At this point in the proceedings, I’m increasingly convinced that the whole Love Live tournament we have looming on the horizon is merely a red herring designed to distract the audience from what is actually going on in this show. You see, Nozomi is clearly a master of The Long Con, and everything which is going on in the show is part of that. I’m pretty sure that Idol Groups are the new Circus Troupes, and Nozomi is, in fact, putting together a team of super-specialists who’ll tour the country performing extreme acts of thievery whilst disguised as semi-popular aspiring pop divas.
This is all, of course, part of the larger Nico Esper Theory, established due to the fact that the shows fifth episode makes literally no sense unless Nico is the holder of super-powers. It, of course, follows that if Nico has psychic powers, other characters may also have similar mutant powers, and even if they don’t, they may be possessing other skills (although I’ll refrain from going as far as suggesting the show is actually set in Academy City).
These are the powers and special skills I, through meticulous research, have managed to ascertain thus far -
Nico – As established in episode 5, Nico is possessing high-level teleportation and tracking skills.
Rin – Also established in episode 5, Rin is basically a full-body Imagine Breaker, only, you know, a bit more useful for purposes other than punching little girls in the face given it seems to cover a radius.
Nozomi – I’m going to presume she’s actually got some degree of precognitive abilities, else she’s simply astonishingly good at getting other people to dance to her fiddle whilst pretending to use tarot cards. Possibly a combination of both.
Hanayo – Can talk to Alpaca’s. This pretty much makes her the groups Aquaman, except there isn’t a Love Live equivalent of The Brave and The Bold to make her the best character. Sorry, Hanayo.
Honoka – I’m pretty sure she’s a bit like that character in Raildex who can brainwash people or manipulate their memories. Just her staring at people with her piercingly vacant, smiling face seems to be enough to turn their brains into a submissive, obedient mush, falling in line with her plans for the group and losing much of their semblance of individuality.
Umi – Specialist in Mimicry, or at least she’s doing a pretty good Mio impression am-i-right?
Kotori – Master of disguise, or at least the master of making them. I mean, she made nine new stage costumes, and fairly elaborate ones at that, in just the two weeks before the Open Campus event – whilst still attending school and practice and all those other time-sinks she has. That takes talent, right.
What I’ve yet to figure out is what Eri and Maki have as special abilities, but I guess there’s time left for those to be revealed.
Anyway, enough being stupid, let’s get on with the actual episode…
1) A Cliffhanger… resolved!
That’s two weeks in a row that they’ve resolved the previous weeks cliffhanger with what comes across as a fake-out conclusion. Essentially, this week they basically diffuse last weeks conclusion by revealing to the characters information that’s already been mentioned at, and was already known to the characters since, the beginning of the series. I mean, wasn’t this situation the entire purpose behind them forming Mooo’s in the first place, or is there just some really fine nuance here that I’m missing?
2) It’s On The Cards.
I do like how Nozomi turns this card dramatically towards the camera, as if we’re all expected to know precisely what it means. I suppose I could quote the Wiki entry for it, though.
The pool of water refers to the subconscious or the universal. The land refers to the material world. The natural woman or goddess of Nature renews both. The two pitchers represent integration of the two opposite sides of our nature. Usually divined as hope for the future, it may indicate good things to come in the things represented by cards that may be close to the star in a reading layout.
The Star represents a moment of renewed hope, inspiration and discovery. The turmoil of escape from the Devil depicted on the previous trump in the series (The Tower) is over, indicating calm after the storm. It is a breakthrough, a new opportunity to rise to higher state of consciousness. It is the first of 3 cards of increasing light, indicating we may be receiving greater clarity. A higher pathway is becoming visible. We may solve a mystery, discover secrets, or gain ideas in meditation.
The ladder of planets by which we climb the mystical journey is visible in the sky. In the Fool’s or Hero’s Journey, the Star indicates that we are approaching the goal of enlightenment.
Key points highlighted, as it turns out that it’s actually highly prescient in regards to Eri’s storyline in this episode. It’s not something I’d have thought is particularly common knowledge, but I guess someone at Sunrise actually, you know, did some research or something.
Whilst it’s a very dramatic way to end the pre-credit sequence, it does, as a scene, end very abruptly. I’d like to imagine it continues with Eri asking Nozomi what the hell she is going on about.
3) Alpaca Time!
It is not, in fact, a show that I watch, but I can’t help but think the little drawing of an Alpaca on the Alpaca Food Box looks somewhat like Finn from Adventure Time.
4) Practice Costumes
I have to admit, out of all the practice costumes, I’m quite partial to Maki’s almost-harem, almost Hammer-esque pants. Nico’s off the shoulder t-shirt is quite cute too, not that a number of characters don’t wear them. In Nico’s case, though, I’m pretty sure that smiley-face badge is all that’s keeping it from falling down. Certainly not her boobs, anyway.
Aside from them curiously making a multi-way conference call (is that a standard feature on Japanese phones, or are they using a third-party service?), you can probably learn a lot from the cellular telephones which anime characters use.
