After slogging through this show, I just had one question on my mind the entire time: where are the fucking Gundams? I started getting worried after like 8 episodes in how Sunrise was going to work giant robots into the series, but as it turns out, they animate one other thing that isn't Gundam these days.
All jokes aside, this is the first time I've watched any idol anime, so I'm new to this whole idea of moe blobness musical funfests. I'm aware that Love Live is ridiculously popular, and honestly after watching this I can see why. It's colorful, the girls are cute and have a pretty well defined moe-autismo "personalities" for people to latch on to, and the music is all kinds of J-pop infectious good (if you're into that kind of music). Sunshine is a spin-off of the main Love Live franchise, focusing on the creation of the "Aquors", a real-life Japanese idol group. The shtick with these idol shows is that all the actual idols of the real group voice act for the in-show group, effectively granting them anime avatars. This is a big part of the draw of these show, and although I'm not into it in the slightest, I get why it causes these idol shows to skyrocket in popularity.
Aesthetically, the show is pretty alright. The art style is incredibly... washed out? I don't know how to describe it, but the colors are overly bright to the point where they obscure detail. Character designs are overly cutesy, like, instant diabetes level, but considering that Love Live is first and foremost a product and not art, this is to be expected. Sunrise knows what they're doing to create boatloads of money with this franchise, and who am I to complain if they keep using the funding to keep making kick-ass Gundam OVAs?
One thing I do have to praise this show for is its use of CG. Love Live is a perfect example of how you can use CG in even the most important scenes and still have absolutely no one give a single fuck: perfect execution. Sunrise is straight up with you that parts of the dances WILL be CG, but the models are incredibly detailed and are constantly shot at angles that make you question whether or not they are CG. The backgrounds are also styled to make the models "pop" less off of them, and the blending is done very well. If you like J-pop, you'll love the music. If you don't, you're going to want to kill yourself. This alone will probably be the deciding factor in you watching this show.
Storywise, Sunshine is criminally formulaic. The first half of the show is about recruiting all the 9 different members of the group, with sprinklings of "drama" placed about, and then ending in dreamlike song and dance sequence. There's a strong recurring theme of facing your fears and putting yourself out there even if you might fail, trying your best despite that. The moe "comedy" is alright at best, with 99% of it being tired spins on the same gags you've seen in every SoL show. The term generic is something I keep coming back to when trying to describe the plot and character elements of this show, and I think it describes that aspect of Sunshine pretty well.
Despite all this bullshit, I still found myself guiltily enjoying this show, and for the life of me I really couldn't figure out why. But then, a shocking realization came to me...
Love Live is literally the anime equivalent of Glee.
As someone with a history in performance, this song and dance spectacle shit is always entertaining to me. Glee and Love Live follow the same sort of formula and almost cater to the same type of demographic, except that you replace Glee's celebrity spotlight shit with Love Live's moe otaku pandering. The shows are even structured the same. Every episode is set up -> contrived school drama -> resolution -> song and dance, Glee just went out of its way to try to edgy sometimes with its drama while Love Live tries to be as diabetes level cute as it can while also being anime.
As much as I ended up guiltily enjoying it, I still can't bring myself to recommend it. It's still painfully average and generic even as just a slice of life, cute-girl-cute-shit show, just with a little more musical flair. Also there really aren't any Gundams in the show, which for a Sunrise production was really a massive letdown.