My Love Story has been on my list to check out for a while now, and I finally decided to give it a shot this week. This anime was adapted from a manga of the same name written by Kazune Kawahara with art by Aruko. It was picked up by studio Madhouse for animation and was simulcast on Crunchyroll in 2014. I went into this anime only knowing the small snippets I had heard from other people and other reviewers so I was honestly surprised to learn how many nominations and recommendations the manga had received among the shoujo genre. This is mostly because I found the series as a whole fairly hit and miss in terms of story and my own level of engagement and enjoyment.
This romantic comedy features the high school student Takeo Goda who doesn’t have much luck with women. He’s tall, muscular, and not classically handsome. To make matters worse, all the women he falls in love with are more attracted to his best friend Makoto Sunakawa. That all changes when he spots Rinko Yamato, a petite shy girl, getting groped on the train and rescues her. Takeo, who’s never had a girlfriend in his life, must now try to make sense of what it means to be in a relationship.
Studio Madhouse is one of my favorite animation team, and for good reason. They did a great job with this anime as they have done with a lot of their other projects. You can see it the clearest in the moments of comedy, especially at the beginning of the series where it is the strongest. Those moments where Takeo shows off his strength, agility, and fearlessness is where we see the most interesting moments of animation. Deep contrasting values, fluid animation, and dynamic expressions all serve to make these scenes more interesting and striking. Take the scene when the karaoke bar catches fire. The fire provides a great backdrop to play with the overall value and color use, creating great backdrops for Takeo’s bravery and antics. It also allows Madhouse to go all out with his animations as well, prompting some great scenes.
One of the best parts of Madhouse’s work on this series has to be their ability to produce a wide range of crazy expressions using Takeo’s overly exaggerated features. From looking like a gorrilla to a strangely handsome man, his personality can be changed in a heartbeat into something comedic or even touching. It’s Madhouse’s ability to stretch between these extremes that makes them one of my favorite studios. But it’s not just Takeo, Yamato also features some great expressions that help heighten her cuteness level. While they’re more traditional expressions, they serve their purpose for her character by contrasting against Takeo’s more abnormal expressions. This not only makes us see the difference in their characters, but also plays into the overall story of the anime in how visibly opposite they are from each other.
But it’s the story itself that loses me. I want to like this series because I can recognize some interesting things going on with themes and animation that make me excited. Only, the story is not perfect and doesn’t provide enough variation in tone and drama to be interesting. While romantic comedy’s don’t need drama in order to hold you captive, My Love Story tries to insert drama without the necessary grounding of character to the point where it falls flat. The problem arises when not enough growth or conflict is present in a character or a certain relationship. One of the criticisms I heard about this series was that Takeo and Yamato’s relationship is too perfect, and I have to agree. Their relationship issues boil down to the fact that they have none, their love life takes the typical path of wanting to incrementally get more serious. This gives us such conflicts as Yamato agonizing over wanting to hold hands, kissing, or being alone together. So the interest then has to come from the general weirdness of Takeo’s character. But this generally leaves the series feeling hollow with short moments of comedy and heightened interest.
Another way to look at this conundrum is to look at the character of Sunakawa, Takeo’s best friend and general constant company throughout the whole series. Not an episode goes by without seeing Suna appear at some point. While I actually really enjoy the interplay and interactions between Takeo and Suna, I think Suna as a character is fairly flat. Take the episode where they all go to the amusement park. This is an episode that serves to examine the relationship between Takeo and Suna’s sister as well as their separate growing relationships. However, Suna also comes along as he always does, but what does he do during the episode? Practically nothing. By then end, it seemed to me that his one purpose was to provide the gag of interrupted kiss, and that’s it. Nowhere during the rest of the episode is he needed and I honestly started to wonder what happened to him while everyone else was running around doing their thing.
However, as I mentioned above, I do like the relationship that Takeo and Suna have together. Seeing his total disinterest in women contrasted with his playboy looks standing next to the mountain that is Takeo provides a great deal of comedy in and of itself. But we get a lot of touching moments on top of that. From the way Suna only laughs when he’s with Takeo, to the episode where Suna’s father is in the hospital, and then the episode where Takeo’s mother has her baby. All of these episodes shows an interesting interplay of characters and backstory that gives just enough interest into the series to keep me watching. One of my favorite episodes in the series is when Suna is encouraged to go on a date with a classmate. It’s a chance to see a different side to him for a little while, one that seems almost conflicted over his general disinterest in dating. Perhaps this comes from his relationship with Takeo, which is slightly hinted at, or maybe it’s just who he is. I’d almost love to see a second season where Suna gets a chance to explore dating and relationships at some point.
So overall, I’m conflicted on whether or not I like this series. It has it’s moments of comedy and great animation. It also has it moments where I felt the story fell flat and lost me. So let me know in the comments below what you thought! Also be sure to follow me on Facebook as well where you can get the most recent updates as my schedule gets even crazier next month.