Star-crossed love, but make it comedy. That’s the ethos behind Takahiro Wakamatsu and Hiroshi Noda’s Love After World Domination, a new series from Kodansha. It reads like a Tokusatsu-based gag manga with a romantic twist, as it stars Fudo (a.k.a. Red Gelato of the heroic Gelato 5) and his nemesis Desumi (a.k.a. the Reaper Princess of Gekko’s combat forces). Fudo sees a sweet, feminine side of Desumi unknown to her minions, and the manga follows the pair’s courtship as the struggles of their new love are made all the more complicated by obligatory superhero action antics. Does the series make a good first impression with Vol. 1?
A lot of the series’ charm and success comes from its utilization of Tokusatsu genre roots in the plotting and character design. It’s just the right premise to pull an enemies-to-lovers twist with while maintaining a campy tone. The pair is fated to face off consistently in costumed, monster-filled battles but the violence never feels truly dangerous and there’s no real sense of moral quandary. That’s not what the series is doing; this is just a simple story of good-boy-meets-bad-girl and it works. The use of episodic conflicts also allows the focus to remain on the couple’s personal dramas where it belongs as opposed to having to spend a lot of page-time developing lore beyond what’s needed.
Plus, Fudo and Desumi very much look their respective parts. Fudo would look right at home in any Super Sentai show with a streamlined uniform matching those of his teammates save for the color. Desumi’s supervillain costume, meanwhile, has every touch and motif one would expect: skeleton elements, an abundance of black, a dramatic cape, and lots of skin showing. Both leads’ designs are very archetypal in a way that really works as the visuals reinforce the manga’s key themes and premise.
With that said the art as a whole is only solid, not great. The couple’s interactions are certainly fun to read, partially because of how emotively and charmingly Wakamatsu renders their facial expressions. There’s also some decent use of body language and physical comedy. With that said the actual quality of technique here isn’t all that. The line-work is a bit shaky and unpolished, and not in a way that feels like it’s heightening the tone or aesthetic. Line widths and detail levels shift considerably from panel to panel, regardless of tonal context.
Writing-wise, this volume is strong. Desumi and Fudo’s personalities are well-established, as is their dynamic together. The chapters largely depict short adventures with the couple getting into various hijinks, and by and large these are fun to follow. Particular standouts include Fudo sneaking into Gekko’s base, Desumi arranging an attack on an amusement park so that the pair can go on a date there, and even a brief chapter from the perspective of Desumi’s pet cat Hellko.
The main con to the story is just how predictable some of the developments feel. For example, at one point Desumi gets the mistaken impression that Fudo is seeing another woman. Jealousy ensues, but there’s no resultant character development or twist to distract from how basic of a plot element it is. It feels like an artificially inserted obstacle rather than an organic conflict for the couple to confront and overcome.
All in all, Love After World Domination Vol. 1 is a charming debut that successfully introduces the premise and builds interest for future installments. With that said it is a bit unpolished with shaky artwork and some poorly utilized romcom tropes. Nonetheless the likable characters and sincerity of their affections for one another make this a fun read.
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