Even though this is a sequel to To Love-Ru, all of our main characters make an appearance along with some new additions. Rito continues to be caught in over the top uncensored ecchi scenarios. The alien Deviluke sisters still use their unique abilities to grab Rito's love confession. Nana and Momo have transferred into the school and meet Mea, who seems to be a worry free and joyful girl. Momo in particular wants to share Rito and create a harem for him. While scheming her plan, she confronts Golden Darkness also know as Yami. They are interrupted by possessed students who begin to fight with abnormal strength. Now the new plot line appears as a mysterious person who's in control of the students tests Yami's assassination skills. Who is this new enemy?
I am finding myself with some rather mixed feelings after finally finishing this manga. The To LOVE-Ru franchise has now lasted over a decade, and for about half of that time it has been the flagship of the ecchi harem genre. You would think that such a famous, popular and lengthy series would at least be able to deliver a proper resolution upon finally concluding, but in this case not even 36 volumes was enough it seems, as for the second time in the series' history, we now find ourselves in desperate need of a continuation. The first time our prayers were answered when the
sequel Darkness started publishing a little over a year after the original manga's ending. I can only hope lightning does in fact strike twice in the same place.
There are many things that need to be said about this manga, but I have tried to divide it into four general focal points in this rather in-depth review. Hopefully I can manage to explain just why I have loved this manga so much more than any other series of its genre over the years, but also why the ending disappointed me so much.
1. Aiming straight for the harem ending.
The original To LOVE-Ru never really tried to be anything out of the ordinary. It was mainly just a standard love triangle romcom revolving around Rito, Lala and Haruna, and most of the story followed a light-hearted episodic structure without much plot progression in either direction. It was not bad, but it was rather cliché and did not leave much of a lasting impression.
Darkness on the other hand makes it clear from pretty much the very first chapter that it is trying to do something completely different. It makes the strong statement that it is actually aiming for a true harem ending, and that it is going to find a way to make it canonically possible. This is basically a direct challenge to what has always been one of the biggest problems with the harem genre, namely how to end it. In general when you have a story with a male protagonist surrounded by a bunch of girls that are all in love with him, you are presented with two different eventual possible choices: either a) make him pick one of the girls at the end, or b) keep maintaining the status quo in order to keep things balanced between them. Unfortunately neither of these options are particularly satisfying for the general fan base, because the girls are always designed to fit various tropes in order to appeal to different audiences, which means that no matter which girl is chosen at the end, a lot of people are going to end up annoyed at the outcome because they would have preferred someone else. And if you maintain the status quo, it will only start getting repetitive over time and an eventual open ending means that *no one* will have their personal favorite girl picked, which is hardly optimal either.
In a visual novel this would be a non-issue since there every girl can just have her own route instead, but in linear mediums like manga and anime this is not really an option. So the only option you are left with here that could theoretically please everyone is a true harem ending, with the guy actually ending up in a committed relationship with all the girls simultaneously. But this essentially never happens because polygamy is unfortunately illegal in Japan, and also writing a story where such an insane development actually seems plausible is a lot easier said than done. But Darkness actually has a solution to both these problems (more on that later), and is thus able to make it work.
The sad truth is however that despite all the buildup and potential that Darkness had in order to actually open the door to that elusive harem ending for once... we were still never taken to the Promised Land. Instead of keeping the story going until it actually reached that seemingly inevitable conclusion, on March 4th 2017 the manga just... stopped. It was not a filler ending or something that threw away the plot development or anything, but rather it pretty much ends with just another transitional chapter. It barely even qualifies as an ending at all. If we really are getting another sequel in the future (which is still unknown) then this is totally fine, but if we are not then it will have been such a huge waste of potential. Sure, this is ultimately the kind of series where the journey is more important than the ending, but given just how much potential Darkness had to actually deliver an exceptionally good ending, it would still be very unsatisfying to never get to see it with your own eyes.
2. Self-awareness of what the audience really wants to see.
Perhaps the most common downfall of ecchi series is what I like to refer to as excuse stories. An excuse story is essentially when a writer throws in some sort of mediocre and/or generic plotline in what is otherwise a fanservice-oriented series, not because the readers actually want it but simply in order to have an excuse ready in case the SJWs come knocking on their front door. "T-There is more than just tits and asses in my manga, just look at this *great* story it also has! R-Right?" That kind of stuff. Whenever I see this done, first of all I can't help but feel that the author is a bit of a wuss, but it also just makes the series itself straight-up worse. Throwing in some half-assed plotline into an ecchi manga only takes away time that could have been spent on more ecchi scenarios or something equally productive, and if the story is really that average it is hardly going to impress anyone on its own regardless. If I specifically decided to pick up this manga, I probably did it for the boobs. If I wanted a serious storyline, I would have picked up something else altogether. On top of all that, combining the two tends to really ruin the atmosphere because it is very difficult to take a story seriously at the same time as you lean back and enjoy the fanservice shots. In other words, it doesn't please anyone.
