I need to write this.
I feel compelled to write this.
A single 'tags' box can't possibly contain all of my thoughts and feelings for this season.
So, before we get right to it, heavy spoilers, if there's anything worth spoiling anyway.
Love Live Sunshine S2 is shit.
After S1 set the bar for what was, most likely, to be the best season of Love Live ever, maybe even surpassing the masterful S2, ended up being the corniest, most obnoxious, most mind-numbingly boring, most underwhelming experience I've ever had with a piece of entertainment. Yup, this thing is down there with Terminator Salvation and Bioshock 2. But, to be fair, it's not exactly Final Fantasy X-2. How do I say this? It's a piece of shit but not entirely.
Unlike the older seasons, it looks prettier. The soundtrack is nice. And the 3D animation is nice to look at, not like the awkward CG models they used in the original. The 2D animation is a lot slicker and more animated, allowing for a range of expressions in body language (which they didn't do at all). As for the girls themselves, DO YOU SEE THAT DETAIL? The amount of work they put into making the girls a lot prettier and flashier is impressive. As a training animator myself, I can just imagine the sweat and tears put into the lineart per frame.
Hm, what else... Yup, that's it for the positives, I think. Now let's tear this thing apart.
One of the key things that made Love Live so good was how they utilized drama. Whenever there was a situation the characters couldn't handle, it was always given due care, embracing an amount of subtlety or loudness that always fit the situation. Yes, even the massive outbreak scene in the original S1. The way they build up scenes with music, voice acting, blocking and camera angles manage to convey the emotions the characters are feeling. The other key thing was silence. The characters would only talk when they needed to, and convey what they needed to. This is true for the original and Sunshine S1. The scene where Chika expressed her disappointment and sadness over getting zero votes was masterful. It is a very good example of saying what you need to say: "I'm disappointed, I'm disappointed". Just from these lines alone, you could feel all the emotions pouring out from her, and the strength she lacks trying to cope with the situation. This is a scene I remember to this day, and I've only seen the whole season once, last year. It's masterful, and embraces what Love Live stands for - following your dreams and growing to become better.
See all those great thing I said about Love Live? THIS SEASON HAS NONE OF THAT.
The way drama is handled here is exactly what I expected of Love Live before I watched the original; corny, loud and meaningless. The school is shutting down, they failed to save the school but they have to get up and do Love Live anyway! How do they convey these set of events? In the laziest way possible. Chika is on the brink of losing hope, the group of schoolgirls can't convince her out of it. What saves the day? AN EVEN BIGGER GROUP OF SCHOOLGIRLS. Even at the ending, when they're closing up the school. This is the perfect moment for silence, letting the feeling sink in that 'this is the end and we need to move forward'. But NOPE! Gotta keep telling each other and letting the audience know that "we'll be together foreeeveerrr *heart* *heart*". The way they resolve every instance of drama is just plain lazy. I don't know, but they always feels set up, like it's just there just so something can happen or they say things just to consume empty space when there's no need to. The biggest thing I want to address is the Saint Snow arc. This could've been an amazing arc, rivaling the original S2's Rin and Nozomi episode. But nope, it was a rushed and inconsequential set of episodes about characters that had 0 to no buildup. Ruby is such a disappointing character. She was at least fun and felt involved around S1, but the way they utilized her for this arc, getting involved with Leah because she also had a sister and she was seemingly concerned, doesn't work for me AT ALL. As for Leah, her problem just felt plain shallow to me. Not that it wasn't. Losing the whole competition is something very demoralizing for the two of them. ... So why didn't they show that it was? This is another problem with the show: not putting in good buildup or drama when there was a dire need for it. This arc was in DIRE need for some good scenes, showing the tension between the two sisters, building up Ruby and Leah's friendship while developing the two in some way that it shows us who they are. The series tries, but it falls flat on its face because the scenes really just don't work for me and just feel empty without the proper backing. Ruby building up the confidence to make her own decisions? Great! Where's the part where you established that?? It really just doesn't work for me.
And while we're at the topic, let's talk about the characters. S1 built up these characters to have possibly amazing arcs because of how well established they were, and how their unity felt organic and something that could potentially create amazing and fun mini arcs for the group. But here we are with S2, where the main dilemma is the group's refusal to put -chan at the end of Dia's name. What happened to all the dynamic characterization in S1? You can't possibly tell me that all the things that made each character interesting somehow disappeared after S1? Where did You's confidence issues go? Dia's love for idols? Kanan's love for the sea? When did Aquors' determination to follow their dreams, be free to be themselves and shine yet keep asking themselves what it means to shine?? And turned the girls into uninteresting one-note characters that say the same things over and over ("Buu Buu desu wa" is the most ear grating thing I've ever heard in my life)?
Well, not entirely.
I missed one positive thing about this season - the dog episode. The way they gave Yoshiko and Riko this fun and unlikely friendship over a dog and make them realize things about themselves and each other.To make things better, both subtlety and silence were present. How Yoshiko expressed how she didn't really believe in the occult but did it anyway because she felt something special from it and Riko receiving those words from her reminded me why I loved Love Live so much. And it gave me hope that maybe the series would go back to being good again, but nope it became boring the following episode. I honestly don't even remember what happened. What happened again? And what sucks is that they tossed away this relationship almost entirely after, turning Yoshiko back into a dry joke instead of bringing out her internal dilemma.
I feel a need to address the songs, because really, none of them were memorable for me. They sounded like the filler songs you'd play in SIF. None of them stuck with me at all. They felt cheesy, boring to listen to and I'd occasionally pause in the middle of them to get a drink.
It's relatively easy to get away with the phrase "It's just an idol anime. What did you expect?". It's hard to explain to people that the Love Live is a great series and could be a very meaningful experience. What this season is is precisely what people who haven't seen the show think the show is - just another cute girl anime. Just another corny, boring slice of life show with some music.
This show is an utter disappointment. And I seriously hope future installations strive to do better. But, to Sunrise, this season is probably a smash hit so I'll hope instead that a more competent director or writer comes around. Love Live set the bar high, and I seriously hope someone steps in and meets the quota next time around.