Anime has always been that undiscovered form of entertainment that I didn’t dare go near. I’ve always loved to collect information about all sorts of unrelated topics, from politics to pop culture to fandoms, all so I can better understand the world. The fact that, in 19 years of life, I had never watched an anime or collected enough information to adequately understand it really put me off from venturing into this unknown world. Where would I even start? How would I begin to navigate this vast topic that I know nothing about?
Some people suggested I watch Love Live! as my first anime. While I was concerned that the series would be full of tropes and jokes and plotlines that only seasoned anime viewers could understand, they assured me that Love Live! was the perfect anime to watch for someone who was new to the experience due to its fluffy plot and heartwarming themes.
Love Live! School Idol Project follows a group of girls at Otonokizaka Academy who start a school idol group in order to attract more students to their school and prevent it from shutting down. The founder and, in many ways, the leader of dance-song performance group, Honoka, spends much of the first season recruiting members. All nine girls in the group have their own character development and role to play in the main plot with many victories and mishaps occurring as the girls train for the Love Live school idol competition.
People were definitely right in one aspect: Love Live! is the perfect anime to watch for beginners. The plot is straightforward enough to grab the attentions of wary audiences who aren’t sure whether they’ll actually enjoy anime. Stereotypically, anime plotlines are convoluted and filled with inside jokes or cultural references Western audiences might find hard to understand. Because the plotline of Love Live! is a common one in entertainment (training for a competition is a common theme in Western shows, too), it’s an easy introduction for people used to Western entertainment while still drawing them into the world of anime.
It helps that this anime was so lighthearted, too. While I do enjoy a healthy amount of angst in my favorite shows, it would be quite jarring for a first experience in a different form of entertainment to be filled with heavy, pessimistic topics that can easily ruin the viewing experience. And if your first time watching something is filled with feelings of sadness and hopelessness, that form of entertainment may always be associated with those angsty, depressing emotions.
Love Live! definitely stays away from the angst and focuses more on promoting feelings of positivity and happiness for its viewers. While there is some drama and sadness on the show, the overall upbeat and optimistic tone of the show helps to remind the audience that things will turn out well in the end.
As someone who’s unfamiliar with Japanese culture, I generally did not find the cultural differences to be a hindrance to my viewing experience, mainly because the show didn’t make many references to Japanese and anime cultures – at least compared to other anime as people have told me. Cultural barriers can turn people off from things, fearing that they’ll be lost in the story or that that the references made in the plot will confuse them. While the cultural barrier was definitely still present in Love Live!, I don’t think it was so strong that new Western viewers won’t be able to enjoy themselves watching this show.
While the show’s plot was overall simple to follow, the nine main characters did make Love Live! a little challenging to understand at times. Initially, I had a hard time keeping track of each girl and matching their personalities and storylines to their faces. But I was able to quickly catch on to all the characters of Love Live! It was just the initial confusion, however, of absorbing a form of entertainment I hadn’t been exposed to before combined with such a large cast of main characters that surprised me.
Love Live! definitely has the elements required for a great beginners’ anime. Watching this show really opened my eyes to the diverse world of anime that I didn’t know existed – not all anime series are angsty and melodramatic! I would highly recommend Love Live! to anyone just getting into anime or even just to people that want something lighthearted and fluffy to watch. It’s a great experience to enter into a world you wouldn’t normally think about, especially when it’s this good!