Oto. This is good. I like this. No one needs to be the leader. It’s a team effort. everyone is equally important. I wish sentai shows would do that. Been waiting for that for … FUCK YEAH HONOKA’S THE LEADER! Know your place you filthy plebeians.
Pon. Why do you care so much who’s the leader? You care more than the characters do.
Oto. Because Honoka’s the leader. Fact. She’s got all the right stuff. She’s got the get up and go. All those things that they talked about this episode? Honoka. But really, we don’t need a leader. Everyone is important. That’s what Honoka said.
Pon. Okay … let’s talk about how Nico’s stage character is old-fashioned. How it comes from an earlier, more innocent time, when moe was easy, when all a writer had to do to win fans was make a character act sort of infantile.
Oto. The goddamn dark ages.
Pon. Yeah, the unfathomable era of ten years ago. We aren’t really being fair about it, given that we were complicit. We watched the Key adaptations and stuff. Do you know what I mean, though? The idea seems to be that fans aren’t as easy as they used to be. Nico’s approach doesn’t work because she doesn’t give people enough credit. Even in terms of how she invents a character to be her backstage “real” self. Maybe the fans are finally ready for a character with actual human traits.
Oto. She’s confused that these idols are just acting like themselves.
Pon. But that’s what people want. Love Live itself demonstrates this, at least relative to people who like Love Live. These characters have clear motivations and goals; they’re doing this stuff because they want to. There is no authority figure or harem guy pushing them toward a particular outcome. To the extent that they have a governing body, they’re opposed to it. That’s the appeal. That’s what Nico doesn’t get. Nobody wants her to conform to what she thinks some model fan would want. People want the “struggle” of contending with her own agency. They don’t want her to accommodate them; they want to go through the process of trying to accommodate her. They want to be put off by her and then slowly come to like her! I know “they” is pretty vague … would you agree that this is one of the reasons you like Love Live?
Oto. That’s a huge reason why I like Love Live.
Pon. It reminds me (well, vaguely) of this hunger for “authenticity,” this movement away from fiction and toward nonfiction, or toward fiction that looks more like nonfiction, that people have noticed in western literature. You could be cynical about it and say that this is another example of “e unibus pluram,” of content mills co-opting people’s defenses against them and using them to make more money. But it’s hard to be a total cynic if the outcome is fans becoming able to stomach more human-like qualities in characters. Characters who, though they aren’t exactly the realest, have actual agency. YMMV, but that looks like improvement to me.