Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 25th 2010
DVD - Collection 2
Life is never dull when you have a gorgeous alien princess (with her penchant for bizarre, semi-functional inventions) for a live-in fiancée and have also attracted the attention of both alien assassins and most of the other top-rate girls in your school – never mind that the father of said alien princess has threatened to destroy the Earth if you don't become “the greatest man in the universe” and thus prove worthy of his daughter! Yet such is the daily dilemma facing Rito Yuuki. Amidst dealing with ghosts, unemployed aliens, personality-altering alien diseases, a sexy magical girl show, opening an alien resort, Lala's attempts to find/create her own hot springs, and more mundane activities like his school's cultural festival, Rito manages to sneak in quality time with main love interest Haruna, even though that eventually leaves his heart split between his ideal girl and the sexy, vivacious Lala. When push comes to shove on Gid Lucione Deviluke's return, who will he ultimately choose? He isn't the only one with troubles, either, as Saruyama's assistance to a pregnant, catlike alien assassin at a crucial time leaves him in the unwanted position of being a “gift” to said alien. His later dreams of an Edo Castle adventure also go horribly awry.
To find an anime comedy much more lowbrow than To Love-Ru, Neanderthals would have to be involved. As the first half proved – and the second half continually reinforces – the series does not aim any higher than to be a fun-loving fan service fest, but it succeeds at that, where many other series fail, for two reasons: it never aspires to be more sophisticated than what it is, and what it does do, it does with at least a modicum of silly cleverness.
Enjoying a good old-fashioned fan service romp is not too much different from appreciating a live-action porn video: too much sophistication and story can actually get in the way. To Love-Ru does not have that problem. The plot (such as it is) touched off in episode 13 about how Rito's achievements could very well determine the Earth's fate exists only to provide a vague sense of underlying conflict and at least some attempt at a conclusion at the end. Most of the time it just fades into the background, allowing the more light-hearted, episodic shenanigans to play out without distraction, including one episode which almost entirely consists of a savage magical girl parody and another involving a series of extended dream sequences focusing on Saruyama's imagining of the Edo period as populated by various cast members. Even when “fate of the Earth” plot does take over at the end, it never lets itself be taken too seriously. A parallel thread about Rito's developing relationship with Haruna takes a sweet turn in the early going and lingers more prominently during the episodic content; most importantly on this front, they seem to have finally progressed past the “Rito accidentally gropes Haruna” stage.
Comedy and fan service are, of course, the bread and butter of the series, and director Takao Kato (Buso Renkin, Zoids) never loses sight of that through the second half. The humor is much more “hit” than “miss” through this stretch, and while a lot of it is still stupid, some if it is truly inspired. The magical girl episode particularly stands out here, as it plays up the latent sexuality often conveniently overlooked by such series and actually requires its heroine to step into a bathroom or alley and manually change into her outfit rather than magically transform. The series' twisted version of a hot springs episode also delights with such randomness as what Lala and crew run across (and bypass) while drilling for the hot springs. Other notable bright spots include Rito dealing with Lala's personality fluctuations while she is fever-ridden at one point and a certain bit involving unemployed aliens forming a transvestite cabaret act. (No, really.) Sadly missing here is Zastin's wonderful straight-man act, but the greater freedom allowed to the series by Rito's classmates finally learning that Lala is, indeed, an alien princess compensates for that.
Amidst all of the humor is, of course, the fan service, which flows freely through virtually every episode in the second half (even the more serious ones) and comes in a variety of forms. Present here are true classics like the clothes-dissolving slime, long-time standbys like panty shots from creative angles, bathing-related nudity, clothing rent asunder in fights, and shower-based panning shots, and more recent staples like hot springs scenes and sexy cosplay outfits. It even gets a little creative here, such as one episode where all of the girls in Rito's class have to get their measurements taken for the skin-tight Culture Fest costumes regardless of whether or not they're actually going to be in costume. As with the first half, this half kinda sorta shows nipples without actually making them clear, but there are still plenty of firm young bodies to admire.
In fact, the artistic strength of the series remains its sexy, appealing character designs. While Lala is the ultimate in bodacious, Haruna is the ultimate in adorable high school-aged cute, Mikan is the ultimate in junior high-aged cute, and the rest provide a wide variety of usually well-rendered attractiveness, while male characters tend to be rather bland, even frumpy, beyond Zastin. (And the appearance of Lala's father. . . well, that's still a joke unto itself.) At one point in the later episodes Xebec's quality control does break down a bit, as the rendering is not only a little rougher but Lala's bust size starts varying from scene to scene, but generally they do a solid job. The visual effect of parchment-like backgrounds for the Edo Castle dream sequences is one of the more interesting gimmicks. The animation seems to take more shortcuts in the later stages of the series and is never more than adequate when present.
The musical score hums along merrily, however, ably supporting all of the comedy gimmicks and even including a slew of insert songs in one episode. Upbeat, eye-catching opener “forever we can make it!” remains through the end, while new, animated closer “kiss,” whose visuals exclusively feature Haruna, takes over for episodes 14-25, with the original “Lucky Tune” returning for the final episode.
As with the first half, this set has only clean opener and closer for Extras. Conspicuously absent are any notes explaining the various historical and cultural references tossed out in the Edo episode. Only one typo blemishes Sentai Filmwork's subtitle job this time.
The first half of the series was a little uneven, but the second half is more consistently comedy and fan service gold, albeit with a somewhat lame ending. There are six follow-up OVA episodes in the process of being released in Japan at the time of this writing, but those have yet to be picked up by Sentai, so episode 26 is it for now. This is not a great series or a thought-provoking one, but if all you want is a frivolous diversion and you do not mind all of the male-pandering fan service, you could certainly do far worse.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Often very funny, plentiful fan service, attractive female character designs.
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