I have returned! I apologise for the slow inactivity, lockdown still somehow keeps me busy. But we are back and with a new tag post none the less. Courtesy of the wonderful Pinkie we have the Bee Love Tag. Now, I am unsure of how this tag works, Pinkie ranked the top 5 Bees in gaming, but I don’t have such extensive knowledge of gaming bees, so I decided to put a spin on things. The title has love in it, so I thought ‘why not use this opportunity to write about To Love Ru’. This was originally just going to be a general review of the franchise, but I figured why not spice things up a bit, and instead talk about the series and how it…let’s just say derailed itself.
What is To Love Ru?
To Love Ru is an ecchi, romance, comedy, sci-fi anime that follows the hapless protagonist Yuuki Rito. Hung up over his school Crush Sairenji Haruna, as well as interference from a whole variety of characters, filling out almost every single waifu quota in the world, his life is turned upside down when an alien arrives on his planet! But this isn’t some squiggly slimy creature, but rather a pink-haired buxom cutie pie named Lala Deviluke, a princess on the run from her arranged marriage.
The first series follows Yuuki adapting to a new life with Lala in his life, as well as many botched attempts to woo his crush, as well as fend of Lala’s ever-growing affections after she decided he is to be her groom. Misadventures and hijinks ensue and sprinkle in one too many accidental fanservice antics, and you have a simple but heartfelt story with fun characters, a repetitive but fun plot and a handful of ecchi that adds that little extra spice to the mix. However, this was not to last, and in my opinion, the series took a serious nose dive at some point in its run. But what went wrong? Why did it go wrong? And how could the series I love so much fall from grace? Well, let’s find out.
Why I Loved To Love Ru
To Love Ru was in fact the first anime I ever saw, no joke. Forget gateway animes like Naruto, Dragon Ball and Bleach, my first introduction to the Japanese anime industry was this obscure ecchi fest with waifus galore! While the ecchi was indeed an aspect of the show that did draw me in during my teen days, it was more than that to me. For me, the anime presented creative ideas and settings that I had never really seen before in a cartoon. The show hooked me with its simple plot and fun characters, and from that point on my love for anime grew and grew. The anime itself also inspired me to take up my own creative ventures, and when I discovered Senran Kagura around the same time, the two combined franchises kickstarted my creative juices.
In a weird way, I can attribute who I am today to To Love Ru, it gave me an escape for when I made it home from school, helped me expand and work on my creative side, and launched me into the world of anime and even greater heights. From own novel series to descriptive essays to…well, blog posts, I owe it all to the discovery of To Love Ru. But what was so great about To Love Ru, or rather…what used to be so great about it?
The Promising Start
In order to gain a better understanding of the series and where I felt it went wrong, let’s look at why I loved it so much.
- Series 1 (To Love Ru): The first series was basic but fun. It had a plot that kept things moving while also bot straddling itself to some big overarcing story that held back moments for downtime and fun side adventures. As I said before the story follows Yuuki Rito as he adjusts to life with a fun loving sweetheart alien princess while fending off her suiters as well as other threats from outer space. To me the story felt organic in its progression and character writing. Everyone was likeable, even the ones I felt weren’t meant to be, and it had a real feel good vibe to it all. While it was just ecchi fluff, it was good, wholesome ecchi fluff, and there were moments with a lot of heart to them. Overall this series was a solid starting point with its main pull being loveable characters and fun fanservive. A respectable 7/10 for this one.
- Series 2 (Moto To Love Ru): The second series has one stark difference from every other series thus far, it had absolutely no plot. This whole series felt like an OVA compilation, even tho we had received some OVA’s beforehand. Speaking of those OVA’s, I chose not to discuss them because they’re basically the same as this series in terms of enjoyability factor, so consider what I say about Moto TO Love Ru to be my thoughts on the first set of OVA’s as well. This series had no structure, but rather focused on smaller side stories and one of adventures for the gang of characters to experience, and was mainly there to serve as a character moment montage for us to watch. As for the stories themselves, they were fine, definitely carried by the great cast of characters. The fanservice was dialled up a bit for this series, but it was still tasteful and fun-filled. This series is where the characters shine, no longer bound to a restrictive plot and given more free range to stretch their personality muscles and really bring their A-game in terms of enjoyability. The lack of a plot may be a turn off for some, but for me it was what made the series so fun. 8/10 for this one.
