Natsuo Maki is the most mature of all the dignified young ladies at Fujisaki Girls Academy. As the student president, Maki is revered by all the other young girls for her grace and poise. What happens behind closed doors, though, is an entirely different story. One day, Natsuo decides to practice her kissing technique on a pillow, a move which makes her look neither graceful nor elegant. Unluckily, fellow student "Wild Kid" Riko Kurahashi walks in on her.
Luckily, instead of making fun of her, Riko chooses to help her. The two begin a project called the Love Lab, intended to practice the essentials of love and romance. Bumping into each other "accidentally," holding hands, and more "love techniques."
Soon the rest of the student council is pulled into the girls' Love Lab, and then the rest of the school. Suddenly the student council's job has expanded to include answering anonymous questions about romance. And it becomes quite clear that many girls at the academy long for a bit of romance in their lives!
This show is not yuri. I don't want to spend a lot of time on that fact, so I'll just throw it out there immediately and move on.
So, MAL review reader, if you're reading this line, you probably started your trek of this review by checking out the number I dropped in the "Overall Rating" section. Intrigued, perhaps you even clicked those words to bring up the breakdown of numbers I awarded the show for various aspects of its creation. You would then have noticed the number "10" in the story section and probably asked yourself, "What? A perfect 10 in story for a comedy?
How does that make sense?"
Normally I would not so directly reference the scores I gave in my actual review; the review is for explaining them, not reiterating them. They're just numbers, anyway. But I feel this worth the mention as it is, in fact, the most crucial part of the review and why the show is so great. I do not consider Love Lab's story worth a 10 because it's deep, or unique, or emotional, or ingeniously crafted. I give it a 10 because it is a comedy executed perfectly.
Love Lab, first and foremost, knows it is a comedy. What does that mean? It means that through everything it does, it stays comical. It will always keep you laughing (if its style of comedy does that for you, of course). Does it have dramatic subplots? Oh yes. Three, in fact. Yet even at the climax of these subplots, it stays funny. In fact, sometimes that's the funniest part.
And yet, at the same time, it never sacrifices suspense for the comedy. It's paradoxical in a way, but the show remains both serious and funny at the same time. Within the suspension of disbelief the show works under, the ways these problems manage to work themselves out are both believable and funny.
Now, one of the worst crimes a comedy can commit is to throw in a dramatic subplot out of nowhere to arbitrarily heighten tension, then forget it when it's done and go back to normal. Well, once again, Love Lab dodges this bullet. Every dramatic subplot has something to do with the point of the show (which, if you weren't aware, is a group of girls researching how to be popular with boys), is led up to, and continues to effect the story of the show and its characters throughout. The final climax of the series is actually the culmination of the event that began the daily lives of the Fuji Girl's student council in the first place and had been building up all along.
If that's not comedy done right, I don't know what is. But now, where would we be without our cast?
With all the praise I gave the story, the characters, too, must be good, right? Of course they are. Maybe not as perfectly crafted as the story, but still plenty good. First up is Riko, the tomboyish "wild" one. She has zero relationship experience, but her personality makes her pretty popular with the girls. However, when she walks in on student council prez Natsuo, known around school for being beautiful, kind, and just all around perfect making out with a hug pillow (Yes, really. Not exaggerating)...one thing leads to another and Natsuo, desperate to know how to be popular with boys, ends up believing Riko has tons of relationship experience. She has been around boys a lot...but always AS one of them, not WITH any of them.
Thus begins the relationship with Natsuo as the crazy and Riko as her straight man, even if the reason for it is a bit of a lie. Most of the show's time is spent with these two, and as they grow closer, Riko's secret becomes tougher to keep and even tougher to admit.
But that isn't all. Coming in to help with the love research will be Suzune, the klutz and shy girl, Yuiko, the slightly-childish and somewhat tsundere, and Sayori, the money-loving and merciless smart girl. Suzune and Yuiko, unfortunately, do not really get a chance to shine. One can only do so much in 13 episodes. That doesn't mean, however, that their characters are not well realized and put to use. Suzune's shy nature, while the center of multiple jokes, is also put to use as a way to distract faculty members when the student council needs to get a hold of the broadcasting room. Yuiko and Sayori make a comedy duo not unlike Riko and Natsuo, though in this case it is Sayori treating Yuiko as her butt monkey (don't worry, it's funny in context). Both of them also believe Riko's lie about being popular and further escalate the challenges of keeping or admitting it.
