I’ve ended up re-watching a lot of Love Lab these past couple days and it’s really reminded me just how good it was. Apparently I wasn’t just caught up in the moment when 8 months ago I was raving about how impressed I was with it.
Not only is it still good on a second viewing, but it’s actually even better because there’s a lot of subtle character cues that you would have either missed or not understood in the earlier episodes. A lot of that is due to the above average animation, particularly in the facial expressions.
The biggest example of this is Sayo. She is extremely well written for an anime character and a deeply flawed person. I did not like Sayo for most of the show, but she gets a highlight episode later on in the series that not only gives backstory to her and Eno’s relationship, but also re-contextualizes almost all of her previous actions. Sayo is arguably the most complex and interesting character in the entire series* and became one of my favorites.
She’s very stoic, and that image that she has of herself is so integral to who she is that she will often outright lie about her feelings, even to herself, in order to keep it up. She tries to adhere to her idea of logic and reason to a fault. She’s very manipulative and enjoys twisting peoples metaphorical arms as a test of her own cunning. She’s a character of contradictions and coping mechanisms who places significant value on her friends, but will never admit it because she sees that as a weakness to be exploited.
It’s this kind of stuff that I was not expecting going into Love Lab. It’s a criminally underrated and overlooked show due to its visual style and understandable, but unfounded, comparisons to shows like Yuru Yuri.
As usual, I am obliged to add the disclaimer that every time I talk about Love Lab, I feel like I’m giving the show way too much credit and seeing things where there aren’t. I have a hard time believing it really is that good for what’s supposed to be a generic cute girls doing cute things anime.
Except, every time I watch it I keep catching myself thinking “This is way better than it has any right to be.”
*Riko is also extremely well written with very real flaws and a completely believable personality. It’s tough to say if Riko or Sayo are the more interesting characters, and it probably comes down to personal preference, but they both deserve recognition for their respective arcs and writing.