Lovely Complex 17

Aya Nakahara – Viz – 2010 – 17 volumes

Aw, crap.  I figured this would be the finale, but that happened last volume and this is a collection of three short stories.  In a way, I think I liked this better, though, since I can pretty well imagine how the end of this series went (school ended, Otani and Risa wound up where they needed to, everyone lived happily ever after).  The first two stories in the volume were about Otani in his first year of junior high and Risa in her last year of junior high and stories about them meeting their mutual friend Yoshii.  I liked the story of the two of them connecting to Yoshii despite his being difficult, connecting to him despite difficult friends, and making a connection through him that wasn’t realized fully until years later.  These two stories wound up being the sweetest pair in what I’ve read of this series.

The last story was a bit lost on me.  I’ve only read five of the seventeen volumes, and it was one of those final chapters that is like a huge side character reunion where you find out what everyone’s doing.  Except there were a lot of side characters, only three or four of whom I recognized, and it sounded like they were all talking over each other about things I knew nothing about.  That’s mostly my fault for not reading more of the series, though.  The more important point of the chapter was about how people could grow apart and change, finding new interests, and yet still connect if they made an effort.  There were only a handful of sad stories I’d run across in Lovely Complex, but they always ended so sweetly.  This one only had a moment of sadness, but I still think it made quite a point with it.

And that was ultimately what I loved most about the series.  It was a break from the usual back-and-forth high school drama, and it featured a steady couple that always managed to keep the mood silly and upbeat.  I loved it for being positive.  I’ll probably go back and start the series from the beginning sometime in the future, or at the very least pick up volume sixteen so I can read the conclusion.  I wound up liking this quite a bit, though it makes me want to go back and pick up a little High School Debut to see how it compares to this one now.  They’re similar upbeat series, but I liked High School Debut a bit better at first.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Lovely Complex 15

Aya Nakahara – Viz – 2009 – 17 volumes

This series is pretty cute, and I grow to like the characters more and more with every volume I read.  It’s not exactly breaking new ground (this volume covered the tropical graduation trip and the pre-graduation planning, complete with the expected complications for each), but it’s still a fun read for anyone who likes shoujo.

My favorite story in the volume was the first, shorter one, about a character named Seiko.  Now, Seiko fulfills the shoujo manga requirement of having a character who cross-dresses, except it’s not for the usual shoujo manga reasons.  Seiko is a transsexual that the story takes very seriously, in its way, and Seiko’s story here is about confessing to a boy she ran into on the train.  She gives up her female identity and begins unhappily trying to fit in as a boy when her voice gets deeper and she thinks she can’t convincingly be a girl anymore.  It’s a nice story, with Seiko completely rejecting her feminine side and Risa continuously trying to convince her otherwise, since Seiko is such a happy, upbeat person and is clearly unhappy as a boy.  Since Seiko isn’t even a regular character, and this is a romantic comedy, Seiko’s voice was only deeper because she had a cold, and she winds up with the boy she likes from the train.  Hmm.  I would read a series about Seiko in a second.

The “Graduation Trip” story takes place in Hawaii (I believe), and is less a graduation trip and more of Mighty and Julia’s wedding, though the wedding is secondary to the usual “Oh! Each couple has their own room and I don’t want to share a bed!”-type wacky hijinx.  Risa and Otani power through it, some issues with the wedding are worked out, everyone is okay in the end.  Whew.  It had me worried for a second.

Later, Risa and Otani are chosen for the graduation committee, but before they do anything, Otani has to help the second-years on the basketball team work through some self-esteem issues.

As mundane as most of the content in this volume was, it definitely helps that Risa and Otani are both likable characters, and everything is handled with a light and humorous touch.  I also like that there isn’t a lot that’s over-the-top or too comedic, and I also like the back-and-forth between Risa and Otani, though that seems to be less and less in each volume.

I’m curious to see how things wrap up, though with two volumes left and graduation looming inevitably on the horizon, I have a feeling the story probably just ends rather than having any big climax.  And that’s all right by me.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Lovely Complex 13

There’s a resolution to the story from last volume about Chiharu and Suzuki.  It was fairly entertaining, and involved Otani challenging the judo master trying to steal Chiharu to a match with the totally feeble Suzuki.  Suzuki doesn’t know judo, but you know, it’s the thought that counts.

That story is actually blown completely out of the water by the plot that starts later in the volume, when Risa’s grandfather comes into town.  Grandpa interrupts a nice visit Otani was having with Risa’s parents and outright rejects him as Risa’s beau based entirely on his size.  I really wish shoujo manga had more characters like him, because he is good-naturedly evil and really funny.  He’s actually quite serious about not letting Risa date Otani, but it’s hard not to laugh at him, because he’s also totally a dirty old man and only hates Otani because he’s short.  No other reason.  Risa, Otani, and Grandpa get into several hilarious fights.

