Yami is feeling frisky, and her hands are claws. That’s probably not good.

Yuuki Rito’s shamelessness will save the world.

In my intro post of this season, I posed the eternal [To LOVE-Ru anime] question: To wait for the uncensored DVD/BDs, or not to wait. I clearly didn’t wait, so let me tell you why I made that decision, and why I didn’t end up regretting it. Prepare for some navel gazing storytelling diversions along the way.

To LOVE-Ru’s Foibles

To LOVE-Ru is a strange beast. It’s always been able to get away with things more recent series could never attempt. It’s like how we excuse older series for having worse animation, because it’s from a time when that level of animation was the norm. Well, To LOVE-Ru has been going on for so damn long that we give it a pass on its, and let’s be frank here, frequently lazy comedy and status quo obsessed storytelling. It’s like how we don’t mind it when the original Die Hard does the talk-about-what-type-of-movie-we’re-in bit, because that was new back in the 80’s, but when Kingsman: The Secret Service does it, it feels too cheeky by half (though I still enjoyed that movie, so recommended). To LOVE-Ru does that with a lot.

Take Rito’s unerringly perverted comic pratfalls. No new series starting today could get away with a relentless running gag so uninspired without a sizable portion of its audience, myself likely included, rolling their eyes and tuning out. But we grade To LOVE-Ru on a curve, because back when it started, this kind of humor was more common. It hadn’t saturated the industry yet, so mangaka could get away with it. Though with Rito’s clumsiness in particular, there’s an interesting wrinkle. It works in the same was that Keitarou’s invincibility in Love Hina ended up becoming more than the go-to, lowbrow slapstick it began as. That worked for a while, but because they did it so often it was elevated to a running gag, until it became canon that Keitarou was supernaturally invincible. Same thing with Rito—his act of god shamelessness has become so over-the-top and, well, shameless—but in the other sense, in the Hasemi-Saki-don’t-give-a-fuck way—that it loops around the back and becomes funny again as a running gag. But that only works if you can do it for a long time, and no new story would get that leeway. Interesting thing to think about.

The other area I feel like To LOVE-Ru gets a pass is its absolute obsession with the status quo. After 38 episodes of the original series (+ 6 OVA) and now 26 episodes of Darkness (and 7 OVAs, one still to be released, plus the possibility of more seasons), we’ve gotten a lot of To LOVE-Ru, and it’s remarkable how little has changed. That’s almost become a running gag in and of itself, though one even fans of the series seem more tired of (or maybe I’m just projecting, because I fall into this camp). And here, at least, is where Darkness makes some advances.

How Darkness Improves To LOVE-Ru

I’ve always claimed that the switch from Haruna and Lala (as female leads) to Momo and Yami was a smart one, not the least because I find Haruna to be uninteresting and Lala to be annoying (or really, just her voice—worst. Tomatoes. voice. Ever!). In addition to both being roundly more interesting, they each have motives above and beyond “I love Rito” (though they both have that too), and their motives in particular are key to possibly dislodging To LOVE-Ru from the quicksand that is the status quo and actually having it progress to some kind of conclusion (eventually). Momo has her Harem Plan, which is the only way this series doesn’t end on a bittersweet note that would be completely at odds with the tone of everything that’s come before, whereas Yami is the greatest impediment to the harem’s formation because she’s hard tsundere and wants to (ostensibly) kill Rito. Add onto that their pain points—Momo wants to be with Rito even though she would, at best, be third in line, so she needs to Harem Plan to have a shot at any of his love; Yami is struggling with her internal identity as a weapon in a town that seems to have no need for weapons, which, now that I think about it, feels like a light-weight sci-fi version of PTSD, though with more groping and moe—and they’re way better female leads than Haruna or Lala could ever be.

Phew. When did I turn into an actual critic? Well, don’t stop me. I’m having fun.

