April 21, 2009
Girl meets boy and girl likes boy. But girl is also half a foot taller than boy and thus, epic drama ensues!
STORY – I don’t read/watch a lot of shoujo, but from the start, I figured it was a pretty basic plot and as a result, probably a pretty generic story. I was right — it’s a lot of what you would typically expect from shoujo: lots of silly romantic drama, lots of hilarious shenanigans, and the your handful of cute, fluffy moments scattered throughout that always feel like an shot of diabetic sweetness straight to your black, black heart. And it was wonderfully done for the most part. As predictable as the overarching story can be, it was still very engaging and fun to watch. The slice of life approach makes the episode-to-episode drama slightly less obvious, and I really loved that time actually moves throughout the series.
I suppose time progression would logically be more common in slice of life and shoujo series, but since I don’t dabble into the genre much, it was very refreshing for me to experience. The series begins as the characters start high school and ends neatly as they graduate. Time moves at a pretty fixed pace, so there’s no awkwardness in transitions. I was also really happy to see the beginning, creation, and progression of a relationship — the series doesn’t just end when they get together (I refuse to count that as a spoiler; I mean, c’mon. Did you ever have any doubts?), it keeps going and explores some of their problems and potential future. All in all, it’s wrapped up pretty nicely. The story, while fairly generic, is solid, well told, and just silly and fun. The pacing is steady, and though things do feel like they’re being dragged along occasionally, the feeling never lasts long. It’s a good thing to watch after a shitty day. I’m actually really sad it’s over for that very reason.
CHARACTER – Risa Koizumi is a very dramatic girl. It’s fun at first; after a while it got a little tiring. But then I came to realize that wait. Girls really are like this! They are overdramatic and hysterical and crazy and thoroughly ridiculous. After realizing that amazing truth, I didn’t mind so much anymore. Risa is just a girl. And that’s how they are. Honestly, I can’t call her unrealistic in good conscience because everything she does, every over-the-top reaction she has, I can imagine someone I know in real life doing the same. Considering that, I think Risa’s actually a pretty damn well done character. She’s very sympathetic and easy to relate to, even when she’s crying for the fifth time in five episodes. And she grows — her feelings for Otani evolve and mature a lot throughout the series, and through you’re constantly reminded of this progression through three-second flashbacks, it is something that’s nice to look back on.
Atsushi Otani is an idiot. It’s fun at first; after a while, it gets a little frustrating. But then I came to realize that wait! Boys really are like this! They’re retarded and stupid and dense and miss all the obvious signs and are super awkward when they do finally get it! Amazing. Once again, I found Otani’s depiction to be hilariously accurate on many levels. He does tend to be much less dramatic than Risa, but that’s not surprising considering the male stereotype and the fact that his point of view isn’t focused on as much until the second half of the series. Though both Risa’s and Otani’s feelings are undoubtedly romanticized greatly, I found the slower development of Otani’s feelings a lot more interesting — you know what’s going to happen, but watching everything unfold is still interesting.
The supporting cast of friends do a great job of contrasting their lovey-dovey relationships with the irregular, often immature, and haphazard relationship of our protagonists. This makes them all noticeably idealized to the point where they’re more roles than in-depth characters, but I guess that’s all they really needed to be. Seiko and Haruka were fun gimmicks as well. Still, Nobuko was a pretty convincing best friend for Risa, likely because she had the most screentime of the supporting cast.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – The animation and art jump around a lot in this series, so there’s a bit of bad and a bit of good. The opening and end themes had a lot of fun variation to them, though all seemed pretty typical of shoujo, especially in the sense that they played around with the characters’ fashion and style a lot. In the episodes themselves, the characters jumped back and forth from a pretty lazy and generic style to a really hilarious caricature style to a super, sparkle-filled, shiny, pretty shoujo style. The first of those three was the most common and got annoying sometimes because there would be strange discrepancies in how certain things (people, buildings, objects) look and I noticed some variations in height differences and proportions, especially for Risa whose lanky shape stands out a lot when the proportions change. The second was really amusing, especially since many of the SD faces are uniquely and hilariously grotesque and the characters don’t hesitate to point this out themselves. The final style naturally showed up in all the super romanticized and climatic scenes — its those scenes they saved their animation budget on, I’m sure — making everything that much sweeter. It’s predictable, but hey, it’s gorgeous and cute and it works, dammit.
