Love Lab – 13 (Fin)

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After overhearing Riko, Maki’s behavior changes. She starts making clumsy mistakes and suspends love lab work. Riko tells herself she’ll tell Maki the truth tomorrow, and practices her confession to Sayo in a wig. That afternoon at cram school, a friend of Nagino’s tells Maki she’s naive for believing Riko said she was popular with the guys. Riko arrives and kicks him, then blames herself. Nagino bails her out by admitting he liked her. Maki runs home, and Nagi orders Riko to go after her.

At Maki’s house, Riko finally confesses that she’s also a beginner in love and lied to her. She says she’ll make amends by quitting the love lab, but doesn’t want to, nor does Maki want her too. Maki is sad and disappointed, but also relieved Riko wasn’t forcing herself to hang out with her, and even happy that she’s a beginner like her. At school, Riko confesses and apologizes to Suzu and Eno, and after everyone attacks her with huge slapsticks, the newspaper club enters with the first issue of the underground newspaper.

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Love Lab probably wins the prize for least enticing title and premise: a school club devoted to affairs of the heart. And while it’s hit a few bumps here and there, on the whole it was a very nicely-animated exploration of how a small lie at the start of a friendship can grow into a major problem that threatens those bonds, but how a true friendship can endure such hardships, as long as its participants are honest and forthright in the end. Riko is both of these things, thanks in part to Sayo’s prodding (who says her over-thinking is keeping her from acting) and the fact things have gotten so awkward in the club. Minute for minute, this episode probably contained more drama than any previous Love Lab episode.

Even so, the show didn’t abandon its trademark bawdy slapstick comedy either. We get a nice balance of both, which keeps the drama from going melo. The random kid spilling the beans, was, well, random, but it gave Nagi the chance to shine, and also made it imperative that Riko confess. When she did, it was a surprisingly well-acted scene for both her and Maki. It turns the lie about her popularity wasn’t the foundation of any of her friendships, as she feared. The lie was just some of the grout, which can be mended. Maki, Suzu and even Sayo and Eno are friends with her because she’s a kind person who is ready to help others without a second thought. That’s probably why Nagi like(d) her too.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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Love Lab – 12

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Momo and Nana expound on their scheme to turn love lab requests into fictional stories; the student council is excited about the idea. Riko still hasn’t told Maki the truth, and when Maki joins her cram school, Nagi almost tells her, and Yan does, but Maki doesn’t believe him. Riko continues to procrastinate, and is finally (almost) able to come out with the truth before a teacher drags her away for wearing a hair band. In the hall, Riko runs into her friend Mika, who knows she’s a love novice. Maki overhears them, but pretends she didn’t.

Those hoping Riko would finally come clean and face either Maki’s wrath or her forgiveness will have to wait one more week; the lie is going all the way down to the wire. As her cram school teacher can attest, Maki is very academically gifted, but we also thing she’s capable of putting two and two (and two) together: Yan’s blabbing about Riko not being popular; Riko’s half-confession after their run; Mika talking with Riko in the hall; all of it points to Riko lying about her romantic experience.Even if Riko wasn’t able to deliver a full confession, everything’s out there, and Maki has the wit to see it. But does she have the heart to?

What we mean is, Maki and Riko are good friends now, and she’s always going to give Riko the benefit of the doubt, and doesn’t want to consider the possibility that Riko has lied to her, even if that’s what all the evidence suggests. Her fondness for Riko, is preventing her from accepting that conclusion. It’s still up to Riko to once and for all tell her the truth and face the consequences. Unless – God forbid – a second season allows her to keep her lie going as a constant cloud over her friendships, Riko is out of time. To her credit, Riko did start her confession. Now she just needs to finish it.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Love Lab – 11

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The Love Lab gets a request regarding “Hairstyles boys like”, so Riko asks Nagi at cram school, who tells her about a girl whom his classmates idolize, who is probably Maki. Meanwhile Maki’s sister reads her love research and alerts her dad, who decides to let Maki attend a co-ed cram school. It happens to be the same one Riko, Nagi, and Yan attend, and she makes a scene when Yan calls her “Natsuo”. Nagi suspects that Riko’s been putting on airs to fool her friends. When the school reverses its policy forbidding contact with boys, Momo and Nana offer space in their newspaper for “Love Lab Correspondence.”

– “Are you a master of love?”
– “W-Well, yeah! I’ve had a few boyfriends, of course.”

That little conversation when Riko and Maki first met began the now long-standing fiction that can only end badly unless Riko sets the story straight. Whenever Maki, Eno, and/or Suzu gush over Riko’s non-existent romantic prowess, she always squirms with guilt that only Sayo has detected thus far. Now that Maki attends cram school with Riko and her two childhood friends, there’s no way the lie can survive. The question is, will she come clean of her own accord, or wait for it to all blow up in her face, wounding all her friendships new and old?

Whatever happens, there should be some decent character drama in store to go along with the comedy, which was particularly abundant this week. Maki’s whacked-out courtship fantasies are always entertaining (as is the commentary by whomever is enduring them), and this week she made Yan her straight man, overreacting to a simple misunderstanding about her name. She’s pretty useless around guys, but Riko doesn’t do much better, and Nagi doesn’t help. You get the feeling the two actually like each other, but are simply never able do or say the right thing at the right time, causing mutual frustration leading to discord.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Eno complaining about hair fluttering while actually doing it, followed by the others doing it in unison, was pretty funny.
  • It’s Riko’s fault she’s in this dilemma for lying, but Maki’s sister didn’t help matter by pleading with their father to let Maki attend cram school with boys.
  • Maki’s dad is pretty protective, and sings songs about lingerie, but at least he doesn’t force her to pose for nude photo shoots every year, unlike some rich dads…
  • Maki rides in a spankin’ new Mercedes CLS. What do those go for in Japan? Oh, a cool ¥9,450,000, or US$95,185.