Recently, one of my friends shared a meme. Specifically, it was one of those memes that goes “Describe me as a thing”. It’s one of those things that’s meant to be just for fun. But, if you spend some time thinking about it, it can get deeper than you mean to.
There’s a variation that comes up every so often called “describe yourself in three characters”. It doesn’t say anime specifically, but anime tends to be my medium of choice anyways so we’ll go with that.
Honest self-reflection can help us grow as a person. The characters we relate to can help articulate our self-image, and help us understand ourselves better. It’s such an interesting concept to me that I actually want to do a three-part series, one for each of the characters that I picked. No promises that all three articles will be published concurrently, but I do want to do them all this month.
As per the title, the first character I wanna analyze is Nico Yazawa from Love Live.
Nico is a school idol, someone who sings, performs, and creates a persona for her fans to follow and cheer for. Nico is best known for her forced catchphrase, “Nico, Nico, Nii”. It’s a catchphrase both loved and scorned by the Love Live fandom.
When I started playing Weiss/Schwarz, one of the most prominent sets was Love Live. It wasn’t a powerful set, just kinda solid. No, it was prominent because Bushiroad owns the license for Love Live and Weiss/Schwarz, so it’s easy to make quite a few Love Live sets.
At the time, I had friends that didn’t just like Love Live, they had best girls and waifus. There was one girl in particular that I wanted to get to know better. I resolved to watch Love Live and find my own best girl, so that we could bond over them. When I started, they told me that when I got to Nico I would either love her or hate her. No in-between.
Welp. See how that worked out?
Nico’s got something I always love seeing: greedy, good-natured ambition. She wants to be an idol because that’s her passion, but part of why she loves being an idol is because she adores the attention she gets. She loves being the center of attention, and wants to shine brighter than everyone else.
I understand what it’s like to do something because you want attention and approval. I started writing for a Magic: Commander blog (not this one) because I wanted to start doing something I loved where people would notice me.
That blog had a regular podcast too. When the original host/owner decided to retire, I volunteered to take over and started hosting the show on my own. I was so excited to get listener emails, twitter followers, and invites to guest star on other podcasts, that I was crushed when there was a backlash against me.
When Nico got to high school, she started the “Idol Research club” so that she could become a High School Idol with her friends. But as they were about to perform, her friends got stage fright and abandoned her. Nico kept trying to get more people to join, but ultimately she just wound up alone in the club room for the next few years.
Before I had even started recording, a few of the staff writers decided to leave with the original owner/host. I don’t hold it against them, but those first two months doing the podcast were brutal on my confidence. I managed to get some new writers, and I did my best to keep the podcast going but just barely. If it wasn’t for some dear friends (shout out to Calvin, I love you man), and some much needed words of encouragement from another man I respected, I might’ve given up entirely.
Nico didn’t have that though. At some point, I think she did give up. She tried to recruit new members for two years before resigning herself to the idea that she wouldn’t get to be an actual idol. She’d spend her club time after school surfing the internet for Idol videos and keeping up with her fandoms, but she was more or less done. The only place she still got to be an idol was back home, where all three of her younger siblings looked up to her.
Then, in her senior year, some underclassman started a group called “Muse”. Nico’s first reaction is to start trolling them. Hard. We’re talking grand theft french fries, nose flicking, and worst of all….anonymous troll posts on the internet (AUDIBLE GASP).
This is pettiness at its finest. It’s an attitude of “I couldn’t make this work, what makes you think YOU guys can do it?”. Nico has spent the majority of her young adult life learning everything there is to know about being an idol. So now these rookies think they can just galavant their way onto a stage, have instant success, and expect it to last? People like that need to be knocked down a few pegs.
Because watching other people succeed, when we failed, hurts. It hurts to know that we weren’t good enough to achieve our dreams. It hurts when it seems like other people are reaching their goals so easily, and it hurts when they can smile and laugh as we watch them they do it.
