The idea of the “Childhood Friend” (Osananajimi, in Japanese) has long been a staple of anime and manga romance stories, particularly ones with a harem bent. They are, especially in popular consciousness, somewhat tragic figures. The girl who’s been by the hero the longest, but is never able to convey that she likes them as more than just a friend. Love Live: School Idol Project technically has had many “Childhood Friends”. Honoka, Kotori and Umi all knew each other for years before the story began, for example. However their is only one true “Childhood Friend” character in this franchise, Love Live Sunshine‘s Watanabe You
We meet You basically at the same time we meet Chika, when Chika first discovers School Idols and μ’s on the screen of the UTX building in Akihabara. In the present, You is hard at work helping Chika try to recruit new students for her School Idol club. Over the course of the episode You is there as Chika continually tries, and fails, to recruit more members. When Chika runs afoul of Student Body President Kurosawa Dia, we learn something interesting. You isn’t on Chika’s list of School Idol Club members. The only name on that list is Takami Chika.
Before we can talk about You, we need to briefly talk about Chika. Chika talks to Sakurauchi Riko about how she came to love School Idols, and of particular importance is a memory that she narrates over. As Chika explains how she loves that School Idols are “normal” girls, we watch a scene from her and You’s past. They are at a pool. Chika is up in the stands, alone. You is atop the high-dive. You runs and makes a dive. As she comes up at the side of the pool, she immediately turns and waves to Chika, but is quickly surrounded by other people, presumably praising her form. The unstated part here is that You is the “extraordinary” to Chika’s “ordinary”.
Now, Chika does not mean anything against You by this, You is her best friend and she loves how she is great at everything she tries but…Chika isn’t. Chika, at least a little, feels left behind. But then she finds School Idols, “ordinary” girls who became extraordinary Idols. Chika tells this to Sakarauchi Riko, and as she does, its clear she’s never really expressed things this way to You. In fact, she may never have told anyone this at all.
The next day, knowing nothing of Chika’s meeting with Riko, You agrees to join the School Idol Club, to Chika’s shock and delight. You had been going along with Chika on this rather quixotic quest as a way of doing something with her. You already knew that Dia would shoot down the club no matter what. But after seeing Chika’s determination, she decides to throw her hat in as well. Chika has looked up to You for her extraordinary nature, but to You, Chika was always her best friend and companion. After her dive, she looked first to Chika for her reaction. When others stepped in her way to congratulate her, she was visibly surprised, even a little upset.
Over their years as friends You has clearly figured out that something is keeping Chika just a bit distant from her. While You excels in swimming, Chika stands off to the side, always at a distance. But now with the School Idol Club, there is something they can do together. A chance for You to finally truly close the gap between her and Chika. And perhaps even finally tell Chika what she really feels. You had no way of knowing what had happened on the beach the previous night. Nor did she understand why Chika’s face lit up when the girl with long dark hair entered their classroom.You truly is as extraordinary as Chika believes. She’s an ace swimmer, an excellent artist, she can sing and dance with ease and she even attracts other girls with a magnetism that must be seen to be believed.
You has for herself a catchphrase, “Yousoro!” Almost always accompanied by a sailor’s salute. It serves as an acknowledgement and a declaration of intent. That she will Zenryoku zenkai, go at full power. But like a ship at sea, she is at the mercy of the waves and the weather. You has charged forward through life with Chika trailing behind, confident that things wouldn’t change, that she wouldn’t have to deal with the reality of her feelings or Chika’s feelings. But the waves of change have struck the good ship Yousoro. Will she run ashore on the rocks so many Childhood Friends have before her, or will she push through, and finally tell Chika how she feels about her, and what she really wants.