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Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1 Premium Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1
Love Live! School Idol Project Season 1
To save their school, a group of nine young women must chart the course of their lives.

What They Say:
The traditional school Otonokizaka High is situated between the three towns of Akihabara, Kanda, and Jimbocho. This school is also in imminent danger of closing. Because of this crisis, the second-year student Honoka Kosaka takes center stage with eight others to do something about it! The premium edition includes a 28-page, full-color, hardcover artbook with episode guides, character info, and illustrations.

“To protect the school we love so much, we have to do all we can… We have to become school idols! By becoming idols and advertising how great our school is to the world, more students will want to apply!”

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series gives us the original Japanese language track only in stereo using the uncompressed PCM format. This is certainly ideal for most series, but it really works well here with its heavy focus on music at times as those segments really stand out in a big, bold and vibrant way in an aural sense. The show is largely filled with dialogue to be sure, but there’s a good bit of music in each episode and those really step things up a few notches. The overall presentation for the performances, the practices and so forth has a great bit of warmth to it as it comes to life. There’s a really engaging aspect to it that definitely clicks very well for me here. With the dialogue side of it, it’s also well covered as it handles a rather straightforward school based dialogue mix. There’s wacky moments, quiet moments and a lot of girls hanging around talking about everything. The mix is one that is definitely strong throughout and most certainly plays well here throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes of this season are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Sunrise, the series is one that really has a lot of vibrancy and color to it that really lets it stand out. The nature of shows like this have been changing for a few years so we get the big dance numbers done with the CG styling, which is blended a whole lot more than earlier efforts and shows some serious progress where if not for the style of motion, you’d be hard pressed to tell a lot of the times. The result is that we get a really beautiful show here with great detail coming through cleanly and clearly, rich colors with no banding and lots of solid material throughout. The big numbers, and especially the opening sequences, are what shows off the series the most, but it has a good attention to detail throughout and the transfer captures it all beautifully.

Packaging:
The packaging for this premium edition release is once again just as solid and well done as what NIS America has done for pretty much all of their releases. The front of the package is just beautiful as we get all of the girls together in their big performance costumes from the opening sequence as they’re on stage and showing off their personality and flashes of fanservice in a great way. It’s rich, detailed, colorful and completely eye-catching in all the right ways. The back panel flips the direction a bit for an up and down image that provides the same group together again with their faces and expressions showing their personalities, but this time they’re all in their school uniforms and clustered much closer together. Inside the box we get the hardcover book that breaks down the episodes by story and with character material across it. It’s done as a near-scrapbook style so it’s very busy, very teenage-girl in a classic kind of sense, but it contains a ton of material. There’s a lot of wonderful images from the series throughout it, both as large photograph pieces and a lot of smaller ones, which makes it worth really poring over and enjoying.

We also obviously get the cases that hold the discs, which is made up of two clear thinpak cases. These are nicely appealing as we get the white background with the colored dots and triangles from the main menu used here while each volume has a different configuration of the girls that make up the nine in total. There’s a simplicity to it but it works well to highlight them in different school outfits with a cute approach and a lot of lightness and color. The back covers go for a near filmstrip approach at an angle with lots of shots from the show used with a lot of color. We also get a breakdown of the episodes by number and title for their respective discs and a clean listing of the extras. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover for the cases.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is decent but it also has a really barren feeling about it. It works a musical angle as one might suspect as the navigation strip has a music notes bar along the bottom that has the basic selections that are all quick and easy to access and looks nice when used as a pop-up menu during playback, minor functions that it has. The rest of the menu is done with an off white background that has a large soft pink strip angling across the top where the logo is kept. The rest of it is just a small group of bubbles along the upper left that features headshots of the girls. The bulk of the menu is that large chunk of white space though with a few widgets floating through it, but that’s about it. It just feels so empty that I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Everything is nicely functional but I really expected something far more vibrant and mood setting than this.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward but welcome as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of TV spots advertising the show during its original broadcast.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Sunrise has worked to expand its base of projects in the last few years to be more than just the mecha animation studio, they’ve had some pretty interesting shows that they’ve participated in. With Love Live! School Idol Project, they’ve definitely proven that they can tackle this particular genre in a big way. The series is part of a larger multimedia project that involves manga, music and gaming, all of which have their own interesting and important key areas to the overall feeling of what’s being done. For me, the anime is all that I’ll really dabble in and I wasn’t exactly eager to do that after I watched the first simulcast. Thankfully, marathoning the series has proven it to be a really fun show, one that looks stunning in many scenes and has a really good sense of fun and warmth as it works over familiar territory.

