If you had asked me after 2 episodes I would have said that Love Lab was the best show of the summer season and it isn’t particularly close. Now after 3 episodes I’m not so sure.
While it may not be everybody’s cup of tea Love Lab possesses many of the elements that I look for in an anime. Moe girls, gag comedy, a little bit of yuri (I am aware that the characters are canonically straight but there’s plenty of implication to go around.) I generally find humor centered around one person give another person advice on a topic they’re both ignorant about to be comedy gold, especially when the subject is relationships/dating. The episode of Steins;Gate where Okabe goes on a date with Rukako is a prime example of this done right. So when you throw that style of humor in with the previous elements you’re likely to have a winner in my book.
For two episodes it looked like that was the case. The jokes were snappy. The characters, especially Riko and Maki, had good chemistry with each other. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times an episode and generally enjoying the banter between the characters. This changed in episode 3 to such an extent that now I’m kind of concerned about the series as a whole.
My first issue is related to how the cast as a whole meshes. As I said before, Riko and Maki have great chemistry with each other. Suzu adds a good element to the group as an admirer for Riko (Waki-senpai~) and as a second person to help Maki egg Riko on. Yuyushiki ran on a similar set of 3 characters to great effect so we’ve seen a setup like this work in the past. We also have Eno and Sayo off doing their own thing which works because Eno’s crybaby tendencies along with her ability to take almost anything personally plays very well off of Sayo’s habit of saying more than she really should. All this is well and good. The issue comes up when these two groups come together. Sayo attacking Maki with some non sequiturs early in episode 3 about lingerie wasn’t great but it was passable and the coughing blood gag was kind of funny. It was downhill from there though. Eno really doesn’t seem to serve any purpose when she’s not being accidentally bullied by somebody who says offensive things. Her crybaby act when confronted with the current student council members was quite grating and it was clear that she doesn’t really have any role to play when Riko and Maki are around. Sayo had similar issues as her unintentional comments lose impact when the listener isn’t as easily offended as Eno. I’m just not sure how we’ll get the 5 of them to work as one cohesive comedy unit. (SS: Cohesive Comedy Unit sounds like either a crime fighting team or a band name)
The other issue was the way by which they got the full student council together. Eno’s plan to discredit Maki was pretty lame in the first place. It felt like it was just assumed that the student council discussions about love were somehow the worst thing ever. It got worse when everybody at the meeting bought into it hook line and sinker.
What follows was a terribly executed, ham-handed attempt at a heartwarming cover by the main cast for each other that despite its obvious fake-ness somehow managed to convince the entire room almost immediately. As if somehow the concept itself is horrifying but they all fantasize about it anyway. If you have something that’s ostensibly forbidden that everybody secretly fantasizes about they have clearly already processed the cognitive dissonance required to both ban it and fantasize about it which would make pointing out these fantasies ineffective in changing minds. I suppose they all could have thought that they were each the only one who fantasizes about love but for all of them to be that naïve is quite a stretch. Regardless of what actually led the mob to come to the council’s side, it worked and thus the complete Frankenstein student council is formed.
That negativity aside, I do see reasons for optimism. The show could definitely get back to the focus on the council hilariously and haplessly trying to teach each other about love. There seem to be indications in that direction given the anonymous student placing a paper in the suggestion box at the very end. If that’s the plan and the horrendous drama was just an awkward way to get there I can forgive it as a one-off flaw in the show. If they never figure out how to properly integrate Eno and Sayo into the student council or if awkward drama becomes a recurring theme then Love Lab is going to have serious problems going forward.