Fortunately, To LOVE-Ru Darkness doesn't do this; the direct opposite in fact. While Darkness most certainly does have a progressive story, the plotline itself is basically an intricate form of fanservice. The entire plot is written in order to naturally accommodate as many borderline hentai scenarios as possible without them feeling forced, and like mentioned earlier, to eventually reach that elusive true harem ending that is usually always relegated to a mere fantasy in these types of series. The whole manga is basically wish-fulfillment to the extreme, but it is done in a way which makes it all very easy to appreciate. It never pretends to be something it is not, and instead just rolls with it. It fully embraces its own sexual nature and flaunts it. For example, Rito consistently managing to fall face-first into all these girls' crotches on a daily basis sounds forced and stupid on paper, but here it has actually been turned into a running joke. The characters in the show itself acknowledge that Rito has some sort of physics-defying super power that causes this, and there is even a chapter where the story satirically tries to scientifically analyze the logic behind this condition. All-in-all, it manages to keep things light-hearted and all in good fun even in its most stupid aspects.
Another advantage is what the harem setup means for the community. When it comes to harems, the viewers/readers tend to end up at each other's throats before long simply because everyone has different tastes in girls, and despite the supposedly light-hearted premise of the series itself, the fans still turn hostile due to their so-called waifu wars. The To LOVE-Ru Darkness fan base however is not really like that. Since it has been so clear since the beginning that the harem ending has always been the end goal, there is no need to fight over who the best girl is, because after all in the harem ending, every girl is a winner. As a result the series has one of the friendliest communities I have seen in manga and anime, and one of few I can actually say I am proud to be a part of. Or to quote Sugisaki Ken: "in the harem ending, everyone is happy."
3. The characters.
As nice as the aforementioned points are, a harem is still nothing without its heroines, but that is also perhaps Darkness' strongest side of all as well. Not only do they peak high, but the sheer number of great girls in this story is through the roof.
I am not going to go through every single one of them (that would take forever), but one girl which I do think deserves a special mention is Momo Deviluke. Originally introduced about halfway through the original manga alongside her sister Nana, she was always a playful and sexually aggressive girl. However, she was never anything more than a side character in the first manga, but with the start of Darkness that changed quite drastically. Lala and especially Haruna took a step down from the spotlight, and made way for Momo to take over that position instead. The mere fact that such a role swap even took place is quite unusual to begin with, but the way it impacted the story cannot be understated.
The whole reason Darkness started aiming for the harem ending to begin with is a direct result of her actions. What Momo has done for this manga pretty much resolves the normal issues with how to end a harem story as mentioned earlier... or at least it was supposed to up until the "ending" actually happened. As much as she loves Rito, she realizes that she can never be number one in his heart, and thus the only way to make her love come true is by sharing him with the other girls. If she cannot become his only wife, then she will settle for being a concubine. Accomplishing this essentially requires two things: Rito marrying Lala and thus becoming the heir to the throne of Deviluke, which in turn would make Japanese laws a non-issue since polygamy is normal and legal within Devilukean space, and also Momo needs to convince the other girls who are in love with Rito to be willing to share him as well since it would be strange for Rito to accept specifically Momo as a second wife yet none of the others. The result of this is that she not only pursues Rito's affection for herself, but she tries to help pretty much every relevant girl in the entire manga to score some points with him. Improving her own position and helping her love rivals do the same essentially becomes one and the same thing. As a result, we have a consistent stream of intimate ecchi scenarios being generated between Rito and all the other girls as a direct result of Momo's behind-the-scenes manipulation. It makes these events actually feel believable and natural despite their ludicrous contents and timing, instead of feeling forced like they normally would, and it directly paves the way for the true harem ending to take place in a way which actually makes sense story-wise (so again, if we never get to see it out, it would truly be a shame).
Now you could argue that she is forcing her ideals upon other people against their wishes with this, and honestly I don't disagree on that. That is Momo's sin and one she has to live with, but people doing crazy things for love is nothing unheard of in the realm of fiction (nor reality for that matter). More importantly though, regardless of whether her actions can be considered admirable or not on a personal level, the fact of the matter is that they generate a huge amount of the manga's incredible wish-fulfillment scenarios, and the series would not be the same without her. Darkness as a whole is basically fanservice, and Momo's string-pulling is a big part as for why.
