Friday, November 12, 2010

Fall 2010 - Motto To Love-Ru

Once again, a warning in advance is needed. I'm running the risk of either sounding like an old codger or a huge hypocrite with what I'm going to write in this critique. I shouldn't even be saying it, due to a personal philosophy that we should respect other cultures for their differences. Despite the need for understanding, I would say the following through a bullhorn if I could.

For the sake of anime, someone please stop Saki Hasemi, Kentarô Yabuki and Xebec from making any more To Love-Ru shows.

Run, or else Lala's cooking eats you first, Rito.

Motto To Love-Ru, the follow-up to the original series, could very well be one of the most dangerous anime shows out there for two particular reasons. Reason #1: To Love-Ru was known for being unabashedly unashamed of revealing any sort of nudity. It's been the staple of Yabuki's last two manga efforts (he also drew Mayoi Neko Overrun!) to have females shrieking in embarrassment and laying into a male who sees them naked. Reason #2: despite the nudity, we've reached an unheralded step in anime ennui. The show returns to once again unleash one of the dullest main characters in the history of fandom.

I'm not necessarily referring to overall boredom in anime, as there are still plenty of exciting frontiers to explore and stories to tell from those travails. The line between fantasy and reality is distinctly drawn, as all of the titillating sexual situations have been and likely always will be a characteristic of anime. What I'm referring to is the unfortunate progression of the dullard in "harem" anime, specifically the lack of concrete personality development when it comes to the central character keeping an anime together.

We know it's an accident, but why hasn't this kid been arrested?

Before we get too far into the topic, here is a quick Cliff's Notes version of the To Love-Ru concept. Rito Yûki is your typical high-school student, smitten over his classmate Haruna, but unable to confess to her. However, somewhere along the line, the bubbly Lala, an alien princess from the planet Deviluke and part of the universe's ruling family, ends up landing on Earth (specifically, Rito's bathtub) and falls in love with him. From that point on, characters continue to stumble into the scene and make Rito's love dodecahedron more complex; a shape-shifting golden-haired bounty hunter, the school's arrogant rich girl, the rule-abiding class representative, and an alien suitor of Lala's that changes into a girl when he sneezes are just some of the crazies that get shoved into Rito's daily rituals.

Motto To Love-Ru requires prior knowledge of the series, but the stories are episodic in nature with little continuity so far. What does happen is fairly commonplace:
  1. Rito finds an invention of Lala's and ends up hurt or embarrassed by its side-effects.
  2. Rito encounters an alien presence and ends up hurt or embarrassed by the ordeal.
  3. Rito encounters a cast member in a typical daily event or common scene, only to get hurt or embarrassed when someone gets stripped partially or fully through an accident.
You're guaranteed to go through a point in each seven-minute arc where a girl gets flustered from some form of sexual deviancy and ends up laying the hurt on Rito.

Case in point: Yami and Rito, the human football.

This brings us back to the topic at hand: Rito himself. Historically, there have been some pretty bland and unexciting main characters in harem anime shows. Some have argued that the genesis in this evolution is Kyôsuke Kasuga from Kimagure Orange Road, an esper from the Eighties who tended to be quite wishy-washy in his decision to love one of two female protagonists. Some have argued that Tenchi Masaki from Tenchi Muyô! is the driest of them all after being constantly dragged into space operas by the attractive aliens that seek his hand in marriage. Others have labeled Keitarô Urashima (Love Hina) and Kyon (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) as the template, and I've even heard some arguments for and against Rumiko Takahashi's characters (Godai, Maison Ikkoku; Ataru, Urusei Yatsura).

Granted, all of these characters are dull in their own way, but I would argue that all of them have at least a little merit to them. Kyôsuke was a unique character in a dull setting from twenty-five years ago, back when even dry anime was fun to watch. Tenchi ended up having talent and a spine, even if he couldn't make personal decisions regarding love. Keitarô and Kyon both ended up at least trying to fit in with the oddballs around them, making them appear brave in the end.

Rito, however, brings a new definition to boredom—he doesn't change with the environment. He's thrust into perverted situations by Lala, never to put his foot down in protest. He's still too ashamed to tell Haruna how he feels, even with all of these already-embarrassing situations. He's not smart in class. He has no hidden talent. He is merely a combination of a punching dummy and a mannequin.

Seriously, give this kid a break (or at least a towel).

To put it simply, Kyôsuke and Tenchi had no spine, and Keitarô and Kyon had no talents, but Rito has none of these things, making him the most uninteresting anti-hero in the world, even with the most interesting things happening around him. Sadly, since the story is built around him, there will be absolutely nothing constructive that he will bring to the plot. Each episode ends the same way it begins—with sunlight censoring the naughty bits that belong in hentai, girls screaming in panic, and nothing established during the unorchestrated sexual chaos that will change the lives of anyone in the story.

To put it simply, I argue that Motto To Love-Ru is an example of the "I-novel" (watakushi-shôsetsu) being corrupted by the use of non-realistic situations. By creating exciting fantasy that surrounds dull central characters, Hasemi and Yabuki have attempted to create an "everyman" that can be the reader's stunt-double. What happens to Rito is something that will not happen to the average viewer, yet his plainness provides an identity similar to the viewer where there is a possibility of sexual hijinks ensuing.

Dream on, young viewer. These things will never happen in your dull life. All the more reason to avoid the vapid nature of Motto To Love-Ru.


  1. In bed sick this morning, and this made everything a bit brighter. Thanks for surviving this for us.

  2. Can't agree with a lot of that. No talent? He has a talent for making friends, and that is a pretty rare and powerful talent indeed. He puts his life on the line for them, and they for him. case in point: the last episode of the first series. And he made his feelings for Lala quite clear. As for Haruna, he demonstrated his feelings sufficiently for her; she even stopped him from saying the words. Wishy-washy? He passed the challenge set by the ruler of a galactic empire, a strong and dangerous warrior in his own right, and was acknowledged by him.And he was doing all right even before his friends intervened. That takes talent.

    And he persuaded Golden darkness, a hardened professional galactic assassin, not to kill him. She has even helped him on several occasions. That takes a lot of talent too. The greatest talent of all, even over making friends, is making an enemy into a friend.