Despite Love Live! Sunshine!! being one of our favorite series currently, when Anne Ladyem and I discussed the film Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow for our various podcasts, we were critical about the film and how it’s not as good as the two television seasons. It’s not bad or anything, it just doesn’t have the same level of quality. Part of that can be attributed to trying to cram a lot of story into the length of a movie. However, upon rewatching the film, one thing becomes abundantly clear. Over the Rainbow’s creation of a villain with Mari’s mom is a colossal failure.
Over the Rainbow is split up, like most forms of media, into a main plot and various sub plots. The main plot of Aqours trying to figure out how they continue on without Mari, Dia, and Kanan is good and well done throughout. Despite them overcoming numerous hardships through the two TV seasons, this is a new problem that they’d need to figure out with regards to chemistry between the remaining six and how to maintain their energy and showmanship. The problem with the movie begins when you get into one particular subplot.
The main reasoning behind the film heading to Italy is because the remaining members of Aqours are accosted by Mari’s mom. She tells them that the third years are missing and wants their help to find them. However, once Aqours reunites in Italy, they learn this was a ruse in order for Mari’s mom to find them, force Mari into a marriage, and to get her away from everyone else. This immediately sets up Mari’s mom to be a villain and could have been an interesting plot line throughout the movie, but by the halfway point of the film, this whole plotline is finished.
So, what went wrong? For starters, the ultimatum Mari’s mom sets up—she wants them to show her the brilliance of school idols—for Aqours doesn’t seem like it would relieve her of the years of anger she’s had toward Dia, Kanan, school idols in general, and Mari’s teenage rebellion. While the fact that she’s trying to force Mari into a marriage Mari doesn’t want and pushing Mari into what she wants is bad, she does have a right to be mad at the idea of school idols. Given what we learn in season one with #thirdyeardrama, the toll it took on Mari when Dia and Kanan gave up on their version of Aqours was immense. Her mom would’ve definitely seen that and known why she was upset for a few years afterwards. Usually parents want to stick up for their kids and not want to see them get hurt, which is what Mari’s mom is, in her own way, doing here.
There’s just so much more that could’ve been fleshed out or done with this subplot. Have Mari’s mom go into why she despises school idols now and delve into that backstory more. Let Chika try and convince her or fight her as she almost does during that confrontation. You could even have the plot end the same way with Mari’s mom understanding why Mari loves being a school idol so much and letting them have a moment together. Or simply, let Mari’s mom get more time as a villain in the same ways that Dia started out as or with the #thirdyeardrama. Instead, she just watches the performance of “Hop? Stop? Nonstop!” and essentially thinks everything is fine now.
Throughout the course of the two TV seasons, we’ve seen that the writers of Love Live! Sunshine!! can effectively write very good drama and storylines. I believe the biggest problem here is the time constrictions of a film. They needed this subplot as an excuse to send Aqours overseas to make the film more enticing and since they can’t spend the entire film in Italy, they have to wrap this plot line up very quickly. The writing of this just feels uncharacteristic of the team’s writing as a whole. If this was instead a third season, you could easily squeeze out three-to-four episodes of a storyline with this that delved more into why Mari and her mom were at odds, the resentment that the two had for various reasons, and give a better conclusion to this arc as a whole.
Instead what we’re left with is essentially a waste of time, to be honest. The only benefit of Aqours going to Italy is seeing the third years again and Chika realizing they have to figure this out on their own. Which could have been handled in the same way considering Mari, Kanan, and Dia return to Numazu soon after the rest of Aqours do as well. This whole plot line just feels off considering how good the stories of Chika and Aqours learning how to do things on their own, Ruby becoming the de facto leader of the now second years, Leah learning she can still hold on to the legacy of Saint Snow, and how the rest of Uranohoshi is able to merge with their new school.
Even with the first half of the film feeling like a wasted opportunity, Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie Over the Rainbow is still a film worth seeing. I’m happy we got a conclusion to the story of Sunshine!! even if there are some flaws with it. It’s just a shame that the writing team seems to be constricted in a way that they weren’t able to do anything with the Mari’s mom subplot which gives us filler until Aqours are able to return home from Italy.