Regarding the other girls in Darkness, the manga also does a good job at giving all the relevant ones just enough characterization for you to care about them, and then tries its absolute hardest to show off their sex appeal. You will be well acquainted with pretty much every single nook and cranny of each of these girls' bodies before the end of this manga. With such a large harem cast, there is more than enough for every reader to find their own favorites, and rest assured that you will see plenty of screen time for her, whoever she may be. The manga tries to give all the girls enough moments in the spotlight to appease their fans, yet without slowing down the story progression to any unreasonable degree. Personally I am primarily a fan of Momo, Yami, Mikan and Nemesis but honestly there are maybe half a dozen more which I would still put well above regular harem standards as well. The bottom line is, the girls in Darkness are generally super hot, but they still feel like genuine characters with their own motivations and reasons.
Of course that is not to say that everyone is perfect. First and foremost, our resident protagonist Rito can be pretty annoying to see in action sometimes. Sure, he is actually a very nice and kindhearted guy who only ever wishes the best for those he cares for, but considering the situations he ends up in, his innocence can sometimes drive you crazy. With the sheer amount of carnal lust and perversion that constantly keeps revolving around him and the other girls, it can be a bit frustrating to see him merely panic and stutter instead of actually making a move on the girl in question. This is probably attributed to the fact that when you are sitting at home reading the manga, it is quite easy to end up getting pretty horny, and thus seeing him run away instead of pushing the issue whenever he ends up in borderline hentai scenarios is basically nothing but cockblock. But of course, this is not actually a hentai manga, so what do you expect. On the other hand you could argue that it lowers his credibility because Rito is still supposed to be a healthy teenage boy, and thus being able to always resist all these temptations is a bit unfathomable, no matter how timid of a personality he may have.
There is also the rather obvious issue of Haruna, the girl who was originally based upon the mangaka's ex-wife whom after cheating on her husband and divorcing him led to the premature conclusion of the original To LOVE-Ru manga (if you want the full story on that, Google it). While this incident is partially responsible for the drastic change in direction plot-wise in Darkness as well as the shift in lead heroine position, Haruna unfortunately also serves as a hindrance in it. Since it was already established since the beginning of the first manga that Rito has been in love with her since years back, those feelings of affection only end up becoming counteractive to Darkness' harem ordeals. Since Rito still loves her, it is difficult for him to accept the idea of having a harem, so her mere existence effectively slows down the plot progression. This is unfortunate because Haruna herself is fairly irrelevant in large portions of Darkness, and she is also widely considered to be the most boring character of the show. The mere fact that Rito even likes her so much feels more and more baffling the longer the series goes on because Haruna basically never does *anything* of note at all. Sure, she was there first, but other than that it is difficult to understand why Rito would care so much for her specifically instead of any of the other girls whom he is always interacting so much more with. A lot of the time it feels like he is just forcing himself to believe that he still likes her in order to maintain some sort of normal life, because believing otherwise would be more or less the same as admitting that he wants the harem ending which is not only crazy on paper but also rather difficult for such a timid person to accept. However, seeing as this manga was always about extreme wish-fulfillment as mentioned earlier rather than love drama, most people have still just wanted her to get out already over the course of the manga in order to proceed with the harem route instead.
4. The eroticism.
Although it is a bit difficult to properly describe it with words, long story short: the art of To LOVE-Ru Darkness is simply incredible. I can't think of any other manga which consistently makes girls look as attractive as this. The attention to detail, the shot angles, the colour patterns and the character designs are all almost perfect. And considering the overwhelming amount of nudity the manga has, there is an unbelievable amount of extremely sexy drawings as a result. I also really like how Yabuki (the artist) manages to make the girls look hot without exaggerating their proportions. There are no complete boob monsters in this manga; almost all the girls actually look like the teenage girls they're supposed to be, but still in a very erotic way. But again, it is something you are better off seeing for yourself than reading about.
Speaking of lewdness, something that has always bothered me with a lot of ecchi series is that a lot of the time, their sexual content is just... not enough. If you are going to have erotic content in a manga, it should be a given that it would be nice if it actually managed to turn me on. If there is some other purpose for it (like comedic effect or something) that is obviously a different story, but if the sole purpose is to act as eye candy then it doesn't really serve its purpose if it doesn't manage to catch my interest. Just seeing a panty shot every five minutes or having some breasts jiggle in front of the camera is way too softcore for me.
