Life can suck when you’re in high school. I’d imagine it’d be even worse if you’re a student who’s always stuck looking up or towering over the people you talk to. Lovely Complex (2007) depicts the tale of two high-school students trying to find love under strange circumstances.
Koizumi Risa and Ootani Astushi are two protagonists with extreme complexes because of their vastly different heights. As a girl who comes from a family of tall people, Koizumi is a 172 cm tall “giant” who exceeds the height of most of the people around her, including all the boys in her class. Whereas Ootani is a 156 cm tall boy who’s often teased for being a “midget” because he’s shorter than most of the girls his age. The duo often worries about their love lives as they fear that with their ridiculous size, they’ll never find someone who matches their standards.
Since others are always teasing them about being a comedic duo due to their drastically different sizes and eccentric personalities, they start the series off as strong “frenemies” who bond over their similar struggles in finding romance. So the couple frequently goofs around and compete over who’s going to find someone first. As they’re the only ones left in their circle of friends without a significant other, neither of them wants to be the last person standing. But despite their annoyance at each other for having the other’s ideal height, Risa and Ootani find themselves constantly drawn together for multiple reasons and hang around long enough to be close friends. They soon realize that there may be more to love than just their appearances.
Love In Fiction
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that “love” is a rather popular theme when it comes to fiction. Throughout the years, many have used this theme to improve their stories, however, they see fit. What’s so special about these feelings in real life is that love can occur to you at any moment. The sensation is unpredictable. There’s never a predetermined result for who you fall in love with or how long it’ll last. These feelings can ignite all sorts of emotions in us and lead us to do many unbelievable things.
My biggest gripe about love being in fiction is that people often leave out all the bad aspects of a relationship to give consumers something to strive for. It often feels like people fail to represent these unique experiences when they’re pushing their characters together under the claim of “true love.” Creators shape their stories to benefit the relationship of two characters and make it seem like they’ve somehow achieved eternal happiness by staying together. I’m starting to feel as if this approach to fiction is cheapening the overall idea of what “love” actually is.
With the way people are now representing love in fiction, it feels like they’re striving to create a utopian version of how feelings work in real life. And, as a result of this, they’re diluting the experience with delusional expectations for romance. Since we cannot dictate who we fall in love with, a person’s ideal standards for a relationship, much like a unicorn, cannot exist anywhere outside of their imagination. (While fantasy relationships are nice to dream about, they’re still unlikely to happen anywhere in real life.)
What’s “True Love” & Why Do We Keep Seeing It In This Article?
Before we talk any more about the anime, I want to offer my understanding of “true love.” In fiction, “true love” is the belief that two characters remain destined to always be there for each other despite their vast differences. Traditionally, the idea runs on the belief that a character who has found their ideal partner is ensuring a life of endless perfection (a “happy ending”). The most popular example of this approach appears in the seriesTwilight. Here, the main couple consists of two different species of people who aren’t meant to be together, and yet their love for one another helps them find a way.
However, if we look into more modern concepts of the idea, movies such as Disney‘s Frozen have expanded the idea to cover familial relations as well. The film introduces the belief that characters should contribute to their desired relationships and work for them instead of having it handed to them. They show that it takes real effort to live happily with the ones you love. If you haven’t seen any of the shows or films mentioned so far, you should leave now as there are some major spoilers up ahead in the next few sections.
How “True Love” Appears In Media
You’ve probably heard the phrase: “still a better love story than Twilight” at least a dozen times now right? Usually when people are using that phrase, what they’re doing is criticizing Stephenie Meyer’s popular franchise for trying to sell the relationship between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen as a case of “true love.” For those who’ve yet to read or watch the series, Twilight is the tale of how a teenage girl and a century-old vampire fall in love with each other in spite of their opposing circumstances.
One is a self-lamenting immortal who refuses to come to terms with what he is, while the other is a love-stricken girl who never had any specific desires to change herself (until they met each other). In fact, their love for each other is so miraculous that they’re able to conceive a baby together despite their biological differences.
Of course, the major fault in this line of thinking doesn’t lie in the poor level of storytelling in franchises like Twilight, but rather in the way they’re trying to conceptualize something as important as “true love” as a tool that improves our lives once we meet our “fated person.” The franchise has a basic approach to characters falling in love with each other because “fate” wants them together (they’re soulmates). There is no damaging conflict or long-term struggles involved in the couple being together so long as “fate” deems them a perfect fit. They don’t need to have any common interests or meaningful interactions with each other, they just need to fit the “ideal” role and play the part.
