My Love Story!!
Episode 23

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 23 of
My Love Story!! ?

Poor Takeo-kun.

Sometimes the titles of My Love Story!! episodes are spot-on, and sometimes they're completely deceptive. This week was an example of the latter. Sure, all this action does technically happen on the characters' spring break. Yamato gets a job at a cake shop over the time off from school. Still, it makes you think of a relaxing day at the beach—not romantic turmoil. For being named after a relaxing time off, this episode of My Love Story!! is one of the most heart-wrenching yet.

Yamato's new job comes with a new coworker, Ichinose. He's an attractive bishonen—framed with sparkles and pretty patterns—who works as a pâtissier at the cake shop. He's a loner, but a talented baker. Ichinose just feels insecure about his creations, after seeing them not sell out when put up for sale. Sharing a strong interest in baking, Yamato immediately connects with him and helps him get up the courage to sell his creations again. She even offers to buy the rest of his pastries and share them with her friends if they don't sell out. That's where the episode starts going about where you'd expect.

Yamato does not get a crush on Ichinose, of course. Other than the time where she hesitated to mention that she has a boyfriend, I never worried for a minute that Yamato was insecure in her feelings for Takeo, or had transferred those feelings to Ichinose. She just admires him because he's accomplished at something she wants to do in life. She cares about him a lot, but as a friend. With the way that Yamato fawns over all her friends though, it's easy to see how Ichinose would get confused. So he develops a crush on her instead, and that's where things get complicated.

Meanwhile, Takeo is being his usual goofy self, overprotective of Yamato by watching from the bushes while she works during the day. It's initially suggested as kind of goofy, but with Ichinose hanging all over Yamato and even calling her by her first name (a much bigger deal in Japan than it is here), Takeo does sort of have the right to be worried. When he finally does come by the cake shop, and Yamato tells Ichinose that Takeo is her boyfriend, he flips out and races down the street to tell Takeo why he would be a better match for her. Some of his points are valid; common interests and goals are a good foundation for romance. Although, as Takeo and Yamato prove, they're not absolutely necessary. It's not like our main couple struggles to find things to talk about or do together. Then he starts insulting Takeo's appearance and plays right into his insecurities. Ichinose's tantrum is also rooted in his own insecurities and fantasies, of course; if you've convinced yourself that this girl is your "muse" and that "fate" brought you together, how can she choose anyone else? Still, Ichinose doesn't exactly make it easy to feel sorry for him.

This is all juxtaposed against Takeo's insecurities about calling Yamato by her first name. Ichinose does it right away when she tells him her first name is Rinko, and Takeo wonders if it's weird that he can't bring himself to do it when some guy she isn't even dating can. Suna tells him that Yamato would probably be happy if he did, and that it's normal for a boyfriend to do that, but Takeo still feels weird about it. He can't even call Suna by his first name, after all. Takeo's overly-formal attitude is an extension of his own insecurities, which are the real focus of this episode. Ai shows up right on cue as Takeo wonders if maybe Yamato is better off with someone else, but of course, she roots for Takeo and Yamato's relationship and helps Suna talk out his best friend's insecurities. This episode likes playing with expectations and then immediately reassuring you that My Love Story!! knows what it's doing.

The ending of "My Spring Break" was appropriately sad and conflicting; it's raining out, so Takeo has come to rescue his girlfriend after her job ends with an umbrella. Instead, he sees her go past him in Ichinose's car, as he takes her to the train station to go home. The audience knows there's nothing suspicious about Yamato'sa actions; Takeo and his umbrella were a surprise, and Yamato was originally sharing the backseat with a friend before her sister called. Still, it's easy to see how it looks to Takeo: flashy Ichinose with his flashy car offers a comfier option to walking home with an umbrella. He is everything that Takeo isn't, and it's easy to see how Takeo could wonder if that's what Yamato really wants. The episode ends on an emotional cliff without tumbling right over into a plot cliffhanger, like if Takeo had decided that they should break up or Ichinose had tried to make a move. My Love Story!! understands the art of subtlety.

This is all the perfect set-up for a mushy, heartwarming finale. That's what I've come to expect and love about this show. My Love Story!! succeeds because it's willing to go to sadder places, even if just for an episode. It keeps the sadness realistic instead of sensational, focusing on character insecurities and assumptions that feel like they could happen to actual people. It's the true-to-life feeling that makes My Love Story!! so enriching week-to-week, whether it's dabbling in slice-of-life trifles or relationship milestones. I'm sad to see this show end, but I can't wait to see how it does. I'm sure it will be great.

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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