Pon. Alright, it’s time to be serious. Serious mode. Realmode.
Oto. I’m always serious.
Pon. This show became a real chore to watch, but I wouldn’t say it’s “bad.” To me a “bad” show is one that doesn’t have much to offer very many people. That’s clearly not true in this case.
Oto. I’ve said this before, but I feel like the second season was worse than the first. Not sure why people like it more. A main reason, and I just realized this recently, is that the second season doesn’t have any real struggles. My favorite scene from this whole series is that part where Honoka, Umi, and Kotori have their first concert in front of an empty auditorium. That got to me. It really felt like they were reaching for something with everything they had. That persists through the first season, but the second season just feels like they’re sitting around the whole time and NOTHING FUCKING HAPPENS! They never really have to strive for anything. I never thought they might lose. The Love Live competition wasn’t even that present in the second season. The only time they struggle is when they’re trying to write music. They had no problem with it in the first season. I’m fine with seeing the writing process, but it’s like they’ve never written music before.
Pon. There were a few episodes in the second season that I genuinely enjoyed. The one about Nico’s creepy home decor was good, and the Nozomi one was good, but it has to do with what you’re talking about. Those characters feel like they want something. It feels like they’re working toward something. The show doesn’t achieve that with every character, which, yet again, is one of the perils of having such a big cast, but that’s a baseline requirement for me. Some nerds can get through these shows purely by admiring cute skirts or whatever. I am not those nerds.
Oto. Yeah, those were good. The second season’s not all bad, but it doesn’t feel like much actually happens.
Pon. What pisses me off is, there’s that bit where Honoka talks about what music means to her … why the fuck wasn’t that a constant theme throughout the show!? She could’ve had an actual arc! What happened there?
Oto. Yeah, that was just her graduation speak. She doesn’t give a fuck. She just liked hanging out with her friends. That’s what I got as being most important to her. Especially when she cost Kotori her position as a world-famous designer. Thought I forgot about that one, didn’t you? I can’t hate Honoka. She’s still the best, but sometimes …
Pon. I refuse to have character arguments about this show at this point.
Oto. Weren’t you just saying how Umi is your favorite?
Pon. If by “favorite” you mean “the absolute worst possible character” … no, stop! I’m not gonna do this. It’s totally pointless.
Oto. Alright, fine. Shipping, then?
Pon. You know what? I honestly don’t care that much. NicoMaki has some good douj, but I still feel like the show doesn’t sell it very well. Otherwise I’m okay with the canon ships. Honoka has to be shipped with, whatshername, Tsubasa from A-RISE. Because of this.
Oto. I still want to find some good Honoka/Tsubasa, but yeah. I’m not that worried about it either. That’s kinda how I feel about all ships, though. Live and let love.
Pon. … Live.
Oto. As long as the douj is good.
Pon. We need to talk about the appeal of this show, since that to me is the really interesting thing about it. I keep mentioning this person whose entire Twitter existence is devoted to Love Live… well, here’s part of their justification. And I want to make clear that I’m not putting this here to make fun of it. I’m putting this here because I relate to it.
… because I’ve watched love live I’ve gotten back in touch with a part of myself and my emotions I’ve been too ashamed to reveal in front of others, which was entirely because of a lack of confidence; I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and inspire others to feel real true emotions, yet have always lacked the emotional grounding to do so effectively because I hadn’t yet really examined my OWN emotions, or my own reasons for why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. …
Oto. This is why I have a hard time saying anything is bad. If a show can impact even just one person on this level then it’s doing something right.
Pon. Yeah, I’ve been there. I’ve been in pretty much that exact place. If you want to make things, you need to learn to get past the prevalent irony somehow, since, even if the thing you’re making uses irony, creating something that people can connect with is essentially a sincere act. You expose yourself by doing it. So, you know what? I’m glad Love Live helped at least one person learn how to deal with that. It’s a difficult thing to deal with.
But my whole angle on Love Live is shaped precisely by that difficulty, which is why I can’t see the show how this person does.
If any show filled this niche for me, it was Aria, which in one sense is a show about the usefulness of sincerity and just generally not being an asshole. But it’s also a show about how sincerity is fucking hard. It comes easily to one character, which makes her sort of alien to her friends (insert pun about how she’s literally from another planet), who do have to struggle with it. And they learn from that, but they also worry about it. It really does expose you. There’s a time for sincerity and a time for irony and skepticism. I guess my point is that, while Love Live is a show about how sincerity doesn’t have to be hard, it’s hard because we make it hard, Aria is a show about how sincerity is and always will be a struggle, which to me is a lot more relatable, and the reason why I can’t really buy most of the characters in Love Live.
