There can only be one series that would be considered the forefront of a particular genre that currently gives it its own identity or face; that series in question would be To Love Ru. It has had a rough start in its adaptation to the original source material by not providing a coherent narrative to the manga. Eventually it has made a name for itself for being the aforementioned forefront of Ecchi thanks to the later seasons that are somewhat “reboots” in the pure sense of the word reboot. Now comes To Love Ru Darkness, which is a separate manga that continues the story of To Love Ru, to breathe new life to its characters and comedy. To put it bluntly, it is a triumphant sequel that exceeds all expectations.
“That’s perfectly natural behavior for a living creature,” says Mea Kurosaki. This quote itself, in which the word “that” is supposed to signify sexual thoughts, is what encapsulates the entirety of To Love Ru Darkness’s charm as a whole. It tells us how we should view Darkness as nothing more but a fun joy ride through joyous comedy and beautiful girls through sexual feelings, but we shouldn’t be ashamed by this mere fact alone. That is one of the main selling points of the show, in that it lives off of making us feel excited through hilarious incidents of girls in suggestive situations without making it feel demeaning or deliberate to either of the sexes. This aspect alone that To Love Ru Darkness expresses should be an example that all Ecchi shows should follow in the near future, which sadly isn’t always the case.
Now to express how all the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph work unlike in most shows in what Darkness follows, the one thing that absolutely works is how every character all carry the show with their likability despite their very cliched nature. Cliched in the sense that you have Yui Kotegawa who is the stereotypical tsundere who wants order in the classroom, Nana who’s another tsundere, Mikan the younger half-sister who loves him, Yami the Dandere psychopath, and Haruna who the protagonist has feelings for yet she so happens to be in love with him as well. Despite how many would view cliches as a negative term, however, the way how Darkness handles them is through sheer charm and personality that make them feel energetic and alive. You even feel contempt for them whenever drama happens between the characters even with their stereotypical archetypes. However if there is one character that must have one full paragraph alone to analyze would be the one and only Momo Deviluke.
Because of the fact that she is the new heroine of the series, replacing Lala, Momo is what makes Darkness so special and wonderful to experience. Thanks to the glorious voice of Aki Toyosaki, Momo’s sarcastic and devious personality makes her such a delight to see on-screen when she is having one of her humorous fantasies and her clever schemes to make the girls fall more in love with Rito. With these things in mind, you might think that Momo’s personality only give off this one-sided aspect of it, which is mostly being a devious pervert throughout the entire show. I would like to describe a scene that happens in the last episode involving her and Rito in a gym closet room. Momo is on top of Rito seducing him as usual until we suddenly see Rito finally give into his instincts and do the same things to her and then we suddenly see Momo in a very vulnerable state. It isn’t until later that we find out it was just another fantasy that Momo was imagining while on top of him. This fantasy she envisioned took her by surprise, something of which we never see her go through before. It wasn’t until Rito finally tries to stop her by putting his hand on her arm which suddenly surprises her and jumps away from him quickly in fear and respite with her constant breathing and blushing face. We now see Momo in a completely different light than we are used to seeing her before. It is this scene alone that makes Momo a three-dimensional character by not through general exposition, but through character interaction.
Something that has changed from previous installments of the series is the art direction. While all of the characters still look the same, everything is now colored in very bright overtones. While many can argue that Motto To Love Ru art looked more better in terms of how the characters looked, that should not disregard that Darkness’s art still looks great in keeping the traditional manga art in context with the show. One thing that I’ve always admired the series and more so in Darkness is how they’ve always drew the girls and their figures that actually look very gorgeous without overemphasizing anything on their body like many other ecchi shows tend to do. Thanks to this, the girls actually look like High School aged girls who have just hit their period of going through many changes in their body and not the other way around.
To Love Ru has not been widely known for having an impacting story to show forth underneath its charming fan-service; it wasn’t until Darkness where we actually do have one that fills this very gap. Generally most people will think that the writers wouldn’t bother with writing a competent story being the fact that it is an ecchi series and those typically don’t go so well. While Darkness doesn’t break any new ground in this aspect, it does have an interesting twist in the harem genre where the heroine is actually the one doing all the work to help our protagonist get all the girls. Like I mentioned with Momo’s schemes, her intentions on doing these are very well-handled in how it balances sweet romantic moments and pure fun comedy. There isn’t a sudden tonal shift between drama and comedy in an effort to make it edgy, thankfully. The plot might not be a deep one to experience, it doesn’t really try to be one in the first place and sticks with it which is very well appreciated.
Rito himself as a protagonist, I would say, can be grating at times in how slow they build him up to be a harem leader after years of seeing him constantly getting flustered over women falling over him. In Darkness, it still portrays Rito as if he hasn’t experienced a girl falling on him in a questionable position before even though we’ve seen him in the past in these types of position countless times before. You’d think he would get used to it by now and not be phased by it after all these months but nope. For what he’s worth, he still has some moments where he comes across as caring and likable to everyone he meets so there’s never really a moment where you think to yourself, “Why would any girl fall in love with this boy in the first place?”
Onto the comedy itself, needless to say there will not be one person who is into suggestive comedies to be disappointed with Darkness at all. Almost every situation is handled with great comedic timing, whether it be a scene involving Rito and a girl bump into each other and, in true ecchi fashion, be in a very awkward position to the public to see or a scene that’s in a constant pace in showing jokes that involves hilarious dialogue between characters; a great example would be between Nana and Mea or Momo, or vice versa. Not all jokes hit the right notes throughout the entirety of the show’s duration but for what it’s worth, it will nevertheless entertain the masses who, like myself, love to engage in hilarious perverted comedy.
Not only do the characters themselves make the show enjoyable to watch, but the voice acting is what gives them their absolutely endearing personality through the sheer talent that Darkness brings to the table. I’ve already mentioned Aki Toyosaki previously, but she’s not the only great Seiyuu in the casting. Kana Hanazawa plays wonderfully as an upstanding little sister for Rito and giving Mikan a clear voice that feels perfect for her. Nana and Momo prove to be one of the best sister duos in anime thanks to the great chemistry between Itou Kanae and Aki Toyosaki, who have previously worked together in a somewhat similar situation in Railgun. Only this time it’s Aki who plays the devious one instead of Kanae and it definitely shows that Aki’s voice really does fit with that archetype more than Kanae. Finally we have Kaori Nazuka as Yui Kotegawa, probably one of the best tsundere roles we have had in a long time. Her authoritative voice, combined with childlike embarrassment will surely make any man’s, no matter what age, heart burst with joy and pure ecstasy.
What it all comes down to is that Darkness won’t win any new fans that aren’t into something like To Love Ru, but even with that said it is something that you should still at least try to see once to see if it pulls you in. Anyone who is in fact a fan will feel right at home with this new installment that has so much to offer for ecchi fans and people who are fans of the series for more than the fan-service. It will be funny and sometimes heartwarming in its romantic undertones for everyone who has followed the franchise since the beginning. That will ultimately lead to us hunger for more and for now with the OVAs coming out here and there to continue it. For now, Darkness is more than enough for us to enjoy while we wait for the next big anime installment for To Love Ru.