Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

When it comes to large ensemble casts, especially those with idols, there tends to be no casual viewers. One is either a fan of the genre, and thus a fan of a specific series, or one has very little interest. To my surprise, taking on Love Live! Sunshine!! season 2 has me asking far more questions than I would have suspected possible. And as such, it has increased my interest in tracking down and watching the other series. This was a surprising development.

The second season of Love Live! Sunshine!! picks up, obviously, where the first season ended. The first season largely took place in the first term of the school year at Uranohoshi Girls’ High School in rural Shizuoka Prefecture. The basic premise of the franchise is that a group of girls try to form an idol group and compete against other idol groups in a series of “idol-offs” called “love lives.” (In Japanese, the English word “live” comes from “live music venue” or “live concert.” So whereas in English the word is an adjective, in Japanese it becomes a noun.) The major plot point of the Sunshine series is that Uranohoshi is a rural and very much dying school. Apparently the girls hope that if they succeed in making a name for themselves, they will save their school and become famous at the same time. Ambitious.

Image source: Bandai Channel on YouTube

I want to reiterate that to watch and enjoy the second season of Sunshine you don’t need to have seen the previous season. In fact, I specifically said you don’t even need to have seen any of the series. I wrote that because I hadn’t seen any Love Live before I started watching the second season of Sunshine. This is absolutely true. What I hadn’t counted on was that despite the lack of a need to watch any thing else in the franchise, I’d actually want to track down more of the series to understand what I am watching. It’s true that you can glean a lot of how the “love lives” work from just Sunshine season 2, but if you’re like me (a voracious consumer of world-building), you’re going to want to know a lot more. 

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

Why is the Love Live franchise addictive? And specifically, why is Sunshine so intriguing? I guess because honestly, it plays on the emotions; we have four underdogs becoming winners. Most of us don’t feel like winners in our daily lives. Or if we do feel like winners, or difference makers, it’s not in some celebrity, fairy tale kind of way. Instead, when we win, our victories are small. For some of us, it’s rightfully a victory if we get out of bed in the morning; a victory if we get ourselves to work or school; a victory when when we get everything finished that we need to in a day. It’s nice to follow the adventures of a group of protagonists who are starting from way back in the pack and root for them as they reach the top. And the top, no less, of something that very few people ever want to really do or try to do earnestly. At least versus the general population. 

Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

In order to really get a complete handle on just how far behind the girls of Uranohashi are compared to their competitors, I’ve really had to step up my research of the franchise. In doing so, I’ve gone from no interest in the Love Live franchise outside of the current season to wanting to know more about the competition scheme across the franchise as a whole. I had to go back and understand that Sunshine essentially has the same basic plot conflict as the original series. Previously, I had no real interest in the series even though I have had friends and students who have been big fans.

Rural Uranohoshi Girls’ High School Battles the Odds of Student Recruitment in Love Live! Sunshine!!’s Second Season

If, like me, you have no prior background to the Love Live franchise, then you may be surprised to know that the first series, which takes place at the much more urban and perhaps quite a bit more prestigious (at least at one point) Otonokizaka Academy, starts with an even more dramatic statement of closure. The school is already slated for closing, and there’s not a lot of time to make a difference. This point ties the two schools together, but there are clearly differences between them, too. Very important differences. 

Image source: Lantis Channel on YouTube

The girls of Otonokizaka certainly seem to view the idol group more as a means to an end in the beginning (they need a recruitment strategy, so Kosaka Honoka is the one who comes up with the plan to save the school through the idol group), Uranohoshi seems to have initially a different priority: the idol group itself, Aquors. If Uranohoshi closes, then the idol group cannot continue, and the girls cannot “shine brightly” as they so desire. Seeing the difference between the two groups, Aquors and μ’s, helps us understand better the relative advantages and disadvantages—not to mention priorities—of different schools in the “love live” competitions would wouldn’t have just going off off a single series. 

So, sure, you may not actually need to see any of the previous parts of the Love Live franchise, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself wanting to do so. I was fully prepared to watch just the second season of Sunshine and leave it at that. However, my increase in interest in the circumstances of Uranohoshi led me to sincerely wish to know more about the “love live” system and the types of schools the Aquors would be competing against. And then, before I really realized it, Love Love had me hooked. It might just hook you, too. 

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

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