My Love Story!!
by Rose Bridges,
With the latest Ai subplot all wrapped up, it's time for My Love Story!! to move forward into new narrative waters. This time, it's yet another chance to show off Takeo's athletic skill with the school sports festival. Takeo's in the relay, and everyone in his class is excited since his speed means a for-sure win. They're less pumped when they're forced to include a really slow girl named Saijou, because no other team has room for her.
Takeo is willing to work with his less-athletic classmate, because of course he is. I already loved Takeo, but this episode endeared me to him even more with how he helped Saijou. I was always one of the worst in gym class, and got bullied a lot when I slowed my teams down. It always felt really special when one of the athletes tried to help me instead, and so seeing Takeo do this made me feel warm and fuzzy. It wasn't surprising, since Takeo is the nicest person in the world. Still, the way he insists that she probably can't help being slow was something I wished I'd heard more. We can all enjoy sports, and it's just a matter of getting to learn at our own pace. Saijou had a similar reaction to my own, considering how she starts blushing when Takeo hands her the baton in their relay.
The rest of the episode goes about how you would expect. Saijou's fluttery feelings means she wants to keep hanging around Takeo and doing nice things for him. This makes Yamato, Suna, and everyone else involved a little on-edge, because she knows (or soon figures out) that Takeo has a girlfriend, but can't hide her admiration for him. They end up in various compromising situations, like when Saijou sprains her ankle and can't walk, and insists on Takeo—not Suna—carrying her back home. It's yet another episode about a romantic rivalry, or so it would seem.
I'm not sure what to make of the ending. Supposedly, Saijou just wanted to be Takeo's "disciple," and only likes him "as a person," not a crush. It's not realistic that she'd get that flustered over merely wanting him to teach her how to run better. Saijou was nervous about this even before she met Yamato, after all—before she was worried about getting in the way of his girlfriend. Especially when this dovetails so much with Suna's suggestion that Takeo's "not as unpopular with girls" as he thinks, it's pretty obvious to me that the girl's got a crush. I'm just unclear on what the show wants us to think, with the way it implies a clear resolution at the end for all parties involved.
Of course, the next episode is titled "My Disciple," implying that it will delve more into the Takeo-Saijou relationship. Maybe then we'll find out that she does indeed have feelings for him that she doesn't know how to admit, or something completely different. What surprises me the most is I'm not actually not apprehensive about giving Takeo a harem of rivals. Earlier in the series, I was worried for where it might take Ai's storyline, but even as the show sets up other girls for this role, I find the idea less unpleasant.
That's because no matter how many shojo clichés it sets up, My Love Story!! will never be a typical example of the genre. Our main characters are just so nice that they immediately explode any potential for ugly fighting and rivalry. Saijou finds she can't help but like Yamato every time they share a scene together. Takeo isn't even really into the idea of girls being all over him, only caring about what his girlfriend thinks. Yamato herself spends a good portion of this week's events steeling herself for a potential battle for Takeo, or at least being able to accept if he's taken to any other suitors. Her friends insist that she shouldn't take another girl's interest sitting down, that she has to go all out. (I like that her friends have switched from being puzzled at her attraction to rooting for her romance with all their might.) Still, she can't bring herself to do it. Yamato even feels sad that she got so jealous of Saijou that she couldn't befriend her.
So the extreme sweetness of our major players will stifle any potential conflict that requires anger and subterfuge. That's not a bad thing, either; the usual examples of these rivalries in fiction are patently ridiculous. Maybe it's just my high school experience, but I found the exaggerated rivalries between girls over liking the same boy were refreshingly rare. I even had friends who shared crushes with me and rather than it driving us apart, we bonded over it. That's not to say that My Love Story!!'s take on this is especially realistic either, since few people have hearts as big as Takeo, Yamato and Suna. It's simply different enough to be refreshing. The fact that both potential rivals have also been very different people who reacted to all this in distinct ways helps. Ai and Saijou are not the same, and they don't deal with their feelings for Takeo the same way.
Every time it feels like My Love Story!! is getting too predictable, another episode comes along to shake up the formula. This week's installment didn't exactly set the world on fire, but it did set up another ongoing plot. In the process, it gave us more reason to admire what makes this show so special. My Love Story!! may play on familiar shojo-romance tropes, but its take on them is one of a kind.
My Love Story!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rose is a music Ph.D. student who loves overanalyzing anime soundtracks. Follow her on her media blog Rose's Turn.
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