Listening to several of my female friends over the years complain that they could never go out with a guy shorter than them just because, I get the impression that the ‘short guy: no go area' has become one of those unspoken rules for which there is no rational explanation. Let's be frank, it just doesn't fit the ideal image of a heart-stopping romance; how will the guy carry the girl over the threshold with such puny arms? How will he gaze down into her sparkling eyes as they embrace under the moonlit sky? And their first kiss is certain to be a cringe-worthy debacle. Well, in a bid of justice for the vertically challenged male, Lovely Complex has kindly asked the rules of love to get lost.
The bulk of LoveCom hinges upon one girl's frustrated pursuit of a boy, and although not strictly a new idea, this premise comes without the usual corniness that has haunted nearly every romantic comedy since the dawn of animation. Granted, the scenarios used to develop Risa and Otani's relationship are as unique as sliced bread, and include the familiar playing at the beach scene, the Japanese festival setting, the twist of the interfering bishounen, and the inevitable Valentine's Day episode. However, the ways in which the two protagonists react within those familiar scenes are hilariously dorky and make LoveCom a refreshing drama as well as a heart-warming romance.
While Risa's thwarted efforts easily make for the most memorable moments, their cliché nature is only enjoyable because the more serious height complex is never sidelined. Both Risa and Otani grapple with their insecurities on a regular basis; for example, while the girls around her often rely on their cuteness to attract boys, Risa is aware her height makes that option impossible when trying to win Otani - which is especially vexing when his ex-girlfriend is so adorable. What is commendable about the performance is that, rather than bludgeon us with the hollow ‘it's what's inside that counts' message, LoveCom actually portrays the characters in such a way that their personalities easily outshine their unconventional appearance. As the series progresses, Risa and Otani's height difference becomes less and less obvious, and, instead, I find myself more interested in their attempts to overcome their complexes.
My only complaint is that, as the ending approaches, LoveCom starts to take on a slightly different focus; a couple of contrived plot developments are tacked on seemingly just to fill up air time, and, while still enjoyable, LoveCom takes on an anticlimactic ‘end of an era' feel.
With colours ranging from cheerful yellows to bold magentas without actually searing my retinas, LoveCom has an appealing summery look quite unlike many other romantic anime; while choosing to be bright and upbeat in tone, LoveCom avoids soft pinks and powdery blues and is thus neither overtly pretty like Ouran High School Host Club or dream-like in the way of Bokura ga Ita. On the other hand, motion is not animated as smoothly as it could be; but this isn't too much of a drawback considering LoveCom more often than not tries to capture extreme actions rather than smooth, subtle mannerisms.
More importantly, the animation of Risa's facial expressions deserves the credit for producing the biggest laughs. Only Ouran, Tengen Toppa, and Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan have had the honour of making me guffaw like a loon while hunched alone in front of my PC. In my experience, anime humour can be quite hit and miss, and while I might think ‘this is funny' in my head, I rarely actually laugh; but LoveCom makes peeing my pants an inevitable outcome just because of Risa's animation.
First, the bad news: LoveCom's soundtrack is suitable but includes mostly nondescript piano music which is not worth enjoying as part of an album. Specifically, the first pop opening theme and the more sedate ending theme are enjoyable on a basic level, but the second set of themes is nothing more than mediocre.
The good news is that Otani and Risa's voices are flawless (as are all the others), and my favourite voice actor by far has to be Otani's; his boyish charm does not just make for great comedic highlights but is also incredibly engaging when he is being serious.
Moreover, the exaggerated sound effects during the humorous sketches boost the comedy's effectiveness to stellar levels; for example, the echoed repetition of ‘rice' during one scene made me crack up so hard that my rib has been complaining ever since.
Personality compensates a lot for the unusual pairing of Risa and Otani, with great attention being paid to their peculiarities; to borrow a cliché, I feel I know these characters as well as I know my closest friends. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, are a sturdy support system for the two main characters, although, ultimately, not that memorable.
I imagine that for many female anime fans like myself, Risa will be easy to identify with, just because she suffers from a graceless dorky streak, can't pull off a cute demeanour even when she tries, and has unconventional tastes. For example, her obsession with a bishounen game character, and her family's subsequent mournful reaction, remind me of the numerous times my sister has tried (and failed) to cure me of anime. Being a refreshing change from the heavily-breasted femme fatales and the wide-eyed baby dolls found in so many other titles, Risa's entertainment value is through the roof.
Confident, devoid of any conceit, with concrete goals in life, a positive outlook, and plenty of wit, Otani is a charismatic person with a highly likeable combination of traits. Unlike so many male leads who take the stoic bishounen approach or else act like bumbling virgins, his personality, aided by the fantastic script and voice acting, makes it very easy to understand why Risa is besotted with him; in fact, his unconventional height is easy to forget because of this.
Most importantly, the two character share a natural chemistry which makes them believable not just as good friends, but as a compatible couple too. While much romantic comedy begins with the ‘bolt of lightning' scenario where two random individuals meet and are drawn to each other for some inexplicable reason, LoveCom portrays something far more realistic; Risa and Otani have known each other for a while, get along in an ordinary sense of the word, and actually manage to rub each other the wrong way on many occasions (to great comedic effect). Their compatibility thus springs from the ordinary things they share as friends, and from the realisation that they feel the most comfortable with themselves when in each other's company. The ultimate effect is heart-warming without being saccharine.
With a unique premise and such fun, well-developed protagonists, LoveCom is not just an upbeat story with a few comedic highlights, but a show that effortlessly evades the usual banality of the romcom genre to outshine almost anything else on offer. If you happen to be looking for a generous helping of the feel-good factor but want to avoid the side-order of stale cheese, then look no further than LoveCom.
Lovely Complex is a story of a boy and a girl. The girl, Koizumi Risa, is much taller than the average Japanese girl; and the boy, Atsushi Otani, is much shorter than the average Japanese boy. Due to their immense difference in size and constant bickering with each other, the duo is unwillingly the school’s comic relief. As Risa and Otani continue to provide endless laughter for the masses, their friendship develops; and with that, so does Risa’s feelings for Otani...
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