But Sayori doesn't believe Riko's lie. Naw, she's sharp and sees through Riko. But she's not just going to let it loose; she wants to use it to her advantage and have some fun, so she does. But for as clever as she is, she manages to get into some trouble of her own, and when it comes time to face the consequences, which she is completely prepared to do, what becomes even harder for her is allowing her friends to share in the blame with her.
Oh, there are boys in this show, too. Crazy, right? A cute-girls-doing-cute-things show with sausage? I already said it's not yuri, so it shouldn't be that much of a surprise. One might expect the appearance of boys to be a strange turn that doesn't work well in the show, but the opposite is the truth. If anything, the scenes with the male characters only serve to make the show and its characters even better, allowing them to grow in a way one normally wouldn't expect from this kind of show. It's also simply a nice diversion from the paths these shows usually take.
And honestly, I love yuri, but I'm happy for the inclusion of boys here (I know I said I didn't want to spend much time on this, but you've already gotten past the most important part of the review). These shows have a tendency to be kind of sort of maybe pretending to be yuri but not officially yuri so they can say it's not yuri and not polarize any given subset of fans but it's kind of sort of maybe pretending to be yuri so it gets the yuri fans, too. That's cute for a while, but, quite frankly, I'm sick of that shit. Be yuri or don't be yuri. Love Lab replies, "We are not yuri." Thank you, Love Lab. Thank you for being straight with me.
Hm, okay, technicalities now. Art and music are both in the decent/good area. They're not nearly bad enough to take the show down at all, but they also don't do a whole lot to enhance one's experience. To sum it up in one word, they are "fine." Standard. The character designs aren't wholly unique but distinctive enough to set them apart and animation is largely smooth, mistakes mostly being minor and unnoticeable if you aren't looking for them. The OP and ED are both pretty generic (actually, I found the OP annoying), though the insert music does tend to fit quite well and give the show a good mood when applicable.
If you're tired of the standard cute-girls-doing-cute-things formula but still want to see a good one, check out Love Lab. That was my situation. Heck, if you never even liked the standard cute-girls-doing-cute-things formula, you may still like this. It really isn't easily judged by its cover or title because it's just so much better than what it appears to be.
Well ... that was a freaking surprise. If someone told me, based on that synopsis, that Love Lab is a hilarious and heartwarming journey all through, I'd have him jump off a cliff into my love lab of death. Glad no one did. Regrets would be far too many.
So, where do I even begin? It's quite hard seeing as I'm still kind of thinking about the anime. I'll just begin by saying this: do not let title or the synopsis drive you off. If you think that this anime is filled with cute girls (it kind of is) doing cutesy things (it kind of is)
and that's all it is, then you're wrong. Not blaming you though, I only decided to watch this after seeing a short, hilarious clip on YouTube. So yeah ...
The story is surprisingly good. Where majority of anime comedies fail, Love Lab managed to go up a notch. Almost nothing in the anime happens just so "you can have a couple of laughs". Somewhere, somehow, it all kind of ties up to the end of the story and the conclusion. It starts in a light tone which continues all throughout. Yeah, there's some drama, but it's not over the top. It doesn't try to shove tears into viewers eyes or anything. It's simply there to give more depth to already great characters.
The story follows Riko and Mika, two seemingly total opposites when it comes to ... well, everything. Mika is a perfect girl, nicknamed even "Princess", while Riko is a tomboy, nicknamed "The Wild One". They're both admired by other girls in the school but for all the different reason. Fate (and by fate I mean teacher) has its hands in them meeting one another and then the adventure begins. Along the way they're joined with some other (equally hilarious) characters and you're bound to like at least one of them, if not all. To be quite frank, the story is not deep, but it's extremely well executed. It's a story about friendships and how lies sometimes make it hard. Nonetheless, everything that happens is a part of the story. It's not just a sidetrack business trying to make you laugh.
Another impressive part of Love Lab are the characters. There are five main characters (seven if you include guys), and they're all enough unique to have their own charms and likeness to them. Mika is a delusional perfectionist who does everything on her own and wants desperately to have a boyfriend. Riko is her straight counter-part, who's "Master of love", and never fails to make you laugh with her comments. She's not as smart as Mika, but you admire her for what she is. Then you have Suzune, shy and timid but equally enthusiastic about their quest to learn how to seduce boys. There's also another duo of hilarity, Sayori and Yuiko; Sayori being composed, seemingly cold and detached person with quirky remarks and affinity for money, and Yuiko being not-so-annoying tsundere. All of them have distinct personalities and they all bring something to the table when it comes to comedy.
