Well, this is Love Live alright. And while it’s portrayed as a standalone story in an alternative setting, it does in no way try to introduce the concept of Love Live in the same way that the original series did. Instead, it assumes that everyone knows what Love Live is about and goes straight for the character introductions. Which was a bold move, because had it not managed to pull it off, i.e. had it not felt at all like Love Live, the entire first episode would have fallen flat on its face. Fortunately, however, and as I already implied (and said outright at the start), the first episode did manage to pull it off.
And it was mostly because of the characters. Chika obviously reminds me of Honoka, there’s only so much you can do with the ultra-genki leader-type character archetype, but none of the other characters felt too similar to any of the members of µ’s, which I thought was impressive. More importantly, though, I found most of them immediately likeable, and some of them (Yohane, You) I already liked before the show even began, due to promos and trailers. To sum it up, the chemistry is there, and I feel like I’ll be able to connect with the characters. And that’s the most important thing for me when it comes to these kinds of shows.
Visually, it’s looks almost identical to the original series, though the character designs might be a little bit “smaller and rounder”. There was a fair amount of funny faces, and the visuals in general were good-looking. The CG was a pleasant surprise. The cuts between CG and hand-drawn were less obvious than in the original series, and at least in the ending song, I thought the CG dancing actually looked pretty good in its own right, which is not something I could ever say about the original series. This is not a crucial aspect of the show for me personally, but I still think it’s nice that they at least tried to improve it.
Verdict: I love Love Live, and this “version” of it is no exception, at least so far. Definitely picked up.
The first episode of the second season of Shokugeki no Souma wasted absolutely no time getting back to the story. Apart from a voice-over explaining what’s going on in the ongoing story arc (because the first season ended in the middle of an arc), during which new scenes were shown, there was no indication that there had been a break in the story. In fact, the first episode progressed at a surprisingly fast pace, adapting an entire shokugeki match from preparation to verdict. Most returning shows don’t do stuff like this in the first episode.
But you know what, it worked. And in retrospect, I would probably have been a bit annoyed had they decided to start with a recap/reintroduction/buildup episode instead. That said, I have read past this point in the manga, so I know how this arc plays out. Maybe viewers who aren’t familiar with the manga would have preferred to have a refresher, I don’t know. In any case, as with how seamlessly the story continued from where it left off at the end of the first season, the show hasn’t changed much when it comes to visuals, music and acting. The funny reactions are still there, as are the characters and their personalities (as one would expect). If anything, I thought the visuals felt a bit more refined than in the first episode of the first season, but if there’s any real difference it’s very minor. Yeah, as an experience, this first episode was basically identical to the first season, and because I liked the first season, I liked this episode as well.
Verdict: More of the same, but that’s a good thing when it comes to this show. Continuing for sure.