Hello, Justin here, and welcome to the Otaku Mind. Since I’m doing an arc on fanservice I thought it be a good idea to do an Otaku Mind on ecchi anime. Like it or not ecchi anime is a part of anime and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In the past, ecchi anime really had no plot and was just used for fanservice and nothing more. But today, fanservice anime actually have plot, themes, and occasionally character development and I think the series that helped cause this change was To Love-Ru. To Love-Ru is a manga series with a number of animes that have aired throughout the years. The series was created by Saki Hasemi and illustrated by Kentaro Yabuki all the way back in 2006-2009 followed by a sequel titled Darkness which ran from 2010-2017. The series was largely inspired by the popular 70’s manga Urusei Yatsura as the series has a plot that’s very similar to Yatsura. This series in my opinion changed the way an ecchi series should be done and in order to understand my claim we have to go through the mangas so let’s get started.
The series revolves around your typical high school boy named Rito, who goes through life being unable to confess to the girl he likes, Haruna. One night his life changes forever when he meets Lala an alien princess who happens to be the daughter of the ruler of the galaxy. Lala becomes smitten with Rito and he becomes her marriage candidate where Lala decides to stay on Earth and move in with Rito and his sister Mikan where all kinds of ecchi shenanigans ensue and Rito’s normal life becomes hectic. As the series goes on Rito earns the favor of Lala’s dad and also earns the attention and affection of other girls in his school (with some of them being aliens) and outside of school including Haruna who we find out all this time also has a secret crush on Rito. If you’re like me, you first got introduced to this series through the anime which aired in 2008. From my perspective around that age I really did enjoy the anime, but now that I’m older I can safely say the anime wasn’t really all that good. It was your typical run of the mill ecchi anime which really wasn’t all that interesting but like me you found yourself strangely drawn to this series (because you’re a guy with needs) and once you found out the series was based off a manga and was curious what happened next, you found yourself searching for the manga only to discover that the anime did the series no justice. While it’s true the series is heavy on the fanservice it was also heavy on its characters and developing them.
Take for example, Rito. At first Rito is your typical male lead in a harem setting. He’s a good guy with normal everyday problems but as time goes on we see that he’s someone who sticks up for others when they’re in trouble, goes to great lengths to help out those he cares about, prefers to do gardening work, and even has moments when he can be manly and fierce. He also has his comedic moments where he winds up in ecchi situations that he’s not used to and always gets hurt because of them. Lala, despite her childlike and carefree personality is actually one of the smartest people in the galaxy. She makes unbelievable gadgets and inventions in seconds just for her amusement and as a way to have fun. Her feelings for Rito may come across as her just using him to get out of marrying other people, but in truth she actually does like Rito for his character and personality. Lala, came to Rito by accident and got him involved in her family problems. Rather than complain about them or kick her out Rito actually comes to her defense and offers a place to stay after she runs away from home. Nobody forced him to do it, he did it because he cared for her to some degree and even when all she does is cause him trouble with her inventions not once does he get mad at her. He scolds her for her actions but he doesn’t really yell at her or get mad her. There’s even a moment in the series where Lala’s dad allows Lala to marry Rito willingly but Lala turns it down saying she wants to really get to know who Rito is and postpones the marriage just so she can spend more time with Rito and get to know him better. This girl is clearly smarter than she lets on and understands her feelings and the feelings of others around her. Finally, Haruna. When the series first started I thought she was just going to be this girl that only served as a means to help Rito realize his feelings for Lala but to my surprise Rito continues to have feelings for Haruna even when he develops feelings for Lala. One would think Haruna only views Rito as just another classmate but in truth she’s liked the guy since middle school. There’s a good chapter where Rito and Lala get into a fight and Lala runs away from home where she gets found by Haruna and she lets her stay at her place. It’s here that Haruna reveals that even though Lala hangs around with Rito more than her, she understands Rito a lot more than Lala. When Lala is confused why Rito got mad at her it’s Haruna who explains to her that Rito isn’t the kind of guy who goes off on people unless they do something that he really hates. As time goes on Haruna starts to communicate with Rito on a regular basis and their relationship continues to improve and grow well into the second manga.
Outside of these 3 main characters we have a number of other characters such as the popular Yui who is the leader of the school’s disciplinary committee, Run who is Lala’s childhood friend, the sexy school nurse Mikado who enjoys flirting with Rito for fun, Yami the bounty hunter, Haruna’s friends Risa and Mio, and Lala’s little sisters Nana and Momo along with others. Throughout the course of the series these girls all start to develop feelings for Rito with him being completely oblivious to some of their feelings. Not because he’s an idiot because the girls really don’t shower him with affection as you would expect girls to do in a harem series. With the exception of Run who openly shows affection for Rito the other girls keep their feelings for Rito locked up and just treat him like a friend and nothing else. I have to admit I do like how the girls don’t fall head over heels for Rito just because he helped them out once but rather through various interactions with him where they slowly start to get to know him and see him for who he really is. Yui thought Rito was just some pervert who forced himself on girls but discovers that he’s a kind and gentle person.
Throughout the first series we get as typical as a harem manga as you would expect multiple girls fall for Rito, with him totally unaware of it, Rito’s character steadily changes from a guy who wouldn’t normally talk to girls to a guy who chats with them on a regular basis. Ultimately, Rito finally confesses his feelings to Lala but also admitting that he still has feelings for Haruna as well which Lala is surprisingly okay with because polygamy is totally okay where she’s from and she’s alright with Rito having multiple wives. Now let that sink in for a moment. We have a female who not only is okay with the main guy having a harem but actually encourages him to have one. How many series do you see have a character like that? For me, this was a shock as I really thought Lala wanted Rito for herself but no, she wants everyone to share in the happiness of love that Rito brings. Which will lead to a major topic in the next series.
