This is probably my second or third read-through of this manga, and while I don’t think it’s the best romantic comedy or romance manga in general, I do feel like I’ll return to this one again in the future. I feel like this is one of those semi-cliche shoujo mangas that contains moments that both annoy me and move me to tears. The premise is fairly simple, but as the story progresses, we see a significant amount of character development packed into the quiet, introspective moments between the comedy and drama. It’s not just the story however that draws me back, it’s the quality of art throughout the manga especially when it comes to expressions. So, if you’re looking for a standard shoujo manga that has a tad more depth than most, L-DK might be one to check out.
The story follows high school girl Aoi Nishimori who convinced her family to let her live by herself after they were forced to relocate. A choice encounter with the prince of her school Shusei Kugayama, who rudely rejected her best friend’s confession, leaves her with a grudge against the prince. However, later that day she is greeted by her new neighbor who just so happens to be Shusei. To make matter worse, after an accident in his kitchen that renders his apartment unlivable, Shusei decides to move in with her. But will her hatred for him hold up in such confined conditions? Created by mangaka Ayu Watanabe, this manga has been serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Friend since 2009. The manga supposedly has 24 volumes, with the series coming to an end just this past year. It was also adapted for a live-action film in 2014 and nominated for Kodansha’s best shoujo romance that same year.
Watanabe does a really good job with the art in her manga, managing to capture those essential emotions and expressions in powerful ways. Her use of values and shading helps add tone and mood to each scene, enhancing the expressions of her characters. These moments are arguably what makes this manga so great. Without her skill in this area, I have a feeling the manga as a whole would feel a lot flatter. Watanabe’s panel design goes hand-in-hand with this. She repeatedly sections off parts of the face, forcing the reader to focus in on eyes or mouths to really drive home a moment of emotion. This is a method I find both emotionally rewarding and artistically pleasing when it comes to the overall design of pages. So much can be done to really enhance a moment when you think about the best ways to set up the panels.
If you want a good example of what I’m talking about, the scenes involving Sanjo and Eri are packed with emotion displayed through panel design and values. We see Sanjo’s dark, introspective moods through simple shots of the back of his head and shoulders. Cuts away to Eri’s eyes and expressions serves to drive home just how Sanjo’s actions are affecting her. It’s through her expressions that we get a good sense of how much she is hurting and just how strong her feelings for him have developed. With Sanjo, his continual feelings for Aoi are easily seen through panels focusing in on certain parts of his face. In the opposite vein though, L-DK also focuses a lot on sports like basketball, and Watanabe doesn’t disappoint with her art here as well. Dynamic movement is drawn fairly well and the panels are laid out in a such a way to enhance the experience of the few high-action sports moments.
What really draws me back to this manga though is the story and the characters. The basic premise of the plot is fairly simple: guy disses girl’s best friend, girl develops grudge, they then somehow get forced into a confined situation together. L-DK isn’t the first manga to begin a relationship by forcing its characters to live together, but the more you read it, the less cliche it becomes. For instance, Aoi and her best friend Moe, who previously confessed to Shusei, don’t ever form a grudge or really get mad at each other after Aoi’s feelings begin to develop. Sure she’s hesitant to tell her friend that they’re living together and that she has feelings for him — which results in a moment of awkward comedy — but they’re friendship is never negatively affected. I honestly think this is a step in the right direction rather than having two friends become enemies. It shows just how strong Moe and Aoi’s friendship is that it really can’t be harmed by these kinds of moments. While I’ll admit there are some scenes that hearken back to shoujo cliches like Shusei’s possessive tendencies or Aoi having to prove herself to his sister, there are even more moments that warm my heart.
It’s these simple moments that really pull me back I think and help strengthen the characterization of the main cast. In a chapter 57, we see Aoi mad at Shusei for erasing the data on a game she was playing. Her revenge is to make him obey her until she’s satisfied. In some ways, I would say that this scene is something I’ve encountered before where the male character winds up turning the situation around in his favor. But here, we see him performing chores for her and learning the ins and outs of doing laundry. At the end of the chapter he has come to recognize just how much she does for him while he’s away at work and gains more appreciation for her and their relationship in the process. What was a slightly predictable moment becomes one of important character growth. It’s this level of growth that carries throughout the manga focusing especially on Shanjo, Eri, Aoi, and Shusei. But that doesn’t mean characters like Moe, her new boyfriend, and Aoi’s friends don’t get characterization of their own. They all get moments to shine throughout the 80-something chapters. It’s this level of detail and attention to the characters that keeps me coming back.
I will say though that if you are planning on reading this manga, you may have some trouble finding all the chapters online. Some sites only go up to chapter 50 or some may be missing chapters. If anyone can find a place to read all the chapters, feel free to link it in the comments below. In the future, I’ll probably be adding this to a long list of manga to buy in physical form. A little bit of a shorter review for you tonight, but you can expect some longer posts coming in the next couple weeks. If you’ve had the chance to read L-DK, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!