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[R1 DVD box art.]
AKA: To Loveる -とらぶる- ダークネス
Genre: Harem Comedy/Sci-Fi
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, also available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: MC-17 (Nudity, mature elements, sexual situations.)
Related Series: Darkness OVA (7 episodes); To Love Ru; Motto To Love Ru
Also Recommended: Monster Musume, Heaven's Lost Property, High School DxD
Notes: Still based on the manga written by Saki Hasemi (Moetan series composition) and illustrated by Kentaro Yabuki (the creator of Black Cat), which ran in Weekly Shonen Jump.
Rating:

To Love Ru: Darkness

Synopsis

Rito Yuuki just can't keep from falling into compromising situations with the stable of girls, human and alien, who adore him (either openly or secretly.) Somewhere in here there's a story about an evil space lady trying to induce Yami (AKA Golden Darkness) to resume her assassin's trade, using a new spacegirl, named Mea Kurosaki, as a pawn to do this. As if we weren't ALREADY suffering from a surfeit of spacegirls, but hey, it's all about LOADS OF (tiresomely repetitive) FANSERVICE!!!!


Review

"Seeing him makes my heart warm up. Why?"- Momo Deviluke

You got ME, Momo. I'm still scratching my head about that.

I mean, let's consider Rito Yuuki objectively. He's not particularly clever or funny. As a lover? The show maintains this great pretense that his cute but dull-as-dishwater classmate Haruna Sairenji, and flaky spacegirl Lala Deviluke, are somehow equal contestants for his heart, even though he's actually DECLARED that HARUNA is the girl he really likes, while poor Lala he's only really considering, grudgingly, for a kind of "add-on" status. Frankly, he never shows any real passion toward either girl, or about anything else for that matter, except in one set of circumstances, which we'll get to shortly. (Please note that I'm not a follower of the manga; all my impressions are based on the anime series- the original To Love Ru, Motto, and this one.) Is he brave? I thought his best moment in the entire series was when he took on Lala's father's gantlet back in the original (and his sister Mikan's little speech of encouragement there was HER finest moment as well), but at best when he tries to fight the other girls have to bail him out; at worst, his attempts end up with him "inadvertently" groping a stripped member of the harem- which seems to happen here a good deal more often than the laws of probability would allow. His typical emotional presentation is not exactly deadpan, like Yami's; it's more like he's just- well- blah. Bland. Drab. Colorless. True, he's "nice"- meaning civil to the girls, and willing to offer advice and support, even to the ones like Yui (class disciplinarian), Nana (Momo's sister), and Yami, who act tsundere toward him because they don't believe his "accidental" groping of everyone is really unintentional. (Who would?) In fact, that only time he seems to become emotionally alive is his state of panicked embarrassment when as a result of one of those incessant pratfalls- or as a side effect of one of Lala's inventions, which she insists on trying out on him- or even, as noted, during one of his attempts to save one of the girls- he winds up with his face and/or his hands on their breasts or in their crotches. And yet even Yami is surprisingly soft and forgiving about this, despite her frequent death threats toward him (which inevitably become, like everything else in this show, less effective with repetition.) Oh, and Rito DOES have a tendency to molest girls in his sleep (including his own sister back in Motto.) This major (and ugly) exception to his oft-emphasized "innocence" seems to be there purely to up the fanservice level even more (which by this point must mean sending it into low Earth orbit.) Momo actually really grooves on this, though, which is why she's often in his bed.

Momo, one of Lala's younger twin sisters (the other is Nana), is Darkness's real heroine, and that's just wrong. There are several vulgar sexist epithets I could use for her character, but I'll just call her...libidinous. She feels that as future King of the Universe (by marriage to Lala) Rito could easily also take Haruna as a bride, and have concubines as well (she's apparently auditioning for the role of Concubine #1.) She calls it the "Harem Plan", but it occurred to me that it might be hard for Rito to keep all these girls happy, since he doesn't really seem to even have enough personality to entertain just one. As for being future King of the Universe, if Lala's dad unified the planets, as we're told he did, it's quite a contrast- and would be also quite a comedown; kind of like Charlemagne being succeeded in office by...Millard Fillmore.

