All idols are created equal: Character tropes in Love Live! School Idol Project and AKB0048

Above, the girls of AKB0048; below Love Live! members of U's.

In my early years of anime fandom when I first discovered anime music, and consequently, Jpop, the most popular idol group of the time was Morning Musume. I fell in love with their energetic and sometimes silly music; later on, with the advent of YouTube, the colorful outfits and cute antics of the girls. Back then, I was not aware of the concept of "idoru" in the music scene of Japan, probably because around the time I started to gain an interest in Japanese pop music, the idol scene was a little dead.

Just as Morning Musume's member line-up started to drastically change, along with the style of their music, I began lamenting the lack of cutesy songs sung by adorable girls in ridiculously cute outfits... Fast forward a few years later, and anime featuring idols started to sprout all over the place. Because I'm such a slowpoke when it comes to keeping it up with the latest shows, it took me a while to jump on the anime idol bandwagon, also because a part of me seriously feared how crazy obsessed I would become with this genre...

why obsess over 2d girls, when I can ALSO obsess over their 3d counterparts?

I decided to take the plunge anyways and carefully selected AKB0048 to be my first foray into idol anime. In turn, this totally hooked me on AKB48, the idol group the anime is based on, so I had enough music and cuteness to be good for about a year or two. Until I went to Japan and I noticed all the anime shops and arcades rarely featured goods from AKB0048, instead Love Live! and Idolm@ster were undeniably the most popualr, the next logical step was to find out what the hype was all about.

That's how I ended up ALSO watching Love Live! School Idol Project. While I consider the wardrobe of the girls from U's to be superior to AKB0048, the music in the latter was better, and this might simply be due to AKB0048 already having a long history of albums and singles to pick from when the anime was made. Also, as it usually goes in anime, I noticed that the main cast can be neatly fit into 9 character types that are paralleled in both shows. It's hilariously funny to me (or maybe it's kinda sad?) how similar the main girls are between these two shows, so I wanted to make a little chart for it:

 Love Live!'s Kousaka Honoka vs. AKB0048's Motomiya Nagisa

I guess side ponytail is the hairstyle of choice for genki main characters? Honoka and Nagisa are on the same level of enthusiasm, naivete and excitability. Despite not really having any skills, they're both poor singing AND dancing, even by beginner's standards; they show the most growth, gaining great popularity and ending up in center/leader positions for their groups since all other members naturally want to follow them and are inspired by their desire to become idols.

Love Live!'s Sonoda Umi vs. AKB0048's Sono Chieri

Talk about the secret weapon withing the group! It is my opinion that both Chieri and Umi are the most well-rounded members in their respective groups. If you didn't realize it already from all your years of watching anime, characters with blue hair tend to have personalities that embody the traits preferred by Japanese people. Umi and Chieri are serious/hardworking types, with graceful beauty, level headed and good breeding. Chieri secretly sneaks in extra training and research to perfect her technique, while Umi is practically breaking her back for U's writing lyrics, planning choreographies and picking up after Honoka's messes in the student council.

Love Live's Minami Kotori vs. AKB0048's Aida Orine

A voice so gratingly saccharine it almost makes you want to turn off the TV? Most ridiculous gravity-defying hairstyle in the entire show? Indecisive and a crybaby? Best friends with main character since elementary school? All of these are points that describe the designated "cute" girl in U's and AKB0048: Kotori and Orine.

Love Live!'s Yazawa Nico vs. AKB0048's Shinonome Sonata

This is what happens when a girl tries too hard to be an idol and thinks she has exactly what the public wants in one. Nico has her annoying catchphrase "Nico-nico-nii~!" while Sonata has an annoying habit of calling people by names she makes up on a whim; they both refer to themselves on the third person.
Oh yea, they're also their groups resident flat chested loli, although in Sonata's case you'd be stepping in dangerous territory since she's only 11 years old!

Love Live!'s Ayase Eli vs. AKB0048's Shinonome Kanata

The senpai everyone looks up to. Eli and Kanata give the impression of having their act together, but secretly they have tragic events in their past that made them choose the life of an idol. They're both put in the position of having to let go of their dreams to make way for a new generation of girls and are usually the voice of reason when everyone else is losing it.

Love Live!'s Toujou Nozomi vs. AKB0048's  Kishida Mimori

The caring "big sister" that oozes sexuality and is most likely to have her ample bosom spilling out of her top. Nozomi and Mimori also share an element of mystique, in Nozomi's case with the tarot cards and Mimori with her succession ceremoy. Both of them also go through a hairstyle change by the end of their series. Symbolic, no? (Added bonus, these two are my favorite in each of these anime).

 Love Live!'s Nishikino Maki vs. AKB0048's Ichijou Yuka

A member that is actually competent at idoling, but hides all that behind the guise of a tsundere. Of course, when you're a tsundere you're also a little hot headed and stubborn, which fits Maki and Yuka's personalities. They both put up a tough exterior but yearn to be validated as idols.

Love Live!'s Koizumi Hanayo vs. AKB0048's Kanzaki Suzuko

Maybe neither of this girls want to be on the stage as much as they'd like to be managing the group and learning about the inner workings of the idol industry. Hanayo and Suzuko are hardcore idol otaku, with encyclopedic knowledge of their respective universes and are probably constantly wetting their panties for impersonating the very beings they had only admired from afar.
I personally feel they're probably the least coordinated at dancing and are too introverted to nail that idol charm, but there's something endearing about a nerdy girl in glasses (except Hanayo switched to contacts >_> wut!)

Love Live!'s Hoshizora Rin vs. AKB0048's Yokomizo Makoto

I saved the least for last! Sorry Rin or Makoto fans, I feel like these two girls were filler, simply because 9 is the magic number for idol groups (to neatly make sub-groups of 3). I always have a hard time remembering their names, what they were wearing, or if they had any lines in a song.
Rin and Makoto serve as the comedic relief in their shows, either by having their reactions be more over the top than the rest of the cast, or just 'cause they're a little dumber than the main character. They also have the lowest confidence in their ability to be idols and the most body insecurities. I think they both talk kinda funny too.

So they're ya have it! I couldn't help but notice all the similarities between these characters in these two shows, and while I'm tearing them apart and reducing them to their most prominent features, I do love both of these shows and they both did a different and wonderful take on the trials a group of girls has to endure to become lovely idols!

I also made this .gif to summarize my findings XD

Do you think I nailed it?
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  1. I think Love Live! idols are more adorable. You can see a lot of people who prefer to cosplay as Love Live! characters not only because the characters are of cuteness, but also the cosplay costumes are very beautiful. If you don't know how beautiful the Love Live! cosplay costumes look, you can go to have a look: http://www.vcosplay.com/anime-costumes/love-live.



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