable path, and that’s a pretty relatable feeling. Better to stay in the background, helping people with the talent to succeed rather than chasing waterfalls she doesn’t believe she’s suited for. It’s sort of a more depressive version of Yu’s devotion to the School Idol Club, and it does a lot to humanize her.

My one big niggle here is that because this all comes up in a single episode, there’s not much room to get more personal or intimate with those feelings. The two characters closest to Shioriko are Kaoruko and Lanzhu, and the latter of those two is still being cordoned off until we eventually get back to her storyline. Kaoruko can’t really be the one to solve this for her sister, so it’s left to the School Idol Club to do the heavy lifting for a character they’ve barely interacted with. That makes the big scene where they all come together to encourage Shioriko to follow her dreams a lot less meaningful than it could have been. I appreciate how it incorporates the lessons Setsuna learned last week, and gives that whole conflict some more backbone, but I can’t help thinking of how much more impact this could have if Shioriko had established a relationship with any of our main girls before now. Even Mia has had more meaningful interactions with the Nijigasakids, and all she’s done is pet a cat and eat burgers.

That all said, I do rather like the music video finale to all of this. I’m not wild about the song – after that high-energy Drum n Bass intro it kinda peters out, plus the CR release doesn’t translate the lyrics at time of writing – but the visuals do some solid work in communicating Shioriko’s character. Previous MVs have been flashy and energetic, focused more on the in-universe performance with some fanservice shots of the cast in various outfits from the All Stars game. Here, they work in some dramatic visual metaphors as Shioriko wanders a library frozen in time, searching for the key that will let her wind the clock and move forward again. And it’s that ever-present shining feather of School Idolotry that finally leads her to it, a bookmark that’s kept her place and can allow her to pick up where she left off. It’s a clever way to work in one of the franchise‘s most enduring symbols while also making the staple musical numbers more than sheer spectacle.

Overall, this is certainly a step up from last week. Part of me can’t help but compare it to the similar arc Sumire took in Superstarand how that achieved a lot more of what it was trying for, but Nijigasaki has always had its own way of going about things. I can’t fault it for doing its best within its own terms. Really my biggest takeaway is that final shot of a conflicted-looking Lanzhu – I really hope this means we can return to her and Mia and start exploring them as characters now.

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Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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