L♥DK Volumes 2-3
I summed up L♥DK volume 1 as featuring sitcom-style contrivances to imply smutty situations, only without being funny. Volume 2 continues in that mode, throwing in every possible engineered situation to imply or force interaction between its girl and boy leads.
For example, it opens with Aoi jealous of the woman embracing Shusei, only to find out it’s his sister. She wants her brother to move in with her, but seeing how he doesn’t want to, Aoi suddenly decides to claim that they’re dating in order so they can keep sharing an apartment. The sister (rightly) finds this relationship hard to believe and demands they “prove” their affection to her, refusing to move out until they’ve done so. That requires Aoi and Shusei to go shopping together, hold hands in public, and sleep in the same bed.
The “mistaken family member” and “having to pretend to be a couple” are all cliches, used by lazy writers to put their characters in compromising positions to titillate the reader. This has to be aimed at teens, because older readers have seen all this done before, usually better. As drawn by Ayu Watanabe, this version lacks humor or insight or freshness.
This is emotional porn for teens, providing situations where the nice, normal girl is “forced” into interacting with a cute, popular boy. She doesn’t have to screw up her courage to approach him; he’s already there, ready to give her his attention while “playing house”.
I was a bit confused when Aoi is tricked into buying “a must-have for couples” at the store. I’m assuming they must be boxes of condoms, but the packaging isn’t specific, and the word isn’t used anywhere. (Although that is confirmed in book 3.) Also, American readers likely find the sister’s fascination with Aoi’s bra size a bit weird, but I’ve seen that kind of girl-girl comparison pop up in other manga, so it’s apparently a cultural difference.
In other chapters, everyone gets a school t-shirt with their names on them. When Aoi and Shusei’s shirts get switched at home, other students might find out about their secret living situation and/or get jealous of Aoi, who doesn’t want the attention. Of course, they almost get caught half-undressed together when they switch back.
Because it’s easily to quickly run out of these situations, a new rival is introduced halfway through this book. Shouta is a year younger than the other two, but he has a crush on Aoi, chasing her while she’s trying to figure out her feelings for Shusei. (Weirdly, “shota” manga, which his name reminds me of, means sexual or romantic stories involving young boys.)
Volume 3 manages something I didn’t think was possible — it gets even more ridiculous, as a hot teacher starts hitting on Shusei, to the extent of bragging about her bra size and flashing her lingerie at him.
Shusei’s older brother also shows up. He’s a freelance photographer checking up on him. He’s got crazy plans, claiming to want to help Shusei and Aoi get together, but most of them involve the brother molesting the girl, so I’m suspicious of his motives.
He does have a point, though — Shusei doesn’t have much of a character yet, even after three books, so maybe he does need something to shake him up. Or the writer’s just running out of ideas already. (The publisher provided review copies.)