My Love Story!!
Episode 16

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 16 of
My Love Story!! ?

My Love Story!! often feels like the same show week after week. It's Takeo and Yamato's Adventures in the Wonderland of Teen Love. At the same time, I wouldn't say that it's formulaic. That's partly because there aren't many shojo romances that get their characters together in the third episode and then focus on the trials and tribulations of an established couple. Still, My Love Story!! is also full of surprises. It can turn a really rote story on a dime into one of the show's most endearing episodes.

That's what happened this week. The focus was on Saijou, supposedly Takeo's new "disciple." She's been hanging out with her "master" under the guise of him teaching her stuff, but when he asks what this is about, she says that he is a "master of the heart." That makes it extremely obvious to everyone involved where this is going: Saijou doesn't just like him, she likes him. Or as she puts it, she "likes him as a man." The show does a lot to contrast her feelings with those who actually just "like Takeo as a person," like Yamato's friends who think he's nice but kinda weird-looking. Saijou is also careful to make sure that she's not imposing on Takeo's dates with Yamato, but at the same time, she gets a little rush when he refuses to cancel his plans with her to go out with his girlfriend. Everyone can see it except Takeo. Even Yamato clues into it a little, since she continues to worry with her friends about girls stealing Takeo away.

I like that both Ai and Saijou have now been portrayed sympathetically, in spite of being "love rivals" to our perfect couple. (Ai was sympathetic as soon as she stopped actively trying to get in the way of Takeo and Yamato's relationship, at least.) People often can't help but fall for someone who is already attached, and it doesn't necessarily lead to the competitive drama you see in high school romances. It's especially frustrating for teenagers, who really struggle with controlling their powerful feelings. Saijou fell for Takeo very suddenly, because he was the one person who encouraged and was patient with her in their relay race. She tried to keep her feelings under wraps by denying them, but it was inevitable that they would come bursting out as soon as someone called her bluff, which is what Suna does. Even when she admits to "manipulating" Takeo and Yamato, he is more sympathetic than anything else, asking why she hurts herself that way.

Saijou describes Yamato and Takeo as "the nicest" people, and she's right, but this episode did a lot to show how forgiving and patient Suna is. He knows exactly what's going on with Saijou and her unrequited crush on his best friend, but he decides to listen to her and help guide her to the right course of action. In Saijou's case, this is the opposite of Ai's situation: she does end up confessing her feelings. It's catharsis for her as well as honesty for Takeo, and it's an important moment for both of them. Takeo learns that he's not as unpopular with girls as he thinks, and he also realizes the real reason that romantic attention would never threaten his relationship with Yamato. He loves her and doesn't have eyes for anyone else. He runs after her, and his confession is one of the sweetest moments of the series. It brings Yamato and Takeo closer together.

I really love how this plotline resolved itself. It debunked two myths in teen romance that are very frustrating: both that boys and girls can't really be platonic friends, and that two girls can't be friends if they like the same boy. Yamato and Saijou bond over their mutual admiration for Takeo early in the episode, and even as it becomes clearer how Saijou really feels, Yamato still reaches out to her. At the end of the story, Takeo and Saijou can still build a friendship together, perhaps a closer one now that she can be honest with him. My Love Story!! may not always be the most exciting show, but it's a relentlessly sweet and encouraging one. Its messages are positive ones for the teenage audience of shojo anime, ones they won't hear much in other series. Every time I worry I'm getting bored of this show, it finds a new way to reel me back in. There's just so much to love about My Love Story!!

Rating: A

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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