Shelf Life
Love to Love Ru

by Erin Finnegan, May 3rd 2010

By the time you read this, the 136th Kentucky Derby will be over (no wonder you missed it, it's only two minutes long). The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed, in 1978 - the year before I was born. When I was 12, I went through a serious horse phase. I read a lot of Black Stallion novels, collected a dozen or so Breyer toys, took riding lessons, and forced my parents to go to the Kentucky Derby Museum on a family road trip to the Appalachian Mountains. In my Middle School computer class, one assignment was to create a database in Lotus 1-2-3, so I did a database of Kentucky Derby winners. Eventually I got over it. I realized I would never own a horse, let alone be a jockey. Maybe I just liked franchise novels.

As a result of this phase, every year I wait to see if the horse that won the Derby will go on to win the Triple Crown. I've been (consciously) waiting for almost 20 years now. The first ten years were truly disappointing, but now I just expect to get let down every year.

My expectations for To Love Ru were so low to begin with that it's hard to be disappointed.

I didn't hate part 1 of To Love Ru as much as I thought I would. After I wrote my review, To Love Ru became my go-to example for a mediocre show that you've wasted your life watching. Several forum goers said things like "Yeah, that show was lame… I watched all of it." Why bother finishing the series if it was so mediocre? No one is going to spoil the ending for you at the water cooler. It's a high school love comedy; there's not going to be a big satisfying wedding scene at the end. You could be watching something that was actually good, or exercising, or learning a foreign language. I finished watching this because it's my job.

That aside, I can't figure out why the budget of To Love Ru was so high. How popular was the manga? The show regularly turns out episodes with surprisingly nice animation. For example, in this set, an entire episode is set in Edo-era Tokyo. Having worked in animation, I know that kind of episode is tons of extra work for the staff. All new character designs, backgrounds, and props had to be created and colored and shipped off to wherever to animate. In a normal episode of To Love Ru, props, characters, and backgrounds just get re-used; it's normally not terribly labor intense.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the staff didn't want to be working on To Love Ru. Sprinkled throughout the series are painstakingly well animated cut-away shots to space battle scenes. It's as if the storyboard artists and animators desperately wanted to work on a sci-fi show, but that just isn't what's hot right now on Japanese TV. Maybe the manga-ka wanted to do a space series, too, but his editor forced him to set it in high school. (I haven't read the manga, I don't know.)

The entire second half of the series is similar to the second half of Kimagure Orange Road. In KOR, there's an odd "What If" episode, a Top Gun parody, and some other surreal shenanigans for what was a (slightly) more realistic show. To Love Ru was never realistic, but the Edo-era episode was a stretch. An entire episode is devoted to a magical girl show that Lala is watching. In one episode, Lala gets a fever that changes her personality each day, leading to a series of "What if"s. What if Lala was a tsundere? Etc.

In one bizarrely Furry-content heavy episode, a minor character is almost coerced into marrying an alien cat lady. This time I know I'm not wrong about saying "Furry," because the cat lady had both a muzzle and humanoid breasts. Oddly, that's the only low budget, slightly off-model episode in the set.

I'm not sure why anyone would voluntarily watch To Love Ru, except for Jason Thompson, who claims to love 90s love comedies. [TOP]

Speaking of early 90s love comedies that I don't understand, I forced myself to finish watching You're Under Arrest: Full Throttle.

Here's my review of Part 1.

"Never a dull moment for the Traffic Safety Division," a senior officer jokes in the last episode of Full Throttle. I beg to differ! It is nothing but dull moments for the Traffic Safety Division. In one episode, these so-called "cops" are stuck making tissue paper roses. They're more Prom Committee than police officers.

Natsumi is called a "loose cannon" in one episode. Normally, I'm not a fan of cliché cop movies, but I wish that YUA had more American cop film clichés. I wish the officers would "Blow up half the harbor" or investigate a strip club or something. (Michael Kupperman's Snake and Bacon are part of this highly recommended book, which was adapted into an Adult Swim pilot.)

The series keeps cutting back to a half-completed bridge. The season arc takes place over the course of a year, and it's revealed that construction on the bridge will soon be complete. I was hoping someone would jump a car (or a motorcycle, I'm not picky) over the half-completed bridge, but (spoilers) it never happens! Instead the bridge is completed and the Traffic Safety division drives across it slowly and safely during the bridge opening ceremony.

This clearly isn't a show about things I like. I like sports anime because I like watching ambitious characters working hard to achieve their goals. I like romance because people get together and break up, which I count as "something happening". I like comedy because it's funny. YUA is about enjoying the status quo. The characters act predictably through situations that are only sometimes funny. The romances develop at about the same speed that snails mate. (I'm not going to look for that on YouTube.) YUA is a nice show about nice people, like Growing Pains or a workplace version of Facts of Life.

