My Love Story!! Volumes 4-6
The problem with saving the good stuff for later is that it’s too easy to get caught up with the everyday and never get back to them. Which is how I found myself three volumes behind on one of my favorite manga series.
I’m impressed by how enjoyable I find this simple story, that of a mismatched student couple where she’s ideally cute and delicate and he’s so large and accidentally macho that no one can figure out why they’re together. Until they hear them talk to each other, and the purity of their love shines through. My Love Story!! is whole-heartedly romantic, without being unduly sappy.
Volume 4 expands the cast in a couple of key ways. The giant Takeo has a gorgeous best friend, Sunakawa, and his sister, Ai, turns out to be jealous of Takeo’s girlfriend Yamato. Meanwhile, Oda, who likes Ai, also shows up while they’re all together at Takeo’s job. (He works for a “bro cafe” where his uniform is cut-off jean shorts and a tank top. I think this is the weird counterpart of a maid cafe.)
No one’s scheming to break anyone else up, though, as would be typical of other shojo manga. The story is instead about learning to live with the situation as it is. As Takeo thinks, “there’s nothing we can do about our feelings,” but that doesn’t mean they’ll be reciprocated or need to be acted on. Although a visit to an amusement park may be grounds for confessions, as various groups form and split up. It’s a powerful story about balancing our own needs with those of others and taking pleasure where we can.
The second half of the book gives Takeo a chance to show his skills, as he works with a classmate to prepare for a relay race. She’s so impressed with his patience and training that she develops a crush on him, which makes Yamato insecure. There’s also a story with Takeo and Sunakawa as kids going camping.
In the back, the writer Kazune Kawahara says, “Ever since I began writing this series, so many fun, joyful, and just plain happy things have happened.” That’s a great description also of this series. It’s light-hearted and inspiring. Aruko’s art does a good job of drawing the characters are more than the symbols they began as. Takeo in particular comes across as the human equivalent of a giant dog, loyal and helpful, due to his large heart.
Volume 5 explores more of how Saijo (the relay teammate) feels about getting to know Takeo better as a person, since she knows he has a girlfriend. She goes to school with Takeo and Sunakawa, while Yamato goes somewhere else, giving her more time with the guys. Sunakawa, as typical, sees what’s going on while Takeo is blissfully ignorant.
Both of them have a certain charming innocence when it comes to another story, though. They get their friends together to have a Christmas party. Another couple is in the early days of expressing interest in each other, but things don’t go as smoothly for them. Watching them struggle to open up to each other is a nice counterpart to the holiday trappings. We also get to see the story of their first kiss, which is uniquely theirs and weirdly entertaining.
Volume 6 opens with more information on Takeo’s family. His mother is about to have another child, and her stamina and toughness gives the reader a good idea where Takeo gets those qualities from. That’s why it’s such a shock when she goes the hospital early. Takeo works hard to be a support for her, in a story about the transition from your parents taking care of you to you learning to take care of your parents. It’s a real growing-up moment for him.
He’s supported, of course, by his friends, who are inspired, in turn, by his dedication. Then comes the traditional Valentine’s Day story, with lots of worry over the girls making chocolate for boys they like. We also get hints of Sunakawa, who’s always been chased by lots of girls, maybe finding something a little deeper for himself. (The publisher provided review copies.)