Another thing I’m sure is pretty common in shoujo, but that I appreciated all the same, was the fact that fashions changed from scene to scene, episode to episode. I loved that characters changed their clothes every day and had a lot of seasonal fashions; they would also be scene shopping occasionally and the clothes they buy would show up later, etc. I also loved that Risa’s hair was constantly changing — sometimes it coincided with her mood and emotions; sometimes it coincided with events or the weather; sometimes it was just different. It’s not that big a deal, really, but it makes the characters that much more real and easier to relate to.
Overall, Love★Com’s animation is just average, but it’s good enough and the style definitely suits the series.
MUSIC – The first time I heard the first opening theme, “Kimi + Boku = Love?” by Tegomass, it confirmed all the stereotypical expectations I had for the series. It’s upbeat and cheerful-hopeful, the vocalist’s voice has an endearing, dorky quality to it, and the even the name of the song is corny as hell. It felt very right. End themes are generally slower, more somber, and more thoughtful compared to opening themes, and the first end theme, also by Tegomass, was no different. It kind of struck me how different the vocalist sounded. It also felt very right, and both songs really grew on me during the first half of the series.
Surprisingly though, the second pair of themes for the series are even better! I absolutely adore how the second opening, “Hey! Say!” by Hey!Say! 7 starts. In conjunction with the colorful animation sequence, it suits the series perfectly. It’s the kind of music that I imagine Risa and Otani would listen to in addition to Umibouzu, and the lyrics are adorable. The same can be said for the second end theme, “BON BON,” also by Hey!Say! 7 — it’s much more upbeat than the first end theme (though still reasonably thoughtful and kind of reminiscent) and once again, just adorable. The Engrish helps.
Love★Com also surprised me by having a really nice general soundtrack. The theme that played for all of the more depressing scenes was especially pretty and sweet to listen to. For other series of Love★Com’s technical quality, I usually don’t notice the soundtracks because they’re generic and bland, so it’s definitely worth noting that the music in this actually stood out. It’s one of those soundtracks I wouldn’t mind listening to outside of watching the actual series.
VOICE ACTING – If you actually know Japanese or if you are just a gigantic dork, you might notice that pretty much all of the characters in this series speak in a Kansai dialect, which makes sense since the story takes place in Osaka. I found this pretty awesome because while a lot of series will have one or two characters that speak in the dialect, few have the full cast speaking in it. The last time I heard so many “aho”s instead of “baka” was in BECK. It’s really interesting and neat to hear because even if you don’t understand the language that well or realize that it’s a different dialect, if you’ve seen a lot of subbed anime, you’ll be able to pick up on slight changes in pronunciation and vocabulary (the most obvious things that I caught were “na” instead of “ne” and “chau” instead of “chigau”). For Risa, I also found her pronunciation of “Otani” to be occasionally distracting because she stresses the “o” a lot more than I would normally expect.
Other than fun dialect stuff, the voices themselves were pretty average. Risa’s isn’t that memorable, but it works well enough for her role. I was more impressed by Otani’s voice because I found that he had a wider range of emotions and a much more recognizable tone overall — his voice has a really unique inflection when he’s upset or surprised, but it’s also very charming when he’s being serious. Other notable roles: Nakao was surprisingly soft-spoken, which goes great with his character, but was still surprising to hear because few people ever speak that quietly. Seiko’s voice was obnoxiously high-pitched, which also went great with his/her character, but it also made me really glad s/he wasn’t in too many scenes…
OVERALL – Lovely Complex was a much more enjoyable series than I thought it would be, but I’m always happy to see cliches work out. It’s very true — there are no original ideas left, so all there is to do is write good stories. They don’t need to be original stories, just good stories, solid stories, fun stories. Lovely Complex fullfills all of above, so even though you know they’re going to live happily ever after, you can still enjoy watching it for what it is. As I mentioned earlier, I watched episodes of Love★Com at the end of bad days. They’re a shot of sugar and laughs, straight to the vein: adorably effective. Now I need to find another drug.