Reviewby Carlo Santos, Mar 10th 2008
Love Attack: Junai Tokko Taicho!
High-schooler Chiemi Yusa has a way of getting herself into fights—and now she's just one brawl away from getting expelled. However, Chiemi's teacher cuts her a deal: help clean up the act of Akifumi Hirata, the toughest guy in school, and Chiemi will be allowed to stay. Her no-nonsense attitude quickly beats Hirata into shape, but another complication arises: he's fallen in love with her! Suddenly this couple brought together by violence must deal with first dates, jealousy, and all the other trappings of love.
Oh, if only high school worked out as easily as it does in Love Attack. If only the resident school bully were actually a hard-working, sensitive guy on the inside, and if only the one person who could tame him happened to be a beautiful, strong-willed girl. It's no secret that the setup for this love comedy is highly improbable, but it takes that improbability and runs with it, creating an endless stream of energy and hilarity. Whatever it is they put in Shizuru Seino's coffee, it must be working, as this spin on high-school love is way more fun than most other variations on the theme. Highly appealing characters, straight-to-the-point artwork, and perfectly timed comedy situations—what more could you ask?
Split into three relatively long chapters, this volume moves fastest in its first 50 pages, establishing the plot for the rest of the series. It's probably the only point in the book where the pacing doesn't feel quite right: Chiemi's near-expulsion, her taming of Hirata, and their subsequent falling in love all happen so quickly that the storyline never gets a chance to breathe. Oddly enough, Chapter 1 resolves so well that it feels almost like a one-shot that eventually got converted into a series. From Chapter 2 onwards, though, the rhythm flows much better, especially with the joke material: when Chiemi's friends shove a trashy magazine into her hands, she starts to wonder if Hirata wants a more physical relationship, leading to a brilliant sequence of dirty-minded gags that treads the thin line between innocence and vulgarity.
This parade of high school hijinks wouldn't be half as effective were it not for the strongly defined characters: Chiemi's toughness and energy add a lot of kick to the usual shoujo heroine, and Hirata's sensitive interior (clichéd as it may be) helps to balance out his tough-guy persona. Pairing up two very similar characters may seem to go against traditional storytelling theory, but it really works in this scenario—our two romantic leads look out for each other and beat up any would-be challengers. It's not all sunshine and roses, though: jealousy crops up in the third and longest chapter, when Chiemi's clingy cousin appears and starts stealing her time away from Hirata. The first fight between the couple brings new depth to the relationship, even if the resolution to the final chapter is perhaps a little too long and ridiculous.
In a story where the characters and humor are uppermost, it's essential that the art be nearly "invisible"—that is, straightforward enough that the reader never stops to wonder what they're looking at. That's where the clean, mainstream style of Love Attack succeeds, with its well-defined variety of character designs and easy-to-follow layouts. It's hard to forget Hirata's trademark bandana or Chiemi's flying kicks, and there's something so satisfying about a manga artist who knows how to time a comedy punchline behind a page turn. (Even more satisfying are the crazy reaction faces when something funny happens.) Action scenes are also perfectly paced and full of energy—exaggerated perspective and tilted angles galore, as if someone had studied a fighting manga and figured out how to apply it to a more domestic context. While other school romances get hampered by too many background patterns or weak linework or character clutter, this is one series where the art actually does what it's supposed to do: tell the story.
The lively writing style of this manga adds the final touch to the humor, as the characters aren't afraid to speak in direct terms. It may not be on the level of high wordplay or one-liners, but the dialogue has plenty of wit to go around—just look at all the wacky things Chiemi says to herself when she starts worrying about the issue of Hirata getting physical with her. Clearly, this is not the most direct translation out there (attentive readers will spot a distinct Americanism or two), but the sheer entertainment value of the dialogue makes up for it. However, that's about the furthest extent of this volume's translation efforts; sound effects are left untranslated and there's no bonus content or cultural background material. Pick it up for some fun reading, but don't expect a collector's edition or anything.
It's easy to get burned out on the high-school romantic comedy genre and say that they're all the same identical trash with different characters and situations just shuffled around. But then you'd miss shining examples like Love Attack, which in its first volume is already rising above the rest with its memorable characters and wildly violent sense of humor. It may not have the deepest story, the most intricate plot, or the most innovative art, but my goodness, if it isn't just a whole lot of fun. And that's more than can be said about most manga these days.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ A great cast of characters and energetic humor make for very entertaining reading.
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