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All I wanted was cute girls singing and dancing… And then they made my eyes… um… er…… sweat. (Yeah, that’s totally what they did. It definitely¬†wasn’t a flood of tears.)

Love Live! Sunshine!! is the story of nine high school girls forming an idol group to represent their school–and just maybe win the fabled school idol Love Live! competition.

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for the third episode of Love Live! Sunshine!!]

In the third episode, the main protagonist, Chika Takami, and her best friend You (pronounced “Yoh,” not “Yuu”) Watanabe, have successfully recruited the pianist, Riko Sakurauchi, and are one step closer to creating a legitimate school idol club. Unfortunately, they encounter a massive hurdle with the appearance of Mari Ohara, a senior student and chairman of the school (what conflict of interest?). Mari sets a wager that she will allow the girls to be a recognized school idol club despite not having the required five members if they can fill a gymnasium with spectators at an upcoming live event she has set up for them. If they can’t get enough people, they must disband and give up their ambitions to be school idols.

The girls realize that even if they manage to gather the entire student body, they still won’t have enough people to fill the gymnasium. So they set about passing out flyers and begging relatives to bring their friends to see the performance. After doing all they can, the day of destiny arrives. With a storm raging outside, the girls go up on stage, the curtain rises, and they see only a handful of people in a largely empty hall.

Knowing they’ve lost their wager, the girls still decide to throw the best performance they can to the people who have come to see them. The music starts and they begin their song, and then lightning strikes nearby and the power goes out. Without lights or acoustics, the girls are forced to try to continue the mini live by singing acapella. It was around this point that I discovered that the air in my room was dusty…

While I like to consider myself a rather empathic person, I generally find cheap character deaths that are used just to force emotion out of the viewer to be crude and insulting. My own personal credo is, if you want to get an honest, genuine emotional response from me, don’t kill a character; kill their dreams. From the start of the series, Chika has been portrayed as a spunky, overly cheerful girl who charges headlong with a smile against any obstacles that might stare her in the face. For the first time in her life she has found something she truly wants and believes in, i.e, being a school idol, and eagerly strives for it despite overwhelming odds. Even her friends and family remark that they’ve never seen her so dedicated to anything before. And then this happened.

To see her on that dark stage, her trembling voice cracking and slowly fading away as you see her one single dream crumble to ash before her eyes was heartbreaking. For me, as a spectator, it seemed a silly pipe dream at first. A young girl wants to be an idol. How quaint! But the story managed to sell just how much that silly dream meant to Chika, and watching her loss made me feel her pain to the point that now I’m running low on Kleenex. Bravo,¬†Love Live!

I won’t spoil how the episode ends, but suffice it to say, while I was lukewarm at first, I am fully on board the Love Live! Sunshine!! boat now.

Love Live! Sunshine!! can be viewed on Funimation, Daisuki, AnimeLab (AU/ZN), Crunchyroll (UK), and Wakanim (EU).

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