Now Darkness on the other hand absolutely bombards you with lewd shots almost non-stop. No matter the scene, if there is any chance at making it ever so slightly more erotic, Yabuki will make it happen one way or another. It is both creative in terms of sexual content, but also versatile and intense. The manga is basically a millimeter away from being hentai a lot of the time. Due to its science-fiction-based nature, basically anything is possible due to the multiple different alien girls within the cast and their unique abilities, as well as the multiple strange devices they bring with them to the planet (more specifically Lala) that always end up creating some sort of direct sexual consequence that would never be able to happen in real life. But it also goes pretty far even during its more "normal" scenes and seeing girls orgasming on screen in Rito's arms is nothing out of the ordinary. Sometimes it shows scenes that may or may not be porn depending on how you read between the lines. If you want to fap to this manga, you most certainly can.
But as if that was not enough to generate all the ecchi content you could ever ask for, on top of that Yabuki actually pushes the limits of what is legal to put in a non-18+ manga. There are numerous moments over the course of the series where if you look closely enough, you can catch some things which Yabuki put in that probably went unnoticed by the editorial department. For example, in chapter 62, you can see a clear reflection of Haruna's uncensored pussy reflected in Nemesis' eye. In chapter 70, the same can be seen for Mikan reflected in a bathroom faucet. At numerous points there are scenes with close-up crotch shots of stark naked girls where there is only something barely obscuring the vertical line of the slit but nothing else. There are several occasions where shots are drawn in ways which quite heavily suggest that Momo has just given Rito a blowjob (usually whilst he is sleeping), but of course it never officially confirms or denies this, and even Yui may or may not have accidentally done the same at one point in chapter 64. A good tip would be to read Darkness quite slowly and pay attention even during panels with little to no text on them, because mere ecchi drawings might contain some interesting hidden gems for you to find. Or if you are too lazy, there are some Easter egg compilations just a quick Google search away.
Not only that though, but as a direct consequence of all this, the H-doujins for the To LOVE-Ru franchise are generally fantastic. Since the manga is basically the epitome of sexual wish-fulfillment and everything about it is so close to being porn already, it constantly teases and stimulates your imagination, and thus turning it into hentai for real inside the minds of the fans is not exactly very difficult. As a result, the series has perhaps the highest number of parody doujins you can find for a single franchise if you discount giants like Touhou and Kantai Collection. And because of how sexy so many of these girls are to begin with, the general doujin quality is just as impressive as its quantity. If reading a new chapter of the manga is enough to get you horny but not quite enough to get off, then this is a quite obvious choice for where to look next.
Overall, there is an absolute plethora of things to like about this manga by ecchi harem standards, and while it still is not perfect, I think it has come closer than any other series I have seen thus far within the genre. However, the fact that the story was sadly cut short is a huge setback. The final chapter does give some vague hints that the manga might continue in the future, but it is certainly nothing I would consider definitive. I can only pray that it will happen though no matter how long it takes, because the story sorely needs it. I have heard some rumors that the mangaka wants to move on to some other genres in the future which would be a bad sign for the chances of To LOVE-Ru continuing, but I cannot verify the truth of this.
Either way, while the eventual fate of the story is still up in the air, nothing can take away from the fact that at the very least, the Darkness chapter of the To LOVE-Ru franchise was an absolute joyride from start to finish, and is not only my favorite ecchi harem series to date, but one of my all-time favorite manga, period. If only your average fanservice series could learn from it, there might be a lot less bashing on ecchi harems in general one day.
After 10+ years the story we all known and love and have grew up reading is now officially (Or what we believe is a definite end) ended. Hard to imagine that all good things must come to an end sometimes, and this series was no exception. However this story has left people with some kind of confused or mixed feeling. Due to of course it's sudden and open-ended ending. Rather a bare-bone and unsatisfying conclusion if anything. Not a good way to end a popular and long run series as To-love Ru. Almost feels like we were given a huge middle finger.
As many may hope
another sequel is to come in the nearby future, in hopes to fill the void that was left behind. Lets not forget what this series has brought us these couple of years. And here are its good points:
Lets just start of with this one for now and get more complex in a bit. The illustration on this was superb. Characters looked beautifully made, smooth, and well-presented. The scenery which were not the focus was made in great details. Everything was focused and rather consistent throughout the chapters. However one of the most key art of this story and that many have missed it's the nice little "easter eggs" the drawer left behind. Those small attention to details was fascinating, it really felt as the illustrator wanted to tease the readers even more than the focal ecchiness that was on the page. And I say well done!
Must I really elaborate?
