Summary: Oversized, brash, but good-hearted Takeo Gouda has a problem: every girl he has ever liked crushes on his best friend Sunakawa, who inevitably rejects them. When Suna seems to take a shine to Rinko Yamato, an adorable girl Takeo rescued from a pervert on the train, Takeo decides to shove aside his own feelings and hook the two up. But it’s not Suna that Yamato is interested in!
Potential Triggers: Nothing really to speak of! What a nice change of pace.
Ore Monogatari, or MY Love STORY!! in English, is a delightful little confection and a welcome addition to the shoujo romance canon.Takeo, Suna, and Yamato all have great chemistry,, and the love they all have for each other shines through in the writing. Their personalities – brash Takeo, perceptive Suna, and tougher-than-she-looks Yamato – cut through the genre’s tired cliches. Takeo is worried about Yamato’s feelings but doesn’t know how to talk to her about it? Practical Suna is there with an accurate read on the situation to counsel his sweet-but-dense best friend. Like magic, awkward situations and misunderstandings are resolved, allowing the characters to grow and become closer instead of being torn apart by petty conflicts.
A heterosexual romance with a male point-of-view character is unusual for shoujo, but it ends up being a major source of OreMono’s strength. It creates a situation where both of the main couple must be dynamic and interesting, since readers must be able to sympathize with both of them. Larger-than-life Takeo is as sweet-natured as they come, despite his appearance, and a deeply loving boyfriend. He’s also quite dense and struggles with self-doubt. Yamato is a girly girl through and through. She has a squeaky voice, and loves cute things, baking, and texting. She also loves Takeo, but also gets frustrated when he treats her like she’s made of glass.The show does has a problem early on where it sets Yamato’s attraction to Takeo up in opposition to every other girl he encounters. Whenever he helps one, they’re terrified of him but thank handsome Suna instead. Even Yamato’s friends judge him by his unconventional appearance. As a result, women other than Yamato come across as superficial and shallow at first, but the situation improves as the show introduces more fully-realized women. Together, they form one of the kindest, sweetest pairs to be found in the romance genre and even their most mundane conversations are enjoyable.
As the POV character, Takeo must be relatable and likable enough that we feel comfortable in his head, but as the man in the relationship, he also must be interesting enough that we can imagine dating him. Yamato, on the other hand, is an othering of the familiar as Takeo gets to know his girlfriend. Things that are a matter of course for many Japanese girls, such as cute animated text messages, are new and exciting for Takeo, who doesn’t really have any female friends. Her speech patterns, hobbies, and career ambitions – to be a kindergarten teacher or midwife – are all extremely feminine. Yet, since readers will be far more familiar with these things than Takeo, she must have personality beyond her mystifying girliness, but be sweet enough to be a good match for him.
The importance of communication between the two lovebirds comes up early and often, and one of their first miscommunications is about the all-important subject of sex, specifically female purity. Takeo is surprisingly conservative, not out of any misguided beliefs on how things should be but how he believes things are. When Yamato acts shy around him, especially when she sees him in his undershirt, he interprets that as her being pure and reassures her that he won’t touch her until after they graduate. When she starts acting distant, Takeo is puzzled. Shouldn’t she be more at ease? Both Yamato and Takeo have grown up in a culture that values female sexual purity and treats female sexual desire as an aberration, so it’s unsurprising that when Yamato hears that, her response is of guilt and shame. After all, she admits to Ai Sunakawa, Suna’s older sister, her attraction to Takeo is just as much physical as it is mental and emotional. She “has impure thoughts” and wants to do things like “holding hands”. (How brazen!) When she confesses this to Takeo, she actually has tears in her eyes.
Acknowledging Yamato’s physical attraction to Takeo is an awesome move on the part of the series. Not only does it respect her as a sexual being, despite her extreme cuteness and seeming innocence, but it also shows that it’s okay to have unconventional taste. Often when female characters are paired with male characters who aren’t conventionally attractive, it’s despite his looks. This sets the expectation that women should be less concerned with physical and thus sexual attraction, reinforcing the implicit belief that women who do care are shallow or sluts. With an everygirl like Yamato, it’s a powerful message.
Yamato and Takeo communicating about their problems sets a strong precedent for their relationship that carries through the entire series (albeit occasionally facilitated by long-suffering Suna). The two feel comfortable and safe together; when they are stranded in the woods for a night, neither is afraid that Takeo won’t be able to “control himself”, a common trope in romance manga. The final two episodes of the series introduce Kouki Ichinose, a twenty-one year old pastry chef and the opposite of Takeo. When Yamato, working at the same patisserie, compliments one of his cakes, he falls for her hard – so hard, in fact, that he asks Takeo to break up with her. The way he sees it, he’s better for her in every way. They have common interests, unlike the culinarily-challenged Takeo, plus he’s traditionally attractive, at the top of his field, and older. He even has a car, a major symbol of adulthood and status in teen-oriented manga. When Takeo refuses, Ichinose comes up with a new plan: if he wins an upcoming national pastry contest, he’ll confess his feelings. He never even bothers to entertain the idea that she’ll reject him. Takeo is jealous and protective in part because he agrees that Ichinose is, on paper, a better match for her. After struggling with those feelings, he decides that if she really does end up wanting to leave him for Ichinose, he’ll be the bigger man figuratively as well as literally and support her. Yamato’s happiness is priority one for him and he doesn’t want to keep her trapped in a relationship if there are better prospects. Still, he waits for Yamato to make her own decision rather than breaking up with her like Ichinose requested, because it’s her choice to make. His approach to the situation is far more emotionally intelligent than Ichinose’s, even if he is plagued by doubt. Ichinose, on the other hand, is presumptuous and self-absorbed. He starts using her given name the same day he meets her, a step Takeo hasn’t even managed to take after almost a year of dating. When she talks, he usually makes wild assumptions about what she really means, projecting his own feelings onto her. He puts her on a pedestal, going so far as to declare her his ‘muse’.
His entitled behavior is common in men who carry some degree of prestige, under the guise of “confidence”. In addition, he is older than Yamato and outranks her at work, creating a power imbalance that would make any relationship inappropriate. His lack of interest in actually listening to her makes him oblivious to the fact that she is smitten with Takeo, something that is obvious to everyone else she meets. When he asks her to be his “one and only muse”, she refuses, telling him she really loves Takeo and she’s “not a muse or anything. Just an ordinary part-timer.” She dislikes being put on a pedestal, preferring the boy who sees her as a person over the man who doesn’t.
As Dee of Josei Next Door said in her episode summaries on Anime Evo, in some ways Ore Monogatari is like a how-to guide for young couples. Takeo and Yamato get through any pitfalls in their relationship by communicating honestly and treating each other with respect. It’s a refreshingly healthy dynamic, and written as just as interesting as the drama-laden tension of most teen romance. Few people may be as sweet-natured as Takeo and Yamato, but their approach to love is one that everyone should take note of: always assume the best, treat your partner with respect and, failing all else, get by with a little help from your friends.