School girls, idols, and another season of Love Live! I made the error at the start of the season of misaligning this sequel with the wrong series within the Love Live! franchise, and missed out on the first month of new episodes. While I loved the original series, subsequent groups have been hit or miss and I never felt that same level of excitement until recently with the Superstar!! storyline, the first season of which aired last summer in 2021. The current sequel at Yuigaoka gives us new students and prospective members for Liella!, as well as another chance at climbing to the top. While I still mostly have eyes for Keke and Kanon, lately my attention has been unwillingly wrested away by Natsumi Onitsuka, a first-year, streamer, and aspiring influencer.
I say “unwillingly” because after a mere five minutes around Natsumi, I was compelled to unsubscribe, unfollow, dislike, anything to get her off my screen. While there are some YouTubers and Twitch streamers I follow, down-to-earth, genuine personalities are difficult to find. Many random channels I stumble across overflow with advertisements and pleas for attention, as if my being there in the first place isn’t already proof enough of my initial interest. When this happens, I typically choose one of two options: skip past the ads/self promotion, or hit ‘back’ and look elsewhere. Given what we see of Natsumi through her introduction and early interactions with Liella!, I would have looked elsewhere in a heartbeat.
On the surface, she’s pretty cute and I can certainly see her physical appeal as an influencer. She’s a mostly harmless and silly nod to online personalities. However, given the her prominence even as a side character in the earlier episodes, it was only a matter of time before she stepped onto Liella!’s stage. I was relieved when her interest in the group began merely as a side hustle promoter rather than a member given her self-proclaimed priorities. Once she proposed reaping the full monetary benefits of of their videos she produced, I knew her time had come. The better option would have been for her to take a minor cut of the full proceeds as well as disclosed the finances from day one. Not only did she do neither, choosing instead to take all earnings with zero disclosure, she also plotted to drive a wedge between the older members and the younger, seemingly controllable, students.
This being the type of idol show that it is, wholesome and empowering and all that good stuff, there was obviously no way they’d let Natsumi get away with any of her transgressions. However, the manner in which the confrontation happens makes all the difference in how I perceive her character now, beginning with her backstory. Rather than her narcissism and greed being products of some outside, uncontrollable force, they stem from her own actions. As far back as Natsumi can remember, each of her dreams have ended in failure. Gold medal in running? That’s kinda hard to do when you’re the slowest in the class. A Noble Prize in science seems a tad overreaching with failing math scores. And who can model at her short height (yes, I know there are exceptions and movements now towards more representation)? With failed dreams came the desire to hold onto the most tangible reward: money and the stability wealth offers. Sad, but believable.
As single-minded as Natsumi’s focus is, she still finds herself drawn into the passion of the other girls and their vision for the future. Seeing the younger students think about giving up upsets her in a way we had yet to see up to that point. Having tried and failed so many of her own goals repeatedly, Natsumi understands how rare these opportunities come up, and the effort that is required for these dreams to even have a chance of surviving. She scolds them for their flagging resolve, all while claiming to hold no dreams of her own.
Rather than cutting Natsumi off once the truth of her plans come to light, Liella! chooses instead to share their dream with her. While one person alone may fail, together they can make up for each others’ weaknesses and pursue the same goal. It’s a lovely notion, isn’t it? Kanon being the one to extend the first hand to Natsumi is pure Superstar!!, as she’s the heart of the group and its founding member. I simply adored the way their dancing lit up the park with a myriad of effervescent colors.
Something else that warmed me to Natsumi and made her inclusion into Liella! an even better moment was the scene prior to her first performance with them. She stays true to her streaming interests and continues to record their backstage preparations–only this time, she joins them in their pre-performance cheer to give us that 9-point star image. The group is finally complete and the path to Love Live! set.
What do you think of the current season of Love Live! Superstar!! and its newest cast members? Are you still loving it like I am? Let me know!
Watch Love Live! Superstar!! S2 on Crunchyroll, VRV, and Funimation.