Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the first quarter-final match of ‘A Crunchyroll of the Dice!’ As always, I’ll start with a brief run-down of the rules:
- I pick two series at random on Crunchyroll and watch the second episode
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
After I watch both episodes, I will give a spoiler filled run-down of my thoughts on each and then compare them in several categories, giving points to the winner in each. The two series that are going head-to-head this time around share some similarities in how they reached this stage. First, Love Live! School Idol Project took on Sword Art Online, and took a close fought battle with a score of 7 points to 5. On the other side of the field, Lupin III took on School-Live! and won by the exact same margin! In both cases, I continued to watch both losing series, but found myself giving up on SAO fairly quickly. I will perhaps save that for another day though. Anyway, let’s get on with the battle of second episodes! We’ll start with the winner of the first ever ‘Crunchyroll of the Dice’.
Love Live! School Idol Project
We open up with a quick recap, which is rather useful, then head straight into the episode. Honoka, Umi and Kotori are visiting the student council (Ayase Eli and Toujou Nozomi), and are requesting to use the auditorium, which the student handbook says should be fine for non-club activities. The council asks what they want the auditorium for, as the date and time requested is after school on the day of the Welcome Party. Honoka proclaims brazenly that they are school idols and they will be putting on a concert, but her friends aren’t so sure that they’ll be able to do it yet. While Ayase is unimpressed, Toujou reminds her that the trio are not officially a club, and so the student council can’t actually deny them. The girls leave and Ayase asks Toujou why she’s supporting the girls. Toujou responds that ‘the cards are telling her to’, and some wind blows on a deck of tarot cards, revealing the ‘Sun’ card.
The opening is catchy, but I still don’t like the animation style. It feels weird, especially in comparison to the smoothness of the episodes. Anyway, Umi tells Honoka off because she was supposed to not mention being idols and just borrow what they could, but Honoka isn’t too worries as she’s busy eating bread (her Mum runs a confectionary shop, so she never gets bread normally). Much to Umi’s chagrin, Honoka has started advertising too. We cut to class, and Kotori is busy designing outfits for the concert. Umi looks at the designs and gets upset because she doesn’t like the idea of showing her bare legs. Honoka tells her that it’s OK as her legs ‘aren’t that big’, then decides to go on a diet. As things progress, the dynamic trio end up setting up a suggestion box, as they can’t agree on a name at all. Finding somewhere to practice also proves difficult, and the scene culminates in the girls asking a teacher if they can use a classroom. The teacher asks why, then responds to Honoka’s Idol declaration with laughter. That be bullying, that does. In the end, the girls have to settle for the roof. Then they realise that they have no songs. Given they want to be a signing group, that’s a pretty big thing to be missing!
Kayo, a bespectacled shy girl is staring at the idol poster when Rin, a boisterous red head runs in. The pig-tailed girl from the last episode stops by the poster too, and glares angrily. Back with the main team, Umi visits Honoka at home and they discuss working on a song. Honoka mentions the piano girl from the end of the last episode, and then joins Kotori in surrounding Umi. The song will need lyrics, and Umi used to write poetry in middle-school so … Umi tries to run away, then outright refuses to write lyrics as her middle-school poetry was embarrassing. Unwilling to give in, Honoka begs and Kotori goes full on Moe in an effort to convince Umi to write for them. It works, but Umi insists on running the girls’ practice schedule too. She explains that idols need stamina so that they can sing, dance and look happy all the while doing it. She illustrates this by getting Honoka to do push-ups while smiling, a task that she fails at miserably. Umi is already in good shape thanks to Archery Club, so she knows how to get the others into shape. Toujou turns up where the girls are training, and is dressed to help out in the local shrine. She recommends that the girls go to visit, and they do so, praying for success.
