Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

It’s generally well known among fans of anime and Japanese culture in general that, within reason and ability, students can choose their own high schools. Not all high schools are desirable, however. Some are no longer near population centers, others have poor reputations, and others have unique situations that are affecting their incoming admissions. This is precisely the problem of Uranohoshi High School in Love Live! Sunshine!!

You Can Watch Love Live Sunshine!! Season 2 without Watching the Previous Seasons

Love Live! Sunshine!! is the story of a group of girls at a slowly dying girls’ high school in rural Shizuoka prefecture of Japan. Despite the beauty of the high school and its students determination to become a successful idol group in the “Love Live” competitions, the school is having serious trouble recruiting students. Not only is this extremely difficult in general terms, but the girls of Uranohashi are competing with much more prestigious and large bodied urban high schools in Tokyo and Osaka. To say that the girls of Sunshine are underdogs is an understatement. Underunderdogs? Underpuppies? Point is, they start from a profound disadvantage.

Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

Yet, honestly, things really are even worse for Uranohashi because the school is simply too far, too unpopular, and too old to have attracted many students. If the girls can’t rustle up enough new blood from current junior high school third year students, the principal has informed them that the school will close. And unfortunately, the number they’ve been given is pretty large for such a rural school as Uranohoshi. They must recruit 100 students, and so far, they’ve had expressions of interest from only ten students. This means the girls will really need to step up active recruitment.

You might think the answer is simply to eliminate entrance exams outright, but that’s not really going to be possible. Many high schools in Japan have entrance exams as a way to determine enrollment, yes, but that’s not all there is to it. While popular schools, of course, need these in order to actually only take the best of the best, entrance exams aren’t always the actual determiner of admission. This is especially true of small schools like the one in Love Live! Sunshine!! Nearly without students, the school cannot afford to be extremely picky when it comes to exam results. So why have an exam at all?

That’s an excellent question, and the answer is because of the way that mandatory and free public education works in Japan. Through ninth grade, the end of junior high school, education is provided to every child free of charge in Japanese public schools. It’s not only provided, it’s compulsory. The potential downside of this interpretation of the constitutional guarantee of free, mandatory education is that students simply cannot fail. Ever. They can get bad grades, and yet they still get passed onto the next grade. They will graduate from elementary school and then junior high school. At that point, it’s possible that they could arrive at any high school that would take them with literally no ability to handle a high school level of education. No school wants that.

Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

At the very least, all recruited students must be able to have a comprehensive junior high school education in reality (not just on paper) in order to be able to actually do high school level work. Just because this is a high school building a reputation for its “love live” high school “idol project” club doesn’t mean that it lower standards significantly below any other high school. Doing so doesn’t only make a mockery of the idea that this is a school (and not a talent agency), but it also probably runs afoul of a great many prefectural and national education policies and laws. So, if Uranohoshi is to survive, the girls will need to make sure that potential students want to take any entrance exam that the school will make them sit. 

So how do students choose schools? More importantly, how do the schools convince students to choose them? Well, assuming they meet the educational requirements and believe they can pass the entrance examinations (and we assume that most competent students will be able to pass Uranohoshi’s entrance exam), there are several ways students can be enticed to choose a particular school. Cultural festivals (known as bunkasai) are pretty well covered in most anime and drama series about school life. In addition to being a fun school spirt event, they also allow the general public to come and visit. And that often means that prospective students from area junior high schools (and sometimes even further away) are actively encouraged to attend. Posters and information are sent to junior high schools where they are posted by the teachers. 

These events allow the prospective students to also find out about the school architecture, the facilities (as the public can wander around the building largely freely, with some exceptions), and get a sense of school history (as many schools have specific culture festival traditions going back years, decades, or even to the school founding). And it gives clubs, like Uranohashi’s “Love Live” club a chance to “shine,” on the school stage or in its club room. For a school like Uranohashi, the big pitch is going to be that you can get a comprehensive high school education and help make school and area history in the “Love Live” competitions. You can’t do that just anywhere else, especially in such a rural yet beautiful setting. 

Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

It’s worth noting too that high schools, even if they have fairly easy entrance examinations, storied histories, and unique and/or successful clubs, have one more potential trump card to play if all else fails: uniforms. A surprising number of students, especially when considering otherwise comparable schools, make final application decisions based on school uniforms.

Uranohashi, too, has a rather interesting take on the sailor uniform, and also includes a winter version with a sailor collar but a blazer torso. Even the summer uniforms have unique sleeves and ribbon structure. I wouldn’t be surprised if after all the fun activities, “love live” style concerts, and tours of Uranohashi, the girls tell prospective students, “Yeah, and our uniforms are awesome too!” Will they succeed? Let’s find out! “Zero to one, one to ten, ten to one hundred!”

Love Live Sunshine!! Second Season can be watched with subs on Crunchyroll or dubbed on FUNimation.

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