Well, OK, not so much for most of the characters here – we don’t see what Rin uses (if, indeed, she has a phone), or Eri and Nozomi since they weren’t members of the group at the time, but most of the characters use fairly standard, modern-looking smartphones. Umi is, perhaps unsurprisingly, like iM@S’s Chihaya in that she uses an old-fashioned brick of a phone, presumably indicating a certain old-fashionedness or technophobia, or at least an inability to get along with more modern technology.
It is a curious case of PROGRESS! to contrast to the original Love Live PV’s, though (my BD copy having turned up today), mostly in so much as Maki clearly used a clamshell flip-phone in more than one of those videos. Guess she got an upgrade at some point…
(All that being said, Umi’s phone is still infinitely more modern than Chihaya’s. Also liked the silly dramatic split-screen cuts used throughout this scene).
SHO-KU! So apparently Eri and Honoka’s sisters are friends. Colour me absolutely astonished. Well, OK, not really.
The real question is – is this just the production staff being lazy and avoiding the need to come up with a new character design (though there is one new character in this scene, unless I just blanked her appearing previously), or is this evidence of Arisa developing creepy stalker tendencies by trying to get an in with Mooo’s members by cosying up to their more accessible relatives?
7) DAT RACISM!
Well, probably not – the show never goes into why Eri, supposed master balletist who’d give Princess Tutu a run for her money, was apparently repeatedly passed over for roles, but I’m going to choose to assume that it’s because of her half Japanese heritage rather than her talent or something. Insert appropriate Soviet Russia joke here.
8) They forget to Smile!
These idols are forgetting their own lessons from back in the second episode, clearly – I mean, there’s no point in doing all these exercises if they aren’t practising being able to smile whilst they’re doing it. No wonder Eri gets annoyed, as they’re obviously not putting in enough effort.
9) Pre-emptive Strike!
This scene is more or less taken straight from the first Mooo’s PV, Bokura no LIVE Kimi to no LIFE, somewhat foreshadowing the songs re-use at the end of the episode. The main relevance to this is mostly that there’s some body-language on display due to this that doesn’t necessarily make as much sense now that they’re actually establishing the members as actual characters – mostly Nico choosing to lean on Nozomi’s shoulder in the fashion she is. To a degree, it also kind of feels like they’ve gone way out of their way to set-up a cute PV reference with their handling of Eri’s whole story-line, which isn’t a privilege they extended to the other cast members.
(I quite liked the use of shaky-cam, to denote TENSION!, in the scenes leading up to this, but can’t think of anything especially interesting to say about it).
10) Nozomi’s Long Con
Is Nozomi following fate, or is she making it? Given how much scheming she seems to have been doing throughout the series – far more successfully than Nico, might I add (though Nico’s repeated failure is just part of why we love her!) – I’d have to go for the later. Even the fact that she waits until Eri joins to officially become a member of the group herself, despite the fact that she’s been openly helping them for weeks, could be seen as a rather calculated move. The implication is obvious – whilst Honoka may be the de-facto leader of the unit, it’s really Nozomi’s tune that everyone is dancing to, even if she has to manipulate Honoka into melting peoples brains into following it.
11) You win some, you lose some…
Sometimes simultaneously. My speculation from last week was that we’d see a new PV in this weeks episode – which we did – but I wasn’t really prepared for it to turn out to be them reusing a previously released song. I don’t really have a particularly great ear for such things (or, rather, I’ve not listened to it that closely), but I don’t think it’s a re-recording of the original, which brings to question – what’re they coupling with Korekara no Someday on the next CD? All but one Japanese website I can find still list the CD simply as “Love Live Insert Songs 2″, but given it’s out on the 6th, we’ve pretty much got to have another insert song, if not necessarily a full PV, in next weeks episode?
Anyway, bringing matters back to this episode, the PV they end the episode with is essentially them retconning the original Moooo’s PV now that they’ve actually decided what these characters are all about. It’s pretty funny to go back and compare all the things which have changed or have been tweaked since the projects genesis – there’s some small things like tweaks to the school uniforms (or at least the summer ones), and some considerably larger ones like Hanayo looking like pretty much a completely different person despite similarities in design. Also, Nico being kind of tall. I’m not really a fan of the dance, mind you, and I’m pretty sure they could do way better these days.
It is kind of cute to see all the re-used scenes, though I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t choose to fade out at the end. You’re always supposed to fade out at the end of a montage, or so I’m led to believe. It’s also far less impressive to accidentally whack a shuttlecock through a ground floor window as opposed to a first story one – I used to play Badminton (badly) semi-regularly as a youth, and those things plummet something rotten.
(I have to say, though – what happened to all that endurance training they’ve been putting themselves through, running up all those stairs on a daily basis? One song and dance and they’re absolutely exhausted! They’ll never be proper idols if they can’t get through more than one song without collapsing down dead…)
(Also, I’m not really sure you can develop that degree of flexibility in just two weeks, but what do I know?)