You see them grow closer and closer as friends, and you actually believe in their friendship and you feel worried when it feels as if it's going to collapse. There are some over the top moments, but most of the time it's down to earth funny.
When it comes to the production department, it's nothing amazing but it's good enough looking to the eyes. Anime-only-comedy was done extremely well, and I really loved most of the expressions of the characters. They were cute when they were meant to be cute, and they were extremely ugly when they were meant to be ugly. Backgrounds were lacking but that's to be expected from character-focused anime so no complains there. Soundtrack was lacking as well but, from what was there, it fit solidly.
Overall, Love Lab was extremely well done, definitely above average and on sub-par with some other hilarious comedies. Its drama wasn't there to suddenly shift the tone to dark and try to appear more mature, but to give more depth to already established characters. I really do recommend Love Lab if for nothing else but its hilarity.
Of all the things that exist in the world, perhaps one of the most debated for centuries is the concept of 'love'. Like seriously, what exactly is love? Is it a feeling towards someone you hold dearly for? Or is it perhaps something we humans are born to be part of? Or whatever the case, I'm not a scientist here to discuss the concept of love. However, what I am here to discuss is this cute little series known as Love Lab that debuted during the summer of 2013.
Love Lab (also known as Renai Lab) is an anime series based off of the 4-koma of
the same name. The series is written by the author Ruri Miyahara whom has little presence in the manga industry. Her other work known as Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou also has similar themes involving love in a slice of life story with awkward comedy, drama, and romance. However, Love Lab is a little different because it takes the idea of love and focuses it on exclusively as a sort of experiment. Our main characters at Fujisaki Girls Academy plays the role of the scientists and tries to find out exactly what love is through these so called "love experimentation".
For starters, Love Lab's concept consists of the idea of discovery. This primarily focuses on discovering how to attract the opposite gender and what love is. It's quite a difficult task because there are all sort of mishaps dealing with love. I mean, think of this way....when you first fell in love, how did that feel like? At any rate, the experiments dealing with the discovery of love and its concepts are explored at Fujisaki Girls Academy. The school itself is famous and pretentious because its school body is composed of well mannered students with elegance. A primarily example is Natsuo Maki, the Student Council President. With her elegance and beauty, she almost seems to be the perfect example of a Yamato Nadeshiko. Hmm, or is she?....
Among its other cast members is Riko Kurahashi, an admired girl but with a rather tomboyish personality. She is one of those girls where is very straightforward with their brutal honesty. In fact, she is even known by others as 'The Wild One'. This is clearly evidenced in the first episode with her actions. Coupled by the fact that she grew up with a little brother younger than herself, expect Riko to be the contrasting side of Maki. If Maki represents the princess, then Riko would be the beast. Then, there are also other characters of the series also become member of the school's life as they are on the journey of perfecting their discovery of....love.
Because the series takes place at all-girl school, expect some undertone yuri. However, this is rather a facade because the tone is actually not as explicit as people may think. This is more evident later on when other characters enters the story that degrade this genre. (if it can be considered one at all for this series). To put it simply, it's NOT yuri.
What makes Love Lab entertaining though are a variety of its ideas. The surprising concept is immediately presented when Riko discovers Maki with her obsession. It doesn't help Maki disprove her case as she is caught red handed with a toy that she practices on. While this is essentially seen as a joke, it's clear that Maki is actually serious about romance. She hopes to make the hearts of boys go 'doki doki'. In reality though, she is already considered elegant with a beautiful face and figure. This is prove especially later on when she actually has several chance encounters with the opposite gender.
As for the experiments go, the theme focuses on love and its various little gags. The fun part typically involves with Maki and she tries to practice with situations that she believe will trigger 'flags'. In a way, her ideas can be relatable to otome games. Unfortunately for her though, these concepts don't always apply to reality and she learns it the hard way. Furthermore, her denseness on the concept of love makes her go to extreme measures with delusional ideas on several occasions. These experiments varies in many degrees as the girls tries at all sort of weird ideas. It's not very simple to explain so it's better to watch the series yourself to see what's going on. However, it can be relatable to high school experiences. Remember the first time you asked out someone? However, the process of actually verbally ask the question is a lot harder than it seems. It takes trials and error to get the right response usually. Here, the girls are in a similar situation.
