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Dated 21 October 2007: Lovely Complex

Otani and Koizumi
Otani and Koizumi.

I've missed the past few anime seasons because I've been in hard core re-watchering mode for months, but I've started catching up on a few recent shows. For example, I'm watching Lovely Complex now, although I'm months behind everyone else. The gimmick in Lovely Complex is that the girl, Koizumi, is super tall—okay, she's 5' 7", but that's freakishly tall for an anime gal—and the guy, Otani, is really short. (He's 5' 1".) Koizumi and Otani are fast friends, although they bicker a lot. Nevertheless, it's obvious to everyone that Koizumi and Otani are perfect for each other.

Koizumi
Went about the same during rehearsal.

Lovely Complex, at least for its first 11 episodes, is mostly from Koizumi's point of view as she comes to realize that she's attracted to Otani. We also discover that Otani is very popular with girls, despite being short. I don't know if this would be a normal occurence in Japan, or if it's something the viewer is supposed to just accept because it's anime. I'm guessing the latter, since Otani definitely has a complex about his height (albeit not nearly to the same degree as Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist).

Koizumi and Otani
Koizumi and Otani as friends.

Lovely Complex is astoundingly good, and teeming with romance. Long-time readers will remember my laments about the dearth of any actual development in the relationships alleged in anime romantic comedies. In anime, dumb-ass couples almost always fail to realize until the series finale that they both like each other. Or they figure out they like each other and then high-test-genki cockblockers freeze the would-be couple in carbonite for the duration of the show. (See, for example, the contrived stagnation in the Ai Yori Aoshi anime.) On the rare occasion that anime couples profess their mutual attraction to each other relatively early, they turn out to be unlikeable deviants (e.g., Koi Kaze), or the show itself is a train wreck for an unrelated reason. (See Gift ~eternal rainbow~.) Pretty much never is an anime series just about a nice, non-shit-heel couple that spends the show enjoying each other's company and dealing with the normal problems that come with being in love. Kare Kano is a rare example—part of what makes it so good.

Koizumi and Otani
Koizumi and Otani...more than friends?

Reportedly, there is a first-episode love confession in the new Da Capo, but I've already suffered through more than 50 episodes of Da Capo. You can't expect me to commit to another 13.

Dated 26 October 2007: Lovely Complex and THE UNREQUITED LOVE

Koizumi
Koizumi.

I was wrong about Lovely Complex in that Koizumi and Otani do not, in fact, get together early and often. I had high hopes after an early resolution to the "friends that could be more than friends" question. Instead, the show is about unrequited love, which is fine with me since the matter is addressed with the same honest despair depicted in Honey and Clover.

Koizumi and Otani
PUSH HIM DOWN!

I'm confident that our odd couple will get together by the end of the show, but Lovely Complex manages to make me fear that things might not work out for the two of them after all. Honey and Clover creates a similar sense of foreboding with Yamada's pathos, but the tone of Honey and Clover makes fears that Yamada is throwing her life away quite reasonable. Partly for that reason, Honey and Clover is a better show than Lovely Complex, but the latter catches me at a time when its underlying romantic optimism is more appealing, so I'm still enjoying Lovely Complex a great deal.

Dated 29 October 2007: Lovely Complex and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

Mimi
Mimi.

Hey, look. It's the Girl Next Door. Oh, shit. She's fucking crazy.

AWESOME.

Dated 4 November 2007: Lovely Complex and the OVER TOO SOON

Otani
Otani may be short as Hell, but he makes
up for it with deplorable fashion sense.

Now that I've finished Lovely Complex, I'd like to add a couple of notes. First, I was a little surprised that the entire show is told from Koizumi's point of view. Pretty much up until just past the halfway point, I was expecting it to switch to Otani's point of view for at least a little bit. I should have caught on quicker considering that Lovely Complex is shoujo.

Koizumi
Koizumi Risa.

Second, as further testament to just how good Lovely Complex is, both Koizumi and Otani are fairly flawed individuals. They make stupid, adolescent mistakes, and press their luck pretty often. And even though I don't especially like either Koizumi or Otani, I still want things to work out for them.

Nobu and Koizumi
Otani's obtuseness confounds Nobu and Risa.

Most anime romantic comedies aren't good enough to maintain viewer interest without making at least one the leads (typically the female), as endearing as possible. I suppose it's intended to trigger some manner of vicarious interest in the outcome or whatnot. However, Lovely Complex has me cheering for Koizumi even though I've no interest in her (or Otani, for that matter) myself.

Koizumi
Koizumi gets a surprise.

