April is when I last spent any quality time with Rinko Kobayakawa. The self-titled virtual girlfriend from Love Plus is a neat headtrick: you play a game of maintaining your relationship with a piece of software that runs on a clock. Rather than maintaining your relationship with a pet animal by feeding it, taking care of it, and spending time with it, now you can do the same using your Nintendo DS (or a 3DS in this case, being New Love Plus).
Is this really that different than Natsuo’s stuffed boyfriend? Yes. Of course it’s different. But I want to draw you to the similarity to highlight what I think is the really great thing about Love Lab and what is great about great people: diligence. Oh, mild spoilers on Love Lab ahoy.
A top-tier Love Plus BF has to do at least one thing–spend time playing the game. You’d be surprised, it actually takes a lot of time, and despite that the game in its latest rendition works okay for burst play, and you can always manipulate the clock to your advantage, but it takes time and dedication. An average date is somewhere upwards an hour or more. And you can go to them at least once a week if you are any good. I quit playing, partly because it simply takes a lot of time away from other things I could do that I consider similar in priority–like watching anime such as this Love Lab show.
The story in Love Lab is not particularly interesting except it is framed in a way that makes it interesting. Here we have a girl who is sicken like many of her disposition–with fantasies of romance. Without having actual experience but too much pent-up energy, she ends up pulling in a bunch of other girls who are not so much sick with fancy, but equally curious and seek to have fun with others. The way Love Lab tells its story is through the formation of friendships and the way people come together because someone out there crosses all the Ts and dot the Is, the kind of thing that impresses the valedictorian in an all-girls prep school. It doesn’t come overnight like some of the tricks Natsuo and Maki did to politely rebel against authority or pull a quick one on them. In fact, that they go as far as that is the surprise.
That isn’t the point I want to drive at; it’s a good example of how, when sufficiently cogently woven, the wool over the adults’ eyes will work. Pulling it is typical and expectant of a bunch of kids living in a high-class, high-pressure environment. It’s the essence of a “seishun” type story. Doing it A-Team style is, however, not. Nor the fact that they do so in the name of love. It’s like gaming god master race Keima from Kaminomi who ditches class in the name of
lovevideo games, except somehow when Natsuo does it, it’s all ~scandalous~. Would it be scandalous to ditch class because you want to get really into the nitpickery details of Love Plus? Would it be scandalous to publish an underground newsletter for your campus to get really into the nitpickery details of romance?
Japan celebrates its diligent men, women and children. Love Lab likewise cooks more like Alton Brown than Julia Child (they don’t call ’em love handles for nothing). Point here is that love comes to all, those who are and those who are not. The issue is about framing it, and when we see these girls work hard to achieve this goal, we get wrapped up with them. That is the rub. A half-assed rebellion is the story some may be more familiar with in the story about Valvrave or Code Geass. Here, the rebels stick their guns towards the individuals that suppresses their wills, not the cultural expectations that both sides abides. Through hard work within the framework and thinking outside of it, the Love Lab members achieve what they want. It’s a rebellion within the rules. Perhaps it’s all a tad too close to that Yamato Nadeshiko spirit kind of thing that some find a little patronizingly misogynistic, but, that too, celebrates diligence.
Year in Review 2013 Index: