Manga Review: Lovely*Complex by Aya Nakahara

Manga Review: Lovely*Complex by Aya NakaharaLovely*Complex by Aya Nakahara
Published by Shueisha on 2001
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Scanlation
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three-half-stars

Risa Koizumi is the tallest girl in class, and the last thing she wants is the humiliation of standing next to Atsushi Otoni, the shortest guy. Fate and the whole school have other ideas, and the two find themselves cast as the unwilling stars of a bizarre romantic comedy duo. Rather than bow to the inevitable, Risa and Atsushi join forces to pursue their true objects of affection. But in the quest for love, will their budding friendship become something more complex?

Once again, upon reread, I’m finding that this manga isn’t quite as amazing as I remembered. It’s funny how much of a difference familiarity with a genre can make, sometimes for better or worse. I loved a lot of the first manga series I read unreservedly and Love*Com was no exception. I still admire this series quite a bit and it definitely stands out in my memory more than a lot of others. Love*Com is a perfect example of why there need to be so many different types of romances.

First off, let me get this out of the way: I cannot explain the name Lovely*Complex to you. I just can’t. If you’re going to be a manga/manhwa/jdrama/kdrama fan, you need to just roll with the strange names, my friends. Lovely*Complex is a love story, surprising no one. What sets Lovely*Complex apart is that it’s the love story of a tall girl and a short boy. Koizumi Risa is almost 20 centimeters taller than Otani Atsushi. This isn’t something that happens often in pop cultural romances, which tend to reinforce the idea than men should be taller than their girlfriends.

The romance of Koizumi and Otani has a nice slow arc, which follows, if not hate to love, at least annoyance to love. The two have been paired up for all of high school, viewed as a comedy duo. They’ve got a lot of similar interests, but are both sensitive about their irregular heights and do not appreciate having their heights highlighted by being next to one another. The romance comes on them slowly, and sort of in spite of themselves. Even better, being a couple doesn’t change either of them once it happens. They pick on each other just as mercilessly as they did before, only with a new awareness of the fact that it is a joke. There aren’t enough couples who snark each other constantly in my opinion, so I love this aspect.

That said, on my read through, I wasn’t really feeling the romantic connection quite as much as I had in the past. This is partly because of how chaste the series is, but they’re together largely because of shared interests. It would have been nice to have some more kissing scenes or to watch them mature their relationship. Much as I love the way they fight and banter, I would have liked to see them have more actually romantic moments. Despite how hard they both fight for the relationship, I’m not really seeing the passion.

On top of that, there are the traditional absurd romantic obstacles in the form of people trying to break up their relationship for one reason or another. It’s like manga law that it can’t be real love unless people are trying to break you up. Also, both people in the relationship should have people crushing on them to prove how desirable they are. Obviously, without this, 17 volumes would be tricky, but I would have liked to see more internal problems, especially since all of this undercuts my love for neither Koizumi or Otani being ludicrously attractive. I like it as a story about normal people living normal lives, and the elements of the absurd were largely not appreciated.

Love*Com is a delightful and humorous manga that I recommend for readers who want something outside of the traditional romance dynamics.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif i need you with me lovely complex

2 responses to “Manga Review: Lovely*Complex by Aya Nakahara”

  1. Samina says:

    I really loved this manga. It is one of the better mangas out there. I do agree with your criticism but I this despite it’s short coming. I have seen the movie, the anime and was one of the few mangas I read live i.e read it as the new chapters came out.

  2. Readterest says:

    For the hype, I binged on this manga, and dropped at chapter 20. Some years later I picked it up again, and dropped it again at chapter 50. I finished it recently, but after all that droppings, I guess it loses its charm to me.
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