Alien princesses, star-crossed lovers, and fanservice. It would seem a winning combination. For a certain type of viewer it will be. For others, not so much. And yet it is far better than it has any right to be.
What They Say
They say that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, but when a beautiful, naked alien princess teleports into Rito Yuki’s bathtub, it’s a definite case of rub-a-dub-DOOM! Having no idea that the planet Develuke even exists, Rito is completely unaware that touching a girl’s breasts there is how they propose marriage. Consequently, due to some slippery tile and some extra-prominent female appendages, Rito’s suddenly on his way to being a member of the royal family.
Unfortunately, as hot as Lala is, this is one royal family no one wants to become a part of given that her father, King Develuke, bears a suspicious resemblance to the devil! And then there’s the little issue of the very nice human girl that Rito’s already interested in, who’s probably not going to be too understanding of his sudden involvement in intergalactic affairs. Will Rito become the next king of the galaxy? Will he learn the secret of the Big Bang? Find out in To Love Ru – The Complete Collection!
The audio presentation for this series is in its original Japanese language in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 48kHz 224kbps. As the show is a romantic comedy, with little in the way of action, even with the stereo mix most of the work is done by the center speaker. The rear speakers only seem to come alive when music is playing, but this is not unexpected as it is a 2.0 mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there were no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The 26 episodes here are spread over 4 discs in a six(1-2)/seven(3-4) format, and apparently are different from the original two-part release. The animation by XEBEC is bright and cheerful, as one would expect from a fluffy show and the two lead females have the expected colors of blue and pink (for their hair, of course), which stand out strongly against the backgrounds. The video bitrate jumps around quite a bit, but the actual picture is fairly good, though with the usual caveats when viewing DVD on an HD system. When sitting at an appropriate distance, the picture looks fine, but if you move right up to the screen, you’ll see the expected amount of dot crawl and fuzziness, but there is a simple solution to that: sit back from the TV, idiot. At least the colors have a good level of saturation and vibrancy, as they should.
This release comes in a STACKpak. That’s all one needs to know about the “quality” of the hub and case. Fortunately, Sentai includes a foam insert to keep the discs from coming loose. As for the cover art, the front has a suitable picture of Lala and Haruna on the front, with Rito in the background. The back has catalog copy, some screenshots, an image of Golden Darkness, and the usual technical grid.
The menus are plain and straightforward, playing either the opening or ending theme in the background, and give direct access to individual episodes and special features (only on the first disc). The options are listed to the left, with a picture of a character from the show on the right. Access times are fast.
The only extras are clean opening and ending animations and trailers for other shows available from Sentai Filmworks, all on the first disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I think I hit my saturation point with romantic fanservice comedies that included the very common set up of one wishy-washy guy surrounded by many attractive women sometime between 2009 and 2010. Even before then it was a group that could be rather hit or miss with me. There were those which brought a chuckle and a smile (among them Girls Bravo, Happy Lesson [other than the ending], and the granddaddy of them all, Tenchi Muyo!), while others fell rather flat. But it was in the past couple years, after being subjected to Omamori Himari, Asobi ni Ikuyo! (retitled Cat Planet Cuties for American consumption), Demon King Daimao, and Baka and Test – Summon the Beasts, that I think I have largely had enough. I enjoy seeing attractively designed female characters, but the “funny adventures” they have in the company of a milquetoast or indecisive, muddle-headed idiot no longer hold any attraction for me. I don’t care if they all fall into an inescapable black hole.
So, you might be wondering right about now, how in the heck did To Love Ru merit a B+ form me? Well, it wasn’t easy.
Rito Yuuki is your average romantic comedy lead: a well-meaning loser. He is unlucky in his attempts to win the notice of the girl of his dreams, Haruna Sairenji. While believable (and completely unbelievable) natural events prevent him from being able to make his confession to her, the latest one is just one too much: his perfect chance of making his confession to Haruna at school is ruined when a spaceship crashes in front of him.
Oh, now even extraterrestrials are preventing him from expressing his love.
But there is a silver lining (maybe?) to this failure when later that night, a beautiful and naked! alien girl shows up in his bath. She says her name is Lala and she’s running away from people chasing her. As it happens, two men dressed in black show up later ordering her to come with them. Rito, uncharacteristically, finds his courage and helps Lala to escape, though the two men are not really men, they’re aliens, and it’s revealed that Lala has run away from home. Zastin, one of her father’s men, comes to collect her, but Rito still tries to play the hero. In the end, however, it’s one of Lala’s inventions that saves them. Sort of.
