My Love Story!!
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 20 of
My Love Story!! ?
Here it is, the moment we've all been waiting for: the Valentine's Day episode of My Love Story!! Our pair has been together nearly a year, and it's an interesting choice to save this milestone for now, when they're already comfortable with each other. Indeed, much of this episode, like the last few "holiday" ones, is defined around Takeo and Yamato's status as a "serious" couple. There's still a lot riding on this milestone, but not as much as previous ones. Even when Takeo thinks he didn't get his chocolate, he's more disappointed that he got hyped up for nothing than any worry that Yamato doesn't really care about him. They both know where they stand. It's just important to make sure that these special days are extra special for each other, as an expression of their love.
Valentine's Day is an important day for couples in Japan. It is here too, but in Japan there are more specific unspoken rules about the holiday and its month-later counterpart, White Day. Valentine's Day is for girls to give chocolate to boys, and White Day is for the boys to return the favor. That means that in the land of high school and its raging hormones, all the boys are a-twitter about whether they'll get any chocolate from girls this year. Takeo, of course, has never received any "real chocolate" (re: from girls who were actually interested, as opposed to favors from family friends). He looks forward to getting chocolates this year now that he has a girlfriend—and one who loves to bake, no less! At the same time, he sympathizes with his single friends enough to turn his solo date into a group date, because none of them have ever had chocolates from girls either.
Takeo and his friends get a little too excited, for that matter. My Love Story!! has always been a romantic comedy, but while the last few episodes have relied more on the mushy feelings, this one leans hard on the jokes. There's a lot of good visual humor in the way the boys explode like popcorn over the girls' chocolates. I also liked how the show kept turning them into nondescript grey blobs when it wanted to focus on how they worshiped Takeo. For better or for worse, the friends who aren't Suna or Osamu are pretty much interchangeable for the audience. But that doesn't mean they don't deserve their own romantic happy endings. The suggestion that the girls each give a specific boy chocolate so it felt like it was "just for him" was cute. In a way, it's not that different from the "courtesy chocolates" Takeo used to get, but the girls are okay with it and the day does actually end with everyone going on a group date to get to know each other better. It's moments like those where My Love Story!! gets the high school romance experience better than other anime. Group dates don't have to be a big deal. They can just be about trying out your feelings with other confused kids your age, to see how you fit. And you'll get by with a little help from your friends.
Of course, for Takeo, it's impossible for anything not to be a big deal. One of the fun ways the episode plays around with this is in its exploration of how Takeo is adjusting to being a big brother. He jumps all over the place and yells over something silly like chocolate, while his mom sternly reprimands him to remember the baby. Still, it gives you another window into their family life. Takeo is a loud, physical person mostly due to growing up an only child in a caring, but hands-off family. Now, everyone has to be more careful. Life changes in unexpected ways with the arrival of a baby, and while Takeo may be blissfully ignorant to his behavior now, I'm curious to see how he will adapt to this change.
The eventual outcome of the episode takes a page from the "first kiss" episode, but still feels fresh. Takeo is confused and heartbroken over not getting chocolate, until he suddenly realizes that he did--during the group date where Yamato handed him hers with the rest of the group. Then, he frets over how he didn't "do it right" by not savoring it. Suddenly, Yamato arrives at his door with the real, fancier chocolate, resulting in a sweet and goofy, yet romantic, resolution (Yamato catches a cartoonish blown kiss from Takeo.) It may be familiar, but it doesn't play out exactly the same, so it works. Plus, it further demonstrates Takeo's curious combination of obliviousness and self-consciousness over perceived social norms. Takeo and Yamato have become more confident in their relationship, even while facing new struggles. Kissing was the big obstacle last time, but now it's no big deal.
My Love Story!! has been on a continuous upward streak lately, but this might be the best episode this whole season. It combines everything that makes this show so lovable: its over-the-top zany comedy, memorable and unique characters, and sugary-sweet romance. It also shows a real understanding of what it's like to be a teenager in love, or just a teen who wants to be in love and is willing to play at romance along the way. Even when it's visually exaggerating everything, My Love Story!! may be one of the most "realistic" anime romances around, when it comes to low-conflict happily ever afters.
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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