The series revolves around a second year high school girl named Honoka who finds herself in a real dilemma. While she’s maybe not the best student (ok, she’s not), she’s the embodiment of school spirit and really finding a sense of tradition in where your education and foundation comes from. With her mother and grandmother having attended this all girls school, she’s thrilled to be a part of it and frustrated that her younger sister is likely looking at going elsewhere. There’s a lot of flashier and more modern schools out there these days with curriculums that some of the older schools can’t keep up on for obvious reasons. One of those, of course, are schools that have idol styled music programs. With so many girls wanting to be idols, you can see there being a lot of competition to get into them so they can pursue the path of their dreams.

So it’s not a surprise that while her school has a good bit of history, it can’t compete. So much so that the students have just learned that the school will close in three years time as there isn’t a sustainable student body. With only two classes of second years and only one of first years, it’s a surprise it’s lasted this long. So naturally, all full of innocence and naivety, Honoka decides that the way to save the school is to form an idol group to raise awareness of how awesome their school is and get a lot of new enrollments. One of the best ways to do that is to compete in the Love Live! competition that’s out there every year which is basically a big battle of the idol groups. That segment of the series is actually the mildest of all as we don’t even get to it in full in this season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Where the show wants to spend its time is in getting Honoka to build her idol group and to get into the competition with the stated goal of saving the school. The schools director is willing to let her do that, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their studies. But it’s hard to believe that she thinks it’ll work, though she’s fully supportive of the students taking initiative like this. Less so with student council president Eli, who wants to find a way to save the school herself. She’s continually shot down, but there are some decent character reasons for this that gets explored. For Honoka, it’s a lack of support from her at first, but the two eventually and unsurprisingly become friends. But before that can happen, Honoka has to make progress. Lucky for her she’s got two long time friends in both Umi and Kotori who are willing to go along with this mad plan to sing, perform and save the school. Largely because they believe that she’ll give up on it before long and they’ll finish out their years and move on with life. But Honoka is motivated beyond anything else in her life here and she sticks with it and all its hard work in a really big way. A way that draws more and more interest from others as it progresses.

With so many idol groups focusing on a sprawling number of members for awhile now, a format that holds almost no appeal to me at all because it just feels so manufactured, it’s not a surprise that Honoka ends up with a group of nine girls. That means a lot of smaller character stories across the season as we get to know them, though there is a kind of superficial feeling for a lot of it. Honoka gets the most time, but she’s the draw that brings everyone else in and together. Her friend Umi is the supportive type, but we don’t get much with her. Kotori gets more, but that’s timed to the strife at the end that involves the end of season drama that puts the future of the group at risk. Only a few characters get any really noteworthy time here, and even that’s minimal overall. Nico is important as she runs the Idol Studies Group that Honoka has to merge into for her club to exist. The other is Eli, the student council president that has to learn to do things that she wants to do rather than just trying to help others to make herself feel better. These aren’t bad stories, but it’s all done in a very smooth, simple and easy way that keeps it moving.

While there is a simplicity to the series when it comes to the story and characters, it has a good bit of fun about it that really works well, especially when you have them all together late in its run and there’s a pillow fight. It’s at that point that you realize that it does work well. But what really sells it is the way it moves and grooves with the music, the practices and the belief that they can overcome. And a lot of that really does come down to the animation. The show is one that really makes you feel a part of its world while keeping it in that largely clean and accessible way that has it a step or two away from being dreamlike in a way. The characters are all well designed, they all move in their own ways and their visuals certainly make each of them stand out. But it’s when they move as a group, after seeing it being done through so many practices and rehearsals, that it really stands out. A few years ago I probably would have cringed at the whole CG style design of it all, but at this stage and with how well they do it, they sell it in the best way possible and it left me wanting a lot more of it.

In Summary:
Love Live! School Idol Project is a show that I didn’t stick around for when it was simulcast as it was one that felt like it was playing to an area that I have little interest in. My idol fan days have long passed and the reality of the situation of trying to save a school is so much more complex than what we get here that it’s hard to take it seriously. But you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to rally behind these young women as they just try, push and do their best in order to save what they believe in. It’s a standard story, something that I don’t think anyone will disagree with, and the characters are a bit light, but it works such a good cohesive feeling overall with real progress and fantastic performances that it’s very easy to be drawn into it and just enjoy it. It’s a series that you want to be able to just let wash over you with what it wants to do, and if you give into that, you’ll have a really great time with it. I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did and am looking forward to seeing what the second season brings.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, TV Spots

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
MSRP: $64.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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