Manga Monday

Manga Monday #7: Height Complex

Sorry for the mega-late post today!  I was having fun making the solar eclipse into a holiday of sorts.  For those in North and South America, were you able to see it?

People were hocking eclipse glasses for up to $55 a pop.  It was insanity.  We were lucky to get ours last-second for $5 each.  When we sent our friend to same seller the next day, the glasses were $20 each.  Yikes.  Supply and demand, folks.

It was a truly cool experience, though.  I didn’t get a great picture of the eclipse itself, but I got to kiss my husband under an eclipse, so that’s legit!

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I tried to find my old Eclipse t-shirt that I wore to the midnight premier but, alas, could not find it.  Probably hidden away in my shame?

Height Complex

Lovely Complex
Love Com
ラブ コン
Aya Nakahara
17 volumes (completed)

Okay, so, beyond the coolness of a solar eclipse, this manga is worth gushing about.  One of the first series that I read from beginning to end, Lovely Complex (titled Love Com in the English translation) is a shoujo manga that goes against all the usual tropes.  There’s no love triangle, no fast paced romance, no pure undying love, no Mary Sue.  This ain’t Twilight, people.  Trust me, this romantic comedy is different in all the right ways.

The story follows two protagonists who band together to navigate dating with their height complexes.  Koizumi Risa, whose name literally means “small river”, is anything but small.  In fact, in comparison to the average Japanese woman’s height of 5’2″, Koizumi is a giant, towering at 5’8″–even above the average height of a Japanese man.  Otani Atsushi (“big valley”) faces the opposite problem.  At barely 5’1″, he’s smaller than the average Japanese woman!

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Finding themselves repeatedly stuck together, Koizumi and Otani quarrel over everything in the most humorous ways, much to the delight of their classmates.  They are tagged as, “All Hanshin Kyojin“, after a bickering comedy duo of similar height differences.

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Much to their distaste, Koizumi and Otani are actually quite compatible.  They enjoy the same things (like an obscure rapper, Umibozu), are both equally clueless about, well, everything, and–despite their height difference–they look good together.  Their group of friends repeatedly encourage them to just get together already but Koizumi and Otani fight that suggestion at every front.

From the start, it’s clear that everyone else can see past their height complexes, but the two leads struggle to break away from the cultural assumption that the boy has to be taller than the girl.  In their minds, it’s impossible for the girl to be taller than a boy in a relationship without it becoming a complete joke like they’ve already become.  If they started dating?  Forget about it.  They’d be even more a laughing stock than they already are.  At least, in their minds.

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Of couse, this wouldn’t be a romantic comedy if one of the leads didn’t crush that stereotype.  As they decide to work together to find their suitable partners in life, Koizumi and Otani become more than bickering comrades, they become best friends.  Soon Koizumi realizes that their friendship has made her feel something more:  she likes Otani as more than a friend.

Thus the major conflict hits the fan, and you follow the duo to discover if love can win even in the face of height.

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Lovely Complex is full of excellent characters and humor, my favorite mixture.  The lead love story works in such a perfectly synchronous fashion in both humor and emotion.  Koizumi and Otani play off each other so well that you totally get why their classmates consider them a comedic duo.  Rather than finding their height differences funny, what is humorous is their back-and-forth–that’s what gets everyone laughing.

The pacing is perfect and that’s what makes this story so re-readable.  As both Koizumi and Otani address their feelings, it feels real.  It makes sense, it’s not this Twilight-esque rush-to-romance.  It’s finding friendship and developing feelings from there, and that’s what makes it a favorite for me.  This manga doesn’t just tickle your funny bone, it tugs your heartstrings.

I MEAN, COME ON.  Look at this!  This is why I love manga–the between-the-lines conversation is insane in the paneling choices.

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The main duo doesn’t automatically get together, they don’t love each other from first sight, and yet they aren’t unnecessarily kept from each other.  The build-up is appropriately burned out, the frustrations you feel as you urge Koizumi and Otani to just kiss already could be accurately termed as a necessary evil.  If it went any faster, I don’t think the romance would feel as real.  Otani is too stupid to look beyond what he’s been trained to feel and Koizumi doesn’t allow herself to feel worthy of being loved–and it all makes for a very real romantic development in a lovely, character-driven story.

As you can tell, I love this story.  I love the full cast of characters beyond Koizumi and Otani.  I have read Lovely Complex probably four times now, and I’ve also watched the entire anime and live-action film about the same amount of times.  Do I have a problem?  Possibly.  Is this review total biased?  Maybe.  But it really is worth the read–there’s a reason it won the 2004 Shogakukan Manga Award.

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While I can almost guarantee that you could snag Love Com at your local library, if you’re interested in purchasing you can find it in paperback on Amazon, or can read it digitally via Comixology.

Have you read Lovely Complex before?  Are you as big of a dork about it as I am or, if not, what’s your favorite love story?

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