Love Lab (恋愛ラボ) is based on the four-panel manga series written and illustrated by Miyahara Ruri. The anime series is directed by Ohta Masahiko and directed by Aoshima Takashi. This breezy comedy series, consisting of 13-episodes, is set in Fujisaki Girls’ Academy and follows a group of middle school girls on the Student Council who decide to set up a “love lab” in order to explore their romantic fantasies and figure out ways to get boyfriends, even though the school bans romantic relationships with boys.
It all begins with a misunderstanding. Fuji Girls’ “Princess” Maki Natsuo, the pretty and well-mannered acting President of the Student Council is caught in a comprising situation inside the Student Council room while practicing kissing with her huggy-pillow when Kurahashi “Wild Riko” Riko walks in on her unexpectedly. Riko is a bit of a tomboy and considered wild and boyish, but she’s admired in her all-girl school for her forwardness and rough manner. Embarrassed, Natsuo begs her not to tell anyone what she witnessed, and recruits Riko onto the Student Council under the misconception that she is a Master of Love, even though Riko is just as inexperienced as she is. Riko, too embarrassed and too prideful to set her straight, lets this misconception continue on, and it forms the basis of the beginnings of their friendship, even as their circle grows. Others join the Student Council and its “Love Lab”, including its timid, and diminutive secretary Tanahashi Suzune. Suzu completely idolizes Riko and Natsuo and becomes sort of like their little sister, even though she’s their same age.
The three soon find themselves being challenged and threatened by two former Council members. Enomoto Yuiko, the previous president, Eno is a rich girl prone to tantrums and crying fits who is upset that Maki never asked her for her help. Eno’s best friend, Mizushima Sayori, is the former treasurer. A girl who wears distinctive square-framed glasses, has a cool demeanor and an infamously devilish sense of humour, Sayo is also a notorious miser. Eventually, they both rejoin the Student Council and everyone begins to become very close friends, and the ‘Love Lab’ even starts taking requests for romantic advice from their fellow students. The whole time, Riko struggles with her guilt over lying to her now best friend Maki that she is experienced in romance. The only one who really knows the truth is Sayo, and she lets Riko know it every chance she gets. Riko worries that their friendship will fall apart if Maki finds out.
Love Lab is a genuinely funny series that is unafraid to lampoon the traditional high school genre and tear down its own lead characters. Maki, the traditional, well-mannered beauty, is often seen to be the silliest and most wildly removed from reality of the whole group of friends when they get behind closed doors, even as the entire school admires her for her beauty, charm, and smarts. The interactions between the members of the Student Council are priceless gems of slapstick and wit, utilizing even the anime to get the comedy across; characters often interact with their own or others’ thought-bubbles in sarcastic ways, breaking the fourth wall, if there even is one in animation.
And speaking of the animation, this series is cleverly drawn throughout, although not groundbreaking. It throws numerous styles up on the screen that all work together for an engaging visual style, even the chibi here (one of my personal pet peeves) doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it normally does.
Love Lab arrives on Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks with an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement of its digital animation. There’s nothing to complain about here, and that’s saying a lot. I see no issues with color banding, noise, or aliasing. The detail is crisp, the colors rich. Softness is no issue either. This is one of the best looking transfers to come along from Sentai in a while.
Love Lab comes with only the original Japanese-language soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit). The voice cast is really good, funny, quirky, the embodiment of what you would expect each character to be. Sound-wise, Love Lab‘s lossless 2.0 stereo mix sounds good for a stereo track. The dialogue is clear and there’s a sufficient amount of dynamic range and stereo imaging.
- Clean Opening Animation
- Clean Closing Animations
- Sentai Filmworks Trailers
- Disc Credits
The Definitive Word
Love Lab is a fun series full of wit, slapstick, and lots of genuine heart. The characters seem like real friends that work their way through real adolescent issues – in that crazy anime way, anyway. The animation is eye-catching and all 13-episodes deliver the goods for what is hopefully only the first of a continuing series.
Additional Screen Captures