First Impressions: To Love-Ru (Plus a Brief Discourse on Shoujo vs. Shounen)

Get ready for a naughty alien invasion!

If that’s your thing.

I saw a preview for this series on a Sentai DVD I received for my birthday, so I knew from the get-go that this probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea. But I went ahead and watched the first episode anyway, because I am nothing if not open-minded. As limited as my experiences with shounen anime are, To Love-Ru seems to be fairly typical for this genre.

Only an alien could pull off that hat.

We begin with a schoolboy, Rito Yuuki, trying to summon up the nerve to confess his love for a girl in his class. (Another Yuuki! “Yuuki” must be the “Smith” of Japan.) Turns out that he was falsely accused of ruining a school garden once and this girl was the only one who believed in him. Just as Rito finally decides to take the plunge, a giant meteor-ship-thing falls from space and practically lands in his crotch. Shaken, Rito goes home and takes a bath. All of a sudden a light starts emanating from the general area of his junk, and a moment later a totally naked girl is standing in the bathtub with him. He gets all flustered (as you do) and listens to her story once both are in his bedroom. This girl is an alien named Lala (like the magazine?) and she’s on the run. Lala’s robot invention teleports to her during her story, but unfortunately that leads the guys chasing her straight to the bedroom. Rito grabs Lala and proceeds to take part in a farcical chase across the rooftops and into the park, ending with Lala summoning a giant vacuum to suck up the guys chasing her. In the process Rito learns that Lala is actually running away from her father and a looming arranged marriage. Flash forward to the next day: Rito sees the gal he likes once more and this time he actually manages to confess his love. However, he does so with his eyes closed, and Lala has appeared in the midst of his outburst. Thrilled, Lala proclaims that she and Rito are now engaged. Ha ha, silly alien, what will happen next?

No, I won't keep my clothes on, you can't make me!

I can tell you what will happen next. There will be entire episodes based around girls losing their clothing while Rito gets red-faced and flustered. Nine times out of ten he’ll end up with his face mistakenly buried in their breasts or their nether-regions. This will happen again and again and again. I get it: traditional shounen isn’t my bag, just like traditional shoujo isn’t some other people’s. I hate how shounen and shoujo series tend to break everything down into gendered stereotypes: this is for boys, so there will be naked breasts and a flustered, bland protagonist. This is for girls, so there will be a spunky heroine and rich guys in love with her. Yet personally I can’t deny the appeal of shoujo, because hell, I’d love to have a bunch of rich, cute, sensitive guys fawn all over me! (Or just one, that would be okay, too.) It’s a fantasy, if unoriginal and indulgent, but one that I enjoy immersing myself in nonetheless, so who am I to denigrate the polar opposite fantasy of a hapless guy surrounded by short skirts and boobs? My enjoyment of traditional shoujo doesn’t mean that I don’t also enjoy a wide range of other anime genres and stories, and I’m sure the same can be said for many shounen fans.

Presumably Rito's harem. The pics in this post are literally the only ones I could find from this series that didn't have nudity. If you're looking for something more ecchi, just google "To Love-Ru" and have at it.

That said, traditional shounen of this sort just isn’t for me. I was ready to tune out as soon as the naked girl from space appears to be coming out of the main guy’s crotch. Then there’s her weird Barbie-meets-Power Rangers outfit that she gets through a crazy robot bondage transformation scene. And at the end, of course Lala and Rito are engaged to be married, so she’ll have to move in with him and pave the way for a billion awkward and/or accidental naked scenes. “Oops, you mean I’m not supposed to be nude while making breakfast? How would I know, I’m just a bouncy, well-endowed alien girl!” Good heavens, it’s too much for me. (I’m getting flashbacks of Mahoromatic. *Shudder*) I do like the “sweetheart” undertone of Rito already being in love with a girl from his class (with a normal chest size). That gives a shounen series slightly more credit in my book, just as shoujo does the same by having the spunky heroine (usually) HATE the guy with money, both forcing him to woo her romantically and showing that she couldn’t care less about his dineros. The money is only a bonus, just as big boobs are the bonus that hapless shounen heroes get for having a good heart. I don’t judge those who enjoy shounen series like To Love-Ru, but for me personally, I’ve seen more than I wanted to of this clichéd tale.

Editor’s Note: You may or may not have noticed, dear reader, that I have suddenly added the extra “u” to both “shoujo” and “shounen.” While technically speaking both English forms are considered correct, I do realize that the romanized version is typically the preferred spelling for anime and manga enthusiasts. Truth be told, I would have switched to adding the extra “u” long ago, but I didn’t want to have to go back and re-edit all of my previous entries. So my compromise is that I won’t re-edit, but from here on out, “shoujo” and “shounen” it will be.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. starsamaria
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 12:00:51

    I think a major reason shojo clichés are not as bothersome is because they aren’t as pervasive and are a bit more realistic. Shonen romantic comedies tend to set up such high and sexist expectations for women, which is why I prefer shojo – although I love older shonen romantic comedies like Kimagure Orange Road and Maison Ikkoku, which are more ‘romantic’ than perverted.

    Reply

    • Miss Pink
      Nov 23, 2011 @ 15:04:38

      I could see that. The cute romantic meetings that take place in so many shoujo stories, rare as they are, would still be more realistic than busty aliens who land on earth and decide that all they want to do is serve a random earth boy. ;p

      I’ll have to check out those older shounen titles that you suggested, thank you! I love most any type of romance, no matter what category it falls into. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Funkgun
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 17:44:54

    It would be entertaining to see in a checklist, all the predictions you made about what was going to happen next. I bet you would be pretty spot on.
    I suppose the same way that a romance here in a theater, gives away the entire movie, yet People still go see it, Example Letters to Juliet. it is a warm wooby of expectations met with little to no surprises.
    This type of story fills the bill for exactly what you expect.
    I suppose this is why I appreciated a title like School Days (even if it is unlikable to some do to content)
    It starts out aloof in the world of predictability, then things… change. >=)

    Nice read.

    Reply

    • Miss Pink
      Nov 23, 2011 @ 19:38:52

      Lol, thank you! Yeah, sometimes those predictable stories are fun to watch anyway, sometimes not so much. I did see Letters to Juliet, and was very unimpressed. Like you said, there were no surprises, and I didn’t even enjoy the predictable journey to get to the end.

      I haven’t seen School Days, but I’m usually up for anything with “school” in the title. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation, and the encouragement! 🙂

      Reply

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