Val x Love, Vol. 1

By Ryosuke Asakura. Released in Japan as “Ikusa x Koi” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in their magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Ko Ransom.

In a way, I almost wish this had been worse. If it was completely bottom-feeling fanservice and nothing else, I could have smiled, nodded, said “Yeah, thought so”, and moved on. But there is the occasional flash, throughout this first volume, that it is going to gain greater depth and try to do something with the psychologies of its main characters, who have a lot of messed up things going on with them. You’d see it poking its head out… and then we’d paper over it with a monster fight which out of necessity seems to involve making out, or feeling up, or some other variety of fanservice that is literally dictated by whatever robotic-voiced rule machine seems to be in charge of the girls. It ends up feeling like you merely have to make the right level ups and the problems will be magically solved. And all the level ups involve stronger levels of “getting closer”. In other words, it’s not all that far from a mediocre ero game.

Our hero is Takuma, a young high schooler with a scary face. Nothing we haven’t seen before in Toradora!, or Haganai, or even Bleach. Except Val x Love takes it up to eleven, giving Takuma immense shark teeth and a huge body, making everyone absolutely terrified whenever he does something. Even worse, he’s somewhat socially inept – all he wants to do is study, so that he can make his dead mother proud. Unfortunately, he freezes up during tests so actually has horrible grades. The guy’s a wreck. And, not helping things, he is now living with eight other women (the ninth is absenting herself as she thinks he’s a loser), all of whom are valkyries sent by Odin to help save the world from demonic invasion. As I indicated abovel, they level up by completing various types of “love” tasks with Takuma – ‘so shopping while holding hands’, ‘be flirty’, and of course ‘feel bare breast for thirty seconds’. When this is achieved, they gain power and can take out the monsters.

There’s a lot that’s still unexplained about the sisters and their background, and most of them are barely sketched in here – I assume future volumes will take care of that. Natsuki is the lead heroine and obvious love interest, who’s a tsundere but competent, sort of in the Rin Tohsaka mode. The otehr featured girl is Itsuyo, who’s a bit more complex – her past as a cowardly girl and a lot of issues with her father have led her to have an outward “teasing oneesama” personality, but when it comes time to put up or shut up she’s freezing up just as badly as Takuma does. I was hoping this would lead to a nice sweet scene where they walk about their similarities and resolve to help each other become more confident. Instead, it leads to a kiss on the cheek and a quick monster elimination.

If you’re a young teen who wants monster fighting, cute girls, and the occasional bare breast (the series is rated M, likely more for that than any violent monster attacks), you’ll likely enjoy this. But it proved immensely frustrating for me in not going down more interesting roads. And given that the preview for the next volume featured the “oh no, I seem to have whipped cream all over my face and breasts” trope which is #1 on my Anti-Hit Parade, I think I will leave Val x Love for other valiant lovers to read.

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