Posted on October 7, 2013 AT 09:00am
I was reluctant to watch Love Lab at first, as it looked like another one of those shows where anime girls sit around drinking tea and giggle about the dumbest of things. Once again, my cover-judging thought process has been proven wrong. (Perhaps I should stop doing that…)
Based on the four-panel manga series by Ruri Miyahara Love Lab follows Riko (Manami Numakura) as she tries to find some excitement in the women’s academy she’s attending. She is given the task of delivering papers to the student council, where upon entering its office she stumbles on its president Maki (Chinatsu Akasaki) kissing a large pillow with a high school boy crudely drawn on it. In order to keep this embarrassment a secret Maki bribes Riko with sweets, and soon asks her for advice on meeting guys (many of which involve the two simulating scenarios), as she assumes Riko is a master of love. One problem: Riko has never had a boyfriend herself, a fact she is now forced to cover up as she does her best to help her new friend out.
Soon other members of the student council appear, including the shy secretary Suzu (Inori Minase), an emotionally unstable VP named Eno (Ayane Sakura), and a snarky Sayo (Yō Taichi). From there the student council continues on with conducting tests on the art of romance, not just for their own personal gain but for the ladies of the academy. However how far will this go before Riko screws herself over one too many times?
Animated by Dogokobo (who also helmed YuruYuri and the Pokémon film Revelation Lugia) the studio has brought Miyahara’s original works to life with a style that is quite similar to that of Kyoto Animation’s recent works. The city and its buildings are nicely detailed, as are the slapstick gags that Riko and company are thrusted upon during the series. As for the appearance of the characters, while they are cute-looking (no shocker there) they are not moé-eccentric. Riko’s tomboyishness comes off pretty well with the way it looks, while Maki and Suzu have that innocent outlook that appears finely in their facial expressions, kind of like a baby deer stumbling along a new world.
As for the series itself, it can get a bit predictable in some areas, and you can kind of sense where the show is going roughly halfway through. With that said, it’s not afraid to show its comedic chops, and those hits come down harder than one of Mirko Cro Cop’s signature kicks. I found myself busting out laughing whenever Maki implements the large pillow — which, by the way, goes by the name Huggy here — into her fantasies. Seeing the crappy-looking drawing be brought to life is one of the goofy charms to the shows, not to mention the look on Riko’s face whenever this happens.
As for the actual experiments they deliver some pretty good comedic timing. In the first episode Riko and Maki practice the ever-so often seen cliché of two lovers accidentally running into each other while one is in a hurry to get somewhere. Riko walks a normal pace, whereas Maki decides to break the sound barrier, speeding past Riko and crashing off-screen. Another time, after taking a Love Lab request from an anonymous student, Mika and Eno decide to do a live radio roleplaying situation in English (though, sadly, it’s still in Japanese with only a lazily-added subtitle saying they’re speaking English) regarding appropriate gift-giving, with the two students going off-script and at each other’s throats with anger. It can get a little dumb at times, but for the most part Love Lab doesn’t stretch out the bad jokes to unwatchable points.
When it comes to the voice-acting the seiyuu chosen do a good job with their timing and delivery. Numakura’s Riko gets the tomboyish attitude down with little issue, whereas Akasaki’s Mika plays off as the mirror opposite: cute, innocent, and a tad dumb to how the real world works. Minase’s Suzu’s shyness can get to be tiresome at times, but when the time calls for it the personality helps with some of the jokes to work. Sakyua’s Eno at first got on my nerves, as I usually hate those characters who try to be evil and have that stupid upside-down hand over lip maniacal laugh that makes you want to punch them, but when she wound up being more of an ally her unstable attitude helped to bring some of the gags to work more than they shouldn’t have. Finally there’s Taichi’s Sayo, and while I get her monotonous tone and attitude it doesn’t shine as much as the other, more livelier characters. However her snarky outlook does wonders when she’s doubting Riko’s abilities.
Yasuhiro Misawa’s score helps to push the goofy experiments on Love Lab to a slightly higher level. It’s your standard comedic soundtrack, and while nothing to write home about gets the job done with setting the mood for each scene. As for the opening and ending themes, performed by the main cast, I’ll admit that they help to prepare the viewers’ expectations for the show, even if it’s your standard idol songs. I did like the end theme “Best Friends” better, though, although it could be because I got a laugh out of seeing a chibi version of Maki driving a little car with her Huggy in tow. Finally there is the lingerie song, which I cannot in good conscience spoil, as it brings out one of the finest comedic moments I’ve seen in anime this year.
Love Lab is a surprisingly good comedy. It made me laugh out loud more than I thought it would, and it’s definitely more original than most of the other comedy series that have come out this past year. In short Love Lab a fun little anime that will surely put a smile on your face, and a chuckle in your belly. Just don’t take any of the experiments the girls conduct too seriously, as you’d probably look more like a fool than a Casanova.
Voice actors/actresses: 7.5/10
Final Grade: 8/10
Love Lab is available to view on Crunchyroll.
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