Finding love can be difficult any time in one’s life, especially during the difficult and confusing teenage years. Every anime season we get at least one teenage romance series, whose quality can vary wildly in comparison to each other. Most of these shows use some form of a gimmick to get people interested in the them. While gimmicks can be detrimental to the series if used incorrectly, they can also add a fun twist to a series. Lovely Complex may be gimmicky, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the show is bad. In fact, it is one of the better teenage romance comedies in anime today.
Risa Koizumi isn’t your average Japanese school girl, standing at a towering 172 cm (5’8). Similarly, Atsushi Otani isn’t your average Japanese school boy, as he stands at a miniscule 156 cm (5’1). Initially, they become friends of convenience, to help each other get into a relationship with one of the other’s friends. When their initial plans fall apart, they become closer, and Risa starts to realize that her feelings for Otani aren’t merely platonic.
Most romantic comedy titles usually fall back on tried and true tropes and clichés, such as popular guy/shy girl, or popular girl/unpopular guy. While tall girl and short dude is just as much of a gimmick, it is a nice change of pace from the norm. While Lovely Complex does fall back on several cliché scenarios, such as the beach episode or the summer festival, the series puts its own spin and humor on them. Risa and Atsushi have issues with their respective height complexes. The way the two deal with their insecurities helps them feel like real people instead of just characters on screen. Unfortunately, the plot does make a few missteps towards the end where some extra dramatic aspects are added. While these aspects occur in the original manga, they worked better in print. In the anime, these elements feel tacked on and could have been handled more appropriately.
The cast, both main and supporting, help breathe life into the show. Otani has many likeable traits that build him into a strong leading character. He has healthy dose of wit, knows what he wants in life and doesn’t give up when he runs into challenges. At the same time, he can be thick-headed and oblivious towards Risa’s budding romantic feelings. However, he eventually progresses past his initial obliviousness as he comes to realize his own romantic feelings for Risa. Risa is a strong female who doesn’t let the roadblocks on the path to love slow her down. She may get sad, and at times decide to jump ship from trying to get into a romantic relationship with Otani, but she just cannot give up what her heart tells is true. Risa and Otani play off the other naturally and, while they push each other’s buttons at times, it’s clear that they still care about each other. Unfortunately, the supporting cast, while a good foundation for the series and the main cast, are quite underused in the series, and simply are not as memorable as Risa and Otani.
Lovely Complex’s color scheme is mostly comprised bolder colors, though it doesn’t reach the color of overly ‘pretty’ shows like in Ouran High School Host Club. While the show was produced in 2007, it has a dated look and is not the sharpest animation in Toei’s library. The background art is passable, but the animation as a whole could be improved. On the positive side, there are some bright spots in the animation with the facial expressions of the cast, as they are some of the most memorable and funniest in anime to date.
The voice acting is solid, with a majority of the seiyuu being from the Osaka region. This greatly helps being that the show is based on Osaka, and the cast speak in the Kansai dialect. The voice acting also benefits from a script that is tightly written and funny, to boot. However, the same cannot be said of the show’s music. The first opening and closing are the best the series has to offer on this front. The second opening and ending are sadly nowhere near as enjoyable. The background music is piano-based and, while appropriate for the show, isn’t very remarkable or memorable.
There are a couple of areas about this release from Discotek that must be discussed. There is a lot of dot crawl through the all of the episodes in this set. While it is not enough to ruin the experience, it is very noticeable. The bigger of the two issues, though, is the subtitling. There some questionable translation choices used through the set, which uses terms like “sch-wiing”, “FTW”, and “heartgasm” during the episode. These two mistakes might not be deal breakers, but they are noticeable issues.
While Lovely Complex has a few shortcomings from its reliance on standard rom-com scenarios to a dated visual style, they are easily outweighed by the strengths that the series has to offer. While there are a plethora of rom-com anime out there, Lovely Complex stands above most of them with its well-written script and likeable cast. These strengths alone are worth the price of admission.