My Love Story!!
Episodes 1-2

by Rose Bridges,

Poor Takeo has a heart of gold, but he's a big guy with a funny face. All the girls pass him over for his skinny bishounen best friend, Sunakawa. Every single girl Takeo has crushed on preferred Suna instead…until now. Finally, Takeo might get a girl of his own. But will he ever notice it? And so, My Love Story!! sets up one of my favorite anime premises. Take the guy who's usually the goofy best friend or sidekick, and make him the leading man in his own anime. Better yet, make it a shojo romantic comedy.

Luckily, My Love Story!! brings even more to the table. For example, Take is an immensely likable leading man, and his popular best friend Sunakawa is no good-looking jerk to Takeo's homely Nice Guy. He's actually a pretty compassionate person himself, at least to his best friend. Suna constantly protected Takeo from bullying when they were little, even pouring water on them both when Takeo peed his pants to hide it. Now Suna's single because he keeps turning down Takeo's crushes when they confess to him instead. Love interest Yamato is also endearing, as she instantly takes to Takeo and remains insistent (though not direct) with her interest.

Takeo himself is clearly the biggest sweetheart, though. There's nothing he won't do to protect his friends and even complete strangers, which is what attracts Yamato to him in the first place. He saves her from a molester on the subway, but Takeo doesn't feel entitled to her attraction because of it. In fact, he wants to set her up with Suna instead. He's so used to being passed over that he assumes she's really interested in his best friend and wants to help her dream come true.

There's a lot of room for My Love Story!! to go into meta-commentary about this type of character and shojo genre expectations, but it doesn't do that. There's no breaking the fourth wall about Suna being the "protagonist" and Takeo the "supporting character" or whatever. It's a more grounded, realistic conflict: Takeo is really insecure. His weird looks have defined his life. That's all anyone's seen of him (except for Suna), despite his caring and compassionate nature. In elementary school, it was the reason he got cast as the "Red Goblin" in the fairy tale this show uses as a framing device. Takeo had no acting talent, but they slotted him in there anyway because he was a bruiser.

My Love Story!! quickly escapes the more irritating possibility of its premise. Other stories that have taken this route tend to make it about girls learning to love a man, to stop "being shallow" about appearances, while reinforcing a double standard by only telling these stories with conventionally unattractive men but not women. That's not the case here. Everyone judges Takeo by his appearance, except our other two main characters. Yamato likes Takeo from the get-go. It's Takeo who has to learn that he's capable and worthy of being loved no matter how he looks. The onus for learning and growth is on the male character. That said, it's still unfortunately true that no anime studio would sign off on a female version of Takeo. Still, his personal journey should be relatable to the unlucky-in-love regardless of gender.

My Love Story!!'s character designs (outside of Takeo) and soft pastel color scheme remind me of last summer's shojo romance Blue Spring Ride. That was a dull by-the-books shojo that had little else going for it for me though, so it's really nice to see that gorgeous aesthetic applied to something with bite. My Love Story!! also has a great sense of humor and comic timing. Takeo's expressive face makes all his reactions cartoonish and exaggerated, which is adorable. There are some good sophomoric jokes too, like in episode 2 when Takeo notices that a familiar tree looks like a butt. Specifically "a male butt." You wonder where he'd get the knowledge for that kind of distinction. The variety means this series has widespread appeal beyond fans of the shojo romance genre. The musical score is diverse too, with its best moments occurring when it blends soundtrack and sound effects. When Takeo's head pops into the frame cartoonishly, accompanied by twanging guitar strings, I laughed out loud.

My Love Story!!'s premise sounds like a gimmick, but it's already transcended that in so many ways. My only hope is it can keep up the momentum. Yamato's advances toward Takeo are already pretty obvious, and while at this point his obliviousness is both funny and believable, it won't be forever. This show is running for two cours, and I'm worried about the premise losing steam. So far, My Love Story!! is one of the best romance anime I've seen in a while and my favorite of the season.

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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