Anime Review: My Love Story

Anime Review: My Love Story

Takeo Goda is a freshman in high school, but you’d never guess it to look at him.  He’s over six feet tall and built like a truck.  His heart is as big as the rest of him, and Takeo often helps others in need.  Unfortunately, he’s not exactly handsome, and comes off as intimidating to most people who don’t know him well.  Every girl Takeo has had a crush on has instead wanted to go out with his handsome best friend Suna.  Suna’s turned them all down for some reason.

My Love Story

One day Takeo sees a petite girl named Rinko Yamato being hassled by a groper on the train.  Ignoring the tradition of not making a scene, Takeo grabs the man and hauls him to the police officer at the next stop.  At first the groper plays the innocent victim of a huge bully, but when Rinko verifies Takeo and Suna’s story, he switches to blaming Rinko for wearing provocative clothing (her school uniform.)  Takeo loses his temper and punches the jerk.

Rinko starts hanging out with Suna and Takeo, and bringing them homemade treats (she’s a skilled dessert maker.)  Takeo is strongly attracted to Rinko, but assumes she’s interested in Suna like all the other girls.  And Suna doesn’t seem as down on her as he was with the others.  Takeo attempts to support this couple, and Suna is finally forced to trick Rinko into admitting out loud in Takeo’s presence that she is in fact interested in the big lug.  At that point, their love story truly begins.

This anime series is based on the shoujo (“girls'”) manga Ore Monogatari! (“My Story!” but with a very rough, masculine connotation), written by Kazune Kawahara and drawn by Aruko.  It’s a light-hearted romantic comedy with a sweet center.

Takeo’s a great guy, the sort of person who you want to have your back in a tough situation, which makes him popular with his male classmates.  But he can be a bit slow on the uptake, particularly when it comes to girls and how they feel about him.  He’s also quite pure-hearted, which makes the relationship move slowly.

Rinko is a sweet little lady whose love comes from her pure heart.  But her innocence can cause her to not understand other people’s motivations.  Rinko’s gobsmacked to learn that most girls don’t find Takeo handsome, for example.  She’s also very shy about expressing herself physically, and holding hands is a huge step for her and her boyfriend.

Suna is an interesting character in that he’s the bishounen (“pretty boy”) aloof fellow who is so often the love interest in shoujo manga.  But here he’s Takeo’s wingman, helping the young couple come together despite their mutual clumsiness.  He may be aromantic or even asexual; his stated reason for turning down all the girls is because they’d badmouthed Takeo to him, but he doesn’t seem interested in girls or boys even when they’re not jerks.  His friendship with Takeo is because the forthright and extroverted boy makes him laugh.

And there are a variety of quirky supporting characters, from the main couple’s classmates (one set of which get their own romance) to Takeo’s formidable mother.

The artwork works well with the sweet story.  That said, some viewers may find this series too sugary for their tastes.  I’ll note that My Love Story seems to have a larger male fanbase than most shoujo.  I’ve seen grown men reduced to sentimental tears during certain episodes.  This may be because male anime fans can more easily identify with the homely but good-hearted Takeo than the usual bishounen but kind of jerkish love interest.  This is pointed up towards the end of the anime when such a fellow appears who seems on the surface more suited to Rinko, but it’s clear to the viewer that he’s more concerned with what Rinko can do to support his career than in what she actually wants in a relationship.

There’s a bit of swimsuit fanservice, and Takeo’s butt gets exposed at one point.

If you’re looking for a soppy romance from the male point of view, this is a good choice.

 

 

 

Manga Review: UQ Holder! Vol. 1

Manga Review: UQ Holder! Vol. 1 by Ken Akamatsu

It is a couple of generations into the future, and both reasonably-priced space travel and  techno-magic have come into existence.   Large swaths of Earth’s population has gone to space, with the remaining people either enjoying life in small country villages or struggling in the remaining big cities.   Of course, just because your parents like living in a small town doesn’t mean you do, and five boys have made a compact to escape their podunk village and go to the top of the space elevator they can see in the distance.

UQ Holder! vol. 1

Their more or less leader is Touta Konoe, a physically adept fourteen-year-old who’s good with a sword.   The mayor has set a condition that in order to leave, the five boys must defeat Touta’s guardian and their homeroom teacher, Yukihime, in battle.  Since she’s an excellent combatant with years of experience and possibly knows how to use magic, that isn’t happening any time soon.

Until one day another of the schoolteachers offers the boys an equalizer.  Naturally, he isn’t being entirely honest about his motives.  In the ensuing crisis, we learn that Yukihime is actually an immortal vampire, and to save Touta’s life, she must make him one as well.  With her identity exposed, Yukihime and  Touta must leave the village so that it is not attacked by vampire hunters.    And so they set out on the adventure of a long, long lifetime!

This manga turns out to be a distant sequel to Mr. Akamatsu’s previous series, Negima!  Yukihime is one of the supporting characters from that story under a different name.   One of the panels seems to indicate that Touta is the descendant of another character from that series, who is now dead.   However, flashback panels indicate that Yukihime has been lying to everyone about just how Touta’s parents died, so that character may show up later.

Touta’s a fairly standard shounen protagonist, a loud-mouthed, overenthusiastic messy-haired boy who is shockingly unaware of basic facts about the world.  Yukihime plays the cynical, jaded mentor, and provides most of the fanservice in the first volume.  (She may care less about this because her body is largely an illusion.)   More atypical is the new friend they make along the way, Kuroumaru Tokisaka, an extremely pretty boy (Touta keeps thinking he might actually be a girl) who also happens to be a vampire hunter.  As he can’t return home until he kills Yukihime, and she’s too many tiers above him for that to happen, he’s hanging around for the foreseeable future.

The apparent theme of the story is immortality, and how the various kinds of immortals cope with their long lives for better or worse.   Towards the end of the first volume, we learn that the series is titled after an organization of  immortals.  (“UQ” sounds like the Japanese word for “eternity”>)

Mr. Akamatsu is an experienced manga creator, and it shows in the well-constructed fight scenes (warning:  there’s some gory mangling!) and plot pacing.   This does, however, point up how pandering much of the fanservice is, clearly aimed at immature teenage boys.

If you liked Negima! or Love Hina you are likely to enjoy this series as well.  But be prepared to be infuriated if the backstory kills off or “ruins” your favorite character from those precursors.

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