Actually, I misspoke before. The biggest impediment to the Harem Plan is not Yami—it’s Rito. Maybe this happened in the original seasons, which I never watched (though I spent a lot of times on TVTropes, Wikipedia, and various other wikis back in the day, so I was able to jump into the first season of Darkness knowing broadly what had happened), but this season delved more into Rito’s gap moe—the gap between his act-of-god perverted pratfalls and his restrained active nature. And that’s where, it turns out, Yami became the key to moving the Harem Plan forward.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that the thing To LOVE-Ru Darkness does better than the original, and To LOVE-Ru Darkness 2nd does better than the first Darkness season, is that it actually feels like we’re getting somewhere! In this season, we saw marked progression in Nana’s feelings for Rito; Haruna seriously contemplating the Harem Plan; Mea first coming out as trans weapon, then Yami telling everyone Mea was her imouto, then Mea deciding she wanted to live in Sainan, and eventually Mea breaking away from Nemesis(!!); Lala turning into a loli because blah blah power loss whatever; and of course, Yami’s Darkness side being revealed and her (now beyond denial) feelings for Rito functioning as the key to literally save the world. All of which is to say that, at the end of this season, the eventually end game of the To LOVE-Ru series—the Harem Plan—looks markedly more likely. That’s probably still grading on a curve, but the dirty secret is that, for a series built on teasing, a lot of progress is not necessary. But some is, and it feels like we got that here.

Let’s Talk Ecchi

None of this answers the central question: Should you watch this series now, or wait for the uncensored DVD/BD’s? I’ll be blunt—if I want to see tits and asses, I’ll watch porn. Or, ya know, go on dates and try to meet a nice girl, woo her, marry her, have 2.1 kids and the whole shebang. I’m pretty sure tits and ass happen somewhere in there. So to me, the tits and ass alone aren’t the reason why I watch ecchi anime. (I can hear your disbelief from here. Stay with me.) It’s one of two things, and frequently both: (1) A refuge-in-audacity style reaction of disbelief, a sort of, “Is this really happening here?” which slides quickly into hilarity, and (2) The inherent comedic possibilities that can be pulled from the goldmine that is human sexuality. Basically, fanservice can lead to some good jokes, and over-the-top shameless fanservice is a joke in and of itself. Also, you know, the tits and asses are nice too, especially when there are some pantyhose, thigh-high stockings, or kneesocks, because I’m a leg man, and American women just don’t rock those styles often enough. Or maybe they do, but Texan women sure as hell don’t.

It occurs to me that I probably live in the wrong part of the country and/or world. But I digress.

This is exactly why fanservice in the middle of serious scenes so often annoys me, often violently so—it’s inappropriate! And that’s not because the naked human body is somehow shameful (it’s not), but because it’s not appropriate for a serious, tense scene. This is something High School DxD had trouble with on occasion. (It’s also disrespectful to the characters in a way that comic fanservice, funnily enough, isn’t. We humans are strange like that.)

What makes To LOVE-Ru fanservice work, even when it’s censored, is the comedic aspects. And, amusingly enough, even when it happens in a serious scene, the scenes are never so serious that the fanservice doesn’t work. In fact, the fanservice functions to lower the tension in the scene and make it fun! Yes, even when the entire world is literally at stake. Which means that the censorship doesn’t honestly bother me that much, because the comedy remains intact regardless, and once the plot (and the characters’ feelings) began moving enough for me to actually notice it, the PLOT became less important.

Everything I’m Forgetting

I forgot something important—Nemesis (Hidaka Rina). The current Big Bad of the series (as much as anyone will be the Big Bad, other than the true villain: Rito’s restraint) finally showed up this season, and she’s a lot of fun. Sadistic, sure, but it’s her teasing that’s the best, and Hidaka Rina voices her with a good balance of darkness, mirth, and loli. You’d better believe I’m rooting for her to join the harem, because if the three trans weapons are looking for a reason to exist, I’m sure hanging around with the future emperor of the universe should provide plenty of uses for their abilities, as bodyguards and generals if nothing else. (Nemesis would clearly be the spymaster, though she may be too good at that job.) And there are already signs of this, since she’s at least got the hots (sexually) for everybody’s hunk of loving man meat, Yuuki Rito. (Who, I just realized, is practically destined to be some kind of galactic sex symbol. Roll that around in your mind for a few. Tastes weird, eh?)

What else, what else. Okay, that’s pretty much it. To LOVE-Ru Darkness 2nd still is, in the end, a To LOVE-Ru series. It just so happens to be a part of the (I feel) stronger Darkness branch, and there are actual events of consequence that happen this time, which makes it better than much of what has come before.

