Of course, some shoujo mangaka go the extra mile when it comes to being derivative. They don't just try to ape whatever series is popular at the time, but instead choose to recycle their characters and plot points wholesale like today's selection.
L<3DK, by Ayu Watanabe. First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2015.
Aoi Nishimori couldn't be any less impressed with class prince Shusei Kagayama when he coldly turns down her best friend. That would normally be the end of things, but then Aoi discovers that Shusei is her next door neighbor. Then he has an accident in his apartment and Aoi ends up taking him in while it's getting fixed. Now poor Aoi has to hide the fact that she's living with Shusei from everyone (especially her best friend), even as she finds herself wondering if there's more to him than he lets on.
I am not exaggerating when I say there is absolutely nothing original about L<3DK. Every character is a shallow archetype, every scenario has been done better and in better and/or more original ways, and it's all underscored by a deeply flawed romance thanks to a particularly douchey love interest.
There isn't so much a cast of characters here as there are a couple of cardboard cutouts surrounded by so many space fillers. Aoi is one of those protagonists who is always reacting to plot developments instead of being an active figure in her own story. As such, she alternates her time between scolding Shusei for problems both real and imagined and trying to sort out her own feelings. As for Shusei, we're told that he's the most desirable boy in the class, but it's hard to see why that would be. In public he tends to be cold and aloof; at home he's the sort of jerkass love interest who lives to fluster the heroine by getting all up in her personal space and feeding her mixed signals. Everyone is a nonentity, even Aoi's best friend around whom the plot revolves. I would normally praise Aoi's loyalty to he friend and her determination (however misguided) to keep her from getting hurt, but she's so undersketched that Aoi's acts lose a lot of their impact.
Once Watanabe got as far as getting her two leads under the same roof, she clearly just threw up her hands and declared that the rest of the plot would be "shenanigans!" That's why the rest of the volume is made up of increasingly ridiculous sitcom-style scenarios like Aoi and Shusei having to hide in the bath together when Aoi's friend shows up or the two getting accidentally handcuffed together. If Watanabe was going for a wild comedic tone, this wouldn't necessary be a bad thing, but she plays things fairly straight so these wacky moments feel out-of-place. Another thing that feels out-of-place is Shusei's dickishness. Even by shoujo love interest standards, Shusei can take things too far. She asks him to be discreet about their situation, so he starts publically flirting with her. He lets her believe that she's trapped by the handcuff, only to learn that he had the key the whole time. Incidents like this cross the line into willful trolling and by the end I found myself wishing that someone would punch Shusei into a wall. No amount of shenanigans are going to make that douchebag palatable after what he did, and that combined with the sheer predictability and emptiness of the story do not bode well for future volumes.
Watanabe's art is just as generic as her writing. The characters are flat, bland and stiff, and the setting is the same old set of schoolrooms and household interiors that you see if every other manga. The paneling is simple and straightforward but it lacks any sense of style or personality. It's not even bad in a particularly notable way. L<3DK is just plain boring to look at, from cover to cover.
I do not understand why Kodansha licensed L<3DK. It's boring, it's annoying, and it's blander than the wood pulp it's printed on. I should think that Kodansha would have plenty of other, more interesting works to choose from for publishing, and all this series is doing is wasting space that those other books could be using.
This series is published by Kodansha Comics. This series is ongoing in Japan with 18 volumes available. 2 volumes have been published and all are currently in print.
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