Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
My Love Story!!
Now that Takeo knows the identity of the girl who has been sending Suna love notes and chocolates for the past ten years, he's determined to help her to talk to his best friend. Suna is strangely on board with the idea, and the group embarks on a trip to the zoo with the goal of getting shy Yukika to make her dreams a reality. But feelings and connections can't be forced, and Suna is pretty notorious for his lack of interest in actually dating someone. Is this one goal Takeo will be forced to give up on?
Being a naturally helpful person can get you into a lot of trouble. Not only is it likely to attract emotional black holes, but even the most well-intentioned action in pursuit of someone else's goals can backfire on the helper, and there comes a point where you just have to bow out and let people figure things out on their own. Takeo has come close to learning this lesson a few times before – most notably in the Christmas Confession fiasco a couple of books ago – but now in volume seven it seems that he'll really understand the concept. At the end of the previous book, he figured out that the strange presence he'd been sensing was actually Yukika, a girl who had been sending Sunakawa love letters and Valentine's chocolates for ten years without ever once identifying herself. To Takeo, involved in a blissfully happy romance of his own, this is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue, so when Yukiko asks for his help, he's more than eager to give it.
To the story's credit, things never go quite as badly as they could have and there's no massive, screaming emotional fallout. But there is an almost worse kind of cruelty – meanness by way of kindness. We could argue that nothing ever truly gets Yukiko's hopes up, and she certainly can't bring herself to overcome her shyness, which has its own implications of her perhaps being in love with the idea of being in love with Suna, but by playing along, Suna, Takeo, and Yamato really do open Yukiko up for pain. There's a definite sense that Suna himself is really doing this to make himself feel better, something borne out by the finale of the story arc, which is quite nicely complete in this volume. That makes the whole story a little more painful to read than the typical My Love Story!! book, but it is also a nice change. By volume six it was getting a little wearing to read 200 pages of Takeo saying that he loves Yamato while she returns the sentiment. They are absolutely adorable as a couple, but there's a reason why most stories cut off at “happily ever after” - without conflict, things can get dull fast. And let's face it, I don't think anyone wants to see Takeo and Yamato fighting, which necessitates outside storylines.
This really isn't a bad one, even if it isn't quite as happy and fluffy as it wants us to think. While it does focus more on Yukiko and her ten year crush (albeit through Takeo's eyes), it also has the chance to give us some more to think about with Sunakawa. Several times in the volume Yukiko says that she really wishes she could be Takeo, because Suna loves him. We can certainly confine this to the idea of a close friendship, but it could also be an indication that Suna isn't interested in girls particularly, despite the fact that he says he would be open to dating the right one. It could also imply asexuality on his part, without being aromantic, as he really does seem perfectly happy doing his own thing either with his best friend or on his own. Regardless, he's less interested in Yukiko as a potential girlfriend and more as a chance to finally repay countless missed White Days, which is perfectly in line with his character as he's been thus far. If Yamato and Takeo don't quite fully learn the lesson that all couples with (happily) single friends eventually must – that happiness doesn't always come in the form of a romantic partner – they do start to. More importantly, Takeo and Suna's friendship is unharmed.
That's really the core relationship of My Love Story!!. Yes, Takeo and Yamato form the romantic heart, but it's the boys' friendship that helps to keep the series together. Suna grounds Takeo so that he can have his romance in the kind of best friendship that we don't often get to see in shoujo romance fiction. It's just another way the story plays with the genre standards, and definitely one of the stronger ones.
This volume of Aruko and Kazune Kawahara's collaboration is, if not quite as much goofy fun as its predecessors, still a good read. Seeing Takeo meet a gorilla in the zoo is pretty wonderful, as is his Yukiko-sensing antenna, and there are plenty of lovely lovey-dovey moments between he and Yamato to keep readers happy. The storyline allows for more development of Sunakawa and certainly is interesting in terms of his and Yukiko's feelings, but its key strength remains that My Love Story!! never quite goes where other shoujo romances do, and that keeps it worth reading.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Keeps off the well-tread shoujo manga paths, still adorable even as it finds ways to make the story have conflict.
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