Love Lab Review

Love-Lab-Opening

Last year, Love Lab took The Glorio Blog by storm. Initially turned off by its lackluster premise, it quickly endeared many of us with its great production values, strong and endearing characters, and top notch gag comedy. It got enough support that we even named it the #2 anime of the past year. I absolutely fell in love with this show, and was excited to hear it was coming overseas. Unfortunately… its carrier was Sentai Filmworks.

Love Lab: Complete Collection (Blu Ray)

Studio: Dogakobo
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 5th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98

 Main Feature

Love Lab is a lovable comedy (no pun intended) about five girls and their antics in an all-girl’s high school. Sounds terrible on paper right? Well that’s what we all thought until we got to know the show and its characters. Riko Kurahashi is a tomboy with a heart of gold. After being forced to bring materials to the school’s student council president and ‘perfect princess’ Natsuo Maki, she finds out her hidden secret; She’s an adorable dork obsessed with love. The problem? They don’t have even a single kiss between them. Together, they try to figure out what old romance tropes work to catch a boy’s attention. Emphasis on try. Once the whole council gets involved, it gets out of control in the best way.

Love Lab is the best gag comedy show I can remember since Cromartie High. This is helped greatly by Dogakobo‘s stellar animation job. Every scene flows so well, and the gags always have this great energy that makes every punchline that much better. Hair sways with every bounce, clothing has folds and creases where it bends, it all makes the show feel so alive. The color palette is fantastic as well. Every character technically has realistic hair, but they’re each given little embellishments that help set them apart. The muted tones reflect the easy going nature of the show itself. Overall, this was a stellar job, one which left many Glorio crew members having high hopes for every Dogakobo production since.

The voice acting is also top notch. Chinatsu Akatsuki is great as Maki. The energy she brings to every comedy scene makes Riko’s comebacks just that much better. She also has the cutest squeal that happens whenever Maki really gets into the topic of the week. Manami Numakura is a great counterpoint as Riko. Her outward rough personality and softer feminine desires are easy to hear as she talks about her own love fantasies and responds to Maki’s insanity. The rest of the council bring their own little touches that round out the cast’s group of lovable idiots well. Inori Minase’s Suzu is the most adorable of the bunch. Her shy, clumsy demeanor makes for some great physical comedy. Ayane Sakura’s Eno and You Taichi’s Sayo are a great comedy duo just by themselves, put them with the rest of the cast and they get even better. Sayo consistently makes some great jokes as the sarcastic straight man, and Eno’s  energy and stubbornness rivals that of even Maki.

As far as comedies go, I always feel it’s best to digest them in small chunks. I always find I get diminishing returns when I laugh for too long. Love Lab is a hilarious show, but it’s not exactly a barn burner story-wise. There’s not very many huge hooks to keep you going from episode to episode. I’d recommend watching maybe three or so episodes at a time, otherwise you’ll probably just burn yourself out on it. This goes doubly if you’re just wanting to rewatch the show by yourself and reminisce.

wSpOMWK

Technical Quality

I’ll break theme a bit here, as I’ve already gushed enough about Dogakobo’s absolutely fantastic work. The elephant in the room, namely the quality of this release, begs to be talked about. There are only a few things a sub-only release can bring to the table to warrant purchase in this age of anime streaming. First off would be the actual packaging. Thankfully, Sentai nailed the cover, with some nice artwork that both gives little insights into each character and is just plain adorable. The back, however, is a bit of a mess. The blurb about the show is written in a small somewhat obtuse font, and its description of the show makes it sound kinda worse than it actually is.

The menu is absolutely the laziest thing I have ever seen. In the first disk, which has no extras, there is simply a list of episodes. No play all. No episode selection. You’re just given the list of what’s in the disk and The worst part is that even the scant features it touts are so paltry that they might have done better to not include them at all. Clean openings and endings are a staple of western releases, but the “trailers” added on underneath were an insult to the very name. Three of the four were simply show clips dubbed over by the op song. The only exception was Maoyu, which was literally just the op with no actual footage.

1

The best thing I can say about the production is that the translation is very good, although I wish it wasn’t in that ugly yellow font, but that’s been a subbing complaint since DVDs ever existed, so I can’t fault them too much for it. The weirdest part has to be after every episode, where a black screen with white text slowly shows the english credits. It’s such a bad break in flow for such a colorful show that it took me out of it until I just got used to it. So much of this just seems bare bones and hastily made that I was really disappointed.

4

Overall Value

I’ll admit that, considering the price, I don’t feel cheated by this release. I bought it off a Crunchyroll sale at 35 dollars. Still, I have gotten Funimation releases at release for about 50 dollars, and the blu ray/dvd combo and extra features that usually entails more than makes up for the extra cost. If you’re a fan of the show like I am, and can find it for 40 bucks or lower, I say go for it. In any other situation, I feel the lack of care that went into its production just cannot justify purchase over that price. It’s already available in 1080p for members and free up to 480p on Crunchyroll up to 480p, and honestly a Cruchyroll subscription would be better worth your money at that point. Love Lab is a fantastic show. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to do so in any way possible. I just don’t think buying this would be the best way of going about it.

4 thoughts on “Love Lab Review

  1. To be fair to Sentai I get the impression this was a real labor of love, releasing something that might not have gotten out otherwise being better than nothing. Still, having NOTHING extra when you can legally watch it elsewhere is kind of a tough sell.

    • I suppose that might be true, i just feel that there were so many little things they could have changed to make it look better even without adding anything extra.

      Like I said, I said, i don’t regret the purchase, i just feel it could have been better.

  2. I could scarcely find details about the actual BD release rather than the show anywhere I looked, so I appreciate the details you offered. It’s depressing to see that in 2014 Sentai is still married to the idea of yellow subs, even long after the general fan consensus has been that they’re ugly and most other companies have moved to the more sensible option of white subs with a black outline. In many ways, most of the disappointments you expressed were already inferred by this being a Sentai release. They’re rather partial to quantity over quality, and the only publisher that seems to require thorough research of their releases to see what’s wrong with them (1080i, bad encodes, subtitle problems, etc.).

    But if the subs are good and the video’s alright, I suppose that’s about the most you can hope for from a Sentai release. Since they license so many titles, you inevitably wind up choosing between dealing with their bare bones, problematic releases, or just not buying the show. Too often the latter makes more sense, but after reading your review, and since it’s currently on sale, I suppose it might be worth picking up since it is a pretty fun show, after all. Thanks for the review and for caring about things it seemed like nobody else was bothered by (such as Sentai’s charitable definition of “trailers”).

    • Thank you for the kind words. Love Lab was a show I had loved to death. I knew I was going to be disappointed by that release, but I had decided to buy the blu rays before they came out because I simply knew I wanted this show in my collection. However, I know the most important thing when I’m normally buying a physical copy is what it does to enhance my experience. That’s why I normally go for Funimation releases, where there’s well designed box art, competent dubs, and sometimes even episode commentary or other fun stuff. The least I could do was warn people who were on the fence, so I’m glad to see my efforts were not in vain.

      It really is a shame that Sentai is so set in its ways about mass producing anime. It seems to me a model doomed to fail in the age of online streaming. Even when they do make a dub it’s a crapshoot whether or not it’ll be any good. I’m happy I’m able to get shows on release day for 35 bucks(and to be honest I think I got it a bit early), but I would have never bought Funi titles like Princess Jellyfish if it didn’t receive the care the extra resources at Funi’s disposal can bring.

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