Well, considering no one has written a review of this, I might as well. The Love Live! School Idol Project OVA is a 15 minute descent into madness that was bundled with the sixth single of the anime's μ's idol group and aired on November 27, 2013. Why do I call it a descent into madness? Because the story of this OVA is complete nonsense. There's something about being in a dream, Maki's piano not working, tiny Maki scaring normal Maki for no real reason which is never brought up again, Ayase forgetting a textbook and then chasing after a shadow, it suddenly being nighttime,
Maki being a child for....some reason, and a fireworks show. Oh, and apparently the entire thing is a dream. Whose dream? I don't know! The show never tells us. I'm assuming it's Maki's, but it's never really explained. Maki as a child tells us that they are indeed inside of a dream, and that it is a "never-ending party", whatever that means. After that, Maki abruptly turns back into her usual teenage self via some sort of alien abduction or divine act of god, and then tells the other girls that she has always liked them.
That is roughly the first 10 minutes. The remaining 5 minutes is devoted to a musical number, a song called "Music S.T.A.R.T!!." If you liked the music in Love Live, it would probably be worth it to you to watch this OVA just for the song. I don't particularly enjoy Idol music, but the same quality of music and animation in the show is clearly present here (for better or worse), so if you're into that go ahead and give it a watch.
Also worth noting: I don't grade OVAs or specials; MAL forces you to pick an overall score to attach to your review. The score I gave this does not mean anything.
This ova didn't really have a good story, but it was still ok. Everyone including Maki herself is trapped in a dream world. There is really no point to this dream world since it doesn't really add much to overall plot or character progression of Love Live, but it was helpful in one way. The dream did reveal some of Maki's true feelings and I guess that's good enough for such a weird ova. It also lead into a new song, which is actually pretty good. This isn't bad since it actually does show some of Maki's inner feelings and
it leads to a new song, but it's not really good either and there is not really a reason for this to have even been made.
Very recently, I was asked what my favorite anime OVAs of all time were. It was a really difficult thing to answer just because I hadn't really held any OVAs in extremely high regard. However, after thinking about OVAs as a whole for a couple days, I realized something: the Love Live! OVA is a very firm exception to the claim I just made. That, and there's also the fact that the Love Live! OVA is UNDERRATED as ALL HELL.
There's been a pretty firm amount of criticism spread around the LL fandom, and the anime community in general, in regards to how the LL OVA
started off. Personally, however, I thought the way it started out was flawless. That's a pretty big "personally," though, as there is a bit of personal bias behind my ideas in regards to the OVA starting off well.
For some reason, I've always loved beginnings that are mysterious, including a scene (or multitude of individual things that are pretty much a large amount of small scenes) that happens completely unexpectedly. As in, you have absolutely no idea what's going on, why it's going on, and also haven't been given ultra specific context clues or hints that could help you better understand what's going on. My very favorite example of this kind of writing used within the introductory phase of a series (though it'd be OVA in the case of this review) would be Shinsekai Yori, as it can take a few episodes before things start to become clearer, and another 7 before things actually make decent sense.
The Love Live! OVA starts off like this, just in a much smaller dose. The truth behind the mysterious initial scene is explained within 2 minutes. None of that affected my enjoyment of the scene overall, as the writing in general was extremely well-done for the time that it did last, plus it still took up a fair fraction of the short OVA, so the length was pretty much as good as it could be.
Now, what about beyond that? The entire idea behind the OVA beyond the initial scene is what really made me love the entire thing as a whole.
The OVA progresses with a slightly more mysterious tone, as we see a character who resembles another one but isn't her. Of course, the character we believe it resembles notices her, and seems to just disappear after that. Sounds kinda weird, right? It is, but in a very good way.
What this OVA aimed to do was provide a little bit of general character depth to literally all 9 of the characters, even though one in specific was the main focus of the OVA. It made you realize a lot about the characters as a whole; that they'd be completely fine with being idols for as long as possible just because of the people that they're around. These kinds of things are never expressly stated, but instead expressed through symbolism.
The main symbolic expression present within this OVA is the "dream" that it seems to take place in. You're never given ANY word from who's perspective this OVA takes place. There's assumptions in that regard, but every assumption could actually be proven incorrect. As a result, it's EXTREMELY implied that it's something that all of the characters are thinking about, and believe is true, which allows for all 9 to grow in some way, shape, or form.
As a whole, the OVA captures a side of Love Live! that we'd never really seen up until here, and it does it almost flawlessly. The OVA is something that can be watched a dozen times and still enjoyed each and every time, just because there's multiple ways to interpret it and there's lots of things to process that could have easily been missed upon an initial watch/multiple watches.
The OVA ends with the song Music S.T.A.R.T!!, which is a song that fits the OVA as a whole absolutely perfectly, more perfectly than any song ever could. We're also given a really nice compilation of scenes (ones primarily from a slumber party of some sort) that mostly just serve as eye candy for the fans, but it's still such a great thing to experience since it's basically a sandbox of scenes that would never really happen in the main series, but at the same time, don't at ALL feel out of place. As such, the odds of you seeing a scene in it that you enjoy greatly are quite high, and I'd be surprised if any fan of the series didn't see at least one scene they absolutely adored.
There's also a bit of debate on whether or not the slumber party scenes were intended to be very sneaky foreshadowing of future events that take place within the second season. If you know about those debates, I'll just quickly say that I, personally, don't believe they really were. I just, simply, believe that they only have one pair of pajamas, and the specific contents of the second season were just them wearing the same pair during a completely different time.
Though, I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if the scenes did end up being foreshadowing. But I suppose we'll never know either way.
So, when all's said and done, what you get with the Love Live! OVA is an interesting introduction, an extremely well-written story point that is far different in tone from the main Love Live! series and can also be interpreted multiple different ways, a very well-received message, an amazing song that fits the OVA's general purpose absolutely perfectly, a sandbox of scenes that are simply just really nice to watch, a high amount of rewatch value, and generally just something great. This OVA is not only extremely underrated, but generally just extremely underappreciated. It needs more attention and more fans, because it truly deserves them.
By far my favorite OVA of all time, and without a doubt one of my very favorite single episodes of Love Live! as well, which just so happens to be one of my very favorite series' of all time. Quite a title for a simple OVA to hold.
Hopefully, my review has persuaded people who have yet to watch this OVA to go ahead and go watch it ASAP. And with that said, my time here is done. Thanks for reading.