I've long been a fan of manga featuring love-hate relationships. When I saw that "Love Com" was one such manga, I knew I had to give it a try. I had my doubts about it, though. As much as I love arguing couples, I'm easily bored with characters who are always at each others' throats and relationships that don't mature. At first, I didn't see much that set "Love Com" apart. There was the usual pairing of quarreling and unexpected friendship, not bad, but nothing new, either. I kept reading, though, and before I knew it, I'd fallen completely in love with this wonderful little series.
First of all, the plot is pretty original. Risa Koizumi is unusually tall for a girl, and Atsushi Otani is unusually short for a boy. Because their heights are accentuated when they stand together, they hate each other and end up arguing a lot. However, their classmates think their fighting is hilarious, so they end up getting compared to famous Japanese comedic duo All Hanshin Kyojin. The story begins when both Risa and Otani get crushes on other people, and they team up despite their differences to help each other attain the objects of their affection. Some elements are traditional shojo, but I thought the height difference and comparison to a comedy duo were original. As the story goes on, you see some old cliches get some completely new spins.
But it's the characters that really make the story. Risa is a totally believable heroine. She wants to be in love, but she feels awkward and unfeminine because of her height. She's neither shy nor exceptionally strong; she's just a typical girl trying to deal with high school. Even when she's embarrassing herself, her feelings are very easy to understand. One thing I love is the spectrum of emotions she goes through, from joy to disappointment to heartbreak. Although Risa herself can be overly dramatic, the manga handles it all in a realistic and sympathetic way. Ootani makes a great love interest, too. He's embarrassed about being short, and he's got just a bit of an attitude. He's really a nice guy, though, which Risa soon discovers. Though their attitudes make them bump heads and they argue throughout the manga, Risa and Ootani can relate to each others' height woes. It doesn't take long for them to become friends.
And how about this: a relationship that actually changes and grows? What a great concept! Really, it's rare to find such a thing in manga, but "Love Com" has it down. Risa and Ootani start out supporting each other as friends, but it starts to turn to something more for Risa. One thing I really appreciate about "Love Com" is the realistic way it handles the romance. It's not all sparkles and flowers. Even when there is a romantic moment, it's handled in an understated way. I love how it shows the awkwardness that can occur between friends who may be something more. Instead of taking away from it, this makes it much sweeter and more realistic. The romance never takes itself too seriously or gets too mushy. It's the perfect balance of serious and humorous.
And I haven't even gotten to the supporting characters yet! Risa and Ootani's friends are wonderful, and so are the rivals that come up. They all have distinct and likable personalities. Instead of just moving the story along, they bring new themes into the manga.
The humor in this manga is excellent, mostly because of the characters. You really get to know them, and the situations play off of their personalities is just perfect. The dialogue is sharp and witty. Also, the humor is mostly about the everyday drama we face in life. The familiarity of the situations that Risa, Ootani, and the others face just makes it that much more funny.
The art fits the story well. It's simple but distinct and well-done. You never confuse the characters, and their designs are a little more realistic than the sparkly eyed heroes of most shojo manga. I love all the faces Risa makes; they perfectly express her moods. Sometimes her expressions are truly ugly, but I was happy to see this. Most manga heroines manage to look cute no matter what happens, and it's wonderful to see one who sulks and grins so ridiculously. It makes Risa among the most human heroines I've ever read about.
My only beef with "Love Com" is the translation. It's ok, I mean, I don't hate it. "Love Com" was origially written in Kansai, the dialect of a region of Japan including Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto. The translator tried to give the feeling of this dialect by using words like "totally" and "like" a lot. It's not terrible, but it makes the characters seem a little shallow. But their personalities shine through anyway. It also becomes less noticable as the manga goes on.
"Love Com" is an excellent, excellent manga. It's one of the best shojo you can buy, period. Though it's written for girls, everyone should be able to find something to enjoy here. It has wonderful characters, the most realistic, dynamic romance I've ever read, a moving story that keeps you entertained the whole way through, hilarious writing... I cannot recommend this manga enough. Do yourself a favor and read it as soon as you can.