Reviewby Theron Martin,
To Love Ru Darkness 2
Sub.Blu-Ray - Complete Collection
Three months have elapsed since the last series, and Momo's secret Harem Plan continues, even as she becomes increasingly aware of how much she wants to have Rito for herself. While all manner of sexy hijinks and accidents involving Rito continue, trouble is brewing. Nemesis has finally decided to manifest and seeks to push Yami into her “darkness” mode, releasing her ultimate world-shattering power and creating some real chaos on a galactic scale. Meanwhile, Mea is gradually starting to become dissatisfied with not having her own will and life, due in no small part to Nana's persistent efforts to befriend her, not to mention seeing how well her “sister” Yami has settled into life on Earth. Likewise, Rito has had a significant influence on Yami, resulting in some interesting side effects at a pivotal moment.
With 78 episodes spread amongst OVAs and four TV series (and a 79th pending in an upcoming OVA release), To Love-Ru is now the most expansive anime harem franchise that covers one single storyline. Over the course of eight years, it has continued to pump out new adaptations of its source manga, all the while gradually evolving to keep pace with changes in the fanservice scene since the late 2000s. It may well be that adaptability that has allowed it to survive so long and continue to get adaptations, while other franchises peter out after a couple of cours. Even more remarkably, To Love-Ru has succeeded without substantially changing its base nature, finding ways to exploit that basic premise for grander story purposes. The second part of the Darkness storyline is the ultimate fruit of that endeavor.
Of course, its core appeal is fanservice, fanservice, and more fanservice. Saying that fanservice pervades absolutely every aspect of this series might actually be an understatement, as even its staunchest competitors from the past couple of years would have trouble keeping up with it on that front. Fanservice is the core of the series' entertainment value, whether as a standalone element or as a component in plot and character developments. It plays a key role in many of the series' dramatic events, an indispensable part of the series' overall climax. Although its fanservice intensity can sometimes get uncomfortable, the writing and direction is able to pull off heartfelt drama for its fans, even while showing a female character being groped, which is remarkable on its own unique level.
Unexpected quality is par for the course in this series. While liberally indulging in panty shots, nudity, body licking, tentacles, and groping of orgasmic intensity, To Love-Ru also takes time for in-depth and satisfying character development. Momo, Nana, and Mea get the lion's share of this, with Nana's efforts to win Mea over as a friend being a key part of the storyline. Momo's ongoing introspection about what she's doing with the Harem Plan is less critical but still meaty enough to maintain her role as co-protagonist with Rito. Yami also gets a lot of attention later, because the crux of the plot centers on her latent “darkness” aspect, which has been vaguely hinted at before but comes into with an unexpected twist in the last few episodes. Oshizu, Mikan, Lala, Tearju, and Yui also get lesser degrees of development, though Mikan's strength continues to be in her disgusted expressions at the crazy behavior around her, along with her cumulative interactions with Yami. Conspicuously absent from all this is Haruna, who's almost an afterthought for large stretches of this series after the first episode. (A long-standing rumor that one of the manga's creators had a falling out with the real-life model for Haruna might have something to do with this, but that remains speculation.)
Some things don't change, though. Rito may be a bit more comfortable interacting with girls than he was at the start of the franchise, but he remains the hapless nice guy with a talent for saying the right things when a girl is down and an insanely uncanny ability to accidentally grope or faceplant into any girl around him, to the extent that many characters acknowledge it as his own superpower. This has been a running joke throughout much of the franchise, but the Darkness series raises it to a lascivious art form. The creativity that the original author and production team devote to finding fresh approaches is impressive. Plenty of old fanservice scene standbys from this franchise also recur in this series, including multiple instances of Lala's devices going awry, Rito getting transformed into something else, alien food and drink having adverse side effects on humans, aliens causing trouble, Oshizu accidentally causing mayhem after being beset by a dog, and so forth. We also get a new twist later in the series with the revelation of how Lala, Momo, and Nana's father ended up being so short.
Director Atsushi Ootsuki returns for his third time helming the franchise, and studio Xebec once again provides the animation. By this point, they have the production down to a science, resulting in a solid and consistent animation effort. Loving attention is paid to the nudity and panty shots, with plenty of exploitative camera angles, but there are some lively action scenes too. This isn't top-tier action animation by any means, but it's at least on par with the more action-heavy fanservice anime out there. In keeping with the franchise standard, Darkness 2's color scheme is dramatically lighter and softer than most of its competitors, favoring restrained pastels over garish colors. The musical score was strengthened in the last installment, and that level of performance continues here. While its more lighthearted themes are as innocuous as ever, its dramatic themes hit just the right intensity when events turn serious. Neither the new opening theme nor the new closing theme are at all remarkable though.
As with all previous installments of the franchise, Sentai Filmworks releases this one subbed-only on Blu-Ray, with the only extras being clean opener and closer. Most of the censoring from the TV broadcast is gone, with only a couple of places where nether regions are obscured remaining. Not included are the Darkness OVAs which follow up on the series. Hopefully at some point, Sentai will gather together all 14 existing OVAs (none of which have been licensed) plus the upcoming 15th one into a single release. I can't see any reason why someone willing to buy the four TV series wouldn't shell out for something like that too.
While I consider High School DxD to be the current standard-setter for harem franchises, To Love Ru Darkness 2 is a better individual series than DxD's most recent installment on any level. Its fanservice is at least as steamy, its animation and character designs are at least as good, its characters stay on model much more consistently, and its storytelling and characterizations are much smoother and more satisfying. Writing quality does matter even in saucy, silly harem series, and that gives this franchise the edge against its competition right now.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ A fanservice lover's dream, capable music score, surprisingly good writing and character development
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