Lovely Complex: Risa and Otani

Lovely Complex: Risa and Otani

“I don’t care if he’s small enough to fit inside my arms. I don’t care if he’s a lot shorter than I am. I love this guy. I really love this guy.” – Risa Koizumi, Love*Com volume three.

With such a large catalogue, it’s no surprise that there are many genres represented within the Shojo Beat imprint. From supernatural fantasy to melodrama that would rival any soap opera, the Shojo Beat manga line offers something for everyone. But at the heart of the Shojo Beat line is the romantic-comedy. Many of the most popular Shojo Beat manga are simply about high-school students falling in love, including Kimi ni Todoke and High School Debut. One of the best shojo romantic-comedies Viz has released to date is the 17 volume series Lovely Complex, also known as Love*Com Love*Com stands above most romantic-comedies because not only is it genuinely funny, but also because it features one of the most memorable couples in manga: Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Otani. The two are nicknamed the ‘All Hanshin-Kyojin,’ a famous comedic duo, by their classmates, because of the great difference in their heights and their bickering dynamic. At 5’7, Risa is the tallest girl in her class, while Otani is the shortest guy at 5’2. Although they tease each other constantly, Risa and Otani decide to help each other win over their respective crushes. It doesn’t take long, however, for Risa to realize what a great guy Otani is, and she must learn to overcome the complex that has been bothering both of them: their heights!

In most romance manga (shojo or otherwise), characters tend to fall in love for contrived reasons. And while falling in love with the janitor who saved you from being kidnapped may make for a great story (I still love you though, Dengeki Daisy!), Love*Com takes a simplier – yet less often travelled – approach to romance by showing that our main characters get together because they have so much in common. At first, Risa uses the fact that Otani is shorter than her to deny that she has fallen for him. But their friends all believe that Risa and Otani would make the perfect couple: they have the same hobbies, particularly their tastes in music (both share a love for a rapper named Umibozu, whose rhythms no one else in the series seems to be able to stomache), and similar mindsets, including a fondness for trying new menu items at their favorite restaurant. In volume four, Risa finally decides to accept her feelings for Otani and confesses to him. It takes him awhile to realize that she has a crush on him, because he is unable to imagine a ‘jumbo gal’ like her falling for a ‘shrimp’ like him. Once the depth of her feelings hits him, Otani rejects her, and the aftermath is handled differently than in almost any other shojo manga I’ve read. While in most shojo manga the love interest’s rejection leads to the female protagonist swearing revenge (such as in Skip Beat!), or occurs before the characters even really knew each other (such as in Itazura na Kiss), in Love*Com, Risa has to learn how to deal with her unrequited affection while getting her friendship with Otani back on track. At first, Risa tells him to forget about her love confession and act normally – but whenever she tries to revert to their ‘All Hanshin-Kyojin’ act, Otani teasingly asks her if that’s any way to treat the man she loves. This story-arc is probably my favorite the series – because for as funny as the series can be, the characters’ reactions to difficult situations like these are handled in ways that are extremely relatable, without ever losing it’s sense of humor.

But soon Risa decides that it’s okay if she still loves him, and their friends notice that Otani seems to be pleased by the depth of her feelings for him. Otani’s feelings for Risa come into further question when Risa sets her sights on a new teacher named Mighty. Otani confides in a mutual friend that even though he has fun with Risa, he has a hard time picturing the two of them together because of her height difference. However, when Risa joins a fan club devoted to Mighty, Otani gets jealous of the attention she’s giving her teacher, and on her birthday the two finally get together. Although Risa fell for Otani first, I’ve always believed Love*Com does a good job of showing that Otani loves Risa just as much as she does him. At first, he is reluctant to openly say he loves her, but little things like buying her a bunny pendant because he noticed she likes rabbits, to missing an Umibozu concert when Risa faints, show how much he cares for her. But it’s more than just their interactions that make them a great couple: both characters are interesting on their own as well. Risa is a great female protagonist – she’s funny yet sympathetic, with a love of video games and has a penchant for making strange faces. Otani, meanwhile, is sarcastic yet endearing, and is a great basketball player despite his height. I appreciate the fact that the series follows the couple trying to maintain their relationship after the two get together. And while some parts of the series after Risa and Otani start dating may be clichéd – such as the introduction of rival love interests Mimi and Kohori, who bring in unnecessary drama to the series – in the end, the lopsided duo are one of the funnest (and funniest) couples in manga, which makes Love*Com essential reading for any fan of the Shojo Beat catalogue.

The rest of the Shojo Beat Manga Moveable Feast entries can be found here.

16 thoughts on “Lovely Complex: Risa and Otani

  1. Agree 1000%! I wrote a similar post about Rise and Otani myself a while back.

    What I really love about Love*Com is that Risa and Otani really ARE friends. I feel like a lot of romantic series SAY two people are friends, but many times just feels like a means to an end. Risa and Otani actually act like friends in the series which pushes it above and beyond so many other titles.


    1. That’s so true. In most series one (if not both) of the characters has a crush on the other when they’re supposed to be ‘just friends,’ so the ‘friendship’ is not very convincing. But in Love*Com, even when things are awkward between them, Risa and Otani always have fun together and bend over backwards for each other.

