With the premiere of Love Live Sunshine last July, the Love Live franchise seems to more popular than ever. But what exactly makes this anime so great? After watching the original Love Live series last year, I too became obsessed. Here are the reasons why I believe that the 9 (now 18) idol girls are so famous.
Is It The Story?
Frankly, no. While the plot isn’t bad by any means, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking either. If you are not familiar with the show, here is a quick synopsis. A girl named Honoka finds out that her high school is going to shut down and in order to save it, she creates an idol group, hoping the publicity will make more students enroll in the school. The group is called μ’s, which is pronounced as “Muse” (I am going to refer to it this way in this post). As time goes on, more girls join the group and they become increasingly popular until they win a competition and achieve stardom. You have to admit that it sounds pretty typical; it’s a common tale of working hard to achieve your dream. However, I am not saying that the story is poor. There were some unexpected twists and I really enjoyed it. But mostly, the show has a good message that can help encourage and inspire people who are also struggling to achieve their goals.
But if the story isn’t a masterpiece in this show, then what is?
Answer 1: The Characters
I believe it’s the characters that really help make this show unique and popular. There are nine main characters and each of them has different traits and attributes.
If you aren’t familiar with the show or characters, My Anime List has a section on all of them.
Each character has a strong personality. There are a lot of interesting contradictions and combinations. A perfect example is Nico. Based on her appearance and how she acts as an idol, she seems like the cutest, most innocent girl ever. However, she is really cynical, pushy, and does many things that are not so cute. Another example is Hanayo. She is extremely shy and self conscious, but if she sees something idol-related or eats a big bowl of delicious white rice, her timidity melts away and she becomes a zealous fangirl. Every girl in Muse has some kind of quirk in their personality, usually making things unique and funny. This also makes very interesting interactions between the characters. Sometimes they clash, but they usually build off of each other’s quirks. Either way, many of interactions are funny with over-exaggerated reactions and expressions.
These different personality types also allow for the audience to relate more to the characters. The girls all have something they love or enjoy doing, but have all gone through certain hardships. A fan may have similar interests with one character, but relate to another’s one personal struggles. For example, I am interested in tarots cards and fortune telling like Nozomi, but I can really relate more to Hanayo’s shyness and Rin’s self doubt. Because the characters are so strong and relatable, the fans often connect with them and love them even more.
And since there are so many characters with such great traits, there are a lot of other possibilities that arise for fans.
The girls in Muse cater to different otaku fantasies and stereotypes. As a queer female, I admit that I fall for some of these and can’t help but be entranced by the members of Muse. Fans have nine waifus to choose from in Love Live. No matter what their type is, there is bound at least one girl in the group that fits someone’s personal otaku preferences. There are the cutesy/moe types like Kotori, or Rin, or Nico (as much as she attempts xD). There are tsundere types (some more than others) like Maki, Eli, and Umi. There is the extremely shy Hanayo, mysterious and eccentric Nozomi, and hyper but motivated Honoka. Some girls fit into multiple categories when it comes to their quirks, which may make them more appealing to some fans. Eli and Umi could both be considered a little more mature in their appearance and personality, but both can also be shy or awkward at times. All of the characters have so many attributes that there are countless possibilities and combinations for fictional wives. The smartphone game (which I will talk about more below) caters even more to otaku preferences, like making the girls wear maid outfits or cat ears. It
However, if you pick your waifu based on attractiveness, there are also many options. The idols come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, big and small (yay for different body types!). There is also a variety of hairstyles if someone is moe for a certain kind, such as ponytails or hair accessories (my weakness is pigtails). The idols all have different fashion styles, pretty and unique eye colors, and… the list could go on forever about the different things fans may find appealing. In general, the girls are very well drawn and are all attractive in their own way, whether appearance or personality wise.
One thing I like about Love Live is that is doesn’t take the tropes too far, compared to some other series. Viewers aren’t drowning in overly cute moments or being bombarded by large, disproportionate breasts (but if these are your preferences, I won’t judge). While some of the characters possess stereotypes, they are within reason and do not completely take over their personalities or make them into one-dimensional characters. Love Live is definitely more realistic than other franchises, which I think is a good thing, but it still has just enough waifu appeal for the people who crave it.
And if you were wondering about who my waifu is…
I am not sure if it was intentional at first, but the girls is Muse come off as very… gay. There are all kinds of various yuri-ish moments between the different characters. Some are subtle while other moments are more blunt. There things like Umi succumbing to Kotori’s “Onegai!” and face. Eli and Nozomi’s long and very close relationship. Rin and Hanayo supporting each other. All of those moments between Maki and Nico…
There are many more possible pairings than the ones I just mentioned. There are constant ship wars going on in the Love Live community, but I don’t get involved. While some of the yuri moments are definitely stretched by fans, but there is enough subtext and potential pairings to give the anime and yuri community (myself included) something to go crazy over.
Answer 2: An Extended Franchise
Most anime nowadays get an extension of their original source material. Anime, manga, or light novel adaptions are very common. Many series may also get a video game or a movie. But the Love Live franchise takes it to a whole other level, and they do it sucessfully.
Since they are idols, the girls in Muse obviously sing. The songs that they sing and perform in the anime are available online and for purchase. There are also many songs and singles they have made outside of the show. Overall, the majority of their songs are catchy and the girls have nice singing voices (Umi has the best voice IMO). Muse offers a nice variety of upbeat songs, slow songs, or intense songs for all kinds of music tastes. The girls have even sung metal versions of their material, but I personally cannot take them seriously. However, most songs fall on the upbeat, feel-good side. They are great to listen to if you need a pick-me-up, but are also torture to get out of your head. The best part, though, is that you can listen to your best girl sing as you do work around the house or do other things.