Soulmates have always been the ideal representation of what others want love to be like in real life. Many remain enamored with the idea that “loving others” can grant you the power to overcome any problems. Popular stories like Twilight are cheapening the concept of love. Writers make it seem like relationships are easy to maintain. There’s rarely a sense of conflict with these pairings as the couple become too “agreeable” with each other the moment they pair up.
Seeing characters like Bella and Edward pair-up in stories is becoming a nuisance to me as nothing feels “hard” to accomplish anymore. Since the characters are always aided by someone (sometimes several someones) who is willing to dedicate their lives to helping them. Instead of cheering for the characters to get together and “kiss” already, I dread the moment they’re brought together. Their relationship is too “idyllic” for anyone to find relatable.
Wait, What Does Twilight Have To Do With Anime?
Anime fits into this problem because it’s not just Twilight that likes to take advantage of the “soulmate” idea. Several known anime shows are guilty of doing things this way as well. The relationship between Sasuke and Sakura from Naruto is one of the most iconic examples of this idea as Sakura is virtually the “Bella” of the series. She begins the series as a blank character who changes herself to become a worthy partner for her crush, Sasuke. (Sasuke is her “Edward” in this case. He’s the embodiment of what an “ideal partner” looks like as he has multiple girls pining for his affection.)
From a general perspective, Sakura’s affection for Sasuke appears one-sided. She’s the only person who puts any effort into their relationship. Fans often find themselves a little dumbfounded about how their relationship transpired so quickly after the series. (The couple had gotten along poorly throughout the years.) Giv that Sasuke spends years shunning away any affection Sakura throws at him in favor of ruminating in hatred and treating her like a nuisance. And yet, by the end of Shippuden, she still achieves her dreams of marrying him. So what else can anyone assume about their relationship other than the fact that they’re “soulmates.”
A couple that fate constantly pushes together despite all logical reasoning.
What’s Your Point?
When fans and creators push their beloved characters together out of their own desires to see them together, they’re practicing the act of shipping characters. This means that it’s up to them to replace the missing sense of logic or chemistry in their created pairings with their own ideas. In reality, this practice is difficult for others to do when the characters aren’t meant to be together. From a fan-fiction standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with pairing characters together when it’s done in the act of fun. This activity allows writers to improve their skills by recreating another person’s work under their perspective.
But that’s just it, “shipping characters” with no common interests together is meant to remain an activity for others to practice creating the chemistry between two established characters. They’re not meant to be canonical pairings. But fans understand that their work doesn’t belong anywhere near the creator’s original franchise. When creators are imitating this practice within their own characters, they’re lessening the quality of their stories to that of fanfiction. It sucks whenever characters are paired together just because their authors want them together and not because they see any genuine connection.
People seem to believe that because their characters are from a fictional setting, any form of on-screen development is unnecessary for them to become romantically involved. They’re telling us that it’s okay for a person to ignore their own relationships. As long as their partners are willing to make up for the missing portion of passion and dedication on their own. In this case, can you really call that type of relationship “love?”
How Our Views Of “True Love” Are Changing
When we think of true love in real life, we often think of finding someone who’ll bring us eternal fulfillment; as that’s the universal outcome that stories are trying to sell us. While we may not all strive for the same fairy tale romances that characters do in stories, we still seek the same outcomes. However, what we often fail to realize about this is that relationships are never handed to you in any perfect form. The happiness we desire from these stories is something that both parties must be willing to build on in order for it to exist in our lives
How Disney Is Changing This Idea
In modern Disney films, characters learn the meaning of “true love” by experiencing the unexpected hardships of real life. At the start of Frozen, Anna is unhappy with her living circumstances. She’s often shut off from the rest of the world. She spends her time dreaming of a prince to take away her loneliness. Anna initially believed that finding a partner would improve her situation. Even though she’s never experienced any hardships due to her extensive isolation at the castle. The protagonist only knows of “happiness” from stories and paintings conveying true love. They’re the only source around her that shows her what a happy life looks like. Because of this, Anna only understands “love” at a face value and becomes easily deceived by characters like Hans.
