The Spring 2015 Anime Preview Guide MY love STORY!!
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Love Story!! ?
Takeo Gouda is a big guy. Huge, even. Like, gorilla big, and with a heavy-browed face to match. But in temperament, he couldn't be more of a sweetheart - he frets about his crushes, he's friendly and honorable, and he delights over cakes and macaroons. Though Takeo's obviously adorable, it's his friend Sunakawa who gets the attention of all the girls, even though he ends up uniformly rejecting them. But when Takeo saves the cute Rinko Yamato on the train one day, it seems possible his life is about to change.
“Adorable” is really the best word to describe MY love STORY!! Takeo is adorable. His reaction to trying new sweets is adorable. His “time to think about this seriously” face is adorable. Yamato is also adorable, and the way Sunakawa laughs can be adorable as well. Even the ridiculous translation of this story's title is kind of adorable. It's all incredibly cute and likable, a shoujo romance given great grounding by the steady strength of Takeo's personality and base nature. Much of this episode is just a classic love triangle opening played entirely straight, and in fact sometimes the shimmering eyes and stunned, star-crossed looks can seem pretty over-the-top, but it's all undercut perfectly by the base fact of Takeo just being this huge, out-of-place dude with the heart of a kitten. He possesses the dainty sensibilities and uneven self-confidence of someone like Sawako from From Me to You, but he's maybe eleven feet tall and has hands bigger than Yamato's head. It's a simple source of humor, but a consistently great one.
The solid execution keeps MY love STORY!! humming merrily along through this first episode. The show is confident, possessing an easy sense of humor and characters that gain texture and endearing quirks quickly across a few conversations. Takeo is the standout, but Yamato is also a very likable person, with Sunakawa so far largely playing straight man to the indulgent shoujo romance he happens to have stumbled into. The show respects all of these characters, and doesn't need to be showy in demonstrating that each of them step outside traditional archetypal roles in ways that make them seem more real and easy to empathize with. And the voice acting deserves particular mention, as both Takeo and Yamato are brought to life with performances that lend a unique personality and conviction to even their simpler lines.
The episode moves well, and the world is lit up through rich blooming colors - there's not so much animation here, but the backgrounds are quite lovely, with the short fable sequence that opens the episode being a particular visual standout. The narrative joke of Takeo's nature is maintained by the show's aesthetic, with the thick lines of his masculine features being visually undercut by blooming pink backgrounds and shoujo sparkles. Apparently MY love STORY! features a great portion of the team behind the renowned Chihayafuru, so it's no surprise that everything comes together very professionally here. The humor isn't always outright funny, but it is consistently endearing - which, as I stressed, is a perfect description of the entire show. Ambitious or not, it's nice to watch a show that's as fundamentally likable as this.
This series is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com.
My Love Story!! has a simple yet ingenious premise. What if the big "ugly" guy you only ever see in the background of other manga and anime was the leading man in his own romantic comedy (and didn't realize it)?
It is also the most giggle-worthy anime I have ever seen. The giggles-per-minute on this episode are off the charts. This is illegally adorable.
For one thing, the show goes above and beyond the call of duty in making our thick-lipped, brick-shaped protagonist Takeo the most likable human on the face of the earth. He feels emotion deeply and displays it openly, gives wholeheartedly to others like the many grateful members of his middle school club, but protects the weak without hesitation and without going overboard into bullying. He's "manly" in ways that many shojo leading men aren't, even the ones that are supposed to be. He's honest with himself and others, gives his all in everything he does, but still respects himself without being a toxic, entitled jerk. Unfortunately, he is also enormous and homely, (something the show manages to play for laughs without the tiniest drop of mean-spiritedness), so he's accepted at this point that girls are only intimidated by him and attracted to his aloof bishounen best friend instead. Why won't his reflection show who he is inside?
