Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Series Review: Lovely*Complex by Aya Nakahara

Love*Com (Lovely*Complex), Volume 1 Description: Risa Koizumi is the tallest girl in class, and the last thing she wants is the humiliation of standing next to Atsushi Otani, the shortest guy. Fate and the whole school have other ideas, and the two find themselves cast as the unwilling stars of a bizarre romantic comedy duo. Rather than bow to the inevitable, Risa and Atsushi join forces to pursue their true objects of affection. But in the quest for love, will their budding friendship become something more complex?

Stats: Young Adult Romance Manga, 17 Volumes, English Editions Published by Viz Media LLC, from 2007 to 2010.

My Overall Rating: 4 Stars 

 Although Lovely*Complex (also known as Love*Com) was only first published in the 2000's it is by far a classic of the shojo genre. For anyone who is interested in romance manga this a must read. I would even venture to say to those who are just beginning to read manga this would be a great series to start with. For me, before I had even began reading Love*Com I had already watched the anime and the live-action Japanese movie adaptation. As I have said before, it was only a matter of time before I finally got around to reading the manga, which I did ... eventually.

Love*Com (Lovely*Complex), Volume 12 The story here is beautifully simple. Both Risa and Otani have a hight complex. A girl who's too tall and a boy who's too short, in both of their cases it has gone from less than desirable to down right troubling, especially as they realize it's becoming an obstacle to getting the true object of their affections. This is only made worse when their classmates keep throwing them together as the bickering comedy duo when their interest in each other is a grand total of zilch. But instead of giving up and just admitting defeat they decide to help each other pursue romance, but things never quite go as planned. With such charming tag lines as "Love Matters, Not Size"; "The Long and the Short of First Love"; and "They put the Comedy back in Complex" you know that Risa and Otani are perfect together, despite the hight difference.

I have to take a moment here to talk about the artwork. Nakahara has done some excellent work in Love*Com with her ability to draw expressions and unique characters. When I think of her design it stands out. From the textures to the cover art, everything worked flawlessly with the tone of the series.

This is the sort of manga I call a "happy and you know it" type. This is not the place to look for emotional depth or crazy fantasy. Over the 17 volumes of Love*Com we get to see the ups and downs of a possible romance in all of its cute RomCom glory.

What really makes this manga work is its characters. Risa is the perfect female lead who is both the awkward teenage girl looking for love and the hilarious wit with just the right amount of attitude. And Otani is perfect as the cute, athletic guy who isn't a jerkface or a douche, but just a normal (although sometimes frustratingly dense) teenage boy. The secondary characters also play their respective roles very well. Most join the cast as ridiculous love rivals, but end up also becoming fun and interesting characters.

A staple of the series is the way random antagonists pop up every volume or so to challenge our young lovers. Although I found it fun to keep track of them all, it can get old rather fast. Over the whole series there is probably one too many and hashing out the same thing over and over doesn't do a lot for dynamic story development. I think the zaniness of these events is what keeps the book going, but the series does dip near the end. Thankfully it does rebounds for the finale, which left me feeling all warm and fuzy. Some people chose to stop at volume 16 since colume 17 is more of an epilogue  but it made me happy to finish the series with such a nice send off so I'd recommend checking 17 out if you haven't already.

While I was reading the series I had a lot of fun writing reviews for each of the volumes as I went with such gems as "Koizumi takes another spin on the Otani: "duur?" roller-coaster. But while Otani is off acting like a space cadet, we get introduced to a brand spankin' new character Mighty!, the newly arrived class co-teacher and substitute basketball coach. He's "Mighty Fine!" - Volume 6. All such reviews can be read on my goodreads, although I would suggest waiting till after you've finished the series or volume in question before joining me in my giggles.

Overall, Love*Com is a series that just leaves you feeling good inside, which is why I recommend it to anyone up for a smile and hopefully some fangirl fun. The only disappointment here is the more of Nakahara isn't widely available for North American readers.

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