Having finished Clannad a while ago, I needed my next anime fix. So the logical thing to do seemed to be to ignore all the things I’ve bookmarked and queued on Crunchyroll, and the DVDs I’ve bought but haven’t watched yet, and instead check out something that I’ve often seen mentioned (largely by J-List, which tends to be my main source of “have you heard of…?” content when it comes to anime) but didn’t know a whole lot about: To Love-Ru, alternatively known as Toraburu (which actually makes a little more sense, as it’s supposed to be a pun on the word “trouble” — hence the title of this post — and “toraburu” is how you would pronounce the English word “trouble” using Japanese syllables).
As I say, I didn’t know much about To Love-Ru before I watched it other than it involved a cute pink-haired girl with a tail and was a tad fanservicey. Frankly, I stopped being ashamed of enjoying fanservicey content a long time ago — why deny that you like something? — and so, unlike many other people when confronted with the prospect of fanservice, didn’t see the latter aspect as a negative thing at all. Beyond that, I knew nothing. It looked and sounded like enjoyably lightweight fluff, though, and after the emotional turmoil that Clannad put me through, that’s exactly what I wanted.
I’ve learned one thing in the few episodes I’ve watched so far, then: the “alien girl visits Earth” trope I was introduced to with the excellent if ridiculous Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is apparently widespread enough to be a genre in its own right. To Love-Ru has a lot in common with the aforementioned Nyaruko, as it happens, primarily in terms of the dynamic between the hapless protagonist Rito and Lala, the pink-haired, tail-sporting cute girl.
Rito, much like Nyaruko’s protagonist Mahiro, is a boy in his mid-teens who is clearly at the age where he’s just starting to get interested in girls. He’s had his eye on his classmate Haruna for some time, it seems, but just as he thinks he might build up the courage to talk to her, Lala bursts into his life in explosive fashion, and subsequently begins a chain of increasingly ridiculous events.
Lala is from the planet Deviluke, and through an unfortunate series of coincidences — her running away from home to avoid an arranged marriage, her ship being shot down over Earth, her teleporting herself free of the wreckage and ending up in Rito’s bathtub — ends up engaged to Rito. (Deviluke custom dictates that grabbing a woman’s breasts is a proposal; something that Rito did completely accidentally while his bathtub appeared to be exploding around him as Lala made her entrance.) What then follows is an increasingly farcical comedy as Rito attempts to come to terms with being engaged to a perpetually energetic alien princess with a habit of getting herself and everyone around her into trouble, and whether or not he has finally had his last chance to confess to Haruna.
Somewhat like Nyaruko again, there’s a fair amount of sexual tension between Rito and Lala, though this is largely due to the fact that Lala is completely unashamed of her body and appears to be completely lacking in the ability to feel embarrassed, even when, for various reasons, all her clothes fall off. Rito, meanwhile, seems to constantly find himself in compromising positions with Lala just as Haruna is walking around the corner, leading to plenty of comic misunderstandings (and embarrassment on Rito’s part) along the way.
Like many shows of this type, incidental characters often get some of the most memorable moments, and Lala’s personal bodyguard Zastin, an imposing figure clad in spiky armour, speaking in that stereotypical “badass” anime voice, is a particular highlight. After an initial misunderstanding when he first meets Rito, he subsequently has a habit of dropping in at unexpected moments; it’s always amusing when Rito shows up home from school and Zastin is there in full armour happily drinking tea with Rito’s younger sister.
The main draw to keep coming back, though, is Rito’s relationships with the various women in his life. It becomes clear very quickly that despite his protestations and his constant reassurances that he is in love with Haruna, he cares for Lala very deeply, even though she is a constant pain in the backside for him whenever she’s around. Likewise, Lala treats Rito with genuine affection — though being from a literally alien culture, she sometimes doesn’t treat him with the same degree of consideration that we humans typically expect from one another. And then on top of all that, it gradually becomes obvious that Haruna has feelings for Rito, too, but that Lala is constantly getting in the way between these two apparently star-crossed lovers.
Will they ever get together, or is Rito doomed to an admittedly fun-looking life with the overly energetic Lala? I have no idea as yet, since I’m only a short way into the series as a whole, but I’m looking forward to finding out.