Being tagged as comedy also, expect Love Lab to have many humorous dialogues and absurd character interactions. There are moments where we can't help but laugh with Maki's behavior regarding to the experiments. In fact, her initial encounter with Riko becomes an abrupt bubble burst with humor. Riko on the other hand is fun to watch as she becomes a sort mentor to Maki. It's like teacher and apprentice without the light sabers.
At some point though, Love Lab might become a chore to watch if decide to follow it all the way through. For one thing, we should want Maki to succeed and unlock the doors behind romance. However, the key to opening it often has her grasping on the wrong set of the key chain. This is proven by her naive ideas and because she lacks experience involving actual interactions with the opposite gender. Also, Maki often interprets almost everything as serious and often fails to recognize words behind the meaning. This is proven later on when she gets into a situation where she gets trapped in a zone of confusion. Additionally, Love Lab often tries a bit too hard and the ideas are cliched. These ideas are usually seen in most romantic comedies but here is taken as a joke. Unlike capturing targets similar to TWGOK (The World God Only Knows), the girls often finds themselves to be the targets.
Artistic wise, the series is pretty generic in its designs. The only two characters that seems to stand out among the others are our two lead female protagonists – Maki and Riko. Maki is designed to look, dress, and act elegant. Riko on the other hand has that tomboyish look for her hairstyle. She even changes her hairstyle too but no one seems to notice it. Two of the supporting characters also goes along with glasses to their design that makes them seem more mature and geeky. Yuiko Enomoto's eyebrows are also designed to look noticeable and commented on many times throughout the show. Finally, there's also the school design that gives off that girlish feeling. It's a girly show after with girls trying to learn romance.
As far as soundtrack goes, Love Lab once again adapts that girlish tone through its OP song, “Love Shitai”. Hearts are clearly seen in the song along with blushing moments of the girls. The OST itself is lighthearted but maintains a poor position because the majority of the series focuses on romance rather than a music band. However, Riko's VA Manami Numakuma does a terrific job in her role because of her tomboyish personality. Her tone of voice clearly presents the vocals of a tomboy. The way she speaks truly makes her the “Wild One”.
I won't say I love Love Lab but it's definitely something fun to watch to pass time by. It has its moments with the girls and what they do at school. In many ways, we see a familiar side to what girls think of the opposite gender as a rather entertaining outlook on the anime industry. Usually, it's the guys that goes after the girls like no tomorrow. But here, the girls wants to learn about love, educate themselves with romance, and maybe even earn themselves a boyfriend. Ultimately, this series might seem to be a bit different but it's certainly can be worth the time to watch through. Love Lab isn't just about experiments of love but also about discovery through experiences.
My friend was giving me the rundown on this season's lineup, and mentioned that he was disappointed that the Yuru Yuri crew were working on a show that was being described as being, "Yuru Yuri, but lewder." I was a bit sad, Yuru Yuri is one of my all time favorite shows, and seeing the talent behind it make, what I assumed to be, a show with the fan service dial cranked up to 11 was just a let-down. Fan service won't put me off a show altogether, but if its the central focus of the show, I tend to
have a diminished interest.
Whoever came up with that description of Love Lab is a monster, and should feel bad. This show is nothing at all like it was described to me.
Content wise, it's not dirty at all, the subject matter of practicing for love is presented in a charmingly innocent way. With characters who are all oblivious but earnest in wanting to know just what it takes to find love. Little to no fan service through the entirety, just smart and well paced humor with fairly low stakes character drama.
The art and animation are incredible, with a very good flow and perfect snap when they want to punctuate a gag. Everything flows just right, and it just FEELS good to watch. Character design fits its tone perfectly, and the voice talent is spot on.
Sure, it's another slice of life anime about high school girls in an incredibly specific and idiosyncratic club, but it does it well enough to be worth watching by fans of fun comedies.
So, ignore what you heard and check this one out. If you remember the awkward days of trying to understand what it meant to find love, or just like funny slice of life shows, then check this one out.
Love Lab ended up being my surprise favorite of the season, and it demands your attention.