Is it weird that I would rather watch the original You're Under Arrest than Full Throttle just because the cels were hand painted? After 2000, all anime was digitally colored, but I know the original was hand painted on cels, because I still see the cels for sale at conventions. At least if I was watching a cel painted show, I would know the cel painters put some blood, sweat, and tears into their work. They were living out their youth by the smell of paint at the end of an era. Almost no blood, sweat, or tears is expended by any of the characters in YUA (a statistically insignificant amount, anyway). Fortunately, not all anime fans are quite as bloodthirsty as I am.

I can't condemn YUA that much. It's well animated. The episode where Natsumi likens her romantic interests to "cake" and "steak" made me laugh. I also approve of the fact that Aoi's coworkers don't seem to mind that he's a cross-dresser.[TOP]

There are no extras and there is no dub. There's no dub of Cobra either, and it's too bad the original wasn't dubbed when I was a kid.

Cobra is a remake of the classic Space Cobra (1982). Space Cobra was apparently on TV in France and Spain, but it never caught on Stateside, with the possible exception of some imported videogames. I'd rather watch the classic, and I watched this hoping it was the next best thing.

Little explanation is given within the show of Cobra himself, and little is needed. He's a wisecracking space pirate with a gun hidden in his arm and a rapid healing ability. Despite being a pirate, he's a pretty decent guy giving bad guys what they deserve. Somehow, he always has a cigar in his mouth, even during underwater scenes.

The first adventure is a four-part arc with animation that looks a lot like Darkside Blues; that is, gritty early 90's sci-fi. Starting from episode five, the animation quality suddenly looks a lot more modern and much less gritty.

Imagine a cross between He-Man and James Bond, and you've got Cobra. I bring up He-Man because of the (questionably) manly skin-tight T-shirts and the bikini-clad girls. As a kid, voluptuous female characters like Teela in He-Man and Cheetara in Thundercats bothered me. They wore the equivalent of swimsuits all the time. I'd rather watch She-Ra any day of the week, because at least she wore a skirt. Somehow, as an adult, an adult who has just watched Strike Witches, I have a new appreciation for the women of Cobra. If Cobra was a show for kids, it's the inverse of Strike Witches. In Cobra, hyper-sexualized adults star in a show for kids. In Strike Witches, hyper-sexualized kids star in a show for adults.

I'm a fan of Golgo 13. I even have the figure where Golgo is in his underwear, looking out a window. Brock is my favorite character on The Venture Bros.. As you can imagine, Cobra and his uber-manliness appeal to me. But where Golgo is silent, stoic, and untouchable, Cobra is wisecracking, in-over-his-head, and frequently getting beaten up.

I don't like James Bond because you always know what you're going to get. Moonraker is my favorite Bond film because of the ridiculous sci-fi factor. Cobra, although Bond-like, has an unpredictable sci-fi, Johnny Quest adventure element. Cobra is like Golgo 13 starring in Moonraker, as a more talkative space pirate.

Cobra was originally voiced by Nachi Nozawa in the 1982 TV series. Naoya Uchida does his best Nozawa impression in Cobra The Animation (Uchida was Light's dad in Death Note). Fifteen years Nozawa's junior, Uchida does his best with Cobra's gravelly yet playful sound. I like it a lot, but then, I've never heard the original. I suppose it's like drinking a Diet Coke; it doesn't really taste the same, but it will do in a pinch. It's too bad Uchida didn't create a Cobra voice of his own, but he was likely under pressure not to mess with a 28+ year old cartoon icon.

I got the feeling that the animation crew really loved Cobra growing up, and were happy to work on this series as a loving homage. That love comes through in the high production values.

Watching this show made me nostalgic for someone else's childhood. I'm not sure how that's possible, but it's true. I once tasted a rare whiskey that smelled like nostalgia and tasted like a Creamsicle. That is more or less the experience of watching Cobra.[TOP]

Sometimes on Thursdays I go to a free Japanese language meet-up group (it's advertised on meet-up.com). This week I was suddenly conscripted into teaching newbies hiragana and katakana. I've never taught anything before. I mean, I've trained interns, but that's it. I guess I must've been doing a good job because everyone was surprised this was my first time teaching. I felt really useful, and for once it felt like I had made a lot of progress learning Japanese.

This week's collection is from Nick V.

"Here we have all the anime/manga/DS, Wii, and Gamecube games that I own. I've been buying manga since 2007, been buying anime sine at least 2008, and I've been playing video games for as long as I can remember. I own 12 different anime series, 19 different manga series, and about 40 games that belong just to me.And I mustn't forget about the pieces of paper that litter my wall, and my fantastic Sgt. Frog wall scroll and my boatload of Shonen Jump.. I hope you like it!"



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