For some studios, the team’s work on a specific show becomes so iconic that it is forever associated with that anime’s genre. Doga Kobo, best known for her 2014 adaptation of the romantic comedy parody Nozaki-kun women’s monthly, is one such example. Beloved for its hilarious and rather healthy romance, Nozaki-kun defined Doga Kobo’s turn towards a more traditional romantic anime outside of moe and yuri.
Prior to the release of this show, however, another romantic anime did more or less the same thing, albeit with a more tenuous legacy. Love workshop is a tenderly sweet and relaxing series that combines down-to-earth romance, storytelling of life splits and recurring jokes. that’s how Love workshop subverted stereotypes as he set the stage for Nozaki-kunthe success.
What was Doga Kobo’s Romance Anime Love Lab from 2013?
Based on Ruri Miyahara’s 4koma manga of the same name, Love workshop is set in a girls’ school known for hosting a sleek and elegant student body. Two of these students are Natsuo Maki and Riko Kurahashi, a pair of young women who couldn’t be more different.
Natsuo is known for her modest and soft demeanor, while Riko is much more brash and open in the way she handles things. The latter discovers that Natsuo uses a pillow for her body to practice kissing, with the two forming a bond after realizing that they are not quite what others believe they are. They soon begin to undergo “love lessons”, resulting in increasingly fun situations.
The original Love workshop the manga aired from 2006 to 2019, lasting 15 volumes of comic bliss. The anime was released about halfway through the manga’s run, airing for a single 13-episode season. With its cast of pretty young girls, Love workshop definitely in tune with Doga Kobo’s previous moe productions. At the same time, his source material allowed him to be much more than just “cute girls doing cute things”, showing a cast that was so much more than they seemed.
Love Lab has subverted romantic archetypes like Nozaki-kun would
The idea of some students taking love lessons to learn to be with the opposite sex is widespread for the comic potential in parody love stories. Love workshop he takes this concept and runs with it, completely reversing the character archetypes in the process. Natsuo seems like the typical “good girl”, but she actually has a much more fickle romantic side. She is portrayed as an excellent academic but lacking in common sense when it comes to romance, and although this is usually played for laughs, it also gives a strong level of depth to her characterization of her.
The same goes for Riko, known for her abrasive and savage behavior. Unsurprisingly, traditional handsome gentlemen do little for her in the attraction department, but her mutual desire for her and her embarrassment to do stereotypically feminine things make her more than just a tomboy character. Keeping these two and other cast members together is a storyline that delights in ridiculous antics and cheating. These include a favor gun meant to get a love interest’s heart racing, or girls practicing what it feels like to be romantically carried by a guy. Natsuo’s disguise for the sake of the scenarios even seems in line with the studio’s previous experience with yuri anime.
It’s all just a pleasant and simple experience that is very much in line with the adaptation of Nozaki-kun, which would be adapted by Doga Kobo the following year. Subverting the tropes of romantic souls in a sane but ridiculous way, Love workshop it deserves more credit (and episodes) than it received nearly a decade ago at the time of release. The anime can be streamed via Crunchyroll and VRV.