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When it was announced that Superstar!! season two would be adding new members to Liella!'s ranks, I was surprised – but not by the announcement. Rather I was surprised so many other fans didn't see it coming. To me, adding new girls in this sequel season seemed like the plan all along. One of the historical struggles of Love Live! is maintaining the balance necessary to introduce all nine of your idols while still leaving enough room for both dramatic plots and wacky hijinks. That's a difficult line to toe, and it's traditionally left the first season of each new entry feeling lopsided – having to course correct in the second season by giving focus episodes to the characters who couldn't wedge themselves into a story arc.
Superstar!! solved that problem by just tearing down the arbitrary restrictions of a 9-person idol group, allowing season one to fully flesh out our cast while offering just as much time to wacky misadventures and general comedy. And now, with this School Idol club established and a firm goal in mind, it seems like the perfect opportunity to introduce new girls with dreams of idolatry, letting their personalities push and pull our established cast's status quo and stir things up. Plus this seemed like a chance to finally deliver on the reason µ's started their club to begin with: preserving their precious school so new students could learn to love it as much as them. Liella! don't have quite the same burden, but they nonetheless have a love for their community, and the thought of them welcoming newcomers in was really exciting to me. I'm very happy to say this season premiere delivered all that and more.
See, all that fancy talk up above is cover for the fact that I just want to gush about this episode. It's a total blast! It takes all the charm, infectious energy, and endearing character writing from the previous season and refines it – giving us both a look at a more seasoned Liella! who now have a reputation to live up to, while promising a ton of fun from the new cast. Going in, Kinako seemed like the most boring and mundane of our entering first years, but it turns out that's just completing the season-long punchline of setting up Kanon and the others as a club that looks crazy and intimidating from the outside, by getting our new everywoman protagonist roped into their nonsense. It's easy to forget when you're inside the storm that this club is 90% chaos engines that are barely constrained by Kanon's better judgment, but Kinako's fish-out-of-water status gives a valuable – and hilarious – outside perspective on our crew.
She also provides a lot of really heartwarming moments. Kinako is far from the first girl to think herself too plain and boring to be a School Idol, but that struggle is enhanced by how it now puts Kanon in the mentor seat. After spending all of season one finding her resolve, she's in a place where she can offer the same support and encouragement that Keke showed her way back at the start. It's both a reminder of how far our original cast have come, and a great chance to see them in new roles. All around, a fantastic foundation for the story to come, while offering a dynamic Love Live! has never really had the chance to explore before. I'm excited!
I'm also excited to see more of the other new girls, because they all seem like a trip. First, we're getting not one, but two types of Idol Gremlin this time with Natsumi and Mei. Mei is a more conventional type, a total fangirl who covers it up by acting like a delinquent, and she provides a lot of fun faces this episode. Meanwhile Natsumi is a new school idol for the online generation – and while real-life YouTube Vloggers are a curse upon the Earth, this selfie-stick-toting menace to good taste is that perfect level of purposefully fake cutesy that made Nico Yazawa a legend. The one new kid I wasn't so sure about for most of the premiere was Shiki, riiiiiight until she used a sci-fi ankle lock to literally force Kinako up the stairs and into her destiny as a School Idol, despite having not spoken a word to the girl beforehand. It's the perfect, insane bit of punctuation to put this whole premiere over the top.
All in all, I'm hard-pressed to think of a way to improve this premiere. Everything that made the first season great is back, firing on all cylinders. Every new addition has proven it can not just add to, but multiply that charm while bringing some genuine surprises to the table. This is Love Live! in peak form, and I cannot wait to see what's in store.