Entry #11: Love Lab (SoA 2016)

love lab 3

Love Lab is an interesting show. It’s interesting in the sense that there is absolutely nothing original or exaggerated about its premise or initial set-up, yet it manages to bring a smile to my face more often than most. That’s not to say this show is ordinary or doesn’t exaggerate, because it does, but looking at the show from its foundation upward, it’s essentially cute girls doing cute things + clubs. One could argue that it’s not technically a “club” and it’s the student council, but they don’t do anything important, so it’s basically a club.

The synopsis paints a pretty picture: a girl stumbles upon another girl kissing a body pillow in the student council room. Through unusual circumstances, they decide to work together to teach one another the ways of love, with the one of them lying about their experience with men in order to take on the role of “love guru” of sorts. Y’see the two girls in the middle of the picture up there? Those are the two main characters. The series will make sure you know that by putting them in almost every scene and making every conflict involve them in some way. It progresses in a way one would expect: a group of girls come together as part of a club to talk and help others about love. Only problem? The school they attend does not allow romantic relationships. So it’s a hush-hush club. Wow, this is overly-complicated.

That’s the biggest issue with this series. It’s incredibly over-complicated. It tries to create little snippets of drama and foreshadowing and character development and comedic interactions and serious themes and the toils of love and blah, blah, blah. It takes on so much that it ultimately falters on most accounts. By the end of the series, it takes on this lackluster, almost lukewarm sort of feeling of mediocrity that makes the viewer think “What if?” It is a series that has such limitless potential, especially due to its ability to entertain, that destroys itself by trying to do everything at once.

love lab 1

Love Lab is very entertaining. I found myself enjoying this more than most of the series I’ve seen so far this Summer. The only issue is that it tends to drag when it becomes serious. This is one of the rare examples in anime that I feel a series would better serve as a slice-of-life without much conflict. When a scene focuses on a delusional Maki (black-haired girl) embellishing fantasies of the wonders of romance, the show is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not amazing, but certainly something that could serve to carry the series with Riko (red-haired girl) acting as the straight man/slapstick aid. However, there is also evidence that the series can develop characters well when it wants to be serious. Sayori (glasses-girl) is less of a joke character and more of a voice of reason/lover of manipulation… and money, I guess. That kinda gets swept under the rug later on. There is only one scene that shows Sayori’s past, as told by her boyfriend (who is never shown or heard from afterwards), and does a fantastic job of developing her as a person. And then Love Lab progresses with meaningless drama between Maki and Riko and random male characters that don’t matter. Thanks. Great. Really, I love it.

It just isn’t a show worth adding drama. Because the characters aren’t developed enough for the viewers to care, every threat to the girls’ club’s activities end up becoming their friends and/or doesn’t matter in the end, and the drama is prolonged and lacks impact after the third or fourth episode. Yet another component of the atmosphere of lost potential that this series exudes. It’s sad, really. I’m growing tired of writing about sad aspects. Let’s focus on the good.

The animation and overall look of the show is sublime. I love the amount of enthusiasm and spirit to almost every character’s primary characteristics. Each character is cute in their own way and is an overall joy just to look at. It’s vivid, hyper, bombastic, charming, and all other positive adjectives one could look up in a thesaurus. The animation is fluid and only rarely do I see some strange occurrences in characters’ faces or the background looks a little soggy. If I could have one complaint, and it’s a nitpicky one at best, Sayori’s glasses weird me out. I don’t like how the white frames combine with the shadowed whiteness of the lens that anime likes to use to hide their eyes. It makes her look like she’s wearing something out of a carnival.

love lab 2

Characters are, for the most part, humorous. The chemistry between Riko and Maki is marvelous. Tanahashi can blend well with just about any character. The cuteness of the design makes almost every character more enjoyable, and the personalities chinks make the characters… dare I say, “shippable.” The beginning portions of this show really hit its stride when all five characters became established members of the club. Adding more characters after that only bogged everything down. Even Enomoto (RED-haired girl), who I thought was the weakest character overall, was fun to watch when everyone was together in one place.

I really wanted to like this series more, but the series wouldn’t let me. Constantly pushing and shoving different moods and genres and all sorts of needless drama that hinders the enjoyment of a fun-loving and innocent series about youth and love. There’s not much more to say, only that I wish this series would’ve stayed the course. To have one central focus would do Love Lab a lot of good. Oh well.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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