Love Rush 001 – Review
Reviewed by: Tom
Synopsis: Reiji Hakuba was born with a slight anomaly within his genetic make up. Unlike most boys he was born with the ‘ubermale’ gene. When women see him they don’t see Reiji as he is, but rather as a hot young stud that they just can’t help but want to marry! But Reiji, unlike most boys who’d die for this kind of attention, wants nothing more than to be with his childhood crush and sweetheart, Shizuku. However, it’s not that easy as not only does Reiji attract every woman around him, he’s also got the attention of an angel from heaven, Kokoro Roko Rokoko!
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
Love Rush has promise, but outside of its supernatural elements, the story is rather ho-hum and proceeds almost exactly as any shonen/romance familiar reader might expect. We begin the story with a brief flashback to Reiji’s original diagnosis. A doctor explains to Reiji and his confused, befuddled mother that he has the “Ubermale Gene.” We then snap to the present as Reiji is swarmed by girls.
It’s already clear there’s going to be some ‘limitations’ on the insanity provided by this “Ubermale mechanic.” The series doesn’t even toy with the more risque ideas of his teachers, older women, or even more disturbingly his own mother finding him irresistible (Which is all probably a good thing.) but this lack of risque speaks to how Love Rush just doesn’t have much new to say with its set up. It’s tepid, keeping its comedy generic, tame, unoffensive and entirely predictable.
Reiji dashes away from the stampede of girls as the other boys in his class complain about how unfair it is he gets all the attention. We’re quickly introduced to the idea that Reiji isn’t interested in any of these girls because he’s got a crush he’s devoted to. It’s a cliched idea. Whether Reiji is devoted to one girl or not, if girls are throwing themselves at him left right and center, it’s exceedingly unlikely any young man wouldn’t at least cave to temptation once and awhile, particularly as a teenage boy going through puberty.
Again Love Rush presents the same tired tropes ridden throughout Shonen Romance. A young man so dedicated to a woman you have to wonder why women continue to throw themselves at him when he makes himself so unavailable? Sure, the Ubermale gene acts a buffer to that criticism, but the same tired nature of the plot still shines through.
We’re then introduced to another hurdle in an effort to spice the story up. Reiji is approached by a goddess, an angel, that descends from the heavens and professes her love for him. She whisks him away from school to introduce herself as his future bride, at least that’s what she hopes to be anyway. Kokoro is a Cupid Princess who’s job it is to make people fall in love, although she wants Reiji for herself at this point.
Despite Kokoro’s otherworldly nature, she comes across as the stereotypical, love-devoted, absent minded ditsy heroine many of us are all too familiar with. She’s not bad, and I suppose her excitable nature is endearing in a way, but she doesn’t feel unique. It’s a bad sign when even a manga’s elongated first chapter already feels so well-trodden.
Kokoro talks of how she first fell for Reiji on one of her missions of love, and attempts to convince him of how wonderful it’d be to sleep together wrapped up within her angelic wings every night. She’s pretty forceful here, completely unwilling to hear Reiji out or slow down in her onslaught of confessions and plans. She lays out their future life together, despite Reiji’s complaints for her to slow down. She even goes in for a kiss to seal the deal! Reiji briefly comments on how Kokoro is actually super attractive, a more realistic nod to a boy Reiji’s age. But Reiji finally manages to blurt out that he’s already in love with someone else.
Kokoro lets go of Reiji and balls tears of despair as he plummets to the Earth below and, despite falling through the roof of a house, somehow manages to survive. Classically he falls right into his crushes’ house, Shizuku Ichinomiya, while she’s changing too. As we discover Shizuku is a bit of an airhead, doesn’t see Reiji as relationship material, and thinks far more about food than anything else. The conflict here is absurdly obvious. Kokoro head over heels for Reiji, Shizuku disinterested. It doesn’t get more heavy handed than this. Without nuisance to its characters, or proceedings, Love Rush almost feels like a ‘baby’s first romance’ shonen, so by the books and entirely predictable.
Reiji speculates that because she’s been around him since they were children perhaps that’s why she doesn’t find him attractive at all. It’s one of the few genuinely funny moments, the juxtaposition between Reiji’s internal musings and the reality of Shizuku thinking about nothing besides food. It’s one of Love Rush’s more clever forms of humor, although each joke within this vein is basically just the same thing played out again and again.