So that’s two solid anime series for the franchise. I definitely admit they are flawed at times and have absolutely no stakes other than the bare bones tension of series 1, but still, they were a delight to watch. Surely the next entry in the franchise would only add to this amazing world and characters, while also sticking to its roots. Right? Well…
The Fall into Darkness
To Love Ru Darkness, and its follow up To Love Ru Darkness 2nd, were where the series veered off the road and into a canyon. It tried to drive back up but ultimately couldn’t pull it off. But what do I mean by this? Well, these two series committed some cardinal sins of To Love Ru and aided in the shows an ultimate slide from quality.
Sin 1: The Fanservice
Now, I’ve talked about this before in my review of Senran Kagura Shinovi Master, but it bears repeating here. Full frontal nudity in an ecchi isn’t a negative for me, I’ve watched Highschool DxD and love that anime, but what is a negative to me is when you shift from tasteful tame fanservice to just straight up full frontal. We have a case where instead of the ladies decency being covered by conveniently placed objects and hair, they just went for a DxD style of fanservice, and it’s so distracting.
Now, why do I think this? Well for me it feels like a desperate grab for the viewers’ attention. What kept me hooked before was the fun character moments and interactions, the fanservice serving as a nice little humorous bundle of moments to give the viewer a chuckle and eye candy. However, in Darkness the fanservice is given full reign of the scenes it’s used in, much more explicit than before and took away from the plot for me.
Sin 2: Momo Deviluke
Darkness did not handle the characters well, I would go into all of them but this post is already extremely long and I only just made it to the halfway point, so I’ll concentrate all my fury on who I consider the worst character. Momo Deviluke was previously a mere side character, a little bit of a tease and overall fun.
However, Darkness decided Momo is the main female character now, and on top of that, out of nowhere wants Yuuki to have a harem! This comes right out of nowhere, in the previous series, Momo had never even expressed an interest in this ridiculous plan, so it seems so out of place. Lala is heavily shafted in this series, upstaged by her younger sister and basically serving as a side character, completely sucking out a large factor of the shows appeal. A lot of characters lose out in this series, all simply to serve as a way to give all the attention to Momo and her stupid harem plan. So yeah, Momo’s presence in this show has become more of a hindrance rather than a way to progress it.
Sin 3: The Plot
This is the shows biggest sin, the storyline is terribad (yes I combined terrible and bad into one word, that’s how bad it is). The story takes on a much more traditional story arc, or about as traditional as you can get in this setting. Instead of light-hearted fun with some romantic shenanigans, Darkness and Darkness 2nd bring in a new plotline revolving around the awakening of a powerful entity simply known as…well, Darkness. To add to this the person possessing this supposed supervillain is Yami, a side character who now comes to the forefront as a central character. Now this isn’t as egregious as Momo’s forced main role as Yami is an interesting character and actually has motivations other than wanting to build some dumb harem. However, this brings in a lot of unnecessary additions to the story that serves only to advance Yami’s story. The worst part is that despite Darkness introducing all these concepts and ideas that relate to Yami, none of them are even acted upon until Darkness 2nd when the real antagonist Nemesis shows up. And even worse than that, Nemesis’s arrival does nothing to advance the plot until the final moments of the series where she remembers ‘Oh yeah I’m the villain, guess I gotta move us into the final act.’ The final part of the plot however, is the worst part, the defeat of Darkness. So by the end of Darkness 2nd, Yami has fully succumbed to the power of Darkness and is causing havoc. Yuuki however can defeat her by…pleasuring her in such an intense way that she reverts back. This is a moment that left me slack-jawed and frankly frustrated. This development kills any tension this scene would have had, taking the fanservice to a point where it’s ridiculous. With that, the story ends, leaving us with a few OVA’s that barely captures the joy of previous OVA’s.
Final Thoughts and Nominations
In conclusion, To Love Ru had an unfortunate evolution. I do get the feeling I’m in the minority with my opinions on Darkness, but I am glad people can enjoy something when I can’t. Darkness has some positives, and sometimes does manage to reclaim that magic from the previous series’, but it just can’t seem to hold on to it. I do hope To Love Ru continues as a series and it will always hold a special place in my heart since it essentially aided me in getting where I am now in terms of my creative endeavours.
This brings us to the end of another tag post, and now for the nominations!