“A miracle that suddenly came into my life” – Love Live! Sunshine!! Episode 1

“I wanted to be captivated by something. I wanted to do my best in something. I wanted to run forward in earnest. But, I didn’t know what that something was. The indifferent me was blown upwards… and I landed upon it. That something was…”

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By her own admission, Chika Takami has always been just another normal girl. Not involved or interested in any clubs, content to watch her friends from the sidelines, and without a “something” to be inspired by, Chika watched indifferently as the rose-colored years of her youth passed her by. But Chika’s not the type to stay still; all that time, she was looking for some way to get more out of her “normal” self, to “become the normal monster Chika-chi”. And then… Chika happened to find Love Live.

A chance to shine as someone ordinary, the opportunity to sing and dance as one with others: school idols were Chika’s “something”, a way for her to express her overflowing passion and excitement, a new dream for her to chase after. Thrilled by the thought of being a radiant school idol, normal high school student Chika began to imagine what it would be like to shine on stage herself, and then what it’d be like to strive for the same goal alongside her friends. Considering how much passion had welled up within her on that fateful day she found school idols, how could she not want to share that excitement with others? How could she sit still knowing that she finally had found her chance to shine?

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So Chika got to work, setting off to find others to join her in becoming a school idol, looking for people with that same mindset of wanting to find a way to shine bright together. And from the beginning she faces setback after setback: not receiving much (if any) interest from other students, facing sharp rebuke from the student council president for recruiting club members as an unofficial club, and not even getting the kanji written properly on the club title board. But she kept going, determined to shine, to become a radiant school idol even though the roadblocks standing in her way seemed higher than ever.

But while Chika struggles to gather four others to form the core of a new school idol club, she misses the one person who’s been alongside her that whole time. You Watanabe, Chika’s childhood friend who’s been with her since elementary school, has watched as Chika has changed from the indifferent 2nd year high schooler into the fervent school idol scout. Yet Chika seems to miss You alongside her as she’s laser-focused on recruiting other girls to her group; and considering the dynamic that’s built up between the two of them over the years, this is no surprise.

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You is anything but normal to Chika. Talented, athletic, popular, You may as well have been Chika’s mental picture of what someone special looked like. But the shine that You gave off kept her from connecting with her closest friend. Always swarmed by others, kept distant by her natural talent and can-do attitude, You’s never had much chance to do something together with Chika. So when You watches as Chika suddenly comes alive with passion for school idols, she’s understandably curious. “[Y]ou’ve never been interested in any clubs. Why are you now?” She may be questioning Chika’s spontaneous passion for something she’s never even mentioned before, but she also sees a chance to do something exciting with Chika, a chance that she’s never had before.

But Chika doesn’t even consider asking You to join her. “She’s too busy with swim club,” she reasons, “she’s already doing these other fantastic things and all these people look up to her.” Chika feels that You wouldn’t see any reason to become a school idol if she’s already shining. It’s a mindset that elevates You to a pedestal, as an ideal that Chika’s never been able to reach but now has found a way to climb towards. And at first, You plays along with this role. “I’ve decided! I’ll help you out because it’s you, Chika-chan,” You tells Chika, implying that club recruitment wouldn’t normally be something she’d take part in. But even that decision is a hint that You wants to be with Chika, that’s she’s actively choosing to be with her over spending her time elsewhere. She may still be observing where her best friend’s newfound passion takes her, but it may just be an opportunity for You to finally end up on the same footing as Chika, rather than so far above her.

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But You remains distant as Chika continues to chase after others, from shy first years to another childhood friend. You feels the burden of being placed on a pedestal, of being seen as too special to be considered as a school idol prospect by Chika. And it weighs on You: she may seem spectacular in all of her activities to others, but those things are all just everyday routine to her. Her idea of what it means to be normal may be different than Chika’s, but from her own perspective she’s no more special than Chika is. So even if she recognizes how those things make her seem radiant to others, that doesn’t mean that she feels like she’s shining her brightest, not when she could be shining together with her best friend. After all, You had plenty of chances where she could have bonded with others and made more friends within her various activities; but instead she stays with the consistently normal Chika. This whole time, she’s had the same mindset that Chika realized when she discovered school idols: “I want to do this with my friends, too.” And You longs for the day where she might be able to achieve that goal too.

So when it becomes clear that Chika is determined to become a school idol no matter what it takes, You makes the decision that Chika never once expected: she chooses to join in Chika’s excitement and become the second member of the school idol club. Despite all of her other activities, the one thing You has wanted for the longest time has been to do something crazy with Chika; and Chika’s determination to make the school idol club reality has convinced You that they finally have an opportunity to shine together as equals and friends. It’s a tender and emotional moment for Chika, clearly surprised and grateful for You’s willingness to join her in becoming a school idol; and so the school idol club grows from one to two as You and Chika press on with their new, shared passion.

School idols are a wonderful discovery for Chika, a chance for her to shine bright despite being as ordinary as they come. But they’re also a miracle for You as well. No longer does she have to worry about casting a shadow onto Chika, because now they have a way to stand in the light together. It’s the first step of a new adventure for You and Chika: one with an uncertain path ahead, but worth it for their chance to finally walk forward together.

“We’ll go forth, hand in hand!”

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Love Live Sunshine can be watched for free on both Crunchyroll (sub) and Funimation (dub), and a second season is scheduled to air this autumn.

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