I’m not entirely sure how people come to like what they do. When I think back to when and how exactly I started to like the things I like, I usually draw a blank. I vaguely remember enjoying certain interactions with people or events that occurred that may have resulted in my enjoyment of a thing, but I can never be certain. At some point, after liking something for long enough, it becomes part of my daily life and also a part of myself. This summer really solidified my feelings towards a certain multi-media franchise. I don’t know how it happened but I somehow managed to find myself in what I often lovingly refer to as ‘idol hell’. This year, Love Live has taken up a big portion of my interest and time – something that I would have never thought I would say back in 2015. As to how, I’m not quite sure, but I do know where it started.
Two years ago, a friend of mine from University introduced me to the Love Live mobile game – School Idol Festival. I decided to give it a go and found it kind of fun. I played it for a couple weeks but stopped soon afterwards to focus on my exams. I was told that the game also had an associated anime so I decided to watch it during the break after my exams. I binged through all 26 episodes over a week and quite enjoyed it. The antics of Honoka and the gang never failed to make me laugh and the performances were often pretty amazing. The CG was a little hard to adjust to, but hearing the songs that I had been so familiar with from playing the game made the experience all the better.
In the semester that followed, I listened to a lot of Love Live music. I played the mobile game daily and listened to tracks not found in the game on Youtube while studying. If I was asked whether or not I liked Love Live around that time, I’m not sure if I would’ve replied with a ‘yes’. I liked a lot of their music and enjoyed the anime, but Love Live wasn’t something that I was willing to associate myself with quite yet for fear of being ridiculed by my friends.
This changed pretty rapidly when I got in twitter. I followed a lot of ani-bloggers around that time and some of them were retweeting Love Live pictures. Most of them were pretty silly, taking the base characters of the franchise and giving them personality. Things like Maki x Nico, Eli and Nozomi being the best anime moms to not have children, the existence of “no honking zones”, and other random memes were things that I started to associate more with the characters. The community gave depth where there wasn’t and it made those characters all the more lovable. I started to follow more and more fans of Love Live on twitter to get my fix of silly fan creations. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I really liked this silly, stupid, massive, thing.
And then the day of the final live came.
I hadn’t even known that the girls of μ’s would be ending their careers until that day. They were completing their 6 year journey together in one final concert spanning over two days. I hadn’t been a fan for very long so their breaking up wasn’t something that bothered me too much, but seeing the fan reaction over those two days on twitter really affected me. I wanted to know why the fans felt so strongly about these nine girls and their personas. Was it just a result of being a longtime fan? Did they associate a part of themselves with their existence? I really wanted to know.
Over the next couple months, I continued to listen to the old μ’s tracks while progressing through school. I continued to keep up with the community on twitter but my interest in the Love Live franchise as a whole waned a little as other things in life kept me busy. That is, until I heard the news of a new spin off series for the franchise, Love Live! Sunshine!!
For some old fans of μ’s the news of a new group of girls was met by some serious scrutiny. The creation of a new group came to no surprise to followers of the idol industry, but for many Love Live fans this seemed to come from left field. As the weeks passed however, the communal support for the new group seemed to grow pretty rapidly – especially as their first few songs were released and the anime was announced. By the time the group’s second single came out, it seemed that the Sunshine girls had taken the community by storm.
I myself was swept up by the Sunshine hype train. For me, this felt like an opportunity to follow a group from its inception, something that old μ’s fans had experienced before. Maybe then I could understand the feelings that they felt at the final live.
This year for me has been very Love Live centric. With the many releases early in the year, I was suddenly gifted a whole lot of new music to listen to. During the summer, the Sunshine anime was released and simulcast here in North America. I managed to convince a couple of my friends to watch the series with me and we had an amazing time. Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, I can proudly say that I am a very big fan of Love Live. Following the journey of the new crew while they struggle to move forward independent of the legacy of μ’s was something that I was really invested in. I now look forward to seeing the Sunshine girls grow their careers as singers and voice actresses as the years go on.
What brought me close to this franchise was unquestionably the people. The fans, the community, the staff, and the performers. The community felt warm, inviting, accepting, and held the kind of inherent positivity that I value so much in my life. Maybe I was just oblivious to it but it, this was the first internet community in which I saw very little of ugliness that is usually so prevalent in other online communities (shoutouts to /r/LoveLive for being the least reddit-like reddit community out there). The fans were great and the staff knew it. The Love Live movie was the embodiment of the love and passion that both the staff and fans felt for the franchise.
Finally, and most importantly, the performers were paramount to the experience that we as fans had with the franchise. Recently I watched μ’s first live and boy did it hit me with the feels. This was their first performance and they passion and work they put in was extremely apparent. The staked a lot of themselves into this project and were putting up the fruits of their labors for the first time in front of an audience of 3000. You could really feel their relief when the end of their performance was met by deafening cheers and all nine girls were brought to tears. And for us content creators, this kind of reaction is the best reward for our labors.
Okay that was a friggin’ ginormous post. Evidently I’ve got a lot to say about Love Live – far more than what I wrote here. I hope you enjoyed my story about Love Live, feel free to let me know about yours if you have one. I also wanted to link iblessall’s article on liking things, it really gave me something to think about while writing this. And until next time, thanks for reading!