My Love Story!! (Cert 12)
3 Discs Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running Time: 595 Minutes Approx.
They say there is someone for everyone out there. I personally have yet to corroborate this widely used adage and probably never will but if writers have one particular staple to rely on to facilitate an idea, it is the love story.
In the case of Takeo Goda, a 15 year-old man beast whose hulking, simian appearance, terrifying strength and immense capacity to withstand pain has grown adults running for the hills, girls are a mystery. Even since kindergarten, whenever Takeo confessed to a girl they would rebuff him but declare their interest in his best friend, the quiet but handsome Makoto “Suna” Sunakawa. Curiously, Suna would reject these adoring girls.
Now in high school, Takeo spots a groper behaving inappropriately towards a schoolgirl on a train and steps in to deal with the offender, earning the gratitude of the girl, the cute but timorous Rinko Yamato. Rinko tracks Takeo down to thank him with some homemade cakes, coincidentally whilst Suna is over at Takeo’s house.
Reading between the lines and with history as a guide, Takeo thinks Rinko is interested in Suna, so he decides to set them up, unaware that it is Takeo who has stolen Rinko’s heart. With Suna’s help, this misunderstanding is cleared up and romance is in the air, if only Takeo and Rinko could figure exactly what it is people in love actually do.
My Love Story!! (aka Ore Monogatari!!) is a shoujo series at heart yet paradoxically is the antidote for every simpering, twee and lachrymose romantic drama out there, through its simple mandate of subverting the rules of the genre. Usually such a series spends its entire episode run teasing the union, building up a litany of misunderstandings and obstacles to keep the prospective couple apart before climaxing with their inevitable union.
Normally, the rule of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should apply but the romance genre has become a too much of a cliché in itself to keep on relying on convention, which is where this story, created by mangaka Kazune Kawahara is the breath of fresh air it so sorely needs, and has enough charm, broad humour to be relatable to male audiences too.
Granted, it takes three episodes before the light bulb finally goes off in Takeo’s head, with a little nudge (or shove) from Suna, and the remainder of this 24 episode run deals with the often awkward journey towards true love for this mismatched couple, but this change of tact is its greatest strength. Yes, there are obstacles and misunderstandings but they are not ominous deal breakers; they are played out as circumstantial comedy pieces that could happen to anyone, forsaking the reliance on contrivance.
Much of the humour derives from Takeo’s monstrous stature which seemingly defies the rules of scale and regular dimensions – one minute he is a head or so taller than Suna, the next he is the size of King Kong! People’s terrified reactions to seeing such a brute is a recurring gag that still works till the end yet the only person not overawed by this is Rinko, who may well be a toy doll next to Takeo.
Rinko thinks Takeo is dreamy and is shocked he isn’t more popular with the ladies, something Rinko’s friends struggle to come to terms with until Takeo saves the day when a fire ruins a mixed date and his bravery and selflessness wins them over. It is this gentle humane side of Takeo that earns him a second admirer later on, as well as the surprise affections of Suna’s older sister Ai.
Suna however remains an infuriating enigma of this show, always putting Takeo and Rinko first yet showing no signs of wanting love in his own life. It is revealed early on why Suna rejected all the girls that confessed to him, the rationale behind which is surprisingly noble, but this doesn’t stop the viewer from wanting Suna to experience his own happiness and not resigned to being the invited third wheel in Takeo and Rinko’s relationship.
Despite the zany comedy, which employs the usual visual affections like chibi and washed out faces – Rinko is at her cutest when her expression is drawn so basically – et al there are some moments of tenderness where the idea of being kind and true to oneself reaps its own rewards. It’s not schmaltzy, angst-ridden drama although it does play on the naivety of the two leads in their romance and how it affects those around them
Takeo’s mother is a heavily pregnant bulldozer of a woman whose good nature was passed on to Takeo, and the events surrounding the birth become a poignant distillation of the show’s main themes. Remarkably, this doesn’t clash with the almost hidebound adherence to the genre conventions of the beach episode, the amusement park trip, Valentine’s Day and so on, since the characters are strong enough to transcend this formulaic concession.
Studio Madhouse have gone for the full shoujo aesthetic with pretty, sharp featured boys (well Suna anyway), soft, watercolour palette and dreamy atmosphere while the animation is very loose and often uneven. The character designs go off model a lot but this is largely for comic effect, playing a huge part in establishing the show’s quirky personality.
Perhaps the show’s biggest triumph, aside from being hilariously funny and fluffily adorable, is in how universal its appeal is. I’m sure many male anime fans will expectorate as much manly objection as they could muster at the word “shoujo”, but it’s their loss; Takeo is an atypical male shoujo lead and his coupling with Rinko should give hope to the least of us.
Sweet, touching but never cloying or needlessly over dramatic and sentimental, My Love Story!! is a rare treat of an anime that delivers engaging entertainment with heart and humour that understands the awkwardness of a teenage love. Watch this show and it could be YOUR love story next!
English Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Disc 3 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Ending Animation
Limited Collector’s Edition
Rigid Collectors Box
Set of Art Cards
Rating – *****
Man In Black