Sunday, June 28, 2009

General Overview: Love Com

This review will just skim the manga as a whole, and the next review will cover the first four volumes of the manga. This seems convenient since one review for the entire series will not do it justice and a review per volume will take too long, and since this manga has 16 volumes it’s only sensible to do them in multiples of 2 :D Don’t kill me for nerding out at least a LITTLE on that. As with every other review I will do in the future, I will try to write with a minimum amount of spoilers. I’ll do a general review firsthand then go off in a tangent about the details. If any, there will be warnings of spoilers, so for those of you who haven’t read the volumes I’m referring to, you can do the visual equivalent of covering up your ears and going LALALALA really loud. If you’re not interested in the finer details and just want to get an idea of whether or not this manga is for you, this is the review to read. See? It says “General Overview” in the title. Mkay? Let’s begin! :D

Okay, straight off the bat, this'd have to be one of my favourite mangas EVER. When I started reading manga, and shoujo manga especially, it ever so slightly bothered me that the heroine was always this teeny-tiny thing while the hero was always taller and larger than any respectable guy would ever care to be. Why are they all ridiculously tall while the girls are like little chiclets? Because of the typical shoujo cliché - the vulnerability. Mangaka have a lovely habit of pinning down the fragile-girl image and playing up the men’s… manliness. Then THIS manga comes and smacks you in the face. In a good way! Now, not only is it unconventional and quite refreshing that the girl is taller than the guy, but it’s also one of the best complexes I’ve seen with couples in mangas. It’s not the whole “Does he like me? Am I pretty/daring/worthy/confident/good enough for him?” cycle that most manga heroines seem to go through – but it’s a bit more realistic, and also provides for some pretty good comedy. Therefore, NAKAHARA Aya is a genius, and Love Com is one of the most popular shoujo manga you can find.

So meet Koizumi Risa. 170cm, taller than she needs to be and not particularly thrilled about it, especially with a name that means “Little Spring” (Koizumi) as opposed to “Big Spring” (Oizumi). Then you have Otani Atsushi, 156cm and just the opposite of Risa – but he’s not happy either, with a name, ironically, meaning “Big Valley” (Otani) as opposed to “Little Valley” (Kotani) – name blunders to which references are made in the manga. Together, they’re known at school as the All Hanshin-Kyojin comedy duo of their class, and their classmates find it entertaining to tease them about it. Now normally, they don’t get along, but when Risa develops a crush on a boy taller than her (wow, there is such thing? :O) and Otani decides Risa’s friend is quite yummy too, they figure they’ll join forces and help each other obtain the object of their desire! (Okay, Love Com’s not THAT kinda manga, I’m just dramatizing a little)

That’s how the relationship begins. Most of the comedy comes from their interaction, which is that they bicker bicker bicker like there’s no mañana – about their height of course. Although they (try to) help each other, one will always play on the other’s height as the source of their failure, and there are all these proclamations of “why would I ever go out with shrimp/giant (delete as necessary) like you?”

The funniest thing is that no matter how they deny it, try to encourage each other to go for someone else or have a major go at each other, everyone’s labelled them a couple. It’s nice to see them resist it, and I think it was a good thing that the development of their relationship didn’t come from other people’s opinions. The times I’ve seen mangas where the heroine will question herself and say “maybe they’re right!” are countless, so this was another fresh outlook that made this manga a little less typical and a bit more funny, too. Another part to add to that is that Otani is the THICKEST guy manga has ever produced. I loved and hated the mangaka for creating a personality like his – and the hate only came from the frustration of “When is he going to friggin GET IT through his thick skull?”

But I’d have to say, the wait was well worth it. The growth and changes of the interaction between Risa and Otani was well-timed, well-thought out, and not overdrawn. One thing is that although there was a lot of frustration with the couple’s timing of getting together, it wasn’t strung along for too long, or extended to the point that it got repetitive or boring. Much respect to the mangaka, again, for being able to pull off what most mangaka rush or try to milk for more than it’s worth. Something that’s never too good in a manga is when they make you WAIT, and you realize it wasn’t worth the wait – because it’s usually followed by stupidity, useless interaction and a story and relationship that goes absolute NOWHERE. THIS one, on the other hand… :D

So overall, I had no trouble with the story. Towards the last few volumes, however, I felt like the mangaka was trying to play up other characters now that Risa and Otani had settled a bit. It was a really good effort, considering she had a few tricks up her sleeve that were pretty admirable and she didn’t really lose touch of them. There was enough story to go around, which we all love, don’t we? :3

Now, I realize I’ve rambled way too much about the story, and I think maybe I should try focusing on other aspects of the manga.

The characters! I’ve explained the main characters, and I’m not the type to list out the characters, but the “supporting” roles are brilliant. Everyone had their own quirks and everyone did their bit just nicely. Like I mentioned before, it was nice that Nakahara took time to pay a bit of attention to other characters at times. It was cute, like doing a side-quest in FFX or something. You take a break and go do something else for a while, that’s maybe not AS important, but just as fun and exciting. <3

Just a short mention on the artwork – it’s great. I loved that it didn’t get lazy or rushed towards the ending (you know, like Bleach fillers or something where the characters start to look… Odd. And maybe a little deformed) It stayed faithful, it wasn’t too detailed but it was attractive, fun and I love those typical manga moments when characters freak out. Nakahara has a unique way of drawing out their expressions, and Risa’s faces when she tries to be “persuasive” or slightly evil or taunting are quite priceless, and the cute moments weren’t too flowery (you know that ‘roses in the background’ bullshit? What IS that?) and it wasn’t overdone. Overall I’d have to say I’m pleased with the simple yet striking art. The colour pages, by the way, are adorable and have a slight pop-art feel to them. Like candy! It’s quite lovely.

Okay, enough talk talk talk talk. I could ramble forever but two things would happen: 1. I’d end up going into detail and spewing spoilers, and 2. you’d get bored, providing you’re not already and you’ve read this far. To bring this endless rant to a close, I’d have to say this manga is well worth it. You can’t go wrong. It’s sweet, funny, real and one of the few authentically-themed manga out there. I hope you go for it! If you want reviews on the volumes, those will be coming soon! :D Till then, stay sharp!


(Images © NAKAHARA Aya. None of these images belong to me)