Thoughts on the current state of Love Live! (Jan 2024)

I ramble a bit about where each Love Live! branch is at.

It's a new year, and it seems like turning points are coming up for several of Love Live!'s projects. I wrote down some thoughts on how each branch is looking, and what their future might look like. (In particular, I wrote a lot about Hasunosora...)

What's coming up

This leaves out "minor" events/content (not full group or anime).

Unlike the µ's era and Aqours' heyday, there isn't really a single focus for Love Live! these days—it's more like the branches swap off seasonally. But Hasunosora's release pace has been pretty high compared to the other branches for the last year, and it looks like that will continue into April at least.

The short version

  • Love Live!: A tiny bit of involvement, more so this year. The special talk sessions and orchestra concert are pretty cool, but definitely a special occasion.
  • Sunshine!!: Definitely active, but much less so compared to 2015-2019. There is not much new stuff announced. Their 9th anniversary is coming up, and 9 is still an important number for Aqours, so maybe there'll be something special for this anniversary year.
  • Nijigasaki: The "conclusion" movies and 7th Live should be interesting. The movies' existence do not mean that NijiGaku will stop any time soon, as the latter two movies' release timeline is not clear, and they can do plenty without the anime. But it does mean the end of the anime story is in sight...
  • Superstar!!: Season 3 this year and probably 6th Live after that. That would cover the original members' final year. They could wrap things up with something like a movie/OVA (probably not an entire season—that seems like it'd drag things out). After that, they could focus on being an artist, or they could focus on spinoffs, or they could do both. Who knows?
  • Hasunosora: 2nd Live is coming up in April-May (and maybe more). My guess is new members are coming in the next school year. Big uncertainty as to what will happen with them, and even more as to what will happen to Hasunosora & LLLL come March 2025, the graduation of the current 2nd years.
  • Overall: There is a Japanese otaku saying: 「推しは推せる時に推せ」"support your oshi [fave/bias] while you can". Now is the time.

Love Live!

Final Live was quite a while ago. (Almost 8 years...) The seiyuu show up once or twice a year for talk things, and there are special events for the anime's 10th anniversary this year. Occasionally there is 2D content, mostly merchandise. This is basically my expected end state for the other LL groups.

Love Live! Sunshine!!

YYY is doing the most stuff, with a tour and single coming up. A 5-member subset of Aqours is performing at Chojigen and all the Sunshine!! units are performing at Unit Koshien for the first time in a long while.

While Aqours is still performing, there doesn't seem to be a push for full-group content. Maybe this is just a lull after the Yohane anime, but right now there's no real focus—no anime, no game, not much new music, and performances with all 9 seem to be limited.

They could just keep going this way: getting the whole group together a couple times per year, but not releasing a ton of new stuff. Maybe we'll get some inkling of what's coming up on the Feb 1 stream or Unit Koshien. (Personally, I'm hoping for more Aqours unit or maybe even Saint Snow content since the last new songs were in 2021—almost 3 years ago!)

Thinking about what should happen this year, we should get Aqours CLUB and probably Jimo Ai Matsuri again. June is the 9th anniversary of their formation, so maybe there will be something special in 2024-2025—a 9th anniversary live? (Come to think of it, their outdoors 5th anniversary live was canceled and never got revived...)

Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club

There are three movies, starting with the first in Sep 2024, that will "conclude" the anime story. But the timeline for the remaining two movies is unclear, so maybe the last movie is a couple years away, or even longer. Funny to think that while NijiGaku started as a game-centered project, come 2025, it might be left as the only LL project with an upcoming anime (movie).

After they conclude the anime story, they could do more NijiYon and/or a Legend of NijiGaku anime if the cast is willing to continue their commitment. Or they could just soldier on without an anime—just release a new album and do another numbered live once a year. The good thing about solo idols is that it requires less time commitment per individual, so this model might be more conducive to longevity with busy members. Again, though, I'm personally hoping for more unit songs, because I really want more QU4RTZ.

7th Live was announced on the last day of 6th Live, which is exciting. Maybe there will be another album before it, so that they could do a movie & album combined concert like 6th Live. (If they did a movie-only live, would there be enough new songs? I guess they could bring back some neglected oldies to fill the gap.)

Love Live! Superstar!!

The Tokyo leg of Liella! 5th Live is coming up in a couple weeks, and I assume there are announcements. Probably a more concrete time frame (summer or fall) or a new trailer for Season 3? Maybe 6th Live? They probably want to make 6th Live focused on Season 3, given that 4th and 5th were not anime-focused lives, but you never know.

Speaking of Season 3: if it's like the other two seasons, it'll cover the final year of the original members. Then what? Maybe a movie or multiple movies in 2025-2026 covering the aftermath, like their predecessors. (Or maybe not. They could break the trend!) That's enough content for 6th, 7th, and maybe up to 8th Live if they continue having numbered live(s) without a corresponding anime.

