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.

Advertisements
The Heart of Sailor Moon: Usagi

The Heart of Sailor Moon: Usagi

Like so many others, I first got into anime through Sailor Moon. I remember being six years old, sleepily watching Sailor Moon’s final battle with Queen Beryl at 6:30 in the morning. A few years later, when Sailor Moon began airing on Toonami, my classmates started watching the show as well, and we would pretend we were Sailor Scouts (which is a bit embarrassing to admit now). This prompted the question: who is your favorite Sailor Scout (or more accurately, Senshi)? Even though I was always chosen to play Mars because we both have black hair, I could never relate much to either her haughtiness in the anime or her more mysterious nature in the manga. When the anime originally aired in Japan, Sailor Mercury was the most popular, but I never cared for Ami’s shyness.  And even though the Outer Senshi are extremely popular, I find their aloofness to be off-putting. The two Senshi I like most are probably Makoto, whose tough exterior hides her kindness and femininity, and Minako, who is just goofy and charming. But there isn’t much appreciation for the heart of the series: Usagi herself. So I want to take this chance to defend her.

I’ve heard many people complain about Usagi, who is commonly criticized for being an annoying, clumsy, scatterbrained, overeating crybaby. But as someone who reads a lot of shojo, in my opinion, there are many other female leads who are far worse than her, such as Miki from Marmalade Boy, who cries and complains over simple love problems, or the weak-willed Hatsumi from Hot Gimmick. If either of these females were faced with the daunting task of protecting the world, I don’t think they would be as courageous or strong as Usagi was. And because I didn’t read Naoki Takeuchi’s manga until several years after watching the Sailor Moon anime, the show’s portrayal of Usagi has also influenced my overall opinion of her. The anime exacerbated many of Usagi’s foibles – almost every episode features her tripping, dressing up as a ninja to stave females away from Mamoru, or saying something goofy during a battle scene (“Supreme Sundae,” anyone?), while in the original manga Usagi is a bit more mature. But at the same time, I feel like the filler episodes of the anime also highlighted Usagi’s kindness. For example, in episode two of the series, when Usagi gets her fortune told, she chooses to visit a kind old fortune-teller on the street rather than the new fortune telling shop nearby that everyone else is visiting. In one episode of SuperS, Usagi helps a starving artist by making him fried rice (which he gratefully devours despite the food’s scary appearance). And when she uses the Silver Crystal to deadly results in the R movie, Usagi’s strong will to protect her friends is heightened.  Thus, the anime sharply accentuated both the good and bad of her character, while the manga Usagi is a bit more balanced, thanks to Takeuchi’s craft. Usagi’s compassionate nature is what ultimately prevents me from seeing her as ‘annoying,’ because there are few anime characters more selfless than her.

But there are reasons why I love Usagi that aren’t explored much in the anime. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of sympathy for Usagi, who struggles not only with her role as Sailor Moon, but also her past life as Princess Serenity. One scene I love is in Act 8 (published in volume two of TOKYOPOP’s release of the manga), when Usagi’s hair starts growing out upon recovering the memories of her previous life. This scene is present in the anime, but her fear that her body’s changes signify that she’s becoming somebody else isn’t mentioned at all, and it adds a sense of realism to her character. Most importantly, I feel as though the manga did a better job of bridging the gap between Usagi and her past and future selves. Both Princess Serenity and Neo-Queen Serenity are elegant and feel highly romanticized, which is why it’s hard to reconcile these two identities with Usagi.  Yet in Act 24, which is volume seven of the TOKYOPOP release, Neo-Queen Serenity is revived and wishes to see Sailor Moon despite the fact that it is forbidden because it could change the course of history. Yet Sailor Moon wishes to see her as well, and against all odds, they meet and thank each other. What I love about this scene is that no matter how different Neo-Queen Serenity may seem from her, she’s still Usagi on the inside. The heart of Sailor Moon is Usagi’s maturation, and the fact that she remains so compassionate despite her struggles is a huge reason why I still love the series so much. And I think I may love it even more now.