The downside to this is that Grandpa then hires a hostess to seduce Otani.  One of the best things about Love Com is the solid relationship between Risa and Otani, so I sincerely hope that not a lot of drama comes of this.  On the other hand, I would love to see Risa’s Grandpa stick around and make a pest of himself a little longer, since he doesn’t really pose a serious deterrent for Otani or Risa by himself.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Lovely Complex 12

I like this series quite a bit, but I can’t help comparing it to High School Debut, another no-frills high school romance with a steady main couple.  High School Debut is the one I prefer between the two, only because that one has slightly less comedy to break up its serious moments.  Not that the comedy in this one is bad.  It’s actually kind of cute, but I think I just prefer slightly less comedic series.

This series covers pretty much all the bases when it comes to what I like in (non-dramatic) high school romance, though.  The main couple is in a healthy relationship, neither one of the main characters lacks intelligence and/or common sense for plot and/or joke purposes, and the humor is more gag-style humor rather than comedic over-reaction (though it sometimes does fall into that trap).

Otani’s exam results are posted in this volume, and most of the first half is Risa stressing out about what Otani will do if he fails to get into the school he wants.  There’s a big search mission on at one point when nobody can find Otani and they fear he’s run away in shame, et cetera.  You know how that goes.  Risa has a really weird dream about him becoming a kappa at the beginning of this section, and the kappa fear is sort of reiterated a lot throughout the rest of the volume.

The second half is about a character who didn’t pass the exams, and everyone tries to console this person while they sort of get down on themselves about their self-worth.  The person’s family piles on the shame, too, and there’s a bit of a cliffhanger when their significant other gets angry about… well, this person’s self-esteem issues, basically.

And at the beginning of the volume, Risa and Otani go out on a date and discuss a little bit about Risa’s future.  It’s all pretty straightforward stuff, and it’s nice to see both of them so positive about everything.  Usually these types of stories have a lot more doom and gloom in them.

I also just like the way Risa and Otani work together as a couple.  I know that the series has its start comparing the two as a comedy team, but they really do laugh and joke around well, and it’s really cute when one lets their feelings for the other slip through.

It seems like a really fun series, but again, I’ve only read two volumes of it.  I’m still not entirely convinced I should go back and start at the beginning, but I think I’ll probably stick with it to the end.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Lovely Complex 11

I had a serious moral dilemma on my hands for the title here, for whatever reason.  LoveCom, Love (star) Com, or Lovely Complex?  The latter seemed like the least confusing, even though that’s not really what it’s called.  I’ll just pretend.

I’d heard a lot of great things about this series, so I was pretty sure I was going to like it.  I was quite pleased with how easy it was to get into, too.  I mean, if you brush off the first ten volumes as “they’re best friends, she likes him, they try to hook up, it doesn’t work, they keep trying, then they hook up, break up, get back together” it’s actually no sweat to figure out the dynamics between all the characters.  It helps that this volume is mostly focused on Nobu, Risa’s best friend, and how she’s moving to Hokkaido with her grandma.  Apparently she and her boyfriend “Baby” are a star couple, so the volume mostly deals with how the two of them are taking it (while each is pretending to take it well) what Nobu means to Risa, how much Nobu wants to go, et cetera.

There’s also the matter of her boyfriend Atsushi’s entrance exams.  There’s some time spent on this at the end of the volume.  Seeing this series in action… I have to say, I didn’t pick it up initially because I wasn’t entirely convinced that the whole “tall girl short boy” dynamic that it was based on was going to work, but I can see how there might be a lot of novelty in that.  In this volume, Atsushi meets Risa’s family, who are all a lot taller than her, which is pretty cute.

I also liked the joking dynamic between Risa and Atsushi.  I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, then I remembered that they were supposed to be acting out comedy routines (or something) together, so when I looked at the bad jokes as just part of their personality and not some sort of manga-only activity, they made a lot more sense and I liked the characters a bit more because of it.

I’ll probably go back and read up on this series.  I can tell it’s quite good, and I’ll probably enjoy it immensely from the beginning.  It’s definitely towards the top of the heap as far as the shoujo series I’ve been sampling lately go, and I’m curious to see where else it will go from here.  Apparently it’s 17 volumes long, and this volume makes up entrance exams… I can’t imagine the second half of the school year will take up another six volumes.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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