by Rebecca Silverman,


GN 1

Shusei is the boy everyone at school wants – he's hot, smart, and has a host of other desirable traits for a high school boy. Aoi, however, is unimpressed – Mr. Oh-So-Perfect broke her best friend Moe's heart and when she confronted him didn't even seem to care. Imagine her horror when her new next door neighbor turns out to be Shusei himself...and when a freak accident in his apartment leads to him living with her! But maybe Shusei isn't quite as terrible as Aoi thinks...?

Shoujo manga has never been shy about finding ways to throw its teenage protagonists into a shared living situation. The most commonly found trope in English-translated works seems to be the Marmalade Boy: parents remarry and kids are thrust into a shared life under the same roof, either with or without parental supervision. The “wacky boarding house” is another popular set up for cohabitational mayhem, but there also exists the one that tends to feel the most implausible in the U.S. - where the teen protagonist(s) are already living solo and end up with a roommate of the opposite sex via plot contrivance. It is to this last category that Ayu Watanabe's LDK belongs, and despite the fact that it has a paper-thin premise, Watanabe's story is full of gooey shoujo goodness that should delight fans of the genre.

The heroine of the story is Aoi Nishimori. Her parents had to move for her father's job, but she convinced them to let her stay behind in an apartment so that she wouldn't have to switch schools. Ayu's a fiercely self-sufficient girl, taking care of herself and her friends with vigor. She has a keen sense of fairness, and so when the school heartthrob, Shusei Kugayama, rejects her best friend Moe's love letter, she hunts him down and reams him out. Less than thrilled with his response (a very fair one, actually, based on how he doesn't know Moe at all, nor she him), Aoi declares him the worst person at naturally he turns out to be her new next door neighbor. Shusei is both overwhelmed with work – he's supporting himself where Aoi's parents still take care of her financially – and pretty incompetent in the cooking department, so before she knows it, Aoi's helping him with meals. This results in a sprinkler mishap, with Shusei's apartment declared inhabitable. Before Aoi can feel too badly about this, Shusei announces to their landlady that he'll just move in with his friend next door – Aoi. Thus the stage is set for our romantic comedy.

One of the most pleasant surprises here is that Shusei is not the abusive shoujo love interest we see so often. He's got his issues, one of which is certainly throwing himself into Aoi's life without her say-so, but on the whole he's respectful of her and doesn't try to force her to do anything she really doesn't want. It's clear to readers that he's been interested in her since she confronted him about Moe, but apart from moving in, he appears willing to take things relatively slowly. When Aoi gets worked up and doesn't want to talk to him or be seen with him at school, he takes steps to figure out what's going on, and if his methods don't always rank highly on the maturity charts, they also aren't mean or particularly manipulative.

As for Aoi, she's understandably conflicted. In her eyes, Shusei is the guy who treated her best friend like dirt, but she's also beginning to understand that he's more than she at first assumed. She doesn't want to start developing feelings for him, though, because she doesn't want to hurt Moe, and so she goes to great lengths to hide their cohabitation from her. Moe, however, is smarter than Aoi gives her credit for, and proves herself just as interested in her friend's happiness as Aoi is, essentially giving her permission to like Shusei. Whether or not Aoi can really bring herself to overcome her prejudices in the near future is uncertain, and given that the series is currently eighteen volumes and ongoing, we perhaps shouldn't expect too many hearts and flowers too soon.

That is not to say that there aren't romantic and/or racy moments in this volume. Aoi's efforts to hide Shusei's presence in her apartment lead to an interesting bathtub situation, and Shusei lets some toy handcuffs lead to a desired (by him) date, though the real standout here is the hand-holding scene towards the end of the volume. The other two incidents are good stock romance moments, but the end of chapter three's scene is downright heartwarming and feels much more genuine. It gives me a lot of hope that Watanabe will focus on the love story aspects of this series as well as the hallmarks of the shoujo romance.

The art for this book is fairly generic shoujo-style with round, gleaming eyes, long limbed characters, and a sort of bland prettiness to the whole thing. There's a lot of gray space as well, although Watanabe does not use too many conflicting patterns of screen tone. The panels are very easy to read in terms of order and flow, and Kodansha has provided a nicely detailed explanation of the title in their liner notes, which is quite helpful.

LDK's first volume introduces us to a story that uses the standard tropes and tricks of the shoujo romance just enough while also staying away from some of the less charming ones, particularly in terms of its hero. There's a feeling that the story has a mushy romantic heart underneath the more expected plot points, and overall just something nice about the whole book. If you enjoy a straight up romance without the interference of the supernatural or reverse harem tropes, LDK is definitely worth your reading time.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Doesn't overuse a lot of the more annoying aspects of shoujo romance, love story itself looks as if it will take its time developing. Friends behave like real friends rather than disguised rivals.
Arms and legs can get out of control in terms of length, the handcuff thing really was mean. Parts of the plot feel very contrived.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Ayu Watanabe

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