As it is, Nico is the gatekeeper. Nico is still the president of the club, and Muse needs to join the club in order to get proper recognition from the school. But because Nico’s already built up resentment to the new group, she refuses to let them join.
Honoka, the leader of Muse, realizes that the only way that they can convince Nico to let them join the club is to ask her to join their Idol group. It seems obvious but, as far as Nico was concerned, it looked like Muse was just using her for her club. By inviting her into the group and letting her teach them about idol behavior, Nico gets another chance at her dream.
Neither Nico nor I can maintain happiness alone. Nico’s new friends help her realize her dream of being a muse, and I need good friends to enjoy things as simple as playing cards.
I can get pretty petty too, even now. When I was in high school, it was really annoying hearing everyone talking about “Eragon”. I was the same age as the author, yet he’d published not just one but a couple of Harry Potter length novels that were overnight best sellers. The best I’d done was reading my fanfiction aloud in my english literature class.
Even somewhat recently with Weiss/Schwarz, I was getting jaded with how powerful it seemed every other set was getting. I loved playing with my Madoka Magica cards, but it felt like everything was kicking me down for playing an older set. I hated how it felt like a game that was advertised as “Just buy your series and you’re set for life” was trying to tell me “hey, you better get a new set if you actually wanna have fun playing with your friends”. It gave me a real bad taste for people who “abandoned” their favorite series in order to play decks for their tournament viability.
It’s a terrible way to think, but eventually it becomes something else that we have to learn from and mature
I’ve grown up idealizing modesty and constant improvement. That tends to mean I have a “what have I accomplished lately?” mentality. A couple of years ago, I bubbled at a Weiss/Schwarz regional. At the time, I enjoyed my victory but only for a couple of days. That was the highest I’d placed in an event like that, one where I was expecting to get rekt. By the time the weekend was over, I was already thinking about how I could do better next time. Later that year, I got fourth at the Weiss national tournament. I let myself bask in my accomplishment for a whole week this time. This year, I got fourth at a BuddyFight regional and I still feel the disappointment because of how I was aiming purely for that top spot.
Nico’s kinda like that too. Once she joins Muse, Nico’s ambition doesn’t stop. If anything, it only grows. She always sees a higher platform to climb to, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there. It’s not a comically large vision like you see when someone starts talking about how their small store will become a global-wide super chain. It’s a smaller, more realistic vision that ends up being just a couple of rungs above where the girls are aiming. Nico isn’t satisfied with being a big fish in a small pond when she sees a way to become the biggest fish in the next pond over.
That ambition comes with confidence, or at least a very loud impression of confidence. She tries to cover her weakness and intimidation by “barking louder”. Even if it’s just an act, it’s still an act of leadership that helps everyone else relax or gather their courage right before big shows.
However, one of the reasons why Nico has a harder time succeeding on her own is because of her “idol persona”. She promotes a cutesy angel but, as we’ve already established, she’s not the most personable girl. There’s a scene where she’s out walking, and her classmates come up to ask her about idol work. Rather than going into instant persona mode like most idols are expected to, she tells them that she’s “off duty” and brushes them off.
There was a time I briefly looked into doing regular streaming and video content. However, the more I looked into it the more I realized that maintaining a “streaming persona” was both a lot of energy and a lot of work. At the time, I was working two jobs so I just didn’t have that kind of motivation. I’d like to give it another go, but that kind of media relies heavily on the streamer having a personality that can resonate and entertain consistently. I get so involved with my games that I have almost no dialogue whatsoever. I can’t even narrate my thoughts. It’s pretty boring.
I can relate to Nico still being a quasi “outsider”, even among her friends. They all still care about each other, but even among groups of friends there’s usually one or two people who “click” and hang around more frequently together than with other people. For Muse it’s pairs like Eli & Nozomi. Honoka & Umi & Kotori. Rin & Hanayo with a little bit of Maki. Nico gets paired with Eli and Nozomi because they’re all third years, but Nico often feels like a third wheel. She needs Eli and Nozomi to include her to feel wanted.
