What They Say:
Chika Takami is swept up in idol fever and ready to start her own school idol group. But getting this club started is harder than this idol-to-be expected. She’ll have to work hard to form the idol group of her dreams with her new group of friends.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo with an English language dub in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The audio is a big part of what makes this show work as having some strong design for the songs and coming across the right way is ket. With several performances throughout in addition to the opening and closing sequences, the series stands out well here with some very rich sequences. Each of them has a lot of warmth to them and the range is great as they play out while delivering exactly what fans are looking for. The dialogue side of the show is fairly standard but it has a clean and problem-free approach with some good placement at times and it moves throughout the cast as on screen really well. The big final performance, in particular, has some good placement. Fans of the show will definitely enjoy the end result here.
Originally airing in 2016, 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 episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Sunrise, it’s a visually striking show in general with lots of good designs, engaging and detailed backgrounds, and a color palette that brings it to life vividly without becoming garish or overpowering. When it shifts to the high-quality performance sequences it’s just a stunning looking piece with great fluidity and so many colors and details that it’s very easy to get caught up in it. Everything is smooth and clean looking with solid color fields and no problems to be had with line noise or anything else. It’s a gorgeous looking show that shines through wonderfully here.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice as it gives fans a good bit of material to enjoy. The Blu-ray case is the slightly thicker than normal kind that comes with an o-card that uses a different piece of artwork. The o-card works the yellow border that really works well with the Blu-ray stripe along the top as we get the girls in their uniforms all in performance mode with smiles and joy that exudes from them. The case cover itself works primarily with the third-years so that they get their time together with a different style of positive expression that’s a little more restrained but no less appealing. It’s a little duller in color than the o-card which is unfortunate as both covers look great. The back cover is the same for both case and o-card where we get a school-oriented piece with a paper that has a handwritten style summary of the premise and some cute photos of everyone using shots from the show. The visual along the top is the opposite of what the front cover is for each format so you do get both even if you don’t have the o-card. The technical grid breaks down both formats cleanly and accurately and the case itself has a nice two-panel spread done up as a scrapbook of pictures using shots from the show. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this probably has a greater meaning that I get but it’s the kind of thing that just doesn’t work for me when you have so much great material. What we get here is basically a drawing from one of the girls with a map of where they live. I mean, it’s cute in a simple sense but it just feels like it could have been so much better in setting the mood than this. The navigation strip along the bottom is a large soft white block with the basic selections that doubles as the pop-up menu so it’s functional and works well but doesn’t do anything to really feel like it’s selling the show as an experience.
The extras are pretty slim here as we get some of the promos and commercials along with the clean version of the opening song.
With the original series arriving back in 2013 and 2014 and doing a whole lot of good for Sunrise, music, and merchandise, it was no surprise that more anime would be on the way. I had liked what I saw of it even if the concept felt far too much like a kind of afterschool special or something that you’d get on the Disney Channel in some ways, but it was fun and inoffensive material that essentially made a lot of people feel good. And it looked great and had some catchy if forgettable music for me, since my Japanese music days have long since passed. Funimation’s picking up of this second series, Sunshine, essentially gives it a larger and more connected platform to play in and while we lack the premium side that we saw before we get a strong quality show in terms of audio and video, which is what counts the most.
The premise for this series is fairly similar to the first rather than following the girls from μ’s, which is the worst named group I’ve seen in a lot time in terms of actually having to write often.While I’d be curious to see more of that group and where they ended up after everything, they take on more of a kind of mythic and legendary role, and inspiration to others. That’s the driving force behind Chika, a first year at Uranohoshi High School that’s going to be closed down and merged with another school. With the idea of trying to attract more students to the school by forming an idol club and making it to the Love Live competition and winning the whole shebang like her idol, it’s the kind of thing where she wants to do for others and the place she lives rather than it being something about her. Granted, she gets to be popular and famous and all that jazz, but it’s another instance of community and friends over anything else.
That sets her on the path of pulling together the club that’s naturally made up of just one member for a bit, namely her, before her push starts to draw in more people. The problem she has is that the student council president, a third-year named Dia, has no intention of allowing this to go forward. This is actually an interesting subplot because she and a few of her friends tried to do something similar as first-years and made some decent progress before hitting a huge wall that’s explored toward the end of this season. It shows more of the hardships and how people handle failure, with Dian withdrawing over time and Kanan essentially leaving school for the most part while Mari struggles with a lot of different things all while putting on a good face. Her role is a key one for me because she’s always positive and swoops in early to formalize the idol club as she’s suddenly the new school chairman thanks to her parents being heavy sponsors of the school. It’s a terrible plot point that’s mostly made jokes of and it doesn’t seem really formal, but it’s there. These third-years and their story is what really drew me to the show overall as it explores some good drama that never really goes over the top and has the right level of emotion to it.
The Sunshine season is mostly what you’d expect and I believe a lot of the criticism leveled against it by fans of the first was that it wasn’t taking any chances or building on things. Which didn’t surprise me as most anime for the past decade or so, if not more overall, has become very safe. And a big franchise like this means really going safe while trying to exploit what worked more. Being disconnected from the fandom for it all, all I can say is that I really enjoyed this season a lot. I don’t connect with the kids because they really don’t bring much of a personality to things beyond the band they form, Aquors, and trying to bring that together with performances, costuming, and other little bits. The training camp material is fun as they find a way to do it on the cheap while trying to mirror what they believe μ’s did with theirs. The group takes its time to expand with its range of personalities, which are defined largely by that more than anything else, and it only felt like Riko had something else actually going on in her life due to her piano training. So a lot of this show isn’t surprising but it is very well executed, and with my viewing of this a few years after seeing the original I’m not really making direct comparisons because the original isn’t something I remember strongly. My lack of investment in it actually makes it a lot easier to enjoy, I think.
The other thing that allows this show to work better than it might under another name or franchise is that it really is just beautiful to look at. I make no pretensions about the quality of the music as it just doesn’t work for me as mentioned above, but the performance sequences are strikingly beautiful to watch (and makes me wish it was backed up by more engaging characters) that are the big payoff for it. The movements are strong, the direction is great, and I love the fluidity of the animation through it all. But the rest of the show is just as beautiful in different ways with rich settings that the characters inhabit and really feel a part of and some great designs with them even if at the end of I’d be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of them – and even then mostly just the third-years who have some real background to sink your teeth into.
Love Live! Sunshine!! delivers a straightforward experience with the ups and downs that you’d expect and one fantastic performance at the end that really sells the whole thing in the best way in how to manage your experiences in moving forward. I can understand why a number of fans didn’t care for this after the first season but it’s something that worked better for me than I expected, even as burned out on the overwhelming number of idol based shows there are. Funimation’s release is something that I really wish had been able to do something more premium-oriented with but it’s got the goods where it counts with a great looking transfer and a solid dub and audio experience in general. Fans of the show will definitely enjoy having this on their shelf.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Promos, Commercials
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 5th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.