A related thing that weirds me out about the whole Love Live thing is how closely people identify the characters with the voice actors. Which, yeah, is something they themselves do … to fucking sell you stuff. I’m not saying they don’t have a genuine emotional connection to the characters they play, but, entirely regardless of that, regardless of anything, crying on camera is a career move for them. μ’s is not real. μ’s is a fiction designed to get you to buy CDs and concert tickets. This doesn’t mean you can’t get anything out of it–look at something like Gundam, which is useful in many ways despite being a series of toy commercials. But we need to take a step back and have some perspective here. Sincerity helps you connect with people, but, whether it’s intentional or not, sometimes people are motivated by things other than making you feel good. That’s where irony comes in. You just have to judge case-by-case how much irony vs. how much sincerity the situation calls for, which is precisely why it’s so hard.
Oto. I don’t like thinking about that stuff. It makes me sad. Reminds me of this Doctor Who special. David Tennant’s TARDIS merges with Peter Davison’s and Tennant has this whole speech about how his 5th incarnation may have been his favorite and how he learned so much and how it changed him. And you don’t see it as the Doctor talking to his younger self. At least I didn’t. It’s more like David Tennant talking directly to Peter Davison about what he did for the show and what he did for him when he watched the show when he was younger. But was that just a horrible ploy to garner favor from the audience? Were they just manipulating me?
Pon. My point isn’t that you have to always be like, “no, this is just a late capitalist scheme” or whatever. Obviously the point of a story is affecting you emotionally, and you have to be open to that, or else why bother? My point is that the healthy way of approaching media is to be ironic and sincere at the same time. Humans are really good at paradoxes. This is one that we need to embrace. Love Live doesn’t seem to embrace it in its attitude toward art, so it ends up just frustrating me.
We need to deal with this idea we keep coming back to, though, about the official Love Live stuff, the show and music, being the least interesting aspect of it. It’s one of these things that’s as popular as it is because of the kind of community people have formed around it, and I’m always interested in what about the “canon” material makes that kind of community possible.
What it reminds me of, actually, is Twilight fanfic. My understanding of that community is that there isn’t the same reverence for the source material you got with the big pillars of western fanfic that came before it, Harry Potter and Buffy and Star Trek, etc. People seemed to write about those things because they liked what those things had to say in the first place. But with Twilight, if the stuff I’ve read about it is accurate, there isn’t the same kind of belief that the fanwork lives in the shadow of the original. Twilight gave people some basic character templates, and it gave them a community to write in and for, and that’s kind of it. It’s used less like a thing in itself and more like a writing prompt.
Maybe Love Live works like that. Well, it’s possible that everything does these days. But, for me, a lot of the most interesting Love Live fanwork is the work that diverges in some significant way from the plot of the show–the work that doesn’t respect the canon.
That brings up another thought I’ve had … feel free to interject here.
Oto. No, I’m good. Go on. This is interesting.
Pon. Okay, so my other thought is, when fanwork does try to work within the constraints of some amount of fidelity to the original, a source without a whole lot going for it in terms of character, themes, etc. is a real liability. You can only have so many doujinshi in which Maki goes to Nico’s house, right? It’s fine the first time, it’s charming, but the fifteenth time it’s like, fuck, can’t Nico go to Maki’s house now? Can’t Maki go to Rin’s house? Does Rin even have a house?
And so this is why original works that deal with big ideas are particularly good for fanwork. The fanwork can borrow those ideas and work through them in a lot of different ways.
We could talk about Harry Potter and dealing with growing up and the reality of death at the same time, but we’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna do Touhou and belief systems. You know what we’re gonna do?
Oto. I don’t know. What are we going to do?
Pon. No, hear me out. It’s true that a lot of the fanwork that I’ve seen is just porny, or cutesy romance … not that there’s anything wrong with that, beyond it getting old fast … but I have to admit that there’s a lot to work with there. The characters are these girls imbued with the souls of battleships. So what is a battleship soul? Is it a tsukumogami? Is it a composite of the entire dead crew? What does that do to a person’s head? How does a ship-human hybrid learn to love, or even to respect the lives of the human beings it was created to defend, in situations of extreme duress? What happens when it fails? What’s it like being a weapon that is also a human? What’s the lifespan of a shipgirl? What does it mean to literally tear the past out of hell and become one with it? What are the implications of that? How does that work as a metaphor? Why in the glorious name of eternal fuck don’t Kancolle fans ever talk about this stuff? Never mind that last one … my point is just that it’s fertile ground for fanfic. Love Live has very few big ideas, and maybe this is a constraint on the extent to which the fanwork can. I’m not saying every show should be about big ideas, but I wouldn’t say every show needs a huge fanwork community, either.
Oto. We should just douj. Kancolle douj go! You’ve already written half of it.
Pon. Fuck that. I could be writing original stuff.
Oto. As long as it’s fun and interesting, what does it matter?
Pon. Uh … money?
Oto. Filthy capitalist. Fuck you. I’ll do it on my own.
Pon. Fine. In any case, let’s close the lid on these idol shows. No more of this shit … when’s the new Macross coming out?