|Risa Koizumi, taller than the average girl, and Atsushi Otani, shorter than the average guy — their constant bickering and comical love-hate relationship is well-known throughout the school. They act similarly and love the same music, and their friendship is full of laughing, shouting at each other, and of course, lots of jokes about one another’s height.
But when Koizumi notices her feelings for Otani growing, she’s worried. She doesn’t know if he can ever see her as more than a friend. With her friends rooting for her, she struggles to make him see how she feels about him, and that a romantic relationship between a tall girl and a short guy can work. Oblivious Otani doesn’t make things easy for her, but she stubbornly perseveres in her own unconventional way, determined for her feelings to get through to him, and finally be returned.
Lovely Complex (also known as Love Com or Rabu Kon) has been on my anime to-watch list for years. Actually, since it was airing in Japan in 2007. But I’d been obsessed with adorable Card Captor Sakura-esque shoujo anime at the time (anime with cute animation and younger protagonists), like Gakuen Alice, that it just sort of slipped my mind. If I had watched it back then, I think I would have fallen in love with it immediately. However, because I started watching Love Com right after seeing… really different anime like Chihayafuru and Skip Beat!, this First Impressions review is a little more… complicated.
Story: The story to Lovely Complex is a simple one. Koizumi Risa and Otani Atsushi are two students whom fate, chance, and life keeps throwing together, despite the fact that they almost always argue every time they encounter each other, and they look like a comedy act whenever they stand together, since she is freakishly tall (172 cm/nearly 5’8″ in Japan is not the norm for girls) and he is really short (156 cm, a little more than 5’1″). (They specifically resemble Hanshin-Kyoujin, a comedy duo made up of a tall person and a short person. It actually translates to ‘Halfling’-‘Giant’)
*Koizumi actually grows to 172 cm in the first few episodes.
However, the more they run into each other, the more they realize they have in common, and the closer they become. Even though their relationship is a strange one (filled with tons of insults and flailing over random things that make them both happy) they soon end up constantly hanging out, both on the quest to find love and romance. They’re hilarious, and they have the kind of chemistry that makes people stare every time they start arguing with each other (because between their heights and the strange things they tend to say to each other, they really do seem like comedians putting on a show).
Unexpectedly, while hanging out with him one day (and listening to her friend Nobu-chan’s ridiculous attempts at matchmaking her with him), Koizumi (only two people in this anime so far have ever called her by her first name, so it seems somehow… wrong to say “Risa”) realizes that she cares for him, more than as a friend. He’s always going out of his way to make her happy; he tries to be there for her no matter what. It startles her at first, and she tries not to do anything about it because she’s sure he doesn’t feel the same way and she doesn’t want their relationship to be awkward. But then he surprises her on her birthday, and it’s one of the most amazing things anyone has ever done for her that she gets caught up in the moment and accidentally tells him that she has feelings for him.
He, unfortunately (once he realizes that she is serious, since he’s quite dense and can’t believe she’d actually feel that way about him, her goofy friend), doesn’t know if he can ever think of her romantically because while she’s the girl he cares about most, he sees her as a friend, not a girlfriend (or even a potential one). Though the situation is awkward, they manage to stay friends because they care about each other and they have fun together. But Koizumi still holds onto the hope that he’ll see her as more than his comedian partner-in-crime one day (and Otani still isn’t sure what he feels for her, if anything, and doesn’t know how to go about figuring that out without hurting her).
Through a lot of hilarity, adorableness, and random conversations, the two of them attempt to figure out their relationship (while maintaining one of the best friendships I have ever seen).
Characters: When I first started watching Lovely Complex, I couldn’t get attached to any of the characters (no matter how much I tried). Though I thought it was adorable every time Koizumi and Otani became excited over something together (it’s cute how many interests they share, especially in those episodes when they’re not even friends and they don’t know each other and are fighting all the time), the first few episodes irritated me because of how love-focused they were. It seemed like Otani and Koizumi were constantly talking about finding love or being in love, and sometimes, they were even going out of their way to “encounter” love or make love “happen”. It must have been only three or four episodes of this, but the idea that this mattered that much to the characters — after coming from anime with characters more focused on other things than romance (Skip Beat! and Chihayafuru), this was a little… jarring to see.
Around episode 5 or 6, however, when the characters started living their lives more… naturally, I began to actually care about them. And once I cared about them, I finally started to enjoy the show.