  2. Lovely Complex is an amazing manga and anime! I like the story concept about the characters Otani and Risa. Both of them have the courage to express their true emotions beyond any complexes(like their heights). It’s a great lesson to learn about!

    1. Truthfully, Love*Com has such a simple premise it’s surprising I’ve never seen it done before! But I love that the couple’s main complex (their height difference) is something that could actually happen in real-life.

  3. I have yet to read this series, but judging from the premise when I first heard about it, the manga sounded like it would be different from the usual shojo romances. Glad it is! I know they made a live action film for Love*Com. Have you ever watched it?

    1. I think you’d like Love*Com – it’s conventional without feeling cliched, if that makes sense. I haven’t watched the live-action film but I’ve heard it’s not quite as good as the manga.

  4. I didn’t read the manga but I saw the anime a while back and I fell in love with the simplicity of the story. What’s more important is that it emphasizes on this – while the main characters love each other, they like each other too. I truly believe in enjoying the company of your partner so it’s great to see Risa and Otani have loads in common.

    1. Agreed! Love*Com is actually one of the very few romance series that highlights the fact that the main couple have many hobbies in common and that that’s important – which is why it stands out from most series.

  5. Sounds like the romance is built up in a realistic manner. That’s good. 🙂 One thing though, I find it rather curious how a lot of shoujo manga use jealousy (in the male character) to get the two together. Nothing wrong with that, especially if it’s handled with the male character just realizing that really does care when there is a chance to lose his love, but I always worry about such a set up because it has so much potential to go so wrong. How is it handled here?

    Other than that, [i]Love*Com[/i] was another Shoujo Beat title I’ve been meaning to try, but never got around to. Maybe one of these days…(My list is looking rather long u__u)

    1. I know what you mean – sometimes it comes across as though the guy only wants the girl because he can’t have her anymore, or because he’s possessive. But I think Otani’s jealousy was well-handled because the guy who he was jealous of wasn’t interested in Risa and was only trying to get the two of them together. Also, there were a few scenes where Otani showed that his romantic interest in Risa was growing before Mighty even entered the picture.

      I have a few Shojo Beat series like that too! Mainly Monkey High, though. But I’m really glad I got into Love*Com – I think almost anyone would like it, especially for the comedy.

  6. I agree with everything – LOVE this anime/manga/movie!!! I saw the live action movie first and it made me seek out the manga. I fell in love with the characters before anything else.
    I find a mistake made so often is, like others have mentioned, is neglecting to make characters likeable as well as relatable. There are too many ‘self-insert’ heroines who have no personality paired with attractive boring grouches who just happen to be ‘tortured’. While this whole ‘changed by love’ fantasy has it’s place, it is WAY overused and I find it hard to root for a couple that I have no strong feelings towards.
    It’s like being invested in the fantasy more than the characters themselves and there is something empty about that (Sorry – getting a bit off-topic, but does that make any sense?).
    Not so with LoveCom! Both characters are interesting on their own and they don’t spend all their time angsting about each other. They spend just enough time doing it. I laugh so much when I read/watch this, but I also feel such sympathy for both of them. I found their awkwardness very real and endearing. And I love that one of the reasons they get along so well is they both completely understand each other’s complexes. XD lol
    Just started watching the anime for the first time and I know that I’m going to marathon it…

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! I think you make perfect sense – there are plenty of ‘romances’ that stick to using archetypical characters, which tends to be uninteresting and you feel as though you’ve seen the story and characters a million times. And you’re right – when characters have little going for them beyond fitting into categorizations such as the ‘tragic’ figure, since the characters themselves feel unrealistic and empty so too do the romantic pairings. I think you hit the nail right on the head that Risa and Otani completely get each other – not just because they’re so alike – and this is why they feel special and you love following their relationship. And I’m glad the anime has been licensed by Discotek!

  7. Oh my God! You review really speak in my words. This is exactly what I thought of Lovely Complex. But I love Otani, tough. He has a very manly traits and qualities in him. I always love this kind of hate-then-love relationship. It happened so naturally. *based on personal experiece I had. Lol* and how Risa really worked hard, sacrifies, and experiencing the emotional roller-coaster in getting Otani’s love is so touching, I found myself sobbing like a baby. Hahaha. Best shojo I read so far 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting! Not many shojo heroines work as hard to get their crush to fall for them as Risa does; though them falling for each other still comes across as completely natural. I think Risa’s one of the more relatable shojo protagonists, and that certainly helps Love*Com stand out in the minds of fans.

  8. It’s been almost 10 years since you posted this entry, but I just want to say thank you. Although I thought something similar, it’s nice to see it well articulated and helps me understand why I like so much this series. I’m a sucker for the childhood friends trope, but I don’t think two people need to know each other from such a young age to be close and have things in common. And Love Com depicts exactly that, a true friendship that blossomed to something more. In addition, all the relatable moments the main couple faced until being together are stuff that could happen in real life. I got angry with Otani many times, but rereading it for the second time, now I can understand all the journey they faced to be together (and the hardships after that). Also, it makes me appreciate even more the “side characters” who are very important to the main ones to understand and even redeem themselves. I can say for sure now that, despite some clichés and issues, Love Com aged well =)
    Ps: I had a great time reading other people’s comments too, they made me nod enthusiastically and smile!

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