In June 2014, I came home from school to my older sister playing a new game on her phone called "Love Live! School Idol Festival". We grew up on both anime and rhythm games, so it was a natural fit. Within the hour, I was downloading it on my own phone.
Of course, I had no clue who to pick for my starter R. I went with Maki simply because her birthday was a day away from mine. My sister had picked Hanayo. The server's first event, Sweet Holiday, was going on, though it would take another 3 or so for me to figure out how they worked. Weary Princess was the first event I actually got the SR for. Eli's initial UR was my first UR. My first SR was initial Kotori, and the first SR I idolized was Job Honoka. This was way back before stickers existed and you needed to get a dupe of a card to idolize it.
My sister found out about the anime, and we watched it together. I started looking for full versions of the songs I heard in-game, and then songs that weren't even in the game yet. I even found some clips of the live performances, though I wouldn't dive deep into that side of things yet. Maki really did end up becoming my favourite for a while. There was an incident where I couldn't connect into my account, and panicked and deleted/reinstalled the game, almost losing my account entirely. Luckily customer support was able to help me recover my account. That's how I learned the importance of transfer codes, ahaha.
My first year of high school came and went. There was nothing particularly bad about it, but in general I think a lot of my peers were given to cynicism at the time and Love Live was like a ray of sunshine and optimism that helped me keep my head up. But in my second year of high school I fell away from Love Live and anime in general. It's hard to pinpoint any particular reason why, I guess it was just the self-exploration you do in high school. Besides, I didn't really know a lot of other people that were into anime, so it was hard to invest my time in something I couldn't make connections with. But that summer, a nearby city was hosting a new event celebrating Japanese culture, and my sister invited me to go. There was lots of food and showcases of more traditional aspects, but what really impacted me was the performance of an idol group, Niji no Conquistador. Idol music really is something else, huh. It felt like they were calling me home, in a sense.
When I got home from that festival, I went online and found out all I could about NijiCon. A few days later, I updated SIF for the first time in months. I noticed some people had R cards of girls I didn't recognize. Looking into it, I found out about this new group Aqours, and more importantly, I found out that μ's had
disbanded gone on hiatus. I was shocked. I watched the movie, which hadn't come out yet at the time my sister and I initially watched the anime, and with her help I ordered a copy of the Final Live Blu-ray. I was sad I hadn't been around to experience the events at the time of FL, so I figured I could at least glimpse what it was like. I wrote a few fics around the idea of μ's graduating (one of which even won 3rd place in a contest by LLWikia for Kotori's birthday!). I started learning more about the seiyuu side of the franchise, too. The first thing I bought online on my own was Ucchi's single, SUMIRE SMILE. Initially I made it my goal to own all of their singles and albums. My priorities have, uh, shifted a little bit so that goal remains incomplete, but I did make some good progress.
I was initially reluctant to start following this new group, but given I had just found out I missed such an important part of μ's' story, I didn't want to delay starting with Aqours and end up regretting missing something with them too. So I made myself catch up with the anime (s1e8, at the time). They were...alright, but I didn't think they could ever displace μ's in my heart. That changed because of the tail end of the season with Aqours resolving to forge their own path instead of living in μ's' shadow, and because of Aqours' First Live, specifically Rikyako's piano incident. (Rikyako is amazing and I can talk at length about her story and how great and inspiring I think she is if you want but for now I'll just say I admired her courage in going up to that piano at all, and her ability to pull herself together so quickly after things went south.)
There was a Delayed Viewing for 1L near me, but it was on a Monday night, so I unfortunately couldn't go. When 2L came around, the DVs were on a Saturday instead! Excited and nervous, I brought with me a friend who I had gotten somewhat into LL, enough to watch SIP. Unfortunately we ended up in the emptier of two auditoriums, and she ended up sleeping in the back while I waved my single penlight up near the front row, but I still had fun. Probably uh not the ideal way for things to have gone, but it was still a good experience and I managed to join the Discord for the local community. As it happens there's, ah, some messy history with the community but at the end of the day it's better to meet and connect with people I can actually share my passion with.
I've had about two more years of life with Love Live since that DV, but it's all been kind of a blur since. Overall, it's been two years of me slowly falling deeper in love with the series in ways I didn't think I would. (Alternatively, it's been two years of Riko Sakurauchi and Rikako Aida forming an airtight grip on my heart.) I've been a little on-again off-again with SIF due to life getting busier (university a lot more demanding than high school, aha) and also a little thing called Bang Dream! Girls' Band Party. Plus I was quasi-avoiding spoilers about the movie hoping to experience it all in theatres, but it turns out Funimation hates Canada so I didn't get a theatre viewing of it anyway, bahaha. Finally watching the movie and then seeing 5L helped ignite some sparks, and then Deep Resonance and LLAS followed up.
I guess the rest of the DVs paint a decent picture of my overall progression: hakodate DV, I went on my own, and had a good time with people I now knew. 3L DV was scheduled messily, but I went on my own to a smaller DV closer to home and only slightly felt self-conscious. 4L DV, I went in cosplay as Angel Riko! There was also some troublemakers there though, so to avoid the hassle for 5L some close friends and I went to a smaller DV again.
Really, at this point I'm wanting to go and see a live performance, but I don't have the time or money to start trying that. I'll be seeing Guilty Kiss at ANYC in November, though!
I've rambled on long enough, but tl;dr, I've spent a long time with this series. I've made friends through this series, I've pushed myself to do new experiences because of this series, I've been inspired to write and dance and play music and I've even been learning Japanese partially because of this series. I've kept up a cheerful outlook because of this series, That is my life with them~