The female protagonist of Love Com (I think she’s the most important main character, since more of each episode is about her feelings and thoughts, and there was even an episode where she — retrospectively— had voice-over commentary about a particular moment in her life) is Koizumi Risa. I didn’t think much of her at first because, as I said before, her thoughts about love kind of annoyed me. I also could not relate to her at all, even though I understood the cultural context, since I would love to be as tall as she is. I started to really feel for her, however, once she realized that she cared for Otani more than simply as a friend.
|“Somewhere between our laughs, long talks, stupid little fights and inside jokes, I fell in love.”|
I wanted to hug her through her confession, which I agree with her, was perfect (if only he wasn’t so dense…). I wanted to throw things at Otani with her when he stupidly, even though everyone told him in a hundred ways, did not understand that Koizumi actually was in love with him. (And then I wanted to hit him again for all of his unknowingly cruel comments to her afterward.) I started off not being able to understand her because love should not be your primary focus in high school, but I found myself really feeling for her, and even respecting her as the anime went on. It takes a lot of courage to throw your feelings out there, especially when you have a strong inkling that they won’t be returned (because you two are so goofy together that he doesn’t really see you as a girl at all). It takes even more courage to, instead of taking those feelings back when you have confirmation that they aren’t returned, repeat the confession again, letting him know that you want to be friends, but regardless of his feelings, you’re still in love with him. I also thought it was really mature of her not to hold it against him that he doesn’t feel the same way. What she said to him about it not being his fault (which is completely true and the complete opposite of what everyone else was telling him) that he doesn’t feel the same way was very big of her. And then to even admit that if anyone is wrong, it’s her for still holding on even though he’s admitted to not seeing her as more than a friend… I can’t help but admire her. I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same in the same situation. I also love that, despite the fact that she has feelings for him, she’s still able to argue with him and smack him around if he deserves it.
|“If you’d ask me whether I like you or not… I’d say, I like you. You’re the only one I can make a big fuss and get excited about riding a rickshaw with. But we’ve been a comedy duo for such a long time… I don’t think I can suddenly see you as my girlfriend.”|
I like Otani, but I don’t think I’m in love with him (yet — twelve episodes of this anime still remain). Like Koizumi, I completely understand where he’s coming from. If you’ve seen a person in one way for a while, it’s hard to suddenly think of them in another. I always think the friends-to-lovers relationships make the most sense because of the amount of time it takes for them to get together (it isn’t rushed, so it’s realistic), but I never thought of the logistics behind such a concept. If you have a dorky best mate with whom you do things that you can’t do with other people (like flail over a musician no one loves quite as much as you two or ride the water slide repeatedly together because it looks so fun and none of your other friends are interested), it’ll be difficult to remotely consider that person in a romantic way all of a sudden. It makes sense to me that he needs time to sort out his feelings, even though he knows he cares about her a lot. The one thing that amuses me (and this is actually a comedy, so it happens quite frequently) is how dense Otani is. Koizumi, her friends, his friends, basically everyone told him that she was in love with someone who fit his description exactly and he never once considered that she meant she was in love with him. I do, however, think in time I’ll end up really liking him because he’s just such a sweet guy.
|“Do you really like this guy?”
“What kind of guy is he?”
“He’s an idiot… but he’s a good guy.”
Mostly, I love these two characters together. They’re adorable, hilarious, amusing, stupid, and nerdy, and they feel like real people because of the way they have actual interests and enthusiasm for those interests, and they flail lots. They do things together I would do with my friends (play video games, do karaoke, ride a rickshaw, order new flavors of things because they sound interesting, etc.); they have countless conversations with each other and they say things that are so bizarre that no one else would be able to understand them. It’s such a realistic friendship that it’s easy to put yourself in either of their shoes. Throw in the fact that they connect on their height issues as well, and you have a dynamic duo that really does belong together.
I didn’t ship it — at first — because I, like Otani, just saw them as friends, but after watching a few episodes, it was easy to see why Koizumi fell in love with him (there are some things Otani does that are so cute, you can’t help but adore him) and I’m finally rooting for them.
