My Love Story!!
by Rose Bridges,
My Love Story!! continues to pleasantly surprise me. It's a show that could very easily slip into formulaic shojo nonsense. It's already thrown the biggest curveball it could, and there are only so many ways to add drama to an existing couple while keeping things light and comedic. Or are there? After last week's predictable rival drama, the show is back to original content. A lot happens this week, but none of it's what you'd expect.
The first way My Love Story!! dispenses with formula is how it resolves Ai's storyline. She realizes how perfect and sweet Yamato is, when her secret (as the audience already knew) has nothing to do with unfaithfulness. She's actually really into Takeo and isn't sure how to tell him how much. She even says he gives her impure feelings. As we learned last week, both of them are really invested in this idea of "female purity," or at least they feel like they're supposed to be. Yamato, like most girls, doesn't fit anywhere close to that standard. She's a human being and she wants to do more than talk and blush with the person she likes. This all causes Ai to realize that Yamato is well-suited to Takeo, and she decides to let her crush be happy instead of continuing to sabotage his relationship.
I like how much this scene acknowledged that Yamato's (and Ai's) desire for Takeo is physical as well as emotional. It's another way in which My Love Story!! deviates from the shojo mold. This isn't telling girls not to be shallow, and only look for a personality behind the face. Both Yamato and Ai initially fell for Takeo due to his kindness, but they're attracted to the way he looks too. Physical attraction is important, and they just have different tastes. Combined with a message of "it's okay to have 'impure thoughts'," it's a stunning appraisal of teenage girls' sexuality from a genre not exactly known for that.
Takeo's story for this episode adds to the gender role reversal. I fondly remember "practice kissing" other girls at sleepovers, where we'd add our hands or props to the equation to keep things "fake." That's a pretty common experience for girls when testing out their crushes, along with seeking advice through magazines or fiction. My Love Story!! gets a lot of comedy out of showing that Takeo acts more "like a girl" sometimes than his girlfriend. Though others comment on it being "gross," I'm not sure if the show agrees. After all, the other boys eagerly join in on recommending shojo manga, so it's not just him! Still, it's fun how quickly this all turns ridiculous, when Takeo adds Saran wrap to Suna's face for that fake kiss.
The most important thing is that these are new jokes. My Love Story!! is always at its best when it's defying expectations, and that was what disappointed me about the "romantic rival" stuff last week. That's a place many shojo shows have gone before, and there's not much to add at this point, especially when it's contrived, and Ai's drama last week felt that way. Luckily, My Love Story!! resolved it well with her heartwarming flashback to how her crush started, and got her out of town to ready us for the next conflict. Hopefully, it'll be something more like this week's dilemma or Episode 4's, things that other series haven't already run into the ground.
The musical scoring really sold this episode. My Love Story!! jumps between many different musical moods depending on the occasion, but they usually stick pretty close to slice-of-life conventions. There's bouncy brass and percussion for the sillier moments, sentimental strings and piano for heartfelt stuff, and so on. This episode adds more variety, like the heroic strains of Takeo's race to Yamato's house. Right after Takeo saves a kitten and you start to wonder if he's really a superhero, My Love Story!! throws it in your face with the next scene's scoring and shot framing. He blazes ahead like Superman flying to the rescue, with his own theme music accompanying it. Even the more typical flourishes feel expertly timed this week, adding just the right emotional edge to every scene. I especially liked the timpani and brass in the Saran wrap scene. Nothing could convey the absurdity better. It reminded me of the tuba in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, an affectionate shojo parody with spot-on scoring.
My Love Story!! could take the easy route. Getting its main couple together in episode 4 differentiates it from everything else in the genre, but last week, we saw that it could make the story prone to more predictable plots. Mostly, it's chosen risks over the tried-and-tested so far. This week fits right into that pattern, with one of its weirdest and strongest episodes yet.
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