With the recent airing of Love Live! Sunshine!! anime, we get a first hand exposure to the new Aqours cast (yes guys, it's AqOUrs and not AqUOrs).
As Aqours' name was decided in a poll at least a year ago, this also brings us to the fact that Aqours' first formation was at least a year ago. Though, how many of you didn't actually hear of them until recently?
For this article, I will be reviewing the anime Love Live! Sunshine!! and comparing it to the many different quirks of Love Live! School Idol Project (I will be omitting at least the '!' from the names henceforth to reduce confusion.)
No matter what you may tell me, I still think that Love Live Sunshine's plot is very similar to that of Love Live, and the following reasons will help to substantiate my point.
1. We start out with the desire to form a school idol group by one of the most outgoing and self-motivated members in the respective schools (Honoka and Chika). They are the ones who are into the whole idol thing first, then rope their friends in, before going to look for other students in the school who they are not close with personally.
Many of us might remember Chika practicing to Honoka's Snow Halation pose in Episode 1 of Love Live Sunshine. If you don't, this might help to jog your memory.
2. The first motivation that had Honoka intending to start an idol group is A-RISE. Remember when Honoka's sister wanted to join UTX and not Otonokizaka and Honoka went to check it out and that was when she met A-RISE and got motivated to start her very own group. Honoka only realized that the school was closing down after that, and her motivation changed then to using it to gather more students to join Otonokizaka the next year.
Likewise, Chika's motivation to start her very own group stems from seeing μ's performance. It is later changed to a means to prevent their school from closing down because "their conditions are now the same as μ's!" so if μ's could go on to win Love Live, so could they, right? Of course they most likely will.
3. The next member that joins their still-budding wannabe idol group is their very close friend. For μ's, we have Kotori, Honoka's childhood friend, as the second member (yes, Umi joined later, after Kotori showed her the sight of Honoka doing some dance moves).
Similarly, in Love Live Sunshine, we have (Watanabe) You, Chika's childhood friend, who joined in the very first episode. She also didn't make much negative comments about Chika's plans to form an idol group, but was playing along to Chika's whims.
4. The very first people they source for and managed to find is someone connected to the world of music. So we have Maki and Riko. Of which, both are into piano. The difference would be that Maki seems to be more in the leisure side of piano while Riko is more of the competition type. The Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) Kousei-esque stage event for Riko is a great example of the importance of piano to her.
A mini-third point on the side, we have the third member in Love Live, Umi, living within walking distance from the leader of the group, Honoka. Likewise in Love Live Sunshine, Riko, the third member, is also living within walking distance from the leader, Chika. In fact, they are... neighbors!
5. The name for the idol groups come as a mystery to those involved. For Love Live, Nozomi left a paper with the suggested name inside a Name Suggestion box which Honoka constructed. For Love Live Sunshine, the name was left at a beach, drawn out on the sand. By who? Well, we have no idea yet but I suspect it might be Mari!
6. They started out with the first years the proceed on to getting the third years to join. For μ's, we first get Hanayo, then Rin and Maki... and after that the third years started entering the storyline, Nico, Eli then Nozomi. For Aqours, we first have Hanamaru and Ruby then Yohane joining. Following this would be the third years, Dia, Mari and Kanan -- of which we don't know which order it'll be in yet.
7. Someone in the third years had something to do with setting up an idol club in their schools in the past. Cue in Nico from μ's, whose club later disbanded before she met μ's. Cue in Dia, Mari and Kanan, who were all part of an idol group. However, the trio also realized that their group was not working out and they disbanded as well.
(Read here for more about Nico's idol past before μ's)
8. They are inspired by their rival group. It has always been obvious that Honoka was inspired by A-RISE, to the point that she wanted to start the group. She has seen A-RISE as her largest rival and pitched a fight against them with Yume no Tobira.
(Yume no Tobira (Vietsub) in the anime, by Rilliane Phantom)
St. Snow has also inspired Chika, though it is to continue being an idol and to reach higher heights instead.
(Self Control by St. Snow, by Kitsuo !)
Though the two series are not completely identical. Placing the designs of the characters' physical appearance aside, there are subtle differences between the two.
1. In μ's, the main support that they get are from fellow schoolmates. As such, we have the snow shoveling scene by the whole school (Otonokizaka) as the second years make their way to the competition venue of Love Live! where they performed Snow Halation against A-RISE.
In Aqours, the main form of support they get are from the townspeople. As far as I've watched to this point (8 episodes), Aqours has gotten support from the townspeople twice. The first was for their very first live, performed by the second years in the gymnasium when they had to fill up the entire hall. The second was when they had to make a PV to describe how their school and town is, in hopes of gathering new students for the next year.
2. They didn't start out all that similar, but things changed along the way. Remember how Honoka, Kotori and Umi had to sing in an empty auditorium for their first live? Or rather empty, seeing how Hanayo and Nico were there and Rin even joined in later. And Eli and Nozomi were actually listening in as well!
Take that as a comparison against Aqours, who were singing to only several people in the gymnasium, then more townspeople showed up and they filled up the hall! It was such a moving moment.
(Dasuki Datta Daijoubu by Nozomi San)
3. Honoka was never really an avid fan of Tsubasa of A-RISE, but they were more of (friendly) rivals who motivated each other. On the other hand, Chika idolized Honoka and was shown to want to shine like μ's on several occasions, using μ's as an aim for Aqours. (Note that this comparison is made because Tsubasa inspired Honoka to start μ's and Honoka inspired Chika to start Aqours.)
Sadly, instead of playing on more of these subtle differences, the producers decided that it was a good idea to attempt to pit Aqours directly against μ's, thus bringing in all the school is closing down and the third years were once in an idol group issues. This might help viewers to recall how the original Love Live was like, and possibly relate to them, but for myself, an avid fan of μ's, this just makes the entire Love Live Sunshine scream out to me "Hey there, I'm a complete rip-off of Love Live! But since you like Love Live, no matter what form I come in, you'll love me too, right?"
And before anyone tells me that Aqours is in a rural area, by the sea, while μ's is set in Tokyo and the difference in setting sets them apart, I'll say no, it doesn't work that way. Setting needs to go slightly more than just a physical location. It has to encompass content; the flow of events might need to differ as well.
For instance, Nichijou and Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou are both about school life. They are occasionally also thought of as female and male versions of school life comedy, but how many of us actually think of them as rip-offs of each other?