Where does Liella! go after that? Focus more on music/live performances? (Not that they've been lacking in those.) Or focus on media that depict some sort of alternate universe like Genjitsu no Yohane? Surely we'll get more unit songs and probably corresponding events.

Love Live! Hasunosora Jogakuin School Idol Club

Our latest entrant, with a story that moves (almost) in real-time. The cast's main performances are currently tied to the story, with each numbered live so far covering about half a year of content: 1st Live covered April to October 2023 and 2nd Live should cover November 2023 to March 2024 (maybe a bit more if there are additional performances).

So what's happening in the story? The end of the school year (Year 103) in March is approaching, and then 2nd Live after that.

What we know will happen in March:

  • There will be a school festival called Rengesai. (Hey, that's the same "renge" as in LiSA's "Gurenge"!) This will likely feature in the March Fes×LIVE (virtual live) performance.
  • Sachi (the student council president) will graduate. The club members will have a lot of feelings about this.

While it felt like a "season" of Hasunosora's story wrapped up in Chapter 15, there's substantially more story to come before the end of the school year.

At 2nd Live, they should perform the new songs from November 2023 onwards (probably through March 2024), catching up to the story. All signs point to them performing as the current six members in Chiba and Hyogo.

Since Love Live! tours have never had fewer than three venues, I also expect them to add a third location, and it's very possible that new members would appear there. Which leads to the next topic...

Will more members join in the new school year, Year 104 (April 2024 to March 2025)?

My guess is yes—both NijiGaku and Liella! expanded, and it would make sense to have new students interested in joining a top school idol club. I would actually find it strange if there were no new prospects... though they could not make the cut or decide not to join.

Practically, it's not clear how this would work with the gameplay, which revolves around building a deck with 18 card slots (3 card slots per member). Maybe you can pick and choose which members to include but fix the number of slots.

Update: After I wrote this, Hasunosora announced a new mini-album coming out 2024-04-17 labeled as Year 104, and noticeably missing the member names in the credits. That makes it very likely that new members will join, since the member list is likely different (...hopefully no one leaves).

Would they join existing units or would they form new one(s)?

I lean towards them forming new ones, but it's not certain. If they joined the existing units, it would be rather strange for each unit's dynamic. The idea of units being more than two members each has not really been put forth in the story, but we don't have much visibility into what happened before Year 101 (Sachi's first year), so it could be that there were units with three or more members in the past.

The choreography for some of the traditional songs (those that have been passed down from previous generations) doesn't really seem suited for an odd number of members—for example, "Reflection in the mirror" is a traditional song—but Kozue and Tsuzuri performed alone for some time, so single-person "units" are not unprecedented.

What happens to Hasunosora after the current 2nd years (the 102nd Class) graduate in March 2025? Is that the end for LLLL?

I wrote a bit about this back in June 2023, when not much was known, and it still holds up. But I wrote a bit more this time. Enumerating the possible outcomes:

  1. Yes, LLLL shuts down: This would make many people sad and get rid of a source of revenue. But it would make sense in terms of the narrative. (Of course, this would not have to be the end of Hasunosora content—through some other medium, they could retell the story or tell a different story.)
  2. No, the game stays up but the story doesn't continue: This outcome seems extremely unlikely. It misses the point of the game, so that would likely be unsustainable, since a lot of people would stop.
  3. No, the story continues but it does not go past Year 104. This outcome also seems unlikely to me. They could freeze time (e.g. side stories exploring periods that were not fully covered), but that feels like a copout given that it being real-time(-ish) is the core principle. Or they could warp back in time to Years 102 or before, but that would remove the role of newer members, which doesn't feel right. (They could just not add new members, but as mentioned above, this seems unlikely story-wise.) Another possibility is that they do some weird reboot or alternate universe.
  4. No, the story continues into Year 105 and the graduated members somehow perform: This actually does seem possible. If the graduated members leave the school, or even if they stick around the school as staff, they can't perform as part of the club. However, they could perform as idols outside of Hasunosora. That would admittedly be weird and would mean the story no longer solely focuses on Hasunosora. (But we've had rival groups in LL before.) Then who joins the now unpaired Kaho/Sayaka/Rurino? They could have new members pair with them... but would fans accept, for example, a Cerise Bouquet without Kozue? (Actually, that question reminds me of Chapter 16 [SPOILERS] when Sachi mentions that in Year 102 she had paired with each of Kozue, Tsuzuri, and Megumi. Imagine the reactions of in-universe fans of the Sachi & Kozue version of Cerise Bouquet when they found out Sachi left the club. [END SPOILERS])
  5. No, the story continues into Year 105 and the graduated members do not perform: This also seems possible, but less likely than outcome 4. Although this is realistic in terms of the narrative, it doesn't feel good, and would also make many fans leave. The loss of the 102th Class members would be a big reduction in the appeal of this branch. (Then again, µ's graduated—more or less—and it's not like LL is dead.)

Personally, outcome 4 sounds interesting to me, and it would extend the game's lifespan while keeping the characters and cast we know and love.