Risa Koizumi is exceptionally tall for a high school girl (by Japanese standards), while Atsushi Otani is exceptionally short for a high school boy (by ANYBODY'S standards.) They publicly bicker a lot, including inevitable shots at each other's stature, but when they're enjoying their shared interests- water parks, arcades, or especially their favorite Japanese rap artist ( ! )- then they're not just close friends; they're in their own little world. Their friends think they'd make a wonderful couple, and Risa begins to feel that they might be right, but that's a challenging (and frustrating) path to take.
The story here is told mainly from Risa's viewpoint, and she comes across as very human indeed: good-hearted but self-conscious because of her height, a mediocre student, and cursed with a hair-trigger temper. (Her best friend urges her to act more feminine, but Risa has trouble maintaining that attitude, given her short fuse and Otani's delight in pushing her buttons.) When she finally decides she loves Otani, she embarks on that emotional rollercoaster all young lovers ride, with the least kind word from Otani putting her at the top of the loop, and plummeting to the bottom when he treats her coldly.
For HIS part, Otani seems to want to send her crashing to the bottom all the time. Her first confession to him he dismisses as a joke. When it finally DOES sink in that she's serious (and he's amazingly slow to grasp this), he says that he can't see her as his girlfriend. But she's determined to change his mind, and the bulk of the show is the story of how that goes. The reason I call her by her first name, and him by his last, is that I just didn't like him- he's unwilling to tell her exactly what's on his mind; he's consistently insensitive to, and contemptuous of, her feelings; overall, he hardly seems worth the suffering she endures to try to bring him around. Do her efforts finally bear fruit? I'm not saying; but it did seem to me that he'd have to have a major change of heart to make him a positive character. Of course, since this is a romance anime, things will also inevitably be complicated by rivals, and misunderstandings, as well.
Poor Risa. At least she has Nobuko, who is every thing a best friend should be- cheerful and optimistic, yet acutely sensitive to Risa's moods and never failing to be supportive of her (though she does come to feel frustrated with her sometimes.) In one of the later episodes, it finally becomes Nobuko's turn to run crying from a room, and Risa catches up with her, wanting to console her. The problem is that Risa has no idea how to console Nobuko- up to this point, all the consolation between the two girls has been in the other direction- and Nobuko ends up asking Risa why she stopped her if it wasn't to advise her. Things end up with both girls dissolving into tears and wailing,
As the scene is played, it's pretty freakin' hilarious (as our protagonists would likely put it), and it's not the only bit that is; in an earlier scene, a double date occurs in which Risa goes out with the new boy in class, while Otani goes out with another of Risa's female friends. It's not that the outcome of this is exactly unpredictable; it's just how exquisitely the "size" knife gets twisted into both our leads once again. It's been a LONG time since another anime series has made me laugh as much as this one did. It may adhere to genre conventions, but somehow it finds fresh humor in them, both in the more extended exchanges of dialogue and the one-liners.
I also loved what the animators did with Risa's expressions; their SD renderings of the tumult of emotions reflected in her face are priceless, the perfect complement to the script's verbal wit. (And that's the wit that survived the translation; possibly it's even funnier to a Japanese listener, but the translation here is rather minimalist, with few footnotes. There's no dub track of course.)
As for the music: I liked the opening and closing ballads in the first half of the series better than the corresponding songs in the second; the former were much more in the tradition of other romantic anime like Kimi Ni Todoke and Boys Be.
Despite the fact that the male lead is frequently a little jerk, the show overall is charming and sweet, and has a winning heroine in Risa, whose plastic face, boisterous attitude, and red hair vaguely reminded me of Lucille Ball- if Lucy had been a Japanese teenager with some tsundere tendencies, that is. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: No sex or sexuality- kissing's the limit here. It does have mild violence- Risa and Otani are NOT always good role models for how to treat a member of the opposite sex. Older teens and adults; the romantic stuff would likely bore kids anyway.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Lovely Complex © 2007 Shueisha/TBS/Toei Animation
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