Shoujo – Romance, slice-of-life
4 Volumes (ongoing)
Kodansha Comics USA
When her best friend is rejected by the school prince, Shusei, Aoi decides to confront him. He shrugs off the encounter, making her even more mad. But Aoi’s life takes a strange turn when Shusei not only moves in next door, but moves into her apartment when she ruins his!
Here’s a mission for you: go find a facepalm image. Could be your favorite, could just be a classic. I’ll wait.
Okay, here’s mine:
I chose this one because the text says it all: “I give up.” I completely give up on L DK.
First, a side note: the title seems to be inconsistent. Kodansha Comics USA’s page lists it as L DK, but the copyright pages in the volumes have the title written as LDK. Kodansha Comics Japan lists it as L DK, so I’m going with that. It seems like it is written this way to avoid confusion from some magazine or something called LDK.
This review contains more spoilers than my usual reviews.
Anyways, back to facepalms.
I am stunned by many things. I am stunned that this series is so popular, that it was licensed, and that this manga is still ongoing at 20 volumes.
Aoi, who is good at cooking, suddenly screws up while cooking for her neighbor, the school prince who rejected her best friend’s confession. Shusei decides to stay in Aoi’s room for a while, and he spends his days messing with her while not really hiding their living arrangement. Well, in true shoujo fashion, Aoi falls in love, but Shusei doesn’t seem to notice. By Volume 3, Aoi can’t even match her best friend’s bravery by confessing. Instead, she decides to take Shusei’s brother’s advice.
And here is where we leave Typical Shoujo Country and enter the Land of Stupid.
Shusei’s antics at this point include:
- Sneaking in to her futon.
- Grabbing her stomach.
- Watching her try on bathing suits while they’re in handcuffs. (Spoiler alert: he has the key.)
- Entering the bathtub.
- Kissing her on the neck.
Aoi, now in love, tries to find the perfect moment to kiss him. Shusei’s response? “Save it for when you meet someone important.” Because, you know, kisses on the lips are very important, but kisses on the neck can be done by friends. But not friends-with-benefit friends. Just roommate friends.
So Aoi and Shusei’s older brother, Soju, decide to take it a step further. Want to make him jealous? Wash my back! Let me sleep in your futon!
Oh, and I should mention that Aoi knows Soju is engaged/married.
*insert your favorite facepalm gif here*
So, yeah. So far we have a girl who is so desperate to have her feelings returned she is pressured by an older man (the sketchy brother) while the idiot boy has an incredible disconnect between his actions and Aoi’s feelings. Oh, and don’t forget the kouhai who also tries to stay in Aoi’s apartment and a teacher who throws herself at Shusei. And then Aoi starts walking the steps of pervertedom by trying to peek at him in the shower.
Aoi has also scolded girls for trying to come to his apartment because that’s annoying. But trying to see him in the shower? Totally natural for a girl in love.
I just don’t get why this series is so popular. L DK is a bag of contradictions. Aoi is supposedly so protective of her friend that she confronts the guy who rejected Moe, but she somehow agrees to one of the worst “make him jealous!” plans ever… after being kissed by the man. After hearing her friends talk about fetishes, Aoi suddenly can’t stop from herself from groping him. Then we’re supposed to feel sorry for her since she thinks she’ll lose her current relationship with Shusei. As for the Prince himself, Shusei is strangely both less of a jerk and yet more of a jerk than many male leads. He’s kind of cold yet also somehow also a great guy. He will grab at her stomach to see what flab she has but will also give Aoi his shirt in a second-button-like exchange. (If you don’t get that, read more manga.) Love rivals show up one after another in typical “block the main couple from getting together” fashion. However, the male lead is comfortable enough with heroine to climb into the bathtub with her. In short, L DK is both somehow both boring and yet irritating.
It also doesn’t help that the characters are pretty one-dimensional. I’ve read four volumes of this series, and I couldn’t tell you one thing Aoi has an interest in hobby-wise. Heck, I can’t even really describe her personality. She defends others, doesn’t want the fact that she’s living with the school prince exposed, and…um…is easy to trick I guess? She says she’s in the top 50 of her class at school (which is probably pretty impressive since, I’m assuming, there’s 200-300 students in her grade), but, of course, Shusei is second. (What, not first? What madness is this?!) Shusei is mostly the school idol because of his looks. He doesn’t really talk to girls otherwise, so he’s not one of those “is nice to everyone” types (whether real or fake). We know a little more about him (doesn’t know how to cook, likes to mess with people, had an ex-girlfriend, and played basketball), but because he isn’t really expressive or open, it’s hard to get a read on him.
With the manga still ongoing at 20 volumes, I also feel like there isn’t much room for growth here. Everyone knows Aoi and Shusei are going to become a couple, and probably sooner rather than later. I can almost predict where this story is going to go: more of Shusei’s family problems, Aoi’s family is going to discover the living arrangement, new rivals, Aoi feeling inferior to Shusei’s ex and/or worried about the physical side of the relationship, and the two of them deciding what to do after graduation. Granted, a lot of romance stories include these same cliches, but a) neither Aoi nor Shusei have a lot of friends to help expand upon their world and siphon attention, plus b) a lot of drama is already stunted by the fact they’re already living together. (No “he’s inviting me over?!” comedy misunderstandings here.) Lots of shoujo manga are well past 20 volumes (Boys Over Flowers, Skip Beat!, Kare Kano), but I think L DK is going to get old very quickly unless it adds more main characters (and not just romantic rivals).
The art is nothing to write home about. It’s clean, easy to follow, and bright, but it’s also pretty standard. Big eyes, cute guys, yada yada. Watanabe throws in a few steamier scenes that almost feel like parts of an otome game, so those are bound to please many readers. Neither Aoi nor Shusei are exactly the most expressive people, and they both are not the happy-go-lucky type either. It’s a nice change from heroines with big smiles on their faces. Since a lot of the story takes place at their apartment, we don’t get to see a lot of crowds in the manga. Fewer people and less dialogue allows Watanabe more room for large panels. Pages will frequently contain only two panels, making this a good choice for manga who aren’t that big on reading and want to enjoy a more visual experience, like in an anime.
Honorifics are used. It’s a pretty typical Kodansha Comics release except for one thing: the font. Seriously, it’s huge. I can read this series easily without my glasses. With the large font, it seems to me that maybe they went for a simplistic translation. The series itself is straightfoward, and so is the adaptation.
Quite frankly, I just don’t care.
I just don’t get why this series is so popular. If this was only a five, six, maybe ten-volume series, I would probably be more tolerant. But I just can’t justify investing so much money into L DK, so I’ll be dropping this series.