I managed to watch this week’s anime in super quick time. As such, I am posting this review a day earlier and will be posting a bonus manga review for the first ten chapters of the super cute series Love So Life tomorrow. I hope that folks don’t mind me deviating slightly from my intended schedule, but I really want to get this review out there instead of leaving it. Please note ahead of time that I have not read the manga for which this series is adapted.
Yes, there will be spoilers in this review.
When the confession letter of Kotoko Aihara is not even accepted by school idol and genius Naoki Irie, the reject from Class F is put into a tailspin. When the recently built family home where she lives with her chef father Shigeo Aihara falls down during an earthquake due to shoddy craftsmanship, the two are left homeless. Over the following days, Shigeo is contacted by an old friend from high school offering to put the two up until they find their feet. Kotoko and her father are relieved until Kotoko realises that she will be staying under that same roof of Naoki. So begins a lengthy tale of love, marriage, friendship and family that spans nearly a decade.
This series is a really odd one in that it doesn’t just focus on the courtship aspect of a relationship, but what can happen after marriage. We see the ups and downs, the insecurities and the joys, leading up to the pair having their baby daughter. The drama also shows how friendships change over time as well. Friends develop their own relationships and sometimes friends lose contact altogether. And this is all tied together with humour.
I found the characterisation in this series to be odd. Whilst we see some of the usual archetypes, these are changed slightly. I also found it difficult to dislike any particular character, because it always felt like there was some reason behind it. A good example of this are the two characters that get the most airtime, Kotoko and Naoki. Kotoko is not the sharpest stick, but she is loyal, hard-working, kind and more than willing to defend herself when somebody says or does something mean to her. Naoki is a good example of a Mary Sue character with a crappy personality stemming from a lack of purpose and he doesn’t understand emotions that some of the people around him have to deal with. The cast grows over time as well, yet the storyteller manages to bring them together in a meaningful way.
The family of each of the two main characters play just as significant a role in their lives as their friends do. Whilst Naoki’s mother is one of Kotoko’s main supporters, we also see many of her plans moving the story forward in humorous ways. The friendship between their two fathers also made their relationship possible. As for Naoki’s younger brother Yuuki, we see the boy also being the first to point out (not because of some delusion either) that Naoki actually cared for Kotoko.
The bulk of the “friends” that we come into contact with are there because of Kotoko. The members of Class F and those in the nursing class later, are an odd bunch, but they each offer unique insight into the pair. We also see how Kotoko’s relationship with Yuuko Matsumoto changes from previous rivals for Naoki to good friends. Over time, these friends and former rivals often manage to find their own love and start families of their own, further cementing the idea that the world doesn’t complete like Naoki and Kotoko… unlike a pesky twit named Haruhi Suzumiya. (anime fans will know who I am talking about when I mention that name. For those that don’t, I recommend doing a google search and watching the associated anime.)
Some of the people that have seen the series will likely point out the sometimes screwed up relationship of Naoki and Kotoko. I would agree up to a point… to an extent. Whilst Naoki is certainly a bastard, to begin with, I could understand a bit of the psychology. I considered how many girls had a thing for him and also likely confessed. One might get tired of it after a while. However, there were also times when he was a jerk for no legitimate reason, which will likely make him a difficult character for viewers to like earlier in the series. However, this gives him room to develop as a human being, to acknowledge emotions such as jealousy and fear. As rough as Naoki and Kotoko’s relationship is, it is nowhere near the levels of rubbish that Sakura in Naruto has to deal with in her relationship with Sasuke.
To the pacing, I found that the series did a great job of allowing a relationship to grow, in lieu of life changes such as high school, college, marriage, work and starting a family. This is something pointed out by several people that reviewed this series on MAL as well. Relationships don’t magically happen, and just because a couple gets marriage, it doesn’t mean that they will automatically have it together. Relationships often take work as well because we are constantly dealing with obligations and other unforeseen stuff. Solving this takes time, but sometimes we need to learn the develop the right tools in order to deal with a problem. We see this a lot with both of our main characters as they negotiate married life.
Back to the drama, some of the heavier themes seemed to have been offset by the humour. The series also made used of the dramatic “soap opera” slap with dramatic background music as the classic “slap some sense into a character” method of negotiation. This tended to make me giggle more than feel any level of tension. Perhaps that is what the producers and the author were going for, but I do not know for sure. In any case, it reminded me of the several scenes of a hysterical woman on a plane being slapped by a line of people in the Flying High franchise, otherwise known as “Airplane”.
As for the art, it is an older style, hailing back to when the manga came out during the early 90’s. At times, it also reminds me of the Shonen Ai series Antique Bakery. It also uses the Antique Bakery and Kamigami no Asobi style of no giving irrelevant characters facial features, telling the viewers which characters are relevant to the story even when they characters don’t get lines. Although some might consider this “lazy” or “cheap”, I thought that it worked well for the story itself.
To the sound, there were some curiosities with this series. In the brief moments that some of the characters speak English, it is hilariously bad because of how laboured it sounds. However, we can still clearly understand what the characters are saying. Language barriers also play a part in some of the scenes as well, oddly enough. The two songs that were used for the intro and outro music for the entirety of the series fitted perfectly.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this series. It was compelling and addictive because of the focus on developing characters and relationships over a longer period of time than a lot of series do. However, some folks might get annoyed at some of the characters because the series does tend to make use of certain archetypes. That being said, if you like slice of life romantic comedy, then I recommend that you watch at least a five episodes.
Due to a last minute change, I will likely be moving onto the series Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun next. This means that you will have to wait for a review of the series of Working!! as I had previously intended Sorry about that.