Love Roma Vol. 4 (Del Rey)

lrheaderAnyone without a hardened heart will find very much to adore in this lovely, quirky teen romance.

 

 

202 pgs. B&W; $10.95

(W/A: Minoru Toyoda)

 

Hoshino fell in love with Negishi the moment he saw her, and he decided to do something quite novel about it: he just asked her out. Minoru Toyoda's Love Roma passes up the romantic comedy clichés by skipping the pursuit and going right to the relationship portion of what turns out to be a very sweet, heartwarming romantic comedy.

 

The stars of Love Roma are an interesting pair and a delight to watch. Hoshino couldn't be more dedicated to his girlfriend, yet he's also a bit of a doofus; though never mean-spirited, he's frequently a little too honest, like when he tastes his chocolaty Valentine's day gift from Negishi and blurts out "This is really awful." Lucky for him, the spunky Negishi takes most of it in stride, even if she is more than willing to give him the occasional playful whack to the head.

 

Each chapter, or "track," is a completely self-contained vignette about the couple's relationship, arranged chronologically and building off each other but still enjoyable independently. The book opens with Hoshino taking up jogging to spend more time with his race-minded girlfriend, then Negishi must confront her deepest feelings when she has to give a speech for Hoshino's campaign for class president. Both starry-eyed lovers have to deal with their own issues of jealousy, he when one of Negishi's old friends from junior high resurfaces and confesses his love, and she when Hoshino must fend off two girls, one desperate to give him a Valentine's Day gift, the other a strange girl who wants to reward him for returning her lost purse…and won't take no for an answer.

 

Toyoda's art, like his writing, is streamlined for efficiency, but it's also a tad plain. Anatomy is stiff, and the characters generally only have two facial expressions (serious or happy) before shifting over into overly cartoon-ish shorthand; also, characters are frequently missing eyes or even their entire face with little rhyme or reason. (Click on the thumbnail to your left for an example.) Some may like this quirky style, and it certainly fits the tone and mood of the story, but those hoping for the manga style's typical electricity may come up wanting.

 

The relationship at the heart of Love Roma is never really in danger, which means there is a refreshing lack of melodrama, but conversely, there isn't much conflict, either. What's left is a breath of fresh air among a sea of generic romantic comedies with two charismatic leads that genuinely love each other. The sweet sentimentality and simplistic art of Love Roma may not appeal to more cynical readers craving fiery blowups and near breakups, but anyone without a hardened heart will find very much to adore in this lovely, quirky teen romance.

 

Del Rey's graphic novel release of Love Roma is also packed with extras: each chapter wraps up its loose ends with a 2-3 page "bonus track," a special two-part "B-side" tells how Negishi and her sarcastic best friend Yoko first met, and Toyoda has some fun with his readers by showing a meeting of the society of characters that have only appeared in the series once so far. Also included are "liner notes" on Toyoda's technique for creating stories and a preview of volume 5 that shows summer is on the way and a trip to the beach may not be out of the question.

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