Takeo Goda is the best thing to happen to shojo manga. He is a towering, muscular super-athlete, and characters like him are usually nowhere to be found in sparkly romances. His main love interest, the bubbly dessert cook Rinko Yamato, is also an outlier among shojo casts: she directly tells Takeo how she feels and they become a loving couple by the end of the first book. This is a spoiler of sorts, given that the hook for the first book of this series is “perpetual nice guy Takeo is overlooked by girls in favor of his pretty-boy best friend Suna,” but that thread is swiftly resolved to get on to the lighthearted, upbeat silliness of Takeo and Rinko’s relationship.
Kazune Kawahara’s story refreshingly skips or subverts several tropes of shojo romance: Rinko begins the relationship hiding a secret, one that she tells everyone but Takeo because she doesn’t know how. She’s not the pure-hearted virgin Takeo believes her to be; she would like to hold hands sometimes! Not only is Takeo completely okay with holding hands, he often does so with such fervor that he looks like he’ll explode. Takeo and Rinko’s separate circles of friends aren’t entirely sure how their relationship happened, given their superficial disparity in looks, but their physical differences belie their shared romantic spirit. Takeo receives attention for his muscles; he takes a part-time job at a restaurant where his appearance earns him tips, but he seems oblivious to being objectified as he earns money to take Rinko out on dates. His thick eyebrows, large lips, and body-builder frame are all in the employ of his huge heart. In contrast, Rinko is petite and easily startled, blushing like a schoolgirl in many panels and lighting up with a cheerful smile whenever Takeo is around.
Takeo initially meets Rinko when he interferes with a pervert who is bothering her on the train. Later in the series, he repeats this good deed for a girl he used to have a crush on, which Rinko accepts as part of his nature. Takeo isn’t a “nice guy” who feels that he’s owed something in life; he’s a genuinely nice person who helps others out of selflessness. He does favors for everyone: substituting for a judo club, helping a stuck cat cross the street, even cutting short an important date to be with his best friend Suna while his dad undergoes heart surgery. Suna is a bit harder to pin down, as the “coolness” attributed to him by other characters is really his subdued, casual nature. If Takeo and Rinko are the ideal romance, complete with emoji-laden texts of love and support, then Suna and Takeo are the ideal bromance, complete with unspoken understanding built up since childhood. Comfortable being alone, Suna prefers to stay in and read or catch a moody film while Takeo lives his life out loud and full of enthusiasm. However, Suna is supportive of Takeo’s relationship with Rinko; he openly compliments their compatibility, letting them know when they’re making a mountain out of a molehill, and the couple is especially considerate of him in hopes that one day they’ll get to double-date.
All of these ingredients create a surprisingly funny formula, as Takeo’s passionate reactions to the smallest gesture or request are wildly out of sync with his ordinary surroundings. A simple text message from Rinko changes him from a talented judo fighter into a fearsome, unstoppable force. His reaction to seeing Rinko in a bikini at the beach is hitting the waves, where he swims with such speed and power that he is mistaken for a stray whale. His enthusiasm is well-matched by Rinko’s blushing and squealing as they learn about each other and build trust on each date. Three books into the series, this formula holds strong, and the exaggerated reaction shots—such as Takeo acting out what he’d like an emoji for Rinko to look like—made me laugh several times in each book.
My Love Story!! wears its heart on its sleeve. All of the characters inhabit and express appreciation for positive relationships, and the humor is never mean-spirited. I strongly recommend it for readers of all ages, tweens and up, as well as its anime counterpart available on CrunchyRoll. Expect to hear more about this series as it is released in the US, including its Japanese title Ore Monogatari!!
My Love Story!!, vols. 1-3
by Kazune Kawahara
Art by Aruko
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421571447
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421571454
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421571461
Publisher Age Rating: T