Takeo Goda may not look like it, but he’s a High School student and because of his massive stature and abrasive nature, he has bad luck when it comes to girls, as none of them seem to return his feelings. His best friend Makoto Sunakawa, on the other hand, is good-looking, popular, intelligent and all the girls fawn over him, but Sunakawa always rejects the girls who ask him out. One fateful day Takeo rescues a girl named Rinko Yamato from a groper on the train home and instantly falls for her. However, Takeo believes that she has fallen for his friend Sunakawa, so he makes it his mission to bring the two together and make them happy. But, has he got it wrong? Could it be, that possibly, Rinko may love him back?
If you look up any romantic comedy or romance story, it seems as if they have to contain a ‘hook’ in order to make it stand out. It could be something as simple as a love triangle, or really silly, like faking a relationship as ‘research’ for a novel. My Love Story seems to start as such; a guy trying to tie two people together when one of them actually loves him, a premise which could have carried over a series if the writers really wanted to stretch it out. Thankfully, the story makes it quite clear from the start that it doesn’t plan to commit to this, and by Episode 3 Takeo and Yamato are a couple. The rest of the series is simply seeing their relationship develop as life goes on, with Sunakawa helping Goda whenever he can. On paper, this should be boring. In practice, however, My Love Story is one of the sweetest and relatable rom-coms out there.
Most romances in media tend to have the story end when the couple gets together with ‘happily ever after’ implied, especially in anime/manga when a kiss is the end goal for the majority of the time. Whilst this isn’t wrong, it’s also a shame that after going through the emotional roller-coaster of seeing two people get together that we don’t find out how they interact as a couple. That’s why My Love Story feels refreshing; we DO see them get together very early on and have the milestones such as their first date and kiss, but other events that can affect relationships come into play as well. How do the couple handle it when one has a family health emergency? What happens when the girl’s group of friends don’t approve of her new boyfriend? What about the holidays or special occasions – do they celebrate together or with family? These things happen in REAL long-lasting relationships but are almost never shown or explored enough in fiction, so My Love Story is a wonderfully cute and comical take on this; we see the two come together to deal with these issues and grow into one of the cutest couples in anime history. For the most part, the series avoids overly used rom-com clichés, but it does chuck in a few here and there, mostly to drum up drama when required. Such as potential love interests for either parties coming in and out of the fray, and perverted men bothering women only for the boys to come to their rescue – the latter is the most problematic, but as it’s only used twice, it’s easy enough to overlook. Aside from that, the only major issues that arise from the series stem from the ‘slice of life’ nature of the story; one mainly being the ending, in that it just happens. There’s no final curtain call or big romantic conclusion to the relationship, it simply ‘life and love goes on’ and the credits roll. It also means that after Episode 3 you can pretty much tune in at any episode without missing out on much. There are a few mini-arcs scattered across the series but most are easy enough to follow, and the pacing remains carefree and static throughout the 26 episodes.
A romance story however needs strong leads to carry it; if we don’t care for the couple then the story falls apart. Luckily My Love Story has this in spades; Takeo is a giant teddy bear, he has no concept of personal space and is the embodiment of ‘giving 110%’ as he’s always YELLING AT TOP VOLUME AND GIVING EVERYTHING TO WHATEVER HE DOES!!!! He would be a side character in other anime, but here he’s the lead and a giant goofball you can’t help but fall for because he’s incredibly earnest and genuine in his feelings for Rinko. He’s also naïve and not the brightest bulb of the bunch so when he doesn’t notice Rinko’s feelings at first or misreads situations, it’s not a frustrating trope, it’s a sincere problem for the poor guy that you want to see overcome. The object of his affections, Rinko, is also incredibly cute in her own ways. She starts as your typical girly-girl making cakes, blushing all the time and wearing pretty outfits but it’s inspirational to see that SHE’S the one who goes after the man she wants, is forward about her feelings towards Takeo and is more than happy to have Sunakawa around on their dates ‘cos she knows how much he means to her boyfriend. The pair bounce off each other nicely and compensate for their weaknesses, which is what the best couples in life do, so seeing them together is a recipe to making any one melt and get swept up in their all-round cuteness. Then there’s Sunakawa, the third wheel of the bunch, who has everything going for him but is more than happy to step aside and do everything in his power to make his best friend happy. Despite being monotone and inactive for the majority of the show, he is a star in his own right and you almost wish for him to happily find someone as well, but that’s not the point of the story. He has his own side-stories and problems to go with them but he never lets his best friend down; as Takeo rightly puts it in Episode 3; he’s a real man!
Despite being a small cast, the main two guys are a challenge enough for most voice actors as one is always-full on and the other barely raises his voice, but for both the English and Japanese dubs the characters are represented perfectly. Major props go to Andrew Love who matches the challenge of yelling most of his lines and hitting it just right between ‘infuriating’ and ‘lovable bear’ in terms of delivery for Takeo. It’s telling of an actor if he can make the 100+ times Takeo says ‘I love you!!’ and each time sound just as cute and hilarious as the time before. Austin Tindle as Sunakawa also does a fantastic job of portraying the monotonous style of the original Japanese but keeping the character’s warmth, as constantly acting drone can sometimes slip into ‘bored’ or just plain talking, and doesn’t include the fact the character often just suddenly bursts into laughter then drops right back into monotone, yet Austin hits it every time. Either way, both languages are a joy to listen to, not just because of the voice delivery but also the subtitles are perfectly handled. Outside of the songs you also have many on-screen text thoughts of the various characters, often whilst they’re talking. Similar techniques are seen in manga, providing little quips or just random fragments of thought streams of various characters just to pad out the panels. It doesn’t cross over to anime adaptations so often, however they keep them all, which is an unusual but a welcome choice as they often deliver little gags outside of the dialogue. The subtitles also handily provide context to some of the Japanese-only customs that happen in the story, such as Rinko making a charm for Takeo’s mum, so you’re learning whilst also laughing and smiling at the love story.
Animation is provided by Madhouse, a veteran among the anime studios so the quality doesn’t falter throughout the 26 episodes. Although some of the ‘patterned’ clothing can look a bit odd in places as the pattern itself stays in one place but the outlines move, it’s hard to stay mad when the next scene you’ll be treated to including pretty and sparkly images of the couple being all adorable and lovey-dovey onscreen.
Blu-ray and DVD versions of the series contains all 26 episodes, and the only extras are anime trailers, plus clean openings & closings.
My Love Story is so simple it shouldn’t really work but due to its wonderful characters, genuine emotions and great comedy timing, it works in all the best ways. Its lack of story structure and proper conflict after the opening episodes may put some people off but if you want just a good love story, relatable characters and something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, My Love Story is a must-watch.