The next day, Honoka and Umi visit the first years. Honoka collars the piano girl, but she refuses to compose songs. Honoka asks if she just sings and doesn’t write music, but the girl confirms that she does write, she just doesn’t want to. Before Honoka can try her ‘surround and convince’ trick again, piano girl leaves and Ayase turns up. She warns the girls that their quest could have the opposite effect to what they think, and if they do poorly it may attract less students rather than more. Honoka gives this some serious though and discusses it with her friends. With less than a month to go, the girls are struggling and may have to sing a cover song rather than an original. Honoka takes a walk to the suggestion box, and some other girls wander by and offer to help if needed as they realise that Honoka must have lots to do. This gives Honoka a little boost and she finds one name in the box: ‘Muse’. Meanwhile, Kayo overhears that the girls practice on the roof, and Rin comes by to walk her home. They spot Honoka going into their classroom, and Rin jumps in with a ‘Nya’. Kayo figures out that she’s looking for piano girl again and says that her name is Nishikino Maki. Rin suggests that she may be in the music room and explains that Nishikino doesn’t talk to many people, spends breaks in the library, and goes to the music room after school. Honoka runs off to stalk Nishikino, and pesters her about composing again. Nishikino explains that she doesn’t listen to pop. She prefers classical and Jazz because pop lacks substance, and is essentially child’s play. Honoka says that she thought the same way, but then realised just how hard it is. She challenges Nishikino to do push-ups, which she does with ease. As it happens, she finds that doing it while smiling is harder, echoing Honoka’s earlier struggle. Honoka gives her the lyrics that Umi wrote and says that if Nishikino reads them and doesn’t want to write the music, then she’ll stop bothering her. Honoka says that that would be OK too as long as she can listen to Nishikino sing again, as she loves her voice.
Nishikino stops by the steps outside the temple and starts to watch the girls train, but someone sneaks up behind her, hands in grope position … Nishikino screams … it’s Toujou? Apparently Nishikino is developing. Um … OK. Toujou tells her that if she’s embarrassed, there’s a stealthy way to do things. Well, she certainly snuck up on the poor girl stealthily, so she obviously knows what she’s talking about! The next morning, Honoka leaves for school, and her sister shouts down that there’s mail for ‘Muse’: a CD. Honoka takes the disc to school and plays it, and it turns out to be the girl’s song. Now invigorated by Nishikino’s gift of music, the trio throw themselves at practice anew. We end with a nice upbeat closing that really suites the feel of the episode’s climax.
Lupin III – Part 4
Footballer Marlow Brozzi is taking drugs in his bedroom, the naughty boy. Meanwhile, Lupin and the gang are watching a football match on TV. It turns out that all three like the game, with Goemon in particularly liking the player that is ‘like a samurai’. On screen, Brozzi shoves off a rough challenge and scores a goal, sending us headlong into the gloriousness that is the Lupin III theme song. When we return, Lupin is upset with Brozzi as he had a bet on the other team. The TV cuts to a press conference of some sort and Brozzi is there with Lupin’s (technically still) wife Rebecca.
Zenigata is at the football stadium, as his instincts say Lupin will be there. He spots Ricard Mondini, a card carrying villain, in the VIP seats and is warned off by the local PD. Ricardo bought one of the team’s that’s playing, but doesn’t know which one. Silly rich man. In a bar, Lupin and Jigen are playing chess when Fujiko turns up with a drunk Brozzi. He’s unimpressed with Lupin’s skinniness but has a job for Lupin. Ricardo apparently has proof that Brozzi has been doping, which we soon learn comprises of photos and medical records. He wants Brozzi out of the next Coppa Italia game against his recently acquired team. Fujiko says that she’s shoving the job at Lupin and co because she’s too busy and they have nothing going on. Lupin puts Jigen in checkmate, meaning he has to buy the round, and heads off to the toilets.
Running in parallel, Ricardo’s thugs are also playing chess, with one, a silver haired gent, being far better than the other, a bulky guy named Leo. Brozzi has a drunken toilet trip where he and Lupin discuss the upcoming game. Brozzi believes his team cannot win without him, and explains that he refuses to run as being a football hero is all he has. He calls Lupin scared, and Lupin calls him on it, saying that Brozzi is clearly scared. Brozzi stumbles about, takes a swing at Lupin, misses, and vomits. Back in the bar, Brozzi explains that he’ll pay one hundred euros, but Lupin states they need at least three.
