For all that I have a soft spot for Setsuna – her songs have easily been my favorite out of Love Live! as a whole, and I enjoy her goofy alter ego gimmick – she’s never been all that compelling of a character. Her only major development last season was the introductory drama about reforming the School Idol Club, and from there she was mostly a source of jealousy for Ayumu without much to do or say. So when we looked to be getting a full episode about her, and even the threat of her secret identity being discovered, I was excited to see where we’d go. Unfortunately the show kind of glosses over it all pretty quickly, and it leaves this episode’s conflict virtually non-existent.
Part of that is me still waiting for us to get something from Shioriko. She’s been at the fringes of every episode so far, and I figured her discovering Setsuna was also Nana would lead to some kind of conflict, or at least cause her to express some kind of emotion. Instead she figures it out, then promises to keep it a secret, and barely factors into the rest of the episode. And that secret is moot by the end of the episode anyway, so all we have is Kaoruko hinting that maybe next episode we’ll start exploring her in any real capacity. We’ve got half the season left, so it’s not like there’s no time to dig into her, but this feels like a prime opportunity that was tossed away for no particular reason.
That would be alright, if disappointing, were the rest of the episode able to carry its weight. But without any drama about Setsuna’s dual identity, the biggest crisis is figuring out the logistics of this stupidly huge Cultural/School Idol Festival event. That solution does harken back to the previous season’s festival, where the big dilemma was resolved by simply asking their venues to stay open an extra hour or two to accommodate for weather. But this season has shown it’s capable of more meaningful and effective character drama, so the solution being “We asked all our friends to make phone calls offscreen to secure more performance venues” just doesn’t cut it anymore. If this were a purely comedic episode about preventing the School Idol Fyre Festival, and things were more chaotic, it could have been a vehicle for some great ensemble comedy. But it’s played seriously, and a short inter-school idol meeting just isn’t compelling television.
Doesn’t help that I feel kind of baited by the previous episode. You show me Shizuku’s furry AU friendfiction, aping Beauty & The Beast but with catgirls, and then you deliver this? They look like a clown car crashed into a petting zoo. There’s not even anything about witches or forbidden love here! We were sold a false bill of goods, I tell ya. I’m also not big on A*Zu*Na‘s song either. It starts off solid enough, with Setsuna’s stadium rock energy, but once it starts mixing in Ayumu and Shizuku’s styles it all just blends together into mush. I wasn’t expecting underscores here, but this franchise has managed to mix more guitar-driven sounds with the more typical pop idol stuff in ways that worked a lot better.
There are still some positives here, but they mostly come at the edges. It’s cute seeing the rest of the cast tease Setsuna with the rumors about her identity. While I don’t think it’s really earned, it’s nice that they also have her back when she can’t figure out a solution on her own, and it’s the closest thing to concrete character work here, so I’ll take it. I’m not all that into the mobile game, but even I recognized some of the low-rarity characters making cameos throughout this whole thing, so that’s some neat fanservice for super-fans. That one student council girl’s reaction to Setsuna’s Clark Kent reveal was pretty great.
But none of that can stop this episode feeling like kind of a bummer. I had my issue with Ai and Karin’s episode, but that was mostly a consequence of having too strong a story to fit into a single episode. This is the opposite problem, where there’s too little to make the runtime feel justified, and it has neither the gags nor the music to outweigh that deficiency.
Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club is currently streaming on