Nico is often shipped with Maki because they have a “cynical pauper + naive prince” dynamic. I think it’s both really cute and has enough support in the show to be completely possible. It felt like Nico got along best with Hanayo because they both love idols, but the anime never really explored that dynamic between them. Part of that is probably because Maki and Hanayo are both freshman students, and Nico is a senior. She’s about to graduate and leave the few friends she has behind.
I was like that in high school. I had a few friends in my year. But I was better friends with my underclassman and the upperclassman who graduated a couple of years before me. Even now, I sometimes feel like “that third wheel” when I hang around the card shop. Fortunately, I finally found a core group that makes me feel secure and loved.
I’ve talked about her being a big sister before, but she’s really more like a tertiary parent. She does shopping, cooking, and raising for children that are younger than middle schoolers. I grew up with six siblings, but I at least had my mother around most of the time and I was helping her. For whatever reason, Nico’s father isn’t around and her is a single working-class woman. With that said, her siblings are probably her biggest fans and are quick to talk about how amazing their older sister is. I wish mine did that.
Nico is a meme, and I love memes. She’s constantly characterized as a troll, pulling pranks, making jokes, and stealing the spotlight. Even when the episode doesn’t revolve around her at all, she manages to find ways to stand out because of how strong her personality is. In fact, she’s probably one of the most expressive characters in the show, and I use her face as my reaction image all the time.
I love Nico. I love her so much that there was actually a misconception that she’d become my defacto waifu among my friends. That’s really not the case.
To me, Nico is the gremlin I keep in my closet but keeps breaking out. She’s my loud, boisterous declarations of victory even though how I really feel couldn’t be further. Nico flips between those two extremes about as often as I do, and it helps to relay how we deal with excitement. She loves messing with her friends, but in a “I’m laughing with them, not at them (anymore)” sense. She’s a two-faced imp who tries to show off something she thinks is more ideal, but the minute that something interrupts her or becomes a hassle, she drops the charade and we get to see the real her.
When I was watching Love Live, it turned into a chore. The story has no true tension. The world is literally ours, except with more idols. Nico was the ONLY character that didn’t feel generically “pleasant”. While a lot of the girls have polite, but awkward laughs, Nico was the only one to give genuinely funny comebacks and reactions.
There’s that word again: “genuine”. While I’m not saying that the other girls aren’t being true to their characters, they all feel too “factory made” for my taste. That’s to be expected given that’s exactly how Bushiroad made them. Muse was designed to be a set of 9 very marketable girls in order to promote the app game, the anime, and all of the ensuing merchandise. They were made to be ideals, rather than real people.
All of them, except for Nico. All of the images that you see here are just a fraction of the memes I’ve saved over the past couple of years. I didn’t have to go out searching for anything, I just HAD them. None of those are from her idol persona.
While all of her merchandise and promotional art portray her using her idol persona, the anime actually subverted it and gave us a character without her mask on. All of the flaws that I wrote about just roll together to make a character who had a good mini arc, and steals scenes whenever she’s around by virtue of being a pickled plum in a sea of white rice. That’s why Nico isn’t just my “Love Live best girl”, but one of the three characters that I identify so hard with.
I will never be a good liar. I doubt I’ll ever be a great entertainer. I don’t have that capacity to separate myself from anything that I do. Everything I do is an expression of how I feel, what I like, and what my goals are. You can see it in this blog, my story board, and the games I play. No matter how I puff myself up for the sake of presentation, I inevitably fall back to who I am.
I, too, am a bit of a meme.
You can watch Love Live on Crunchyroll. If you can find it dubbed, I highly recommend it because Erica Mendez voices Nico. Erica voices quite a few other characters I like, something I’d like to write about some day.