Oh, that’s it! The final battle with Darkness, AKA Yami’s evil side. The final confrontation, from Lala fighting herself into a loli form to Rito bringing Yami back to her senses by virtue of channeling the principal and groping her willingly was great! Most of To LOVE-Ru is pretty forgettable, individually, but it made sense why they got an oddly-numbered 14-episode season, because Darkness 2nd would have been nowhere near as good without the battle against Darkness. If anything else I’ve said doesn’t convince you, let me say this:

Yami acts totally shameless. She’s an uninhibited pervert. She gropes girls, takes off her clothing, says ecchi things, and has a big smile on her face while she does it. The dissonance between her normal attitude and her Darkness persona is delicious. It also makes normal Yami all the more delicious. Ecchi Yami is fun, but calm, slightly monotone, and easy to embarrass Yami is the best. Fortunately, Rito was able to bring her back.

“Your shamelessness will save the world, Sempai.” -Mea

Yes, that really happened. It’s stupid as hell, but it’s a lot of fun. If the Darkness manga does more of this, I wouldn’t mind another season. And I ain’t tsundere about that.

Do you want blonde darkness or brunette darkness? Trick question, I’m taking both.

17 Comments

  1. And, thankfully, Nemesis isn’t going anywhere and looks to provide even more fun down the road with the latest chapter of the manga I read…

    Show Spoiler ▼

    HalfDemonInuyasha
  2. I think the series also gets a pass for its excessive glorious ecchi because it’s basically a massive F*** You to heavier censorship laws. Add in the rather unfortunate circumstances regarding the abrupt end of the original series, and a lot of people were just glad to see the story continue. I do think the transition from the original to Darkness was ultimately a good thing, since Yami and Momo are more interesting leads and it feels like there’s more of an actual plot now.

    SK
  3. The 1st few season’s of this series were the best. They had good stories with some fan service added in. The last 2 seasons have been all about fan service with the occasional story woven into the mix. The series has suffered because of it.

    I mean how many times do we have to see a girl wrapped in a towel after a shower and he just happens to trip and fall pulling off the girl’s towel in the process?

    Karmafan
    1. Ya know, it’s kind of funny, but that reminds me of the peril of having a large cast. If you have maybe three main characters, people either like them or they’re not reading/watching. But if you have 10, you can go several episodes at a time where people aren’t seeing anything from their favorite characters. Unless you can score the hat trick and make a cast of characters that function best as a whole (i.e. it’s the sum of the parts that works, as opposed to any particular character in isolation), you’ll trip across that problem from time to time.

      1. I’m more of the opposite in that I really liked how Darkness gives more focus and development for the other girls when, in the first series, a number of them were kind of just there. But with Darkness, we got major development with Ren and Run separating into separate people (so no more need for some people to feel weirded out with Run loving Rito anymore, lol), obviously learning more about Yami, and we get to see ones like Risa, Rin, and Kyoko get featured a bit more in their own episode(s).

        Though, dunno why they keep trying to include Saki in the OPs and such given it’s been made clear long ago that she only has the hots for Zastin…lucky bastard…lol.

        Also, it’s not like Lala and Haruna are completely forgotten about either…

        Show Spoiler ▼

        …obviously, if you want to something like a harem plan seem feasible in the least (to the viewers/readers), then of course we’re going to need to take attention away from the “main” main girl(s) and allow other candidates the spotlight to allow some sort of development/background. Like Rin, for example, was one of those girls who was initially “just there” really, but with just the three or so chapters she was featured more prominently in, she quickly became one of my favorites.

        HalfDemonInuyasha
  4. While I can agree with the points made….I’m still waiting on the BDs and will watch the show that way. While the obvious reason can be thrown around, I lean more towards the annoyance stance. The comedy and hilarity of the show is just lost for me when you have beams of light and all sorts of other silly censorship being used. It’s not about being able to see everything to enjoy the show, it’s not being annoyed and distracted by censorship. In the end I don’t think you lose anything in waiting those months to watch the show uncensored.

    I’d agree that Darkness is as a whole just a stronger show for me. The focus on Momo and Yami is a great way to add something to the show. And really it’s a brilliant move by Momo. Her harem plan really is the only way that dozens of girls are not left heartbroken. The toughest thing for her is that she knows that she’ll never be the top of the pile so this is the least bad scenario she can come up with. And just the whole plot around Yami is pretty darn interesting to follow.