The ecchiness here is what makes To-Love Ru, in fact it's better to say that without ecchi this series would be nothing but just a cheesy romcom, with little to no audience. And what I must say is that the ecchi in this story does not fail! It delivers something every chapter no matter how subtle it is. Not even DxD or HoTD nor Shinmai can hope to compete with TLRD when it comes to ecchi. (Not a biased statement either, honestly just do your research and you will see that this statement is rather true). This series is boderlined hentai at its finest. Pushing the ecchiness meter pass dangerous level and seeing how far it can go, all of that to arouse you for like 20 minutes.
Won't get much into this one, since this is pretty much a double-edge sword. But listen lets be honest... More tiddies more fun. And enough girl to go around. All of them are just simply amazing. But again will not go into much details because again this part is both a positive and a negative. (Biased opinion here: Yui Kotegawa, best girl).
The Ending Route:
Here is the last positive points of this series. And that is, it's potential outcome. Every chapter lead us closer and closer to a possibility what the ending would be. We were given 2 choices, either a one girl wins all ending or the Harem route ending. Now how is this positive you may ask? Simple it gave anticipation. The hopes of knowing which of the 2 possible route was to come. This ofc lead the readers to read, it glued you in, it draw you in, for what? For a conclusion that was left for anyone to guess. What a way to get everyone on the edge of their seat! And even if one girl won, who would be that lucky girl?? With so many the ending possibility was endless! And that was rather fun to guess around for awhile.
Now for the bad points:
I told you this was the double edge sword and I will tell you why.
There was just too many with little to no appearance, little to no development. And those with development in their "love pursuit" revert back into background characters. And just too many were left abandoned. Rito's best friend, Zastin, Aya, Rin, Saki, Kyoukou, Risa, Mio, Lala, Yui, Run, Nana, Ghost girl. I mean that's alot. This part mainly only focused on Momo, Nemesis, Mea, Haruna, Yami.. With only Yami and Mea having any true development! And well Haruna too. I mean this part was more a Yami focused story, which they did, but felt so unfulfilling at the sametime.
Jokes aside, believe it or not this story had an actual plot... What happened to it? It got decimated.
Overall this series was enjoyable nonetheless. It teased us, treated us, made us laugh and made us hope. In all and all, all we can hope for now is for hopefully another possible sequel. I will conclude this review rather arubtly just like the author did with To-Love Ru.
** Not exactly sure why MAL says there's 100 chapters when there's only 77 **
Story (7/10) - Following the events of To LOVE-Ru, we see Rito continue to struggle with his daily life involving all the women in his life.
Art (8/10) - They say all things age with time, this is true. It felt that the artistry in this story was slightly improved since the original. (Granted this was published over a year after TO LOVE-Ru ended)
Character (8/10) - This franchise is very in-depth with character development, and is a joy to connect and watch them grow.
Enjoyment (7/10) - Reading this was just
as fun as reading the original, and also the excitement and finding out what happens next after the Anime finishes.
Overall (7.5/10) - This was a small step-up from the original. The one problem I had was the open-ending. I feel like none of the main plot problems were resloved, but I've heard that there may be a sequel, but we'll have to wait and see.
After finishing To Love Ru, I jumped into Darkness.
First of all, the ecchi here is a lot heavier then in the classic To Love Ru not only because the nipples are drawn, but also due to the events that happen (like Rito kissing Lala's "lower lips" multiple times during the manga) and you know what, I like it. I always felt that it's better to have no censor than to have things like hair censoring nipples or convinently placed object in front of X part. Anyway, that's one thing I think Darkness did better.
Another thing was the story. The classic To Love Ru manga had
little to no story (save for some chapters), but this one has a story from chapter one up to the end. Basically, we can divide the story into two parts, before Darkness transformation and after Darkness transformation.
Before the Darkness transformation, Momo decides to make Rito's harem, but there are many obstacles in her way, such as Yami having Rito as a target, Mea and Nemessis' plan to turn Yami into Darkness and also who whould take part in the harem. It doesn't take long for there to be some many candidates for the harem that one has to wonder of Rito will survive the honey moon.
After the Darkness transformation, it's time for everyone to change. Everyone begins to work, on their own way, towards the harem, though many don't even realise that. In the final chapters of the manga, Rito is troubled if he should or not accept his harem. Whle he does see it as the only solution for eveyone to be happy, he doesn't accept it at his core, so there are still more troubles to come.
Other than that, there's not much to say. The comedy if funny, the ecchi is good, the characters aren't anoying. Really, is there a reason to dislike this?
(spoiler, by the end of the manga, Rito and Haruna do confess to each other)
We love cute couples and following the development of their relative relationships in our favorite manga series. But let's turn up the heat, and see what happens when characters have more than a singular love interest. Let's enter the wild world of the harem manga!