[Anime] Series Review: Lovely Complex

lovely complex

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.

(Because this is a series review, with extra focus on the final twelve episodes of the anime, there are spoilers.)

As you can tell from my First Impressions review, I didn’t know what to feel about Lovely Complex (also called Love Com or Robu Kon) when I first began watching it. About four or five episodes in, I started to enjoy myself. Halfway through, however, I was most definitely sold. In this midway point (episodes 12 and 13 to the end), the tone of the anime changes. It’s still a (romantic) comedy, but the focus is now finally on Otani Atsushi, and the way he attempts to deal with his feelings, whatever they may be. For the most part, I enjoyed this change in perspective. I understand Koizumi Risa’s feelings too well, but as she had said to him earlier in the series, he is entitled to the confusion. He doesn’t have to feel the same way, and it’s not his fault if he doesn’t. However, Otani doesn’t know how he feels about her. He doesn’t want to even attempt a relationship before he knows for sure, because if they dated while he was uncertain and it turned out that even then, he could still only see her as a friend, he’d end up breaking her heart more than he would have had they never dated at all. And he doesn’t want to hurt her. Love Com is meant to be a lighthearted, fluffy type anime, but Otani’s dilemma felt real to me, as real as Koizumi’s. It’s a difficult situation, and it’s hard to even choose sides, because neither of them are wrong.

What I love about the second half of Lovely Complex is the way it explores these feelings. It might seem a little cliché that jealousy and absence are what spearhead Otani’s realization about his true feelings, but knowing the character, it makes perfect sense. He had to know what it would be like to consider Koizumi being with someone else, and he had to know what his life would be like if she wasn’t present in it — to what extent would he miss her? Would he feel like he just lost a friend or missed out on an opportunity to be with a girl whom he connects with so well that it’s obvious she’s his soul-mate? (I’m not using the word “soul-mate” here to imply a romantic relationship, especially since that kind of relationship is exactly what Otani is unsure of. He might dispute a romantic claim, since it takes him ages to figure it out how he feels about her, but he would not dispute the claim that Koizumi Risa is his soul-mate, since it’s obvious to everyone, including him, that he and Koizumi understand each other that well. A soul-mate doesn’t have to be romantic. Even though in this case, it totally is, and Otani is the last to realize.) Love Com is still a comedy, and still very much hilarious, but the second half of the anime is more emotion-heavy than the first. There is confusion and love and sadness and a little heartbreak, but there is also so much laughter that you know it’ll be okay. And it is.

Romance: Despite the predictability (It’s obvious that eventually, even if you don’t know how it’ll happen, Koizumi and Otani will realize that they were blind to what everyone else could see clearly — they belong together. Sure, it happens at different times, with Koizumi realizing long before Otani can consider the thought, but it still does happen, and they still do get together!), I felt like the romance in this anime was incredibly realistic. Lovely Complex starts off with a common fictional trope — boy and girl meet, they kind of dislike each other, and they argue all the time — until one day, they’re in love instead. However, Love Com treats this trope realistically. A boy and a girl of incompatible heights can meet and argue and realize — slowly — that they share interests. And the same group of friends. And end up hanging out with each other, at first by association with those friends and then later at arcades and concerts, because their hobbies and their likes constantly throw them together, even when they intentionally would go out of their way to avoid each other. Throughout the series, love never happens fast for either protagonist. Though they want to be in love (not with each other, but in general), neither of them just wake up one day and decide that they are in love. They grapple with the idea. They refute suggestions by their friends (and random strangers) that they should date. They don’t even consider it. A boy and a girl can hang out and only be friends, right? But Koizumi falls for him — again, gradually — because underneath all the arguments and the confidence and the “cool” attitude, Otani is sweet. He was always looking out for her, even when they didn’t get along. Her confession to him is one of the most powerful scenes for me because it was easy to see why, even though she promised herself she wouldn’t tell him, that she ended up just blurting it out. And his reaction makes sense to me too (even though his reaction later, when so many people tell him that it’s true, that Koizumi likes him, made me want to face-palm). Like I said before, there are so many real feelings involved, actual dilemmas both of them (more-so Otani than Koizumi) have to overcome before they can finally give it a go. In a romance-focused anime, I didn’t expect this. But I’m glad that it happened the way it did, and it made Koizumi and Otani’s relationship stronger in the end.