As they head out, Shizuku comments on how Reiji’s birthday is the next day. He’s apparently on the cusp of turning 18. Reiji wonders how much longer she’ll treat him as just a childhood friend and decides he needs to confess his feelings for her. But before he can Kokoro shows up again, apologizes for dropping Reiji and balls tears of joy that he survived the fall. She then decides it’s okay she isn’t his dream girl as she’ll just remodel herself to be. Trouble is Reiji just describes Shizuku and Kokoro doesn’t fit the bill on any of it. It’s a kind of amusing scene, but more so depicts just how desperate and perhaps even clingy Kokoro is as a character.
Kokoro spots Shizuku and puts it together, accusing her of being Reiji’s girlfriend, although she instantly denies it. Reiji is stung by her reaffirmation that they’re nothing more than Childhood friends. Back at his place Reiji sulks over Shizuku and Kokoro becomes ecstatic that she’s in Reiji’s room.
Reiji tries to get her to leave but Kokoro doesn’t want to. Eventually he realizes how ruffled her wings are and offers to clean her up. Reiji runs a brush over Kokoro’s feathers and tries to explain his Ubermale gene to her, but Kokoro asks instead if he finds her attractive and that it doesn’t matter if he isn’t ‘really attractive’ or not, because what she sees is attractive. She sort of skirts his issue and backs up it up by saying he’s kind beneath it all anyway since he fixed her feathers for her. It’s got such a weird vibe this conversation. Almost like the message is “Don’t worry if I find you attractive for your looks, you’re the whole damn package baby!” It’s so odd, almost comical, but strangely it doesn’t feel like Love Rush is playing it for comedy but rather emotional and romantic impact. I don’t think it works at all and is another example of how Love Rush just doesn’t know how to properly incorporate the few unique aspects of its premise.
Kokoro declares that she loves him now more than ever. Yet again Reiji tries to explain that he’s loved Shizuku for ages, but that only causes Kokoro to declare her love for his devotion and earnest nature too! She goes down a huge list, declaring every feature she loves about him before admitting she doesn’t have much of a chance with him but that’s all she can do, tell him how much she loves him. Kokoro, by this point, can be perceived two ways. Either as a hopeless romantic that has fallen head over heels for Reiji, or the darker interpretation: A stalker who’s been following Reiji in secret and watching him from afar all this time. I don’t take it all that seriously, but I think it speaks to how heavy handed Kokoro’s character is, entirely one note in her devotion to everything that is Reiji.
Kokoro’s confession stirs Reiji’s resolve and he dashes out to go declare his own love for Shizuku, leaving Kokoro back in his room, and later roof, to sulk. At this point Kokoro’s cupid ally, Cupiko, shows up, and consoles Kokoro, even suggesting they peer into Shizuku’s heart and see if she’ll even love Reiji back. Conveniently Kokoro can’t see into Shizuku’s heart, because the entire story of the manga’s love triangle would be mute, but could see within the girl’s eyes a deep sense of trust and love for Reiji (I guess familial, although the translation doesn’t make that clear.) Cupiko asks if she can really just sit back and watch as Reiji confesses to Shizuku, but Kokoro can’t do anything because it’s even Reiji’s sincerity that she loves.
However, just as Reiji is about to confess his feelings to Shizuku, Cupiko gets a message from the celestial realm. And as we discover, Reiji is not only capable of attracting every human woman across the globe, he’s able to attract every kind of mythical beast or monster female!
Oddly, Reiji comments on how he wonders if all these Monster women that suddenly show up are a test of devotion for his love to Shizuku. So hordes of human women wasn’t his thing but Monsters are? Reiji hasn’t shown even a hint of faltering in his love for Shizuku, and the art for Reiji’s reaction here doesn’t back up his pondering, making such a declaration feel exceedingly hollow and untrue. It’s an attempt to inject some kind of drama, some kind of narrative question to keep readers coming back week to week, yet his actions and dialogue don’t back up that idea at all.
It comes as little wonder to me that Love Rush hasn’t been added to the Shonen Jump line up proper. It feels half-baked, subsisting primarily on trope ridden events, twists seen coming a mile away, and makes little use of its more unique mechanics: The Ubermale gene and the otherworldly women. It feels wrong that the first chapter, meant to suck readers in, only barely introduces the greater conflict. Even then Love Rush looks to be little more than a poor man’s, tamer, Monster Musume.
There’s two free chapters left before it was dropped from the Jump Start line up due to sagging reader interest. I’m debating checking those out just to see if perhaps Love Rush course-corrected too late and we’re now missing out on what could’ve been a really interesting title had it begun to make use of its more unique aspects earlier on, but I won’t be holding my breath.
That’s it for today. Please let me know what you thought of Love Rush’s first chapter in the comments below!
Love Rush is available for free at Viz.com.