To Love-Ru Darkness
Now Darkness is where the series truly begins to shine for me and others. After an abrupt ending of the original series due to the fact that the author around that time was going through a terrible divorce with his bitch of a wife, Saki and Kentaro returned where the series took a radical change from its predecessor. For starters, it was a monthly series meaning they got more pages and two the artwork was basically softcore porn. In manga, as long as you don’t show a woman’s lower region or nipples you can pretty much get away with showing them nude. The same thing applies for male characters as well. In Darkness, we actually got to see the nipples of the female characters and they even drew the lower regions of the female characters but cleverly covered them up each time. The ecchi situations also became more intense. But the real major change was the change in main characters. Instead of Lala and Haruna being the main characters, the focus was instead shifted to Momo and Yami as well as the other side characters. Lala and Haruna were still a part of the story and even got a few chapters dedicated to them, but for the most part the focus was on Momo, Yami, and the other females. The story picks up where it left off in the original, Rito has confessed to Lala and Lala tells him to confess to Haruna as well. Due to a series of events Rito misses his chance to confess to her. While he’s bathing, Momo comes in and reveals her true character to him. On the surface she’s sweet and innocent, but in truth she’s actually quite calculating. She also has developed feelings for Rito and tells him that instead of just choosing one girl he should instead go for a harem. Momo decides to take the initiative and begins establishing Rito’s harem. Her main focus is on Yami who she says will be the major obstacle to the plan so she does her best to win Yami over and help her realize her feelings for Rito. As she does this we start to unravel Yami’s past such as how she was created to be the ultimate weapon and discover that she has a younger sister named Mea who is also a human weapon like Yami and Nemesis another weapon made out of dark matter who wants to return Yami to her former self, an emotionless killing machine. I won’t give too much away but it’s a well written story that does a good job diving into Yami’s character and revealing the conflict she has with herself and the world around her. Mea and Nemesis are good additions as well to the story as is Yami’s creator/mother Tearju.
The rest of characters also get their time to shine as well with Rito. We see Risa take the initiative with Rito and actually puts him in tempting situations. Momo keeps developing situations for the girls to be alone with Rito so that they can fall for him more. Yui starts to realize she has feelings for Rito, Run actually becomes the first girl who confesses to Rito, Yami also confesses to Rito down the line, Lala encourages Haruna to confess to Rito, Nana becomes tsundere for Rito, it’s hinted that Mikan might have feelings for Rito, and even Nemesis decides to make Rito her servant and help Momo create the harem even though Momo doesn’t trust her. As all of this is happening Rito keeps asking himself the main question, “what’s the right thing to do?”. Should he go with the harem plan and try to make everyone happy or should he just stick with one girl? It’s the first time we’ve even seen the character of a harem series have the opportunity to create a harem and him questioning if this is the right thing to do. We all know that if somebody tried to do the harem route in real life it would explode in their face and To Love-Ru despite it’s crazy setting tries to play out like a real-world setting where the characters act like real people and try to analyze every possible outcome. Rito has to take into account his own feelings while also taking responsibility and answering the feelings of those who have confessed to him and everything he’s put everyone through. This series also ends on a cliffhanger as Haruna finally manages to be alone with Rito and they both confess to each other and even want to start dating. But the situation continues to go on as Rito is still in love with both Lala and Haruna and has to deal with the confessions from other girls including Momo who confesses to Rito and tells him that whatever he wants to do now whether it be the harem plan or just go with one girl is up to him and she’ll support him in his decision. So, if anything the situation has just become more complicated as the feelings of our characters are starting to come out in the open and Rito is still unsure of what he should do. Should he go with the girl he’s had a crush on since middle school, the new girl who has opened new possibilities for his life, or go for broke and make everyone happy with the harem plan? As of right now there’s been no word of a sequel but I’m almost certain there’s going to be a sequel. I think the author and artist are just taking time to re-charge and wait for the fire to settle as this series did get into a little bit of trouble with its suggestive images thanks to Japan’s new laws.
How does To Love-Ru stand out
So how does To Love-Ru stand out from other harem animes before it? Well, it actually had plot and story. While not the strongest story no one can deny that Saki was really trying to add something new to the harem genre at the time. He was trying to show everyone that harem animes don’t have to be about the fanservice, they could actually tell a meaningful story. It may have taken the author a few years to get that story to out in the open but when he did, he made it count. The series also makes it unclear of who the main character will chose in the end. Rito is in a complicated situation where he has the affection of multiple girls with some of them outright confessing to him. In harem animes it’s usually a given that the main character has already decided on a girl he likes but Rito has decided that he likes multiple girls and can’t decide on which one he wants to be with. On top of that none of the girls are backing down, they want to be with Rito no matter what. Again, when the girls realize that the main character has affection for a particular girl they’ll usually back down and wish them the best hiding their tears and everything but aren’t doing that. Rito is still in the air on what he wants to do and that makes everything fair game for them.
So did To Love-Ru completely change the harem genre? Probably not. There’s been a lot of influential harem animes out there like the Tenchi Muyo series that you could argue changed the genre as well but for me personally, I think this was the series that served as the launching point for future harem series to start having stories and develop their characters. If anything else, this series opened the door for Highschool DxD and Shinmai Maou no Testament. Well those are my thoughts, what do you guys think of To Love Ru? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.
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