otani-koizumi koizumi-otani

I also love that the anime didn’t end with Koizumi and Otani finally dating. The aftermath is where the “slice-of-life”-ness of Love Com really shines through. Otani and Koizumi have to endure the “Are we a couple now, or…? What are we?” conversation. They have to go on an awkward first date, encounter exes, deal with a separation of life-paths, and a possible new love interest. (I can’t even call it a love triangle because Koizumi is never confused — she wants to be with Otani and Otani wants to be with her. There just happens to be another boy who wishes this weren’t the case, and that she’d date him instead.) But they endure these things well, and again, it only made me appreciate the relationship more.

“I guess I’m just no good without you.”

As a ship, I have to say I feel ridiculous for saying (before) that I didn’t see them as a romantic couple. Even if that changed a quarter through the entire series. Like all of their friends tell them when they first start hanging out with each other, they have a compatibility that is rare. They love the same music, they’re always up for trying new things, they have similar opinions on things. But they also argue, and they also challenge each other, and they also support each other. It’s not just the fact that they match each other well. They really care about each other (even, as you can see through most of the series, when they weren’t so close.) They have fun together. They make each other happy. By the end of the anime, Koizumi/Otani ended up being one of my favorite anime ships ever. (So much that I’m now reading the manga. Because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the two of them just yet.)

Characters: In my First Impressions review, I mentioned that I liked Koizumi Risa for the most part, and that I wasn’t really done forming an opinion on Otani Atsushi (but I knew for sure I wasn’t in love with him, as I am with so many other anime characters). After watching the entire series, I have to take back both of these statements. I now think Koizumi is freaking awesome (minus in one arc, in which I wanted to both slap sense into her and huggle her forever), and Otani is the cutest.

Koizumi Risa is one of the most realistic (It seems strange that I keep throwing this word around, but seriously, even with the comedy antics, I mean it!) anime protagonists I have ever seen. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve related to an anime character so much since the senshi in Sailor Moon. She loves indie music no one else (but Otani) knows about. She geeks out over video-games, to the extent of falling in love with one of the fictional characters, and then fangirls over it so much that her parents and brother worry about her sanity. She loves karaoke-ing with her friends, and she’d rather do the things she loves to do than attempt to change herself to be more “demure” and “cute” and “girly” to please other people or fit in with social norms. (Even though sometimes she tries to fit in better, before giving up and realizing she’d be happier being just the way she is.) I also love how she’s strong-willed. She’s not afraid to say the things she needs to say, even if it’s to tell a boy who has already rejected her that she won’t give up hope. Or to tell him that she’s sick of being hurt and is done waiting around for him to love her. She’s mostly been very up front and honest with Otani, and as I said in my last review, that kind of thing takes courage. And when she is in a relationship, she doesn’t lose herself. She’s still the same girl who loves nerdy things and isn’t afraid to call her boyfriend out for being an idiot or to knock sense into him when he’s making horrible choices, and I love that about her.

risa koizumi koizumi risa

The arc that would have bothered me, under other circumstances, is the “Maity” arc. When Koizumi realized Otani still didn’t feel the same way and that some of the things he did or said in relation to that was finally beginning to hurt her feelings, I felt my heart breaking along with hers. Unrequited love with a best friend is hard. She doesn’t want to hold it against him — it isn’t his fault, as she’s said before, that he doesn’t feel the same way — so she decides the two of them need space. She wants to force herself to get over him. I love that, in the Maity arc, when she’s spending all of her time actually fangirling this pretty boy teacher and acting robotically to get her mind off of him, it’s still obvious that she cares about Otani. She can’t just turn off her feelings. So it bothered me to see her this way, like this fangirl machine, but I understood what she was doing (trying to block out the pain) and I really felt for her.

atsushi otani otani atsushi

Otani Atsushi is the character I didn’t expect to love as much as I ended up loving. He was always kind of adorable and he did sweet things, but I didn’t really fall for him until he fell for Koizumi. Maybe it’s because Lovely Complex is more focused on his thoughts and feelings during this second half, but I suddenly started really seeing what it was about him that made Koizumi love him so much. And then I loved him as well. Aside from all of the things I’ve already said about the way he is with Koizumi, I really love how awkward and dedicated and cute he is. He doesn’t know how to express his feelings, and he gets embarrassed by public displays of affection, but he still wants her to know that he cares about her. Even when he knows that she knows. I also think it’s amusing and adorable that he tries to give off this “cool boy” persona, as if to make up for his lack of height with his coolness, until his real personality (he’s silly, hilarious, enthusiastic, and totally adorkable) shines through. Otani is oblivious when it comes to people having crushes on him (it amuses me how he just never seems to know) because he doesn’t realize that people really admire him (for his kindness, for his basketball prowess, for his determination). And even though he’s awful with dealing with emotions (which is why it takes him forever to realize he’s in love with Koizumi), sometimes he says the goofiest, most adorable things that just steal your heart. I don’t know it happened, but Otani Atsushi is now definitely one of my favorite anime characters.

Viewing the series as a whole, I have to say that I really love Nobu-chan as a secondary character. She was the character I said earlier that was actually around for most of the first twelve episodes, in comparison to characters like Nakao, Chiharu, Suzuki, Haruka, and Seiko. Which is still true. But I really love the way she’s there for both Koizumi and Otani throughout the series. Nobu-chan’s the one who first told Koizumi, before she had even realized it herself, that she liked Otani as more than a friend. She was there to cheer her on when she attempted to deal with her feelings and then tell him. She was there for Koizumi when Otani rejected her (twice); she was there for her whenever Otani said something that (even though it wasn’t his intention) hurt her. I loved the way she tried to get Otani to deal with his feelings as well, especially when he was jealous, and then later, when he wanted to break up with her. She’s always there to talk sense into both of them, and I really appreciate what a great friend she is.

nobu-chan nobu-chan 1

There was only one episode focused on Nobu-chan and Nakao-kun. It was cute, I suppose, but it felt weird to have the focus of the show shift for an episode. I did like that the new focus enabled Koizumi and Otani to finally deal with their own upcoming future and possible divergence of paths. But seeing two characters, whom we haven’t seen as characters themselves (they’ve mostly just served Koizumi and Otani’s story-line, so seeing them have a side story of their own felt weird in an anime of little side stories) seemed random. I can’t hate Love Com for this, however, because I liked the insight into Nobu and Nakao’s relationship. They’ve been the one stable couple in this entire show. Having an episode focused on them and their current hardships made me appreciate them more as a couple (when before, I took them for granted, since they were always present, always together in the background), and it made them seem more real to me as characters in a relationship.

There was also one random episode focused on Chiharu and Suzuki’s own trials for the future. Because they’ve been absent in the entire series, unlike Nakao and Nobu, I didn’t think this one episode did much for them as characters or as a ship. They had cute moments in it, for sure, and I started to like Suzuki more when he kept trying to get Chiharu to attend the school/literature program of her dreams. But, unfortunately, I still feel little for them as people. I wish the anime had allowed us to get to know them better.

Haruka and Seiko are still mostly in the background, but I feel like they steal the scene whenever they are present (and it’s not like they’re in the same class as Otani and Koizumi anyway), so I felt that their absence was excusable.

