Review: Love Live! The School Idol Movie

By Andrew McDanell on July 25, 2016, 11:34PM EDT

While the conclusion of the Love Live! competition seemed to be the final chapter for the school idol group μ's (pronounced "Muse"), nothing prepared them for what lies ahead in the Love Live! The School Idol Movie. Published by NIS America and released in a Premium Edition, this movie aims to be the great send off to the beloved school idols that fans have been waiting for.

Now crowned the champions of the Love Live! School Idol competition, the members of the μ's keep to their plans to dissolve their group as their third year members graduate and move on from Otonokizaka Academy. However, things are thrown into chaos as they learn that the next Love Live! competition aims to take place in the Akiba Dome. To aid in this plan, μ's is asked as the defending champions to perform overseas to show the world the wonders of school idols.

As they embark on this new adventure, it's no question that despite the fun and joy they experience, their future is still on their minds. Does μ's live on, do they part ways, and what do they desire to do going forward. Not only that, but what does the dissolving of μ's mean to their fanbase and those around them.

Coming right off of the conclusion of the Love Live! series, there was a lot of questions as to the tease it left behind. As the characters never really waved goodbye to the fans, it was inevitable that something bigger was just around the corner. Not only do they see themselves pushing forward into a new journey, but ultimately putting a final word in for the future of μ's.

While initially it seemed like the movie would be a story of this send off and be packed with sadness and emotion, it kept it isolated for the most part to its grand finale. Instead opting to throw the girls into New York to see the sites and just enjoy their final time together, away from school responsibilities. To a great extent, the change of scenery and misadventures in the big apple served as both entertaining and a refreshing change of scenery for an idol show.

It was a blast watching the girls get lost in the back alleys of New York, and watch in wonder at the views and monuments scattered throughout. More shocking than anything was the very kind version of New York they were served, with everyone extremely polite and accommodating. Though this ended up being one of the most smile inducing elements of the movies as the girls found themselves interacting with random strangers and explaining why they were there. It can't be understated the enjoyment of watching the cute cast getting a little culture shock treatment.

Outside of their adventures into an unfamiliar location, the movie had a single message that was told throughout it. As the girls struggle about their future, they find comfort in eachother. With the group's ending inevitable, the question comes up if they really need to close the books. It's something that is found in other idol stories, but the Love Live! series was always unique in that school idols are self contained, self managed, and self propelled groups. Separate from the control or management of a company. Would they really want to venture into the standard idol scene or was being an idol really what drove them to becoming school idols to begin with.

As they are confronted by their previous opponents in the Love Live! competition and seen the choices they made, this became very apparent. As the movie seen its conclusion and the response they have from their adventures overseas, the full impact of the movie and the series as a whole came to a very emotional climax. Something that wasn't really expected and very much welcome. Why do they sing, what effects their choices had on those around them, and what do they desire from their future.

While I can't claim the movie as a whole was perfectly written, it still managed to provide both entertainment and a solid conclusion to the μ's story. The only thing pushing it from a perfect movie being in how it portrayed some of the girl's conflicts. Scenes with characters expressing sadness, but having no solid portrayal of what they are really feeling. One can assume their position, but without context, certain scenes were left ambiguous.

The first two seasons of Love Live! School Idol Project was visually a treat to watch, and Studio Sunrise not only refused to take a step back in production, but took a leap forward visually to give this send off a proper shine. The character models were fantastic, and lit up when it came to the cast's usual silly personalities. Their facial expressions popped, eyes glittered in light, outfits were colorful, the new sceneries they were thrown into looked great, and overall the lighting and character designs kept strong throughout.

The only point in which Sunrise failed to deliver was, once again, the stage performances. It was delightful to see most of the random musical scenes sprinkled here and there were kept with the standard animated models. The "Hello, Hoshi o Kazoete" routine was especially fantastic in its production and result. On the other hand, the stage performances seen Sunrise return to bad habits of using 3D rendered robotic and jarring character models to save effort. While forgivable for the most part, this was even more apparent in the final street performance that seen an army of 3D rendered robots lined up like military soldiers. Admittedly, this didn't stop stage performances like "Angelic Angel" from being quite the spectacle. Especially with the beautiful outfit designs.

Despite the dislike of the temporary 3D models, the musical performances were still great, and they were only enhanced by the wonderful songs. The usual pop idol bits that aim to put a smile on your face and show a great deal of validation as to why the girls do what they do. While subjectively not as great as some of the original series' tracks, they each have their own flavor and songs like "HEARTBEAT" are just downright fun.

Packaging this movie up is NIS America's Premium Edition touch which houses the movie in a slim case within a solid chipboard box. While large in size, it's covered from end to end with a colorful and high resolution artwork that any fan of μ's or Love Live! would want on their shelf. One side with a landscape print and the opposite with a portrait print of the μ's cast in their final street performance outfits. Along with the movie, the premium box also contains an artbook that contains character profiles, stage outfits, and even quick voice actress questionnaires about their final words and favorite moments of the movie. The later part seeming to be a great send off to the cast many have grown to love.

Love Live! The School Idol Movie had quite a bit of pressure placed on it for the fandom of Love Live! School Idol Project. The prequel series grew a fanbase, and the movie would ultimately serve as a closing to what many loved. Thankfully, it managed to pull off quite a send off, even if it wasn't as emotionally charged as one would have predicted. It's visually pleasing, the music is fun and entertaining, and the message the μ's leave us with is one that is easily understandable. Closing the book on this team and handing it off to the next generation is one of emotion and of excitement. Thanks for the good times μ's!

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