Ultimately, Anna learns the real meaning of “true love” when she discovers what it means to self-sacrifice. When she repeatedly risks danger to help her sister, Anna shows that she cares for Elsa. She overlooks Elsa’s past actions and is still open to having her in her life. Whereas she’s not as forgiving of Hans’ transgressions when he tries to kill them, because she lacks the same connection with him. His habit of hiding his real persona from others prevents anyone from loving him as they cannot reach his true self.
It’s through these harsh experiences that Anna learns of who matters most to her. She discovers that her desires for happiness are not as limited as she once believed. She learns that true love is based on how much another person’s presence matters in your life. (And what you’re willing to go through to let them stay in it.)
Why Effort Matters In Love
Normally, when people think of “self-sacrifice,” they’re thinking of someone putting their lives before another. What they fail to consider is that self-sacrifice is also a gesture of forgiveness and a desire to move forward with the person. It’s the willingness to put aside their needs and past differences for other because they want to continue being in their lives. Frozen introduces the idea that “love and happiness” can come to us in all forms. As long as we help build it. Lovely Complex follows this theme. The series centers around the belief that love cannot remain altered the way we want it to. No matter how hard others attempt to deny or manipulate events to work in their favor, actual “love” takes the effort of both parties to succeed in life.
How Does Lovely Complex Fit Into All This?
Lovely Complex is the result of what happens when someone uses the “soulmate” idea and does it right. These characters actually feel like they’re made for each other as each step of their struggle is identifiable by viewers in some way. Risa and Ootani start the series with naive thoughts about how love occurs in their world, and they eventually learn from each other than actual romance is nothing like the games they play at home. Real love is not a smooth process. The experience is a never-ending ride that requires people to communicate their feelings. It requires people to sacrifice some of their own needs and patience to understand each other.
How The Series Does A Better Job Of Portraying Love
Like Anna from Frozen, the couple had both dreamed of finding the perfect partner. They never imagined themselves being romantically involved with each other because their insecurities had convinced them that they could only find happiness in dating those as tall as them. However, as they get to know each other, their fears go away and they find themselves happy being in each others company. In this case, instead of trying to change themselves to suit their partner’s ideal image, they learn to accentuate the better parts of themselves to change their mind. Similar to Disney‘s newer approach to love in their movies, Lovely Complex is trying to recreate age-old romances from newer angles.
When it comes to this series, relationships are never “perfect” in the way the characters imagine them to be, but, instead, they’re “perfect” in ways that naturally bring them happiness. The main characters of this series are all friends who support each other because they’re always stuck in similar dilemmas. They share enough common interests to understand each other and thrive together whenever their world crumbles down. More importantly, the anime also highlights how being in love doesn’t make all our real-life problems go away. While Ootani and Risa may get along famously with each other, these characters still have to deal with their personal fears of never being good enough for their partner once they start dating.
What Makes Lovely Complex Different From Any Other Anime Out There?
What I like most about Lovely Complex is how it shows us the different ways love can exist. It’s not your typical “love at first sight” series that results in characters falling in love with each other the moment their eyes meet. The characters in this series start as rivals who never imagined themselves dating each other. Their relationship develops until they can no longer picture their lives without each other.
This series also doesn’t restrict relationships based on gender or appearances as it shows us that love comes in many forms. This anime shows that your partner can be the complete opposite of your standards and you’d still find yourself drawn to them in some way. Your “true love” can be your connection to your friends and family members as well as your “love interest.”
Care To Find Love With Lovely Complex?
Lovely Complex is a fun series that’s perfect for killing time. This anime will make you laugh just as easily as it’ll make you cry. When you’re not watching it for the story, you can simply skim it for the humor and romance. Not to mention, this series also comes with several catchy songs that’ll stay in your head for hours. While the anime doesn’t cover all the events from the manga series, it still goes over the main parts. So viewers can get a feeling of conclusiveness regardless of which version they choose.
Feeling nostalgic or interested in watching this series for the first time? You can find the entire collection over on Amazon. It’s a little on the pricey side but I say it’s worth it. The anime ages pretty well for a decade old series, as you can still find yourself enjoying it years later. If you’re looking for a good romance, I guarantee to you that this series has a ton of moments that will make you go “aw.” However, there are still plenty of other shows out there for you to try if this series isn’t for you.