Later, Lupin and Jigen are in a restaurant, with Lupin playing chess on his laptop. Jigen can’t figure out what Ricardo wants, but Lupin has already figured it out. He hacked the MI6 systems and found out that Ricardo bought the team that Brozzi is playing against in the finals, and so has a vested interest in the game. I do love the insert music. Lupin the third! Ahem. Anyway. Lupin captures Leo, and we cut to Goemon and Jigen talking. Goemon says that only a samurai knows how a samurai feels, and Jigen asks him to explain. Before he can, we cut back inside, where Leo is playing chess with the smarter thug. Leo’s mannerisms make it clear that it’s Lupin in disguise, at least to us eagle eyed viewers. Lupin cheats to win the chess game, and we cut to Brozzi, who is drinking and pondering Lupin’s words in the toilets. Back inside, Lupin finds the papers that Ricardo holds, but Ricardo turns up and catches him in the act. Lupin reveals himself and escapes through the window. Neither gunmen nor dogs can stop him, and a car chase ensues. The silver haired smarter thug also gathers some papers and leaves on a motorbike. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s secretly either Fujiko or Rebecca now. Lupin, just after cheating, did tell him that he ‘lives in this cheat or be cheated world too, so should be able to handle this’, which makes me think that it’s most likely Rebecca and Lupin has figured it out somehow.
Anyway, car chase. Cars and gunmen are no match for Goemon and his massive sword. Ricardo and Leo are still about though, and start gaining on Lupin and Jigen. We get a brief shot of Brozzi practising and panting, then cut back to the car chase where Jigen realises that Ricardo’s glass is bullet proof. His tires are not though. Bang. Crash. Lupin and Jigen stop to survey the damage, and Ricardo wanders out of his wrecked car, brandishing a hand grenade. He pulls the pin, throws it, and Lupin calmly stats ‘That’s not good’. Got to love the understatement there. Jigen shoots it out of the air (!) and bounces it back at Ricardo and Leo, causing a nice big explosion. Lupin and Jigen drive off and the silver haired guy on the bike turns up. Ricardo says that he’s just in time, and the guy replies tells Ricardo that he has no value to him as he now has all the evidence, then punches Ricardo out.
Lupin finds Brozzi at the practice pitch and brings the papers with him. Brozzi asks for them, but Lupin reminds him that he hasn’t paid them yet. Lupin comments that Brozzi is blind in his right eye, and Brozzi asks what he means. Lupin thinks back to Brozzi missing a right-handed back fist in the toilets, and says that it’s all in the papers. Brozzi has a deteriorating disease in one eye and he uses drugs to slow the process, but this means that he’d come up positive on doping tests. Brozzi says that even his good eye is bad these days, and Lupin asks why he’d insist on playing with a bomb like that on his back. Brozzi says it’s not that he insists, he just feels like he owes it to the team. They picked him up when he was nothing, and he wants to repay them.