Other than Nobu-chan (and sometimes Nakao-kun), who is always there to give Risa interesting advice), I don’t really have much of an opinion on the secondary characters. Love Com is a comedy, so most of the time, with the exception of Otani’s ex Kanzaki, they’re only there to add comedic value to whatever scene they’re in. Chiharu and Suzuki have only brief appearances in the anime, aside from in the first episode. Haruka never ceases to make me laugh. I feel sorry for him, but all of his scenes or lines just have me laughing uncontrollably or muttering, “Baka!” (or “ahou,” since that’s the Kansai equivalent) under my breath. However, even he is not a substantial part of many episodes (off the top of my head, I can only see two where he plays some role, but even then that role isn’t substantial enough for actual character development). Aside from the main characters Koizumi and Otani, few of the characters have really left an impression on me. I hope this changes in the final twelve episodes…
Theme Song: There has only been one opening and ending theme so far, and both of them have easily become two Japanese songs I listen to over and over again (which goes to figure — they’re songs from the same artist, Tegomass). There is something incredibly infectious (the jovial tones, the happy melody, the upbeat music) about the opening Kimi + Boku = Love?, and I cannot get over how funny the actual lyrics are. (They’re basically asking for a textbook or a teacher to teach them about love because it doesn’t make sense to them at all. Which is exactly what this anime is about, so I think it’s absolutely perfect.) I’ve heard a lot of people say they hate the ending theme, Kiss ~ Kaerimichi no Love Song, because it’s so soft and mellow in comparison, but this is actually what I love about it. I find it really soothing and it just sounds so pretty to me. (I think the lyrics are the cutest thing ever: “No matter how you are, no matter when it is, I’ll always catch hold of you. / If you’re hurt and tears fall, / even if the entire world turns into enemies, I’ll always protect you. / The words “I LOVE YOU” are unnecessary. / Your kiss is my last. Forever.” ) These are two theme songs I’m never going to feel the urge to skip over. Ever. I actually find myself looking forward to hearing them, especially the ending theme once the episode is over.
(I also like the way Otani and Koizumi, in the sequence on the screen as the ending theme plays and the credits roll, are the only animated things walking through a bunch of real photographed locations. It fits the song well, and the effect is really cool.)
Comedy: It doesn’t sound like it from the story summary, but Lovely Complex is actually a (romantic) comedy. From the basic description of Koizumi and Otani, it’s obvious that they’re both amusing people.
|“Listen, midget! I’m going to curse you and make you shrink one centimeter every day, and in only 156 days you’ll vanish completely!”|
However, the way Lovely Complex mingles hilarious moments with serious situations is incredibly impressive. It prevents itself and the viewer from taking it too seriously, even when the characters are experiencing something painfully realistic. It’s the reason why this anime is considered to be light and fluffy, even though unrequited love and rejection are two of its important themes. Which is a fantastic change from shows that are only hilarious or only angsty. The combination is what makes Lovely Complex seem so real (even though it starts off in a way that doesn’t make Otani and Koizumi sound like real characters at all).
Art: To be honest, I hated the art when I first started watching this. It’s not terrible art, by any means, but I had just finished watching Chihayafuru, which was released in 2012 (Lovely Complex was 2007), so the art in that anime looked so much better (more vivid, more detailed) than the art in Love Com. For this reason, the comparison is probably a little unfair. I don’t think Lovely Complex is ridiculously beautiful art — but it’s not terrible. The character design is a little more simplistic than it is in the manga (for example, Otani’s hair bothered me at first because I’ve seen Love Com art before, and it just seemed more… flat in the anime than in the manga). I do, however, really like colors. They’re bright and summery, and they fit the mood of this romantic comedy really well. Also, while their bodies and the scenery seems simple, I do appreciate the details in the characters’ faces in Lovely Complex, like the way their eyes, particular the eyelashes, are drawn. It sounds a little strange, but when you watch it and see a close-up, you’ll understand what I mean.
I was not a fan of the first episode at all. It just jumped so fast from introducing the characters to their Quest to Find Love! that I really didn’t know what to make of it. It was funny at times, but the way the characters were trying to set themselves up with their ideal people (someone taller than her for Koizumi, someone shorter than him for Otani), despite the fact that they barely knew the people they had chosen to attempt to date, just bothered me. And then when those two people ended up liking other people and not feeling anything for them romantically, and Koizumi and Otani still pressed the issue (knowing they were already smitten with other people) seemed kind of selfish. And crazy. I was glad, in the end, they realized they needed to back off, but that first episode really did nothing for me. If I didn’t have friends who kept reassuring me that it gets much better, I would have given up on it.
You would think that something like height wouldn’t matter when considering someone to date — in theory — but the more I watch Love Com, the more I have to admit that such a thing would bother me too. I would hate to have to be the one to tower over my potential boyfriend, or to be the one to bend down when we kiss. It sounds completely stupid, but there’s a reason why height plays such a huge role in these characters and this story. It’s become a social convention to pair a taller boy with a shorter girl. To think of anything else seems strange (but really shouldn’t be). I like that this anime points out that not being with a person you clearly love for something as ridiculous as height is… well, ridiculous.
