By Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Ghost Ship. Translated by Alex Gaspard, Adapted by J.P. Sullivan.
As I began to read To Love Ru, a series about a hapless boy with a crush on his polite young friend whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of an alien girl with weird gadgets and her various enraged fiancees, I could not help but think “if they wanted Urusei Yatsura, why not just license Urusei Yatsura?”. That said, I know the reasons, and I also have no doubt that To-Love-Ru will sell better than UY ever did or would do. Honestly, To Love Ru being licensed at all is almost as surprising as a UY rescue would be – it was widely considered one of the Jump series that was never going to get over here because Viz simply didn’t want it. But Shueisha has loosened up their licensing restrictions a bit, and now we are allowed to get one of Jump’s iconic raunchy comedies via Seven Seas’ new imprint for racier titles, Ghost Ship.
I admit at first I was not really seeing what made this any different from Seven Seas’ other racy titles, like Monster Musume. As I said above, our hero is Rito, a classic “sad male harem protagonist” – Ataru Moroboshi would kick his ass – who is trying and failing to confess to fellow student Haruna that he likes her. One day, he is in his bath when out pops Lala, an alien running away from her home and her problems. Sadly, her problems come with her, and they then become Rito’s problems, mostly as she’s now declaring that he’s her fiancee, and transferring into his school. In among this, there are her various cutely named inventions, which don’t quite do what they should, and also tend to explode. Will he be able to confess to Haruna, who seems to like him? Will he fall for Lala? Will more girls show up in the next volume to add to the harem list? The last is most likely.
To Love Ru is not going to be winning any prizes for its main cast, as they are all rather nice and sweet and somewhat boring. This includes Lala, much to my surprise, who you’d think would at least try to be the traditional ‘gets jealous at the drop of a hat’ that the role entails. But no, she’s airheaded but really nice, and seems perfectly happy to help Rito and Haruna, despite, of course, also being engaged to him. Haruna is also pretty generic, and suffers from comparison to Nisekoi’s Onodera (yes, I know Nisekoi came out years after this in Japan). As for the content, the nipples aren’t eliminated, which makes a change from most shonen manga, but the one thing that struck me was in the hot springs chapter, Haruna is groped by a female classmate – not uncommon in this sort of title – but a little lower than the normal breast groping, shall we say. That did surprise me, and from what I understand is a harbinger of things to come.
To Love Ru’s elements are all there, and I can see why it ran so long, despite various real life difficulties (which I won’t get into now). But I dunno, even with the added sexy content, it still feels very vanilla and a bit dull. Of course, technically this is a ‘classic’ title given it’s over 10 years old by now, so it’s not meant to be cutting edge. Still, I prefer my alien princesses angry and throwing electricity.