With the stage set, the show becomes utterly predictable for a while. Because of a misunderstanding earlier, Lala declares that she is now Rito’s bride to be. This, of course, just makes things more complicated for Rito, as he still loves Haruna and tries to confess his love for her. In normal circumstances, that is, in the real world, things would work out for poor Rito, since it turns out that Haruna has secretly liked him for some time. But it seems the Cosmos has other plans, as Lala gets in the way in every silly and unrealistic manner possible. Lala, of course, doesn’t intend to do this, but she is utterly clueless about the truth of her “engagement.”
So, we get attempt after attempt by Rito to escape from his unwanted engagement, all of which end in failure. As to be expected, over time Rito’s resistance to Lala’s charms wears down, though slowly. Along the way, there is plenty of fanservice, including one fairly funny scene where they play into the fetish for tentacles and schoolgirls. There are the expected bits of character change; I would hardly use the word “development” for this show. Zastin, at first rather menacing, is turned into comic relief. Lala goes through some of the usual tropes of “the intended bride,” including a cooking challenge. Rito shows some backbone while still being hapless in achieving his real goal. Haruna, unfortunately, becomes the victim of events at times.
Over time, Rito, being the nice guy he is, attracts a harem, including the school’s oujo-sama, a censorious, uptight disciplinary committee member, and a gender-transforming alien. Of course, Lala brings visits from rival suitors, none of whom managed to interest her before, so why should they be able to do it now?
At least there is a weird Field Day (Sports Festival), which sports one of the strangest obstacle courses seen in anime. And then there is a mock cavalry battle to beat them all. While this show is utterly cliched, at least minor characters such as Saki Tenjouin (the aforementioned rich girl) are crazy enough to keep it lively. We get a visit from Lala’s overbearing father as well, though he turns out to be slightly different from what we might expect. In the midst of all the cliches and completely predictable developments, it is the occasional wild veering off into insanity that saves this show from being utterly trite. Run (this is the name of a character, pronounced more like “rune”) eventually emerges as an equal to Tenjouin in the insanity department.
That doesn’t stop the show from trying its hardest to be trite at times.
But to ward off that triteness, there are funny ideas that bubble up from time to time. For example, I have to give the show’s production team kudos for the Magical Kyouko episode. That was one of the better deconstructions of an inane magical girl anime I have seen. They had the guts to poke fun at all of the most idiotic elements, while also including weird non-sequiturs (“Ottoman army grunt”).
True to form, the final episodes fall into a “serious” mode, with the fate of the planet hanging on the shoulders of young Rito.
In the end, To Love Ru, which plays upon a pun in English (as when you hear a Japanese person pronounce the title, it sounds like “trouble”), lives up to that name, as Lala causes Rito unending amounts of trouble, while the show causes trouble for reviewers. For while there are episodes and elements that are so trite, so hackneyed, so far beyond wearing out their welcome at this time, they are balanced by the fact that the production team has put together a solid product that does exactly what it sets out to do. If you want a good example of what a “harem comedy” should be, you could do far worse than this show. While there are cringe-worthy moments here and there, the characters largely stay out of the annoyance zone, the area where too many shows of this type linger in a desperate attempt to draw laughs, but fail miserably. The basic structure of the show is a romantic triangle with complications, but the writers avoided the dangers of dissipated focus, as Rito himself is fixated only on the two female leads Lala and Haruna.
Thus, it is the combination of solid execution of the standard story elements with occasion forays into insanity that makes this show quite watchable and much better than it deserves to be.
While it’s not going to set any new boundaries, and it does not contain anything we haven’t seen before, To Love Ru simply does a much better job of being pointless but fun than a whole lot of other shows. While it might appear to be yet another bland romantic comedy with a harem of girls chasing an unimpressive male lead, the writers made the smart choice of just concentrating on the love triangle at the center, while introducing new characters who add occasional amusement and sometimes really weird flourishes to break out of the staid conventions of romantic comedy. It’s not a great show by any measure, but it remains largely entertaining for most of its run. If you cannot stand idiotic romantic comedies, you will probably not like this one, though it is far less stupid and annoying than many of them tend to be. If you enjoy lighthearted, fluffy fare, give this one a chance, as it is probably one of the best examples of that type of show.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.