Lovely Complex is a high-school romantic comedy that’s rowdy and sweet and rough around the edges. It chronicles the story of two (explosive) friends as they struggle to become something more. The anime’s story ends up being somewhat different than the standard romance or romantic comedy in its constant ups and downs. Regardless, Lovely Complex is a fun watch and a solid entry in its genre.
Right off the bat, Lovely Complex establishes that it’s a different sort of romantic comedy. The main pair start off as friend-rivals-sparring partners. They get along by seemingly not getting along; they really like fighting with each other. This mood sets the anime apart from the “I can’t stand you, but somehow we end up lovey-dovey” or the “weird, awkward people that get together and hilarity ensues” anime. That’s what makes this story’s journey different – it’s more about friends overcoming the “friend” barrier to become something more. The tone and theme remains consistent throughout, keeping true to the atmosphere of the anime and its characters.
The perspective of the anime is limited to the female lead, meaning the anime is pretty solidly from her perspective. At the end, there are hints of the potential for the anime to be Excellent when it broadens its scope to difficulties faced by the other couples and even to the decisions and inner-workings of the male lead.
Another notable aspect of the anime is the fact that it has an extremely rare character type – a male Tsundere. While quite uncommon in themselves, this particular character, the male lead, does not have the sadistic tinge that often accompanies the male characters of this type.
The main pair and supporting characters show consistent and distinctive personalities through their relations with each other. Many of the characters have additional complexities that keep them interesting both in how they react to situations and each other. Of course, the focus of the anime is on development of the main pair’s relationship. In addition to starting the relationship in a different place, the characters go through a lot of ups and downs in how they relate to and with each other. Specifically, it’s about the struggle of how they learn to define their relationship. Interestingly, this takes place over the course of 3 years, which is uncommon for anime of this type. The main characters end up growing and learning from this ordeal, though it takes a while to get there.
All that aside, Lovely Complex is still a romantic comedy at heart. There are plenty of crazy characters and goings on.
There are a couple notable aspects about the setting. First, it’s clearly set in the Kansai region, particularly demonstrated in the dialect spoken by the characters. It’s an oddity to have the entire cast speaking Kansai-ben (the regional dialect). The other notable aspect is that the world seems set up against the main couple. There are certain expectations or norms that require the main characters to overcome. Namely, the expectation of what a romantic relationship is in addition to what the players of those roles look like.
One other thing to comment is that the world is fairly limited to the eyes of the main heroine. This limits the viewer’s ability to comprehend the full picture of the main relationship and the relationships of everyone around the main characters.
In some ways, it’s predictable. In other ways, it’s not. You know how it’s supposed to go since it’s a fairly standard romance anime. However, the course it takes – the little course corrections that affect the story – end up making it different from many others in the genre. While many anime will use the meet-like-challenge-conclusion formula, Lovely Complex spends more time bouncing back and forth between liking and challenges. This results in a bit of a bumpy ride, with lots of ups and downs. Plot-wise it’s never really backtracking so much as zig-zagging forward, partly because the challenges are more unusual.
True to the overall feel of the anime, the storytelling is a little rough around the edges, unpolished, but still very genuine. One of the stronger parts of the storytelling is that it manages the viewer’s perception of the relationship to be in-tune with the progress of the relationship. Basically, it creates the feeling of “these guys are good friends” first so that picturing them as a couple feels a bit odd. Eventually when they do become a couple, it seems quite natural. This helped to drive home the main heroine’s fear of losing the relationship they had as friends as she sought something more.
One of the weaknesses of Lovely Complex becomes most evident in the middle. There, it feels like the author got stuck with the slow zig-zagging and didn’t know how to get out. So, we take a slightly jarring detour that ultimately forces things along. That aside, the fact that it got stuck a bit ended up emphasizing and strengthening the sweetness of the payoff.
This anime feels like a long-haul since it spans all 3 years of Japanese High School, which is certainly a rarity. Lovely Complex gets a little bogged down in certain areas, but never really stagnates. Overall, watching the the anime, it never really feels too slow. It just helps emphasize the long journey.