My Love Story!!
俺物語!! (Ore Monogatari!!)
KAWAHARA Kazune (Story), Aruko (Art)
Shoujo – Romance, comedy, slice-of-life
13 Volumes (complete)
Takeo is a big guy who looks scary, but he has a heart of gold and a strong sense of justice. Unfortunately, every girl he likes prefers his best friend! Takeo’s lastest crush is a girl he saved on the train, but Takeo will support his latest love interest no matter who she likes. But perhaps this time…?
We don’t tend to think of shoujo protagonists as looking like this:
At best, someone like Takeo would be a side character, but My Love Story!! flips the script on the usual shoujo clichés and has the story told from the guy’s point-of-view, makes the “ugly guy” (not my words — it’s the manga’s tagline in the magazine) the lead, and the bishounen the best friend.
In a genre where other series can go double digits without doing anything unique, My Love Story!! is a breath of fresh air. Which is saying something considering a good portion of the story has more sugar than a candy store.
The series opens with Takeo narrating about his relationship with Makoto (nicknamed Suna), his old neighbor and current schoolmate. Even he admits he doesn’t fully understand his friendship with the handsome, smart Makoto. It would be easy for Takeo to resent Makoto, as every girl he has liked over the years has confessed to his best friend. Takeo isn’t the type to bare a grudge, and he knows that Makoto is a nice guy.
So when one day, in one of his usual impulsive heroic actions, Takeo saves a girl named Rinko, he assumes it’s the usual pattern: Takeo falls in love, but the girl has a crush on Makoto. By the end of the first chapter, Takeo and Rinko are a couple. Yes, first chapter. In a world where misunderstandings and miscommunications dominate, the main couple gets everything sorted out and affirm their feelings for each other. But what’s also nice is that Takeo realizes he’s not only lucky to date a sweet, beautiful girl like Rinko, but he’s also lucky to have a best friend like Makoto.
But we as readers are even luckier to have a shoujo where there is such an emphasis placed on friendship. One of my favorite moments in the entire series is when Makoto is having a family problem but insists Takeo should spend the day with Rinko. Takeo finally realizes he needs to break his promises with both Makoto and Rinko by going to the former’s side. What does Rinko do? No, not cry or try to hide her depression. She determinedly tells him to go and basically asks why is he still here. So while Takeo and Rinko may be an almost too idyllic relationship for the real world, the message that you don’t throw everything for love — that the world doesn’t stop turning because you are dating someone — is much healthier than other manga’s morals.
Although quite frankly I couldn’t blame Makoto for running away, as it’s one thing to be used as a love counselor. It’s another to be used as a test dummy. I can see him being 70-years-old and still having to deal with Takeo busting in and asking what to do for his and Rinko’s anniversary.
But the guys are bros in the truest sense, and there are even arcs dealing with their friendship. Even Makoto and Rinko is have a nice friendship outside of being defined solely as “my best friend’s girl / my boyfriend’s best friend”. Better still, Makoto isn’t immediately paired off with someone just to even out the numbers. I also applaud the creators or showing that Makoto isn’t some wise love guru; he doesn’t have any romantic experience, so all he can do is give advice from a practical standpoint.
Yes, the characters really drive the manga. It’s so unusual to have a story where the three biggest characters can all be described as nice. Nice is often decried as being a vague and/or overused term, but it is just so apt here. Takeo will charge full steam ahead to save strangers. Makoto refuses to date anyone who would insult Takeo. Rinko agrees to hang out with people she barely knows because they’re friends of friends. The balance between Takeo’s hot-blooded personality, Rinko’s cheerleader-like positivity, and Makoto’s levelheadness keeps the story from feeling too annoying even when it gets should be too annoying.
Case in point: in one early chapter, Takeo ends up rescuing Rinko’s friends from a fire. Yes, heroes exist everywhere, but Takeo does more good deeds than an entire boy scout troop. His seemingly superhuman strength is a running gag along with his habit of helping now, realizing there was a better way later. Meanwhile, Rinko thinks she’s bad and naughty for wanting to hold Takeo’s hand and thinks Takeo looks like a prince when she puts a flower crown on him. Her family name is Yamato, and she puts the “yamato” in yamato nadeshiko. The main couple also are so lovey-dovey that the term bakkapuru should just be renamed godamato-ing or rinkeo-ing. Events and arguably their whole relationship tend to be unrealistic (think sitcom), but at least they’re muted by the fact the main couple is established and that they have a pure outlook on love.
Of course, while I have been praising My Love Story!! for being atypical, do expect some classics like love triangles and misunderstandings. Fortunately, 13 volumes is a decent length, not too long or too short. Still, though, don’t marathon this series and take a drink every time Takeo thinks to himself how he loves Yamato. Because you will die of alcohol poisoning from all the “I love her!”s and “I love you!”s. Again, it’s a little repetitive and arguably too picture-perfect.
As Takeo is not supposed to be a typical shoujo prince, this is a series where not everyone is beautiful. Panels that feature Takeo are intense with lots of closeups and screentones, while Yamato and Sunakawa panels lean toward flowers and sparkles. The art is most interesting when it stars Takeo rather than his companions. His raburabu scenes are quite comical. Even Takeo’s family is artistically hilarious. The notes in the story lampshade the fact that Takeo gets bigger during the series, but at least you could always chalk it up to him eating Yamato’s treats. Overall, the art is cheery with a lot of contrasting blacks and whites to emphasize the differences between Takeo and the two people closest to him. But pay attention to Takeo’s shirts!
No honorifics are used except for “senpai”. Some of the characters’ names they are referred to by others are slightly changed. Takeo’s mom, for instance, calls him “Take” in Japanese but by his full name here. This seems to be fairly standard practice for the person who did this adaptation. At least the English text doesn’t feature everyone calling each other by their personal names. (Ew.) This seems to be a good translation, focused on keeping the meaning than the literal text translation. The English adaptation also keeps Yamato’s emoji-filled text messages.
A gorilla-like prince, the girly-girl who loves him back, and the handsome, supportive friend. If that sounds like something you are interested, than My Love Story!! will be unlikely to let you down. This is a title for those who want to experience something different from an average girl chasing after the most popular boy in school.
Kawahara is known for her series High School Debut, also from Viz.
The anime is licensed by Sentai Filmworks and is available on Crunchyroll.