No married women allowed, but 15-year-olds are A-OK.

For an otaku-oriented franchise as perpetually popular and profitable as Love Live!, there really hasn’t been all that much anime content produced for it. The original got 26 TV episodes and a theatrical feature, as did its follow-up/spin-off, Love Live! Sunshine!!. Toss in a single direct-to-video OVA for the first series, and that’s pretty much all the Love Live! anime there is.

But the Love Livers, as the franchise’s most ravenous fans are known, got some good news in January when it was announced that a brand-new Love Live! anime TV series has been greenlit (the title has yet to be announced, but it seems safe to assume whatever it is it’ll end with no fewer than three consecutive exclamation points). Of course, a new Love Live! series needs a new batch of anime schoolgirl idol singers to follow as their chase their dreams of stage stardom and forge friendships along the way, and that in turn means that the new series needs a new crop of voice actresses to play them.

▼ As this clip from the Love Live! movie shows, the anime is very much an ensemble cast production.

Rather than pick from existing voice actresses, though, the producers for the new Love Live! series have announced that they’ll be holding open, amateur auditions for the parts. While the exact details are yet to be announced, the Love Live! official website already lists a number of eligibility requirements, including:

● Applicants must females residing in Japan
● Must be between 15 and 22 years old (as of April 1, 2020)
● Applicants under junior high-school age not allowed
● Applicants must not be currently contracted with a recording or talent agency
● Must be living in Tokyo area or willing to relocate
● Must acquiesce to video being recorded during audition process
● Minors must have permission from parents or legal guardians

A lot of those sound like pretty logical stipulations for legal and/or logistic reasons. However, what’s raised some eyebrows is the very last item on the list of requirements:

● Audition is only open to unmarried applicants

Currently, women in Japan are allowed to marry at the age of 16 (though that will be changing to 18 in the near future as part of a legislative reform), and while teen marriages are rather unusual in Japan, there’s nothing all that eye-raising about a woman in her early 20s being married, since legal adulthood here begins at 20 (it’ll also be changing to 18 soon). As such, some online commenters can’t see any reason for the no-marriage clause other than to subtly present the voice actresses as being romantically available in order to please fantasizing fans.

▼ Members of the existing Love Live! vocal cast, announcing the global launch of the Love Live! School Idol Festival All Stars mobile game

Critics of the requirement have called it “nasty” and “pandering to otaku tastes.” However, there’s a key aspect of Love Live! that makes the “single ladies only please” clause not so surprising.

The new Love Live! series and its auditions are really a case of art imitating life imitating art imitating life. The original series, about a group of ordinary schoolgirls who become idol singers, began as a reflection of real-life “underground” idol groups who rise from amateur status thanks to their hard work and dedication, progressing from tiny gigs at local events to sold-out stadium concerts. But the success of Love Live! has turned its voice actresses into idol singers themselves. In addition to providing the singing voices for their anime characters, the actresses also perform in-person at live concerts, wearing stage costumes and dancing to choreography as seen in the anime.

So in effect, the producers for the upcoming new Love Live! arc aren’t just recruiting voice actresses, but looking for members with whom to form a functioning idol unit. There’s absolutely no way the new Love Live! series will deviate from the formula that served as its predecessors’ license to print money by not making the voice actresses themselves highly visible parts of the franchise, and with idol singers in Japan routinely having contracts that prohibit them from even dating, “no getting married” is actually a comparatively less restrictive rule. “Is there really any consumer demand for music from idol singer who’re already married?” asked one commenter, with another chiming in with “All they’re doing is looking for people who can meet the fans’ needs.”

With successful idol units owing much of their financial stability to fans whose loyalty comes more from an emotional connection (real or imagined) than a love for their music itself, it’s unlikely that the single-applicants-only rule will be changed. But hey, at least the would-be Love Live! idols aren’t being asked to write how big their breasts are on their entry forms.

Sources: Real Live via Livedoor News via Twitter/@nobu6314mo via Jin, Love Live! official website
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