But there’s more! It isn’t just Muse that creates music; lily white, printemps, and Bibi also exist. These are subsets of the main group, each with three members. They all have a certain aesthetics, music styles, and, of course, more songs for fans to gobble up.
Real Life Muse
If you prefer 3D idols, have no fear! The voice actresses and singers that give life to the fictional characters do not just stay in the studio. They perform and hold concerts, singing the songs from the show and wearing the same costumes as the characters. They even do the same choreography from the anime. There is no end to the videos and interviews you can find online of the real life idols. They are adorable, and the perfect group to get into if you like that kind of cutesy stuff.
It is really awesome yet very strange to see the characters in real life. With the IRL group, the fans get to know who is behind their favorite idol and may love the character even more (or less). It is another way to connect with and enjoy the Muse idols, just in a 3D, real world capacity.
The girls even have their own mobile game called Love Live! School Idol Festival. This is the single most addicting game in existence. It is a rhythm game where the player taps to the beat of different Muse songs. As the game progresses, the player collects different idols to use in performances. The nine main girls are available (as well as the Aquors girls now) and trying to collecting all of the different outfits is the addicting part. Users all want their waifu in a certain costume, position, or scenario. Whoever designs the cards really knows that makes the fans tick. However, getting the rare cards isn’t easy. A player needs to collect Love Gems in order to scout idols, but it works like a lottery because you never know what card you are going to get. You keep scouting and scouting and scouting, praying to get that single card to fulfill your wishes, only to get the same crappy cards over and over again. It’s like pulling the lever continuously on a slot machine. The creators of this game also tempt fans with events. Special cards are available for playing the event, but you usually need an insanely high score to get the card, which takes a lot of time, effort, and love gems. It is easy to get caught in a web of endlessly playing only to come up short.
Another great thing about this game are the stories included. As a player progresses through the game and levels up, they unlock story chapters about the girls. While these chapters aren’t exactly masterpieces of literature, they create more scenarios where fans can enjoy and laugh at the interactions between the characters. Sometimes the chapters also give more subtext for the yuri fans to gobble up. But whether or not someone becomes obsessive, it is an
soul sucking enjoyable game to play where a fan can listen to the girls’ music and also connect with other Love Live fans.
There are more than just digital versions of the idols. Because of its massive popularity, there is tons of Love Live merchandise. The majority of the products are good quality and very cute. Figures, plushies, posters, keychains, bookmarks, pins, clothing, accessories… the list could go on forever. Muse even does sponsorship in Japan for certain products. I am personally weak against merchandise. I love to be surrounded by my favorite characters, whether it is on my wall or a little trinket on my keys or purse. Other fans are like this as well; they love a certain character so much they need to have a physical, tangible representation of them in some form or another.
Besides all of the things I have mentioned, there are even more kinds of media involving Muse. I can’t go into a lot of detail because I haven’t been able to fully enjoy them yet, but there is a manga series and light novel series about our favorite idols. If anyone has read them in their entirety, let me know what they are like!
A Large Fanbase
Because of its popularity, there is a huge Love Live fanbase with Muse lovers all over the world. No matter the website or social media platform, there is an abundance of Love Live fans. The fan art, fanfiction, memes, and doujinshi are endless. There is always someone to connect with about the idol girls.
The Characters (Again!) and Complete Immersion
What am I trying to get at here? How does all of this connect? Why do fans obsess over Love Live? Creating fanmade works (and ship wars in turn) where the girls fall in love with each other? Where we show the girls in alluring outfits or use their personalities to make fun of them? Why do some fans spend hours and maybe even money to get a digital card or two that showcases our waifu? Why is the fanbase so big and gung-ho?
Like I said earlier, the answers is the characters. The creators did such an amazing job making characters that are lovable, relatable, and impactful (not to mention gay). The fans do everything for the characters. So they can celebrate them, idolize them (literally), become closer to them, and let the world know that these characters are meaningful and worth watching.
And since the fans are so enthusiastic, they have created an endless world for other fans to discover. With all of the options available to enjoy the Love Live franchise (whether official or fanmade), a fan can completely immerse themselves in the world of Muse. Or, even if someone isn’t crazy about one option, there are a myriad of other options to choose from (i.e. not liking the show, but being a fan of the music).
You can get lost on the internet, looking at memes and fan art. It is easy to lose track of time playing School Idol Festival. You could read until the end of time and you would still never finish reading all of the doujinshi and fanfiction. We all need a break from reality sometimes. Why not use the characters you love to help? I know at the end of a stressful day, there is nothing like playing School Idol Festival on my phone or browsing the internet for new fanamde creations because seeing my favorite girls cheers me up.
Update: Love Live Sunshine!!
I wrote this post before finishing Love Live Sunshine. Now that I have seen the whole series, I can say that all of the elements that I outlined for the original Love Love! series apply to the Sunshine franchise as well. It seems that the formula the creators of first series used for its characters has been perfected. The characters all have very strong, exaggerated personalities that are very easy to fall in love with. There is plenty of potential waifu material (Riko <3), and a copious amount of subtext for yuri fans. The franchise has also been adding merchandise, songs, and gimmicks using the Sunshine girls, so there is still even more for fans to gobble up. And the fans are devouring it.
A Special Thanks To The People Who Left Comments!
Some readers have left very thoughtful and informative comments about why they think this franchise is so popular. Alne left a very lengthy comment explaining how Love Live was one of the first idol anime to focus solely on idols, rather than having idols mixed in with other elements (such as mecha themes in Macross). Thunderstyke explains that the girls in the Love Live series have complete creative freedom the songs they write, the costumes they wear, and so on. It is a nice change from what happens to idols in real life who are part of manufactured idol groups that only listen to what their producers say.
Please scroll down to read their comments!