Love Live !, the Japanese anime idol series, explained
In 2014, Love Live! School Idol Festival has become the gateway for many anime fans to mobile gacha games and idol culture. Now a new spin-off, Love Live! All the stars, is out, and there’s a lot to know about the rhythm games franchise before you jump in.
Love Live! is an idol music project focused on anime girls. Originally a story project published in Dengeki G magazine, it eventually morphed into rhythm games, multiple seasons of anime, and even entire Love Live albums! music.
Personally, the series has been my gateway to other idol game franchises, like Idolm @ ster and Bang Dream !, but many anime fans have found their calling to help idols in Love Live !. Despite the fact that most of the content in one of these series is in Japanese, the international reach is noticeable on social media, with the School Idol Festival reaching over 23 million foreign players in November 2019. If you’ve ever seen someone with a Twitter bio that says something like “MikaP” or “UmiP”, it means that they are the producer of that idol and that ‘she is his favorite. Although the series has a predominantly male fan base in Japan, it is loved by all types of people, with women making up a large part of the series’ Western fan base.
Love Live! School Idol Festival Originally focused on nine girls from Otonokizaka Academy in their school idol club. The girls come together to create a group called μ’s (pronounced “muse”) and you help them succeed as a manager. Eventually the series expanded, adding two more nine-girl groups: Aqours (pronounced “aqua”) And the Nijigasaki High School Idol Club.
Beyond smartphone gaming, Love Live! is a cultural phenomenon. It’s more than just an animated series or a game – it’s a talented group of real-life artists who give sold-out concerts in Tokyo and rank among other talented musicians on the music charts.
How do you play the game?
You spot girls of different rarities, form a team of nine with them, and play a song. The better stats on your daughters, the better you will score. You just tap the circle notes to come over the music.
There are also story pieces between the levels so you can interact with the girls and read what they are doing.
To build teams, you will need to earn cards by completing events or using the gacha system. Teams can have duplicates of the same girl, and each girl will have a plethora of different cards, featuring them in different outfits or situations. It’s summer ? You bet a bunch of cards from the girls in swimsuits. Is it Halloween? It’s time for witch or demon outfits! Since the cast is limited, each girl gets a lot more focus than saying, Fire emblem: hero, where only the most popular characters get multiple versions.
You can see the video of School Idol Festival, which will continue to be updated by developers Bushiroad and KLab, in action below.
Who are the girls?
Each group is made up of three grade one girls, three grade two girls, and three grade three girls, with grade two girls generally considered to be the “main” characters by the franchise. Each girl receives roughly the same amount of new content, so this mostly remains true when it comes to the animated series. True anime idol culture requires that you pick one or two as favorites and focus on producing them, collecting all of their cards and becoming a die-hard fan – but you don’t have to, of course. .
As the original set of girls μ is arguably the most popular group. It features idols like the plain, but hardworking Honoka Kōsaka, and rice lover Hanayo Koizumi.
- First year: Hanayo Koizumi, Rin Hoshizora, Maki Nishikino
- Second year: Honoka Kōsaka, Kotori Minami, Umi Sonoda
- Third years: Nico Yazawa, Nozomi Tojo, Eli Ayase
Aqours is the second group and they all go to a school by the ocean, Uranohoshi Girls’ High School. The group includes sisters Dia and Ruby Kurosawa and “fallen angel” Yoshiko Tsushima.
- First year: Yoshiko Tsushima, Ruby Kurosawa, Hanamaru Kunikida
- Second year: Chika Takami, Riko Sakurauchi, You Watanabe
- Third year: Kanan Matsuura, Dia Kurosawa, Mari Ohara
Nijigasaki High School Idol Club
Unlike the other two groups, these girls are not in a group together. They all work individually as part of their school’s club. The club has members like Rina Tennoji, who always covers her face, and Ai Miyashita, a fashionable girl who loves to play on words. This group does not yet have their own animated series, but it has been announced that they will air in the future.
- First year: Kasumi Nakasu, Shizuku Osaka, Rina Tennoji
- Second year: Ayumu Uehara, Ai Miyashita, Setsuna Yuki
- Third year: Karin Asaka, Kanata Konoe, Emma Verde
Wait, why have I seen some of these girls before?
Because love live! is popular! Additionally, Nico Yazawa is the start of many anime-centric memes and images of smug anime girls, and Mari is known for her “that’s a joke!” Line from the anime because she’s a silly prankster. You can probably see it used as a reaction GIF from people on Twitter and elsewhere on social media when a joke fails to land or someone reads something sarcastic this serious.
And you said they sell huge stadiums and perform live? How? ‘Or’ What?
The vocalists are strongly associated with their characters and they dress and perform the songs of the series at concerts. This is not an anime hologram, like the Vocaloid Miku Hatsune. They are real girls on stage, singing and dancing. People who are deep enough into idol culture will also be big fans of their favorite actresses from the show.
Even Fathom Events, the screening company that often shows limited series of animated films in theaters, broadcast these concerts live, like the ninth anniversary of Love Live! Fest, for dedicated fans to watch on the big screen.
Are the games entirely in Japanese?
All audio is in Japanese, but the “world” version of the School Idol Festival is playable in English, Korean and Traditional Chinese. All stars is playable in the same languages, plus Thai.
Which game should I play in between?
It depends on your taste. School Idol Festival is more of a simple rhythm game. While not quite as pretty, it does have some fun songs to play with exciting graphics that will leave even the best rhythm game player a little sweaty. All stars has more RPG elements, focusing on improving girls and playing a cute story with a rhythmic feel. Nijigasaki girls are only featured in School Idol Festival as limited-time rewards, and the game focuses more on the and the Aqours.
The most notable change between the two games is that All stars supports 3D models dancing and singing in the background. School Idol Festival uses a static image of a background scene, but All stars has girls playing while you play.
That being said, keep in mind that this is a gacha game, which means you’ll have to grind up some premium currency to get high stat units – or you can pay cash, but beware of the dangers of gacha game.
For fans of rhythm games, you can download School Idol Festival on the Google Play Store and the App Store. For those who want a story and 3D models, download All stars, also on the Google Play Store and the App Store.