Theme Song: The theme songs for both the opening and ending change in episode 13. The new themes are both by Hey! Say! 7, and truthfully, the first time I heard both of them, I mourned the loss of the previous themes. The opening, Hey! Say! made me jump when I first heard it because it’s so much more fast-paced, kind of rap-ish in the beginning, and just altogether louder than Tegomass’ opening theme (I wasn’t expecting it at all!). Once the rap-like introduction ended, however, and the song slowed down (a little bit), about 24 seconds in, I started to really enjoy it. (The song now gets stuck in my head all the time because it’s actually quite catchy.) The new ending theme Bon Bon I originally hated on principle because Kiss ~ Kaerimichi no Love Song was my favorite. (Before I finally got a hold of the entire song, I would spend the end of each episode replaying that ending theme because I liked it that much.) Two episodes after listening to Bon Bon, however, I really started to appreciate how beautiful the song is, and how fitting the lyrics are for Koizumi and Otani and the actual anime as a whole. It’s also a lot more upbeat-sounding than Kiss ~ Kaerimichi no Love Song, which works well as the final ending theme for this anime because once it was over and a montage of all the awesome, hilarious, adorable moments replayed, this was the song playing in the background and setting the happy/teary/why are they so freaking adorable? mood for the end.

Ending: I haven’t watched an anime that is the adaptation of an already-completed manga in a long time (the last one I saw was Itazura na Kiss), so this was an amazing experience for me. There were no loose ends, no forever unresolved ships, no necessary second season… (even though I wouldn’t object to more Lovely Complex). Needless to say, I absolutely adored it.

I like that Lovely Complex takes place in all of their years spent in high school. I like the way it ends with their graduation, that before they reach their commencement ceremony, they have exams and upcoming future careers and paths and jobs to deal with. In the entire anime, we basically watch Koizumi and Otani grow — as students and young adults and people. It’s a good ending, and a cute one. And when the final song (the current ending theme) started playing in the background and the characters stood in front of the screen and waved goodbye (probably to their school, since it was their graduation, but I like to think they were saying goodbye to me for staying with them on this journey through high school and adolescence and love), I felt teary, like I was actually about to say farewell to a group of lovely friends.

Random Notes

Koizumi’s friends teasing her about the amusing picture it would make if she and Otani were to kiss made me laugh. “We don’t have to kiss! Who says I even want to kiss him?!” “But you want to date him?” “So?” “So you don’t want to kiss him?” “No. “Your level of love is worse than a little elementary school kid’s!” “So? I’m still little!” This entire exchange was hilarious. Actually, most of Nobu-chan’s talks with Koizumi are hilarious. (I’m never going to forget, “Psychologically show him your breasts!” in reference to baring what’s inside her heart for Otani, so he understands the actual way she feels about him beyond the fact that she “likes” him.)

Honestly, if a person, under some sort of delirium and while incredibly sick, stole my first kiss and then was unaware that he even kissed me, I’d be really angry too. I understand why Koizumi snapped the way she did. Though I cracked up so much when she tried telling Otani that he did this to her and he thought she was hallucinating. “Next, you’ll imagine we have a marriage license and show up with a fake certificate!” Funny, but… Otani, you jerk!

I’m not going to explain it, but the “RICE… RICE… RICE… RICE… RICE… RICE… RICE…” scene was both funny and sad. Poor Koizumi!

I really love “At-chan’s” family. They’re just so adorable when Koizumi goes to visit, and the scene when they woke up an ill Otani just to make him have cake with the girl they believed to be his girlfriend was cute. Haha, I think I want to call him “At-chan” from now on.

Koizumi’s fangirling over perfectly charming fictional characters in her video-games made my life. I love that she doesn’t even care that her family is like, “Who is this person and how are we related to her?” She just loves her game, she loves her Cain-sama, and she needs something to retreat to because her actual “love-life” is kind of a mess.

And I would also freak out if I ever met a person who looked and sounded and said things like the fictional video-game character I had a crush on. (Riku from Kingdom Hearts, do you actually exist?) I’d probably also call that real person by the fictional character’s name and hear lots of “Calm down, that person doesn’t actually exist!” reminders like Koizumi does.

“LA LA MAITY SAMA. THAT WONDERFUL SMILE OF YOURS. MAITY MAITY LALALALALALALALALALA.” This cheer is the strangest, creepiest, most amusing thing I have ever heard. I understand why it exists (she’s obviously trying to forget all the hurt she’s been through recently with unrequited love), but it’s still so… strange that I hope in later years, her friends and especially Otani bring it up just to tease her about it mercilessly.