    Will be fun watching this second season to its conclusion once all the volumes come out.

    1. In my case, the main thing I’d lose by waiting is probably not watching it. I was basically using this post (wanting to write it) as impetus to finish the series at all, whereas if I waited, it would have entered my backlog, and competition for my attention in my backlog is MUCH fiercer. In fact, it’s usually shows I need to see for a newly airing show (such as Dog Days or Utawarerumono) that get watched in my backlog. Darkness 2nd would have probably languished until another season was on the way if I hadn’t watched it now.

      That’s just my own personal insanity, though 😀

      1. Makes sense to me. And who can really criticize? We’ve all got our own personal insanity for things XD.

        I’m not too worried about that happening for me. Caught the first two episodes and will be keeping my eyes open as the volumes come out. I’ve just kind of treated it as a late starting Fall season show than anything else.

        All about what works for the individual.

  5. Considering the latest chapters this series has a good possibility to add a fighting genre to it. Especially if fiancé candidates start appearing for Lala again, but I feel like the latest chapters were kind of a test to see how open the audience was to the idea and I think it was pretty well received. I certainly would love more of THAT and given Rito’s new circumstances he is more than just a liability in a fight now.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Caleb
  6. I liked To Luv Ru- Darkness (For some reason I keep on hearing Dave Chapelle voice when I hear the word Darkness) but I think for me what elevated To Luv Ru from the general harem is pretty much they are actively perusing a harem ending. In all of Anime-Dom, I don’t think there is an outright grab for the harem ending. It has always been vauge.

    The second part that I like is how MOmo became someone the audience can relate too. She’s look out for Rito but at the same time know her limit. She also thanks to her alien upbringing think having a harem is fine since her dad is the ruler of the Galaxy. She also want everyone happiness which is a big turn around form most other anime girls.

    Then there is Rito- at first his accidental groping and fanservice scene was just that. Fan service. But I believe it gotten to the point were EVERYONE acknowledge that there is another side to Rito, probably like Yami dark side. A Carnivore side that pretty much let me get through ANYONe defense via perversion.

    That to me is different from how most anime protagonist goes “Opps sorry I feel!” while groping a girl tit and ass. Rito in turn actually fall and the person who get group, in this case Yami at one time go “How is that even physically possible? We just pumped into one another!” Or “Another skillful fall by by Rito”

    Now I realize a lot of people hated the change from Lala and Haruna but I am not sure if many people realized that the creator of To Love Ru changed it on purpose because of personal reason. His ex-wife was model after Haruna (main girl) and she cheated on him while he was drawing To Love Ru the orignal series. From what I was able to gather it was rather nasty how they parted and his ex -wife was a real peice or work demaning royalties because he was suing her likeness as a central character in his manga.

    So, he axed the first publication and any plot line pertaining to Lala and Haruna in significant roles and gave the lead to Yami and Momo. I think it worked out better all around. Sure they do Cameo’s now and then but really… Momo is the main driving factor. That girl is a freak.

    Duzz
    1. I never knew the story of why the original ended. Crazy stuff.

      With my own characters, I already preferred mixing elements of multiple people (and myself) into each one, to make each one a distinct character (to make them themselves, as opposed to mere copies of someone else, in effect). This reminds me that there’s another good reason to not copy too closely—if your relationship sours with the source, it can sour the character.

      Truth be told, that happened with a character I had planned, but I never got to use them. Ah well. Bullet dodged.

      (Side note: This is also why I put disclaimers in all of my books, nishishi!)

  7. Hey I didn’t know you were from Texas! Me too! Anyway, I agree with you on the status-quo-is-god issue in this series. Its my only real complaint with it (and nearly every other harem show ever). So the fact that progress seems to be happening is a great thing! My vote is for Momo to rank up in the harem and become the Main Girl cause she’s AWESOME!!!

    Bogorairne
  8. “Yuuki Rito’s shamelessness will save the world”

    At a price of being a Dumb Bastard, and forever being seduced with all of the girls out there for the rest of his life!….

    NUFF SAID!

    Namaewoinai

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