Another Momo-Point: the show very much wants us to find Momo's love for Rito somehow pure and innocent, even if her tactics are those of a... seasoned professional. (OK, I'm venturing close to SAYING it again, time to pull back.) This is the problem I mentioned in White Album 2, when a show obviously wants us to feel a certain way about a character while all their actual observed behavior is the complete opposite. As noted, Momo is very much the female lead in this iteration of the series, in on all the Yami/Mea plotline and serving as Rito's personal bodyguard when not trying to seduce him. With her complete-lack-of-jealousy, more-the-merrier attitude, she comes across as much less a believable character, much more as a mere plot device to amp up the fanservice and harem-ness.

Moving Momo forward in the cast also has meant moving Lala largely out of the picture. This time Lala's usually only brought on stage so her latest invention can lead to a fanservice cascade; then she's sent back into obscurity. It's kind of a shame, because Lala really IS a nice person (even if a goofball), and she is given one episode where we get a glimpse of how supportive she is of her younger sisters. She's featured in one other episode, but that one basically just slaps her back down again.

A couple of other things: I DID like that Darkness finally retired a longstanding gag. I guess they finally realized it had run its course, so to speak. The other thing (which is not so good) is the dearth of male characters this time, pretty much confined to a group of Momo-worshippers who she can't stand (they're intruding on her time with Rito), a couple of brief encounters with Rito's dad, and poor Zastin, the hapless major-domo of the Deviluke household, who's been reduced to an assistant manga artist. This show has an extremely weak male lead, so it might have benefited it to let a couple other guys have some serious screen time, you know.

We're going to get to the actual plot in a minute, but I feel I can make you wait a little more since the show makes you wade through the 90% that is fanservice before you get to that 10% of plot. This means that, thanks to Crunchyroll's censorship, I couldn't even SEE 90% of the show; I'm not sure, but I think they're censoring underwear here as well as bare flesh. (Must be the context.) Why not make an uncensored version available, as was done with My Wife Is The Student Council President? Since Darkness's fanservice is its raison d'etre, the censorship makes the show fairly pointless for fanboys, and who else would be watching? (Except anime critics, who MUST...) Anyway, the aforementioned Mea turns up; she's subject to some really odd mood swings, and can do a lot of the same stuff Yami does (forming weapons with her hair, etc.) She's following orders from a woman named Nemesis, who of course ALSO wants to play with Rito, as most women in the known universe DO. We'll get a bit of Yami's backstory (this is probably the best thing in Darkness), and even meet Yami's (sort of) mom, with the improbable name of Tearju Lunatik, who inevitably becomes a teacher at Rito's school. (She doesn't seem all THAT eager to play with Rito, though the show arranges ample collisions between them, of course.) Nemesis is supposed to be hatching some sinister plot against Yami, but it emerges in only kind of a weak, stumbling, grudging, fitful, and incredibly lethargic sort of way, partly because it can only be fit into the narrow interstices between lengthy fanservice segments, and partly because the show really doesn't take it all that seriously anyway. At the point I'm writing this Crunchyroll has stopped the series at Episode 24; there are actually 26 episodes, according to Wiki, and 24 stops us at the beginning of the "big" battle at the end, but it's already obvious that the ending is mainly going to involve even more extreme amplification of the series' already established habits rather than create any genuine suspense. So I read the Wiki synopses of the ending 2 episodes. And oh boy, was I right.

The show is devoid of genuine eroticism; after shows like B Gata H Kei and My Wife Is The Student Council President, this show's approach to sexual humor seems as juvenile as the musings of Beavis and Butthead, and as naïve as that guy in the "Is Your Wife A Goer?" bit in Monty Python. But even if you still consider something like this a turn-on, consider that ANY stimulus, if applied too much, reduces sensation- continued jabbing with a sharp needle just produces a dull ache after a while. And a dull ache is an apt description of To Love Ru Darkness.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: EVERY female in this thing seems to wind up nude (including Mikan, who once again winds up in a near-incestuous situation with her brother, as I think I mentioned happened in [b]Motto[/b] too.) And then there's the groping, which is not all by Rito, either. Alien school nurse Miss Mikado gropes her ghostly assistant. Libertine girl Risa (I'm still coming up with creative ways to describe this behavior, give me credit) gropes Haruna. In fact, a fleet of Japanese commuter trains over a ten-year period would be hard-pressed to generate as many groping incidents as we see in [b]Darkness[/b]. If you love molestation, you'll love this show. I might not love YOU, though. (Surely there's got to be a gag I could do with that last sentence and the title of these series, but I'm too weary to think of it right now.) ADULTS ONLY, even with the censorship.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Partial (24/26)
To Love Ru: Darkness © 2012 Xebec
 
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