Nobu-chan about Otani: “Waiting for that guy to take the initiative is like going fishing in a swimming pool.” Such a perfect analogy, haha.

Otani’s confession is the cutest thing in the world. I almost wanted someone to smack Koizumi until she woke up because she needed to hear the things he was saying to her, now that he understood his feelings. (But I laughed when I realized she heard him, but only thought Otani — dressed as a prince on top of a white horse — said those things to her in her dream.)

Can we talk about how Koizumi’s birthday that year really was the BEST BIRTHDAY IN HISTORY (as the episode is titled)?

I cracked up when Nobu-chan asked Koizumi about her necklace, which Otani gave her, and he didn’t want Koizumi to tell them (because they wouldn’t leave them alone if she did), so the first thing she could think to say to, “Where did you get that from?” is, “OH! This was a gift… from GOD.”

Otani’s shyness is too freaking adorable. I love when they’re on their first date, and she says, “I love you” to him and he doesn’t know what to say to that because things like that in public freak him out. So they end up going, “I like you.” “Okay.” “I love you.” “I know.” “Do you love me too?” “Yes.” for a while. And then they find out that the entire stadium just witnessed their awkward adorableness on the big screen, and Otani gets embarrassed. So cute!

“I can’t help it. You’ve stolen my heart.” “Oh dear. I’ve stolen it, have I?” “Yeah, it’s not fair.” And then later: “Why are you crying?” “My heart’s been stolen again!” “Just how many hearts do you have?” Why are these two adorable dorks so adorkable?

Haruka’s response to Koizumi and Otani dating is the best thing I’ve ever heard and read in subtitles: “AHDSAKAFAJDAGS.” How do you even say that?

I wasn’t a fan of the Kohori arc when it was happening, even though he was a nice boy and clearly didn’t realize the mess he was making of things… But I’ll admit that I’m glad it exists because it serves to solidify Koizumi and Otani’s relationship, especially now when they’ll be facing other things apart (he’ll be going to university, and she’ll be learning how to become a stylist).

“You’re really going to break up? For how long?” “For good. FOLEVER.” “Wrong. You mean, ‘forever’.” I died. Poor Otani can’t even angst in peace without mucking up his English and being called out on it.

It seemed a little fast the way Koizumi thought of a career path, but because it’s something I can legitimately see her doing, especially knowing the way she is in the manga, and she actually did consider all of her options for a long time until she saw a stylist in action and realized that was the kind of thing that would make her happy and that she’d be good at, I guess I can give Love Com the benefit of the doubt. I did really like how it pointed out that university isn’t for everyone, and how difficult it is to choose a career (whether you’re headed to university, where hopefully you can figure it out, or not).

Otani meeting her family for the first time made me laugh. Mostly because Koizumi’s brother’s reaction was kind of hilarious. And then when her parents were like, “Umm, are you okay with this giant for a girlfriend?” I really couldn’t stop laughing.

“Your parents are taller than me.” “I think all the people in the world are taller than you!”

I never expected Chiharu to lift up a desk (and threaten to throw it) when Suzuki was being an idiot. She always seemed like such a nice, quiet girl! (I really don’t think I could have made the same decision she did, in regards to her future. If it was between the guy I loved and the academic program in the university of my dreams, I’d go with the latter, and I would appreciate the fact that the guy I loved wanted me to follow my dreams. But the way she described it to him made me want to support them, so okay, I wish them happiness, I guess.)

I love how, even when they’re in a relationship, Koizumi can always — literally — knock sense into Otani when he’s given up too soon.

For a short boy and a tall girl, Koizumi and Otani really do have the most adorable kisses. I actually have a fondness for all of them, but my favorite will always be the one where he kissed her on the stairs, just a few steps above the step she was standing upon. I thought it was cute that even though he’s accepted that he’s the shorter one in the relationship and is now comfortable kissing her, he still wanted to be able to give her a proper kiss that would require him to bend down. Otani Atsushi, you are an adorable human being (even if you’d rather be called ‘cool’ and ‘handsome’.)

