My Love Story!!
Episode 3

by Rose Bridges,

One thing you can say about My Love Story!!: it knows how to quit when it's ahead. Plenty of shojo romances linger forever on the promise of "will they or won't they?" as our teens in love blush and stammer around each other, or insist their feelings can't be requited. Done well, it can provide edge-of-your-seat drama and hilarious cringe-comedy. However, as anyone who's known a lovestruck teen in real life can tell you, it gets old after a while. It's also such a staple of the genre that it's hard to do anything new with it. So kudos to My Love Story!! for not stretching that out.

I knew Takeo and Yamato would eventually get together and the story would shift its focus, from what I'd heard of the manga. I didn't know it would be this early, and that leaves me both excited and apprehensive. They're marching into uncharted territory here. There's a reason that harmonious relationships are endgames rather than plots in and of themselves: it's harder to create drama out of them. Luckily, My Love Story!! has already risen to the challenge. This week isn't just about Yamato's confession. It's also all about Suna and Takeo's friendship, which is just as important to this show.

Suna has to be the best friend ever, the kind of person that all awkward, weird kids needed in high school. He may be popular, but he genuinely prefers his dorky friend's company to anyone else's, even insisting that he's actually "cool." For all the episode makes him out to be the self-sacrificing third wheel—a trait traditionally reserved for guys like Takeo—it also shows early on how many of Suna's actions weren't really sacrifices. Right after revealing to Takeo that Yamato likes him, Suna praises him for getting better taste in girls. All the girls he liked before made fun of him behind his back, and that just made it easier for Suna to reject them later. After all, who wants to date someone who hates their friend? Suna is willing to put himself on the line for Takeo, but he doesn't always have to. His wishes are Takeo's wishes. The show spends a lot of time illustrating how Suna and Takeo have switched their usual shojo roles. Suna is the third wheel, the guy Yamato goes to for advice, and he's glad to be that. Suna could easily get a girlfriend thanks to his looks, but seems satisfied without one.

I also like what this episode did with Yamato's character. When Takeo emerges from under the bed, Yamato's first response is to chastise Suna for how mean and manipulative his trick was. She's right about that, and it's good to see that our heroine has some bite when necessary. That aspect of her thrills me more for how the show will develop her growing relationship with Takeo. Yamato mostly feels like a cipher at this point. I'm hoping as she and Takeo get to know each other, we'll learn more about her beyond the meek, moe first impressions.

My Love Story!!'s gorgeous visuals are what we've come to expect from Madhouse, but the show really shines in its visual gags. Takeo's ridiculous faces are the highlights, of course. I also love when it uses background events to affectionately skewer its genre. For example, Yamato and Takeo are caught in that pink-orange sparkly bubble that characters always experience right after they confess. However, a moment later, it cuts to Suna studying at his desk with headphones, ignoring his lovestruck friends. The bubbles are still there, but only encompassing Takeo and Yamato, who are in the background. It shows how silly shojo conventions can be, but at the same time reminds us that even our strongest feelings are all in our heads.

My Love Story!! really gets how lovestruck teens think too. You can see how Takeo took little stuff like Yamato telling him he was helpful, or getting upset that Suna was leaving once, as signs that she preferred Suna's affections. To us, that goes up against a mountain of evidence that she really likes Takeo. When you're the one with the crush, you're always looking for those little things that prove you're wrong. There's also his obliviousness when Yamato dresses up for him, wondering how she got "extra cute" all of a sudden. That's another way in which My Love Story!! benefits by putting Takeo and Yamato together at this point. They can leave Takeo's cluelessness at a believable level. There's no reason to stretch it past willful suspension of disbelief into future episodes.

My Love Story!! continues to be one of the best shows of the season. It's a fresh, invigorating take on its genre, one that really shows a willingness to try new things. I'm interested in where it will go from here, now that its main conflict is resolved. It could stumble, but I have a feeling things will work out well for this show. It's got enough creativity to last wherever it takes itself.

Rating: A

My Love Story!! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a musicologist who studies film music. She writes about anime and many other topics on Autostraddle.com, her blog and her Twitter.
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