In tons of anime, characters often break into strange facial expressions or make odd sounds or say weird things that other characters, even though they’re in the same room, don’t pay attention to. Amusingly, this is not the case in Lovely Complex. Every time Risa talks to herself or makes a face or randomly collapses, her friends notice and they call her out on it. She has to actually make excuses when she’s thinking out loud, and it’s hilarious because this is the kind of thing real people (like me) go through all the time.
Koizumi means “small spring”. Otani means “big valley”. I laughed when they specified this because the “I should have been named Oizumi” / “I should have been named Kotani” jokes are kind of true.
Koizumi Risa’s dramatic, miserable, scary expressions in response to random things in her life, specifically scenes in which Otani is being stupid, are the most hilarious (and terrifying) things ever.
One of my favorite scenes occurs in episode 11, in which Koizumi and Otani sing karoake to Umibouzu’s song “Shouganeeze”. They’re just so adorable. I love them. And “Shouganeeze” is such an… interesting song with… interesting lyrics. “Hokkaido is cold, but there’s no point in worrying about that. / I could call you, but we use the same cell phone. Family discount plans are pretty awesome. / Even if tears of anger come, I’m not interested in riding around in a fancy boat, or taking an expensive-looking dog for a walk. / You’re not pale enough to need to use a parasol.” Er… yeah.
The episode in which Koizumi and Otani ride in a rickshaw made me laugh. I ride in rickshaws when I visit Pakistan all the time. (I had the same reaction as they did the first time I rode in one when I was seven. After that, it just became another mode of transportation.)
Never mention “bear curry” to me. It’ll make me cry, much like that entire conversation made Koizumi cry. I’m telling you, there are so many feels in this anime. (Also… what in the world is “bear curry”?)
There’s an episode in which Koizumi asks Nobu-chan how she and Nakao-kun started going out, thinking that love only works if you somehow are hit with a miracle. She thinks something spectacular needs to happen to you because it’s a difficult thing, being in love with someone who loves you in return. So Nobu-chan tells her this elaborate tale about how Nakao-kun was this misunderstood gang leader, according to rumors, and one day she witnessed him feeding an abandoned cat and sheltering it from the rain, and she fell in love. But then later she admits that this is a ridiculous lie and that all they did was tell each other how they felt and decided to go out, and fell in love in the process. I love how Lovely Complex is basically mocking a very common romance plot-line used in anime. I really love what it says about love too. You don’t need to have a momentous occasion or moment. Love doesn’t have to be that difficult. Sometimes a direct conversation can lead to a relationship that last a long time.
One of the things that really appealed to me about the manga is Otani and Koizimi’s awesome fashion. They’re always dressed in really cool things (half of which I probably could not pull off well), and the art is amazing. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate in the anime (much — you can see it in a few scenes), and in a way, it felt like a loss of character not to have that aspect of their personality present. I did, however, love that Koizumi, unlike most female anime characters I know, actually changed her hairstyle from day-to-day. That was an unexpected touch of realism (and I kind of loved her hair).
In retrospect, it’s not difficult to see why Koizumi wants to be in love in the beginning of the anime so badly. When all your friends are in relationships and have found that person, and you’re the only single person, and you all hang out together all the time, it’s hard not to feel lonely.
Though I’ve seen shows with characters who speak Kansai ben (Kero in Card Captor Sakura and Kinnosuke in Itazura na Kiss), this is the first anime I’ve seen where all the characters do. I didn’t know it at the time, but this explained why, even though I don’t speak Japanese at all (aside from the few words and phrases I’ve picked up from watching anime), I couldn’t recognize some of the words they’d say, even when it would translate to a word I thought I knew.
I love the fact that Koizumi and Otani’s pet name for each other is “idiot” (“ahou”). They say it to each other all the time, from when they’re not friends to when they are, and even though they mean it every time (both of them are quite dense), sometimes it’s actually a term of endearment. They’re such idiots, it’s cute. (Otani also calls her “amazon”, originally as an insult but later, more affectionately. Likewise, Koizumi often calls him “midget”.)
Though I’m not sure, to me, the title refers to the complexity of (finding, attaining, being in, and maintaining) love, Koizumi and Otani’s height complexes, and the combination of the two (falling in love with a person who is conventionally unsuitable for your height). I think it’s incredibly fitting.
Lovely Complex is a slice-of-life shoujo anime about the (ever-evolving) friendship of a hilarious boy and a funny girl, who happen to be cursed with “socially abnormal height”. If you love things that make you laugh, cry, and then laugh some more, you should seriously check it out.