Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Love Live! School Idol Project - Complete Series 1 SE + 2 PE (NISA)

GENRE: Idols, High School, Drama

DIRECTOR/LOCAL DIRECTOR: Takahiko Kyogoku / Mitsu Hiraoka

STUDIO/PRODUCER: NIS America / Nippon Ichi Software

MSRP: $98.98 (US) (http://store.nisamerica.com/anime/love-live-school-idol-project-complete-series-1se-2pe)

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2016

LENGTH: Season 1 = 2 Blu-ray, 13 episodes, 308 mins. / Season 2 = 2 Blu-ray, 13 episodes, 307 mins.

LANGUAGE: English Dub w/Songs in Original Japanese (English Subtitles Included)

PREMIUM EDITION EXTRAS: Hardcover Artbook w/Glossy Pages + Artbox & 2 Slim Blu-ray Cases

JAPANESE CAST (CHAR/VO): Honoka Kosaka - Emi Nitta, Eli Ayase - Yoshino Nanjo, Kotori Minami - Aya Uchida, Umi Sonoda - Suzuko Mimori, Rin Hoshizora - Riho Lida, Maki Nishikino - Pile, Nozomi Tojo - Aina Kusuda, Hanayo Koizumi - Yurika Kubo, Nico Yazawa - Sora Tokui

ENGLISH CAST (CHAR/VO): Honoka Kosaka - Marieve Herington, Eli Ayase - Erica Lindbeck, Kotori Minami - Cristina Vee, Umi Sonoda - Kira Buckland, Rin Hoshizora - Faye Mata, Maki Nishikino - Caitlin Glass, Nozomi Tojo - Laura Post, Hanayo Koizumi -Xanthe Huynh, Nico Yazawa - Erica Mendez 

First off I want to apologize for the review delay. After reading this review, and my praise of the series you might feel a little left out as this set is currently out of stock on the NISA store. I am super sorry, but hopefully they'll stock back up soon, or at least contain different buying options later on. I do hope so ...

NISA, as an anime studio has caught my attention from the start. Their signature series are always so delightful, and full of life. The characters, and stories each present to the audience an enriching humanistic tale filled with moral values, situations we can all relate to in some form or fashion, and characters that are not unlike ourselves. In the case of 'Love Live!' the director, and brilliant casting of vocal artists weave a tale of tribulation, and triumph through the idol phenomenon. A story about beating the odds, forming long lasting bonds, and overcoming weaknesses. In season one of the series a trio of young high school girls who were friends from the start work together to save a school that is on the brink of closing due to it's unpopular status. A school that is situated between three traditional Japanese districts including 'Akihabara', 'Kanda', and 'Jimbocho'. In a moment of brilliance the strongest minded of the trio, known as Honoka pitches an idea about forming a school idol group to gain the attendees that the school so desperately needs. This idea spawns from a visit to a well to do school called 'UTX High' which they'd be forced to attend once Otonokizaka High School shuts down for good.

With the help of close friends Umi Sonoda, and Kotori Minami, Honoka Kosaka attempts to make their far fetched idea a reality. Stacked against their efforts is the task of getting accepted as an official school group, and furthermore a couple of school leaders who have all but given up. Along the way, and through many hardships geared around getting the right amount of members, having a place to practice, and putting on a debut show the trio slowly, but surely attracts the attention they so desperately desire. This comes with a casting call of conflicting high school stereotypes that each in some way contribute to the perfect harmony that goes hand in hand with their idol group, the "µ's (Pronounced - Muse)".

With each idol group member added in comes a different set of circumstances that keeps them from performing at their best, at first. Honoka, for example is outgoing and a true leader from the start, but fails in her academics, and idol creativity. Umi on the other hand is a steadfast archer that has a bad case of stage fright. Kotori, who is the third friend in the trio is the seamstress of the group, and creates the group's idol costumes. Her flaw comes with the inability to write lyrics among other things. Other idol members include the idol club president, Nico Yazawa which is strict but shy. Maki Nishikino who is the vocal coach, but stubborn. Rin Hoshizora who is the boyish type, but can't dance well. Hanayo Koizumi who is socially withdrawn and soft spoken. Nozomi Tojo who is the wise vice-president with a knack for tarot, and finally Eli Ayase who plays the role of the reluctant school president. 

Together the unusually sized group of idols that form µ's work together to fulfill Honoka's dream of keeping Otonokizaka High from closing down. This includes everything from regular idol training sessions to running promotions, and even singing in concert together. Like a true school project everything takes place step by step further revealing the bonds, and situations that either hinder, or help the girls become the best idol performers, and friends they possibly can be. The spirit stays strong throughout both seasons of the series, and with each step forwards or backwards Honoka, and her crew continue to put on the show of a lifetime ...

Now the Verdict ...

I absolutely fell in love with this anime series. At first I was thinking it would appeal more to girls, but honestly something about it drew my attention, and kept me watching. I suppose it's the inspirational aspect of it. The cast of characters always moved forward with their plans, and never gave up on their goal though it seemed hopeless at times. This enduring characteristic had me cheering for them, on the inside. I caught myself smiling on a couple of occasions too, and even heartbroken momentarily at a few different parts of it. Like any anime drama it is an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish, but definitely one that is worth seeing through to the end. My only regret is that I didn't tell you so sooner. I did notice however that NISA has released new bundles of 'Love Live!' for varying prices. Each with their own extras. If you trust me, and would like to own this series then I suggest you hop to it quickly as NISA store exclusives tend to sell fast.

As far as the English localization efforts go I have to say I loved the English dubs/voice acting, and the fact that they kept the songs in the original Japanese voices. It was the perfect blend, and though I love original Japanese in my anime I think this one was perfect not being a subtitled version. For those of you curious as to what the artbook contains it holds in it's pages vibrant character art, and a sort of behind the scenes breakdown of the episodes and the 'Love Live!' lore. It is undoubtedly a nice collectible to have. When it comes to the animation it is seemingly a blend of Western, and Japanese art styles, but more so Japanese.

In closing I hope that you enjoyed the review, and that it possibly intrigued you enough to look into the 'Love Live!' series. Even though the prices for the bundles are expensive I do think they are worth the money. To be able to get lost in something so inspirational, and motivational in a time where everything is doom & gloom is priceless. For a brief moment in my life I was as happy as the characters in 'Love Live!'.

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