As a matter of fact, as far as the characters go, Koizumi's preternaturally insightful friend Nobuko is probably my favorite. Her relationship advice is always so spot-on, it's uncanny. Likewise, her dedication to ensuring that Koizumi and Otani DON'T FUCK THINGS UP makes her role in their relationship invaluable. Nobu is a testament to the influence a mutual friend can have in preventing a couple from SCREWING THINGS UP ROYAL.

Seiko
You gotta watch out for Seiko.

I'm inclined the dislike Seiko on principle, and also because of an unearthly annoying voice, but I am amused by the character's intense, over-the-top vapidness, and under-explored camaraderie with Haruka.

Koizumi and Otani
Koizumi and Otani. Uh, spoilers, I guess.

I'm sad to see the show end, because it is one of the few series out there with a perfect streak of No Bad Episodes. I'll probably end up buying the manga, since I hear there's additional material that didn't make it into the anime. It's going to be a long wait with only two English volumes in print so far, though. As it is, I'll probably end up sating my relationship-anime jonesing by re-watching Honey and Clover or Banner of the Stars. Neither of them are nearly shoujo enough to replace Lovely Complex, but I'll take what I can get.

Dated 8 November 2007: Using Banner of the Stars to alleviate Lovely Complex withdrawal

Diaho, Lafiel, and Jinto
Lafiel and Jinto spend some time with Diaho.

Take a Lovely Complex-inspired desire to watch more relationship anime, coincide that with the GREAT RE-WATCHING PROJECT, add a soft spot for space opera, top it off with the AYAKO DOCTRINE, and you'll find me enjoying my Banner of the Stars II DVDs again.

Lafiel
Lafiel.

The best part of the Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars series is the relationship between Jinto and Lafiel. It's one of the rare occasions where I don't object to a couple's apparent lack of progress. While there is no reason to think that Jinto and Lafiel are tearing each others clothes off in-between scenes, the lack of eros doesn't compare with Keiichi's and Belldandy's infuriating self-imposed celibacy, mainly because Jinto's and Lafiel's relationship actually progresses over the course of the series. Also because they don't act like idiots. There is that.

Dated 11 November 2007: Re-watching Honey and Clover because Lovely Complex ended too soon

Takemoto
Takemoto contemplates his fate.

I'm re-watching Honey and Clover, and it's all Lovely Complex's fault. At least this does give me the chance the write about characters I mostly ignored the last time I wrote about Honey and Clover. First up: Hanamoto Hagumi. She's the tiny, kinda troll-like girl who is supposed to exceedingly cute. The first time I watched Honey and Clover, I didn't like Hagu until almost the end of the second season. Since I did end up eventually liking her, I do appreciate her character more during my second look at these early episodes.

Hagu
A typical Hagu moment.

For one thing, I notice that she's the one who introduces the viewer to Yamada (my favorite character). We see Yamada in the background, but the early episodes are about Hagu, and Yamada does not interact with the rest of the cast until she meets Hagu. Yamada does already know the other characters, but it isn't until Hagu encounters her that the viewer formally meets Yamada.

Yamada and Morita
And then Yamada asserts herself right quick.

But Hagu. She's the focus of one theme that I suspect is not treated seriously most of the time: Love at first sight. Takemoto falls in love with Hagu literally at first sight. Honey and Clover is as much about his love for her as it is about Yamada's unrequited love for Mayama. That Takemoto falls in love at first sight is particularly significant because the Honey and Clover characters, all artists, frequently wonder what it's like to see the world through Hagu's eyes.

Hagu
Takemoto sees Hagu for the first time.

I'm not sure if I should categorize Hagu as a prodigy or an idiot savant. (She is a very strange girl, and at 18 too old to still be considered a prodigy.) The other characters recognize that her talent exceeds their own to such a degree that she is fundamentally different on some level that they can't comprehend. But we don't get to see the series through Hagu's eyes; we see it though Takemoto's. From his vantage point, Honey and Clover invites the viewer to see what the world is like through the eyes of one who can—and does—fall in love at first sight. To that end, Honey and Clover does not merely entertain. It instructs and edifies.

Dated 30 June 2008: Lovely Complex makes me want to throw money at it

Nobuko and Koizumi
Nobu and Koizumi.

I wasn't kidding when I said Lovely Complex has no bad episodes. The significance is one can pick any episode at random and be assured a pleasant viewing experience. This is a lot rarer than you'd think. How often have you queued up an episode of something to watch on a whim only to decide a few minutes into it, "Nah, not this one"?

Sakaki
Sakaki.

Trust me, it's pretty rare. There aren't a lot of no-bad-episodes shows out there. Azumanga Daioh is one notable example—and perhaps a good indication as to how good a show Lovely Complex really is. Even the Seiko episodes are good; and I ususally hate...those kinds of characters. But Seiko is even too vapid to annoy.