Intro to Lovely Complex and Manzai

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Lovely Complex has been one of the most memorable rom-com shows for me. Little did I know it took cues from a form of Japanese comedy act called manzai.

I do not remember how I came across Lovely Complex but I do recall liking the anime for its simplicity, humor, and cute moments. I still have a memory of a particularly sad yet funny scene involving both the main characters and bear curry. An added bonus while writing this, I got to learn a tiny bit more about a form of Japanese stand-up comedy routine called manzai. Both the main characters from Lovely Complex are referred to as a manzai duo by their friends because of their opposing yet complementary personalities.

History

LoveCom Manga cover Vol. 8
LoveCom Manga cover Vol. 8

Love Com (ラブ★コン or RabuKon) is a shoujo manga that ran from 2001-2006. Aya Nakahara wrote the series and has received a Shogakukan Manga Award in the shoujo manga category for Love Com. Shueisha published the manga in the magazine Bessatsu Margaret, a monthly shoujo publication.

The anime adaptation started airing in April 2007, spanning 24 episodes. Discotek Media licensed the North American distribution. By the way, I learned about the manga much later, after finishing the anime series.

The story revolves around Atsushi Ootani, a rather short (156cm or 5 ft 1 in) boy and Risa Koizumi, a tall (172cm or 5 ft 8 in) girl whose personalities oppose each other’s. In reality, they have many things in common and are very compatible despite, their height differences and preferences in regards to the opposite sex. Ootani prefers a demure and cute girl, while Koizumi likes a tall and cool-looking guy. This leads to contentious everyday moments between the two. Of course, that is before they realize how much they are meant for each other.

In 2006, the live-action movie adaptation of LoveCom screened in theaters. It stars Teppei Koike as Ootani and Ema Fujisawa as Koizumi. Viz Media released an English subtitled DVD of the movie in North America in 2008.

What I like about Lovely Complex

As far as a romcom shoujo show, LoveCom is amazing. Ootani and Koizumi’s interactions are well-written, with great comedic timing. Their humorous moments shine, while the sadder scenes tug at the heart, but are still regularly spiced with some silliness. It was the second anime I watched that made Kansai-ben a big feature of the show (read more about Kansai-ben below). The first being Azumanga Daioh with lovable air-headed Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga as a Kansai-ben speaker.

Ootani and Koizumi meeting their idol
Ootani and Koizumi meeting their idol

The series plays on the old trope of “do not judge a book by its cover” for both protagonists. At the start of the story, both main characters make fun of each other because of their respective looks. Koizumi and Ootani call one another “midget” and “giantess” respectively. Their own preferences for the physically ideal boyfriend/girlfriend create barriers in their attractions towards one another. The early part of the story is peppered with their mutual denial that they will fall for each other. In its own way, the story playfully makes fun of physical attraction as a concept. Instead, it asks you to be more open and appreciative of someone’s inner qualities.

Lovely Complex’s take on blending humor with heartwarming/heartbreaking scenes is great. The comedic remarks, reactions, or the lack thereof, fit with the characters’ personalities and the story’s genre. Many times I find myself holding back my tears and chuckling simultaneously.

What is a Kansai-ben?

Kansai-ben is a dialect from the Kansai region of Japan, a chief city among the region is the city of Osaka. Which is why the name of the dialect is often interchangeable with Osaka-ben. It has its own pronunciation pitches, particles, local terms, and more. It sounds very different from the proper Japanese based on the Tokyo dialect.

Records suggest the dialect developed among the merchants around the Osaka region.

Here are some examples of Kansai words in contrast to proper Japanese.

chigau (proper, meaning different) becomes chau

hontou (proper, meaning really or thanks) becomes honma

wakarimasen (proper, meaning I do not know/understand) becomes wakaran or wakarahen

– dame (proper, meaning no/not good) becomes akan

What is manzai?

As mentioned above, LoveCom introduced me to manzai comedy. A lot of the comical moments between the characters, especially Koizumi and Ootani, are about them strongly reacting to each other. Sometimes, they resort to physically hitting the other person or similar actions. Both the reactions and physical slapstick are exaggerated in Lovely Complex, but they are essential parts of manzai acts. It is similar to how Kaname Chidori and Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic! act towards each other, but more animated and less violent.

I should briefly introduce you to this comedic performance. Manzai (漫才) acts have been around since approximately very late 700 A.D. Normally, a manzai consists of two performers of opposing characters: a straight man (tsukkomi) and a funny man (boke). The role of the boke is usually to make mistakes, be goofy, and be the receiving end of both verbal and physical corrections. The tsukkomi of the group often does the correction by smacking the boke or pointing out the mistakes the other person makes. As time went on, different regional acts of manzai developed, but the Osaka style emerged as the most popular.

Downtown is a famous manzai duo consisting of Hitoshi Matsumoto (the taller of the duo and the boke) and Masatoshi Hamada (the tsukkomi). However, in the video below, they temporarily switch their usual roles for a skit. Hilariously, their routine tsukkomi and boke roles often end up resurfacing.

As you can see, Hamada ended up correcting Matsumoto’s “mistakes” for taking the tsukkomi role a little too seriously. Perhaps that was part of the skit, or maybe it was a spur-of-the-moment comedic punch.

A multi-talented Japanese actor by the name of Takeshi Kitano, or Beat Takeshi, also has a background in manzai acts. He performed with Nirou Kaneko in a group named Two Beat where Kitano was the boke.

Lovely Complex DVD

If all the lovely bits of info above got you curious to watch Lovely Complex, there is, unfortunately, no way of streaming it right now. However, you can purchase the full DVD collection from RightStuf!

Let us know how you like the series down below, okay?

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Astra W

I am a Chocobo mug who loves puns and is driven by the thirst for nostalgia. You will usually find me writing about days past like an old person. Other than that, I usually gawk at different visual arts or exercising my fingers on games. Or napping in the kitchen cabinet.

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