In the police station, we learn that Ricardo has disappeared and the PD have been told to take their hands completely off the case by MI6 They tell Zenigata that the case involved Lupin, and he gets angry. Oh, and silver haired guy was just a silver haired guy. I got that one way wrong! At the game, Brozzi is lining up a free kick. The game is tied at two – two, and he thinks back to the bar. Lupin didn’t want three hundred, three thousand or even three million euros. He wanted Brozzi to score a hat trick in the game to pay him for the job. Brozzi’s shot is saved, but he heads the rebound into the net. Lupin had placed a bet on him scoring a hat trick, and so gets the money that way.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. Being the quarter finals, we’ll be using a few different categories this time: Best Story Progression, Best Character Progression, Best Individual Scene, Best Character, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
This category is not quite as one-sided as I thought it would be, though the result shouldn’t really be in doubt. Lupin III is not really a long-form piece of story-telling in this incarnation. What it does do is throw out some little bits and pieces that show that there is something going on in the background. The brief shot of Rebecca and the involvement of MI6 certainly make it seem like something will come to a head eventually. Love Live achieves a fair bit more however. The main storyline of working hard to become Idols and save the school continues, and we get to see the continued push of seeing how hard a route it is to take, especially for our lead, Honoka. We start to introduce a few more supporting characters too, all of which seem like they’ll stick around (whereas Lupin is kind of a support-of-the-week thing), and the various character’s motivations start to play into whether the newly named ‘Muse’ will succeed. For sheer amount of achievement, Love Live! takes it. Best Story Progression: Love Live! School Idol Project
Unlike the story progression, this one really is fairly one-sided. While Brozzi’s story arc could be seen as rapid fire progression, Lupin III is not really about that. For the most part, the characters are who they have been since time began, and they haven’t really changed by the end of the episode. Love Live! meanwhile is building supports around Honoka. Umi continues to be a favourite, and her self-consciousness about her legs was a nice touch that helped keep that girly side in clear view against her more domineering side. Nishikino’s arc hinted at things to come, and both members of the student council gave us small insights into how they’re thinking. Honoka perhaps progressed less, but we did at least get to see her perseverance shine again. Best Character Progression: Love Live! School Idol Project … almost the entire supporting cast
Love Live! is great, and there is a great deal of potential for some really stand-out scenes to come. In this episode though, nothing that the show did could compare to the coolness of Jigen in the latter half of the episode of Lupin. I mean, come on! He shot a grenade out of the air, several times, bouncing it back towards the guy that threw it! Jigen has always been cool, and that scene just summed him up perfectly. Best Individual Scene: Jigen is awesome (Lupin III Part 4)
This was interesting, because having a larger cast harmed Love Live! a little in this category, but at the same time, Lupin’s refusal to change had a similar effect. While I’m tempted to say that Umi’s continued ability to stand-out is enough to take the points, Brozzi’s story arc was actually pretty cool. From the opening scene to his first encounter with the gang, he comes across as a pretty dire sort of guy. As the story moves on and we get the final reveal though, you learn to respect him a fair bit. When he sinks that final goal too, you can’t help but cheer for the guy a little. Achieving that ins such a short space of time is a big achievement, and is enough to take the points. Best Character: Marlow Brozzi (Lupin III Part 4)
Last time around, I deducted points from Love Live! for the jarring animation style of the opening video. I resolved myself not to do the same thing again, and to try to compare both series based purely on what happens during the actual episodes. And therein we hit something of a closer battle. You see, neither series is in my preferred style of animation, but both have things going for it. In the case of Love Live!, the animation is very smooth, even if it isn’t highly original. Meanwhile, what Lupin lacks in smoothness, it makes up for with an original looking feel. What clinches this one is something small. Love Live! has a lot of moments where subtle movements take place, such as Honoka’s neck tie shifting when she moves. No small touches like that stood out for me in Lupin. Best Animation: Love Live! School Idol Project
I can relate to Nishikino’s dislike of pop, though her statement wasn’t entirely true. While most boy bands and girl groups do come across as fairly devoid of substance to me, poppy singer-songwriters e.g. Damien Rice and Thea Gilmore) have a lot of soul. With that in mind, I really should dislike the Love Live! OST. Yet I just can’t. The songs are real earwigs. At the same time, the vintage stylings of Lupin III set off all my nostalgia senses. Honestly, I can’t choose between the two. Best Soundtrack: Draw
Final Scores: Love Live! School Idol Project – 7 points, Lupin III Part 4 – 5 points
Both series made it through round one with a 7 – 5 score margin, and amazingly, they’ve come up with the same result again. A hard fought, and once close battle sees the girls of Love Live! School Idol project sneak one over on the profession thieves of Lupin III Part 4, and they move on to the semi-finals where they’ll meet the winner of Flying Witch vs. Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories. I hope you enjoyed this battle as much as I did, and we’ll see you again for the next quarter final clash!