What takes this idea from funny to heart-stompingly adorable is the reaction it prompts from his aforementioned best friend Sunakawa and the new girl who will clearly become his love interest, Yamato. Takeo's kindness has been recognized and rewarded, but he's so resigned to disappointment that he refuses to see it for himself. Since they were kids, every girl Takeo likes has ended up confessing to Sunakawa instead, but he rejects their advances every single time. Over the course of the episode, it slowly dawns on the viewer that Sunakawa is doing this out of love and respect for Takeo, putting his own feelings aside entirely whenever he realizes that he would be going out with a girl his friend likes. By the same token, Takeo has become so used to giving for others without receiving anything in return, (thanks to his intimidating appearance), that even when Yamato shows interest in her own shy way, he assumes she's just falling for his friend. Takeo decides that this time, he can't watch a girl he likes get shot down again, and will help make her happy by setting up the two of them. This is all conveyed with the utmost compassion for all three characters, while still having merciless fun at the expense of their lovable flaws.
This is a romcom in great taste, packed with genuinely funny jokes that play on the world's expectations of appearances start to finish, without punching down at anyone in the process. When you're not laughing at the episode's quick-witted charm, your heart is being squeezed by the immediate likability of its cast. Most shojo romcoms have a little bit of purposefully mean bite to them to get you invested in the romance between two troubled individuals. Thanks to its incredibly clever conceit, My Love Story!! doesn't need to do that. It's created a love story with kindhearted characters whose only great obstacle is their own assumptions about themselves and each other. It's a less dramatic obstacle, but it's close to the heart, I think tons of people can relate to it, and I'm eager to see where Takeo, Yamato, and even Sunakawa's hearts will lead them.
Takeo Gouda is the epitome of Japanese manliness. He's huge, towering above all of his classmates and most adults, he's strong, able to punch a guy unconscious in a single blow, and he's got a face like an old temple statue. While this makes him super popular with his male classmates, girls all seem to miss the fact that he's got a heart of pure gold and always fall for his pretty-handsome best friend Sunakawa...especially the girls Takeo's interested in. He's mostly accepted this, so when he saves an adorable girl named Yamato from a groper on the train and she comes to thank him, he mistakenly thinks that she's in love with Sunakawa too, and he vows to do his best to make their relationship come to fruition, because he'd rather see her happy with someone else than sad alone. He's just that nice.
Based on the manga written by Kazune Kawahara (High School Debut), My Love Story's first episode is kind of adorable. The juxtaposition of Takeo's occasionally frightening exterior and his soft gooey center can be very funny, yes, but what really makes it is watching Yamato flutter around him, clearly totally infatuated, while he continues to miss the hints. In part, that's actually a little sad, because it indicates that he's already given up on the idea of anyone being romantically interested in him, ever. (Or at least “ever” as teenagers see it.) But the faces he makes as he eats her homemade pastry and the determination with which he continually determines to do go, even if it gets the cops called on him because he's scary looking, is really sweet, and since we can easily tell who Yamato really likes, the anticipation of him being rewarded makes for a different kind of tension than we typically see in shoujo romances. Also unusual for the genre is that both hero and heroine are genuinely nice people: Yamato honestly wants to thank the people who helped her out of a scary situation and Takeo just wants the best for everyone. In a genre that is increasingly full of bad boy leads who molest the heroines, who can be too foolish for their own collective good, this is a breath of fresh air.
Takeo's character design, which has translated well, faces and all, from Aruko's manga designs, is a visual highlight of the series, but Yamato's cute charm is also well captured. She tends to be shown with sparkles and pastels around her, and her eyes do stand out a bit too much for visual cohesion with their much more solid color, but her body language is very nice, as are some of her non-verbal lines. Walking looks a little weird, possibly because of a focus on torsos and upper legs when we see characters walking away from the camera, and when Sunakawa isn't the focus of a scene he can look distinctly off-model. The characters and their interactions make up for what the visuals lack – and there are some nice scenes; one of Sunakawa sitting down comes to mind – and overall there's a lightness to this episode that makes it a lot of fun to watch.
It helps that the voices are really quite good. As mentioned before, Yamato (Megumi Han) sighs, gasps, and wheezes really well, and there's a breathy sweetness to her spoken lines as well. Both Sunakawa (Nobunaga Shimazaki) and Takeo (Takuya Eguchi) are also spot-on, with both good delivery and voices that fit the characters. All in all this is a nice bit of fluffy fun in a season that hasn't had a lot of it, and even if you're leery of shoujo romances, this is a good show to check out when you just need something nice.
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