Most television shows with high school graduations always make it so that a person in the main cast, whether it makes sense or not, ends up being valedictorian and delivering the commencement speech. Though Koizumi and Otani did the speech for their own graduation, I love that it wasn’t because they, or anyone they knew, was valedictorian (the valedictorian was a completely different person we had never met before), but because they were late and the valedictorian was sick and someone had to say the speech the valedictorian had already written, so it was a punishment of sorts for being late. And it was great to see All Hanshin-Kyoujin being hilarious again for everyone else’s entertainment, even if that’s just the way those two are.

Like Otani Atsushi and Koizumi Risa’s relationship, you won’t know how to feel about Lovely Complex when you first start watching it. It may startle you; it may annoy you; it may amuse you. Little by little, you’ll realize you’re having fun, and then you’ll find yourself enjoying it. Until finally, when you least expect it, it’ll steal your heart, and you’ll end up wanting to watch it again. And again. And again.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 19:48:47

    I’m curious what your thoughts on the manga are going to be! I personally prefer the anime — the second half (after Koizumi and Otani start dating) is full of weird stories that are unnecessarily dramatic and… weird. They were cut out of the anime, so the pacing and flow was a lot smoother I thought.


    • aimee
      Jan 18, 2013 @ 20:23:58

      I wrote this before I had read the manga, but I’ve actually now finished reading it all. For me, it’s a toss-up. The manga goes on longer, and there’s Lovely Complex Plus with the a prequel snippet and a sequel snippet, so I thought the relationship had more room to develop (since it wasn’t stripped down to fit into twenty-four episodes). (Actually, one thing I really hated about the manga was that they had ALL of that room and I still never felt like Suzuki and Chiharu and sometimes Nakao were real characters. So much wasted potential!) But I also thought the anime did an amazing job adapting it, and some of the story-lines they cut (Koizumi’s grandfather manipulating their relationship and almost putting her in danger, that trip where they freak out over being in the same bed/Maitake’s wedding, that girl who was in love with Kohori but tried to break Otani and Koizumi up so that he could pursue Koizumi and be happy, etc.) weren’t necessary to the plot or the character development, and probably would have felt a little out of place or filler (just because they wouldn’t be directly leading anywhere). (So yeah, weird and unnecessary basically covers it. I didn’t mind seeing more of the characters, and I like the way some of the scenes that did make it to the anime were more expanded (like that kiss on the staircase, which happened in the middle of the school festival in the manga), but yeah, those other storylines would have ruined the flow and the pacing (as they did in the manga). What I do love about the manga is the art. It seems a little more basic in the anime, and things like the evolution of Otani’s hair (it’s more mussed, if that makes any sense), more of Koizumi’s cute hairstyles (they do this well in the anime though), and all of their awesome fashion are part of what makes the manga series special to me. Both anime and manga have their ups and downs. I am amazed, however, how well the anime managed to capture the manga. It’s one of the most perfect and complete anime adaptations I’ve ever seen, in that it managed to capture the characters and the main story without ever rushing things or cutting out essential things. I don’t think any fan of the manga is upset with the anime (and like we’ve already said, everything cut wasn’t important).


  2. jabaggiero
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 12:28:32

    Love this… I totally didn’t expect to fall so hard for this anime, but it was ADORABLE and gave me an abundance of feels…


    • aimee
      Jan 23, 2013 @ 17:59:21

      YES! I actually didn’t think I’d love it so much, and then by episode 3 or 4, I was hooked. I love how the characters are just so real. Koizumi could be anyone I know in real life, and she and Otani and such dorks, it’s adorable. I actually have NO IDEA which anime to watch next because I’m still not over the cuteness of this one. (THANK YOU FOR NOT LETTING ME QUIT ON IT AFTER EPISODE ONE! ❤ )


  3. TDC
    Sep 29, 2013 @ 18:20:21

    Reading this review was almost as enjoyable as watching the anime itself.


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