What They Say:
Takeo Goda’s hulking physique and affinity for sports make him popular with other guys, but girls just find him intimidating. Unaware of his gentle nature, the girls that Takeo likes always seem to fall for his handsome best friend, Suna, instead. Takeo is resigned to being Suna’s wingman, with no hard feelings between them, until Takeo rescues Rinko Yamato from a molester on the train. Unfortunately, while Rinko might see past Takeo’s brutish appearance, Takeo’s become so conditioned to girls preferring Suna that he assumes Rinko is the same! Being the good, genuine guy he is, he’s going to do everything he can to help the two of them be happy. Will Takeo let himself believe someone likes him? Love isn’t blind: it’s just a little dense in MY LOVE STORY!!
The audio presentation for this release is wonderful for the title considering that it is available in both English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps. You are not overwhelmed by a studio’s need to cover the dialogue with unnecessary music – they allow the characters to speak for themselves amid the tranquil sound of students chattering away or city noise barely noticeable the background. And when it is needed, classical accompaniments are brief and simple usually one instrument or the bare minimum needed, used only to accent comical moments, highlight awkward events or to challenge the numerous overly romantic times when Takeo and Rinko get into one of their charmingly sweet celebrations by which they are swept up in their own world. And when these do occur, the melody only emphasizes those times with equally lovely tunes using angelic instruments like wind chimes or an arrangement or triangles.
But of course, none if this would be as effective if not for the themes of the series. Each one either sets the mood or closes it with a melody which solidifies the effectiveness of what we just saw. And it begins very powerfully with the opening animation in a simple and yet upbeat J-pop song called Miraikei Answer by Trustrick, sung as if Rinko is declaring herself to Takeo; Rinko is panicked that she will never be able to catch up in their relationship, always lagging behind and wishing that love were as simple as following a recipe. The ending theme Shiawase no Arika sung by Local Connect is a slow paced ballad sung through Takeo’s point of view, relating how clumsy their rapport started but now all he feels now is the joy they have between each other. The entirety that these enveloping melodies invoke bring about the essence of the series: being able overcome any adversity which society may place against them to finally find affection – very appropriate opening and closing symbolism for each episode.
This series is broken down into five disks expanding the breadth of twenty-four episodes, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16×9 aspect ratio playback is so welcoming for the panoramic views of the school grounds and facilities plus all of the public places, brilliantly illuminated by their respective luminary sources. But when you get to the park where the couple and Suna always meet, that is met in a different perspective and such a better way. The wonderful atmosphere is set by sunlight streaming through watercolor enhanced trees and sakura blossoms drifting along with the wind; this magnification of shadows and allows us to focus on Rinko and Suna, while Takeo makes them uncomfortable with his lack of knowing personal space. The blushes of both in embarrassment or being overwhelmed by this gentle giant makes this series all the more charming within these tight confines.
However once the pair begin their relationship, the method by which the studio displays affection is so reminiscent of the source material – a shojo manga. Whenever we have a close display of affection, the screen dazzles with any of the following floating around the couple: sparkly accents or iridescent bubbles, a change from solid colors to a pastel hazy circle with transparent hearts or geometric shapes shimmering forth bursting, cherubs with Takeo’s face flying around and of course the most telling of all – starry eyes. All of these elements only add to the charm of this series, making it softer when you involve someone who is as overwhelming as our gentle giant. Then when Takeo has a inspiring moment, he has his own color scheme such as a change in aura emanating to denote anger or joy. All of these concepts just add to the delight which this rambunctious series brings visually and also magnifies the inherent humor of this show about first love.
Sentai Filmworks created a beautiful way to introduce the viewer to this series with just the front cover of this collection and it works in every way. You cannot help but smile when you see the gigantic portrait of Takeo looking off to the side at Rinko, with a knowing grin of love and affection. Behind him Rinko is looking up admirably at her boyfriend, a sense of awe and wonder emanating from her face. Then we have Suna, the silent confidant and guidance for the pair, never interfering with their relationship, watching over both with a sideways glance. To draw everything together we have the essential field of sakura blossoms and cherry trees, a soft ephemeral haze of heart warming pink dancing across everything, surrounding them in its loving embrace.
Though the case display is wonderful, the decoration for the disks falls short with its mundane and unimaginative artwork. The silkscreen images for each DVD are essentially snapshots from the anime with a progressive run of their relationship throughout the show. When compared to the bright and cheery original illustration on the front of the set, these images are static and lacking in enthusiasm since they are gleaned from scenes which the buyer has no exposure to when they first open the package. While Sentai tries to brighten them with accents which suit the picture, they seem out of place in contrast to the image due to a poor choice in colors which makes them stick out instead of blending into the warmth of the show.
Although Sentai uses the same images which were used on the disks for the Menu, this time these static pictures work since the screen is displayed as a scrapbook page. The snapshot is integrated on the left with a lively pastel background decorated with flowers and the episodes listed on the right, selectable with an appropriately cute double heart cursor. However as with any other product from this company, the most discomforting flaw is the repetition of the first minute of the opening theme Miraikei Answer echoing in the background; though this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its energizing J-pop beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai Filmworks should have given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend much time in this area by driving us away with this endless, if however charming cacophony.
This section is the most disappointing area for the whole collection. While they did a great job decorating it with the same scrapbook theme as the main Menu, after that it falls short. Most sets would include some material promoting the series itself like the Japanese promos, but for some reason, all Sentai did was include trailers for other properties – and only on the first disk; this leaves the other four empty with the Languages selection being substituted for this area. It would not have been hard to at least give us some biographical information for each character, letting us see how they relate to the others in the cast. And then if that wasn’t bad enough, just like the previous menu we have the first minute of a theme, Shiawase no Arika, blaring in the background. Although I can understand this appropriateness for the main, why put it in a side section when all of their shows have silence? Even this warm ballad quickly gets on your nerves so instead of wanting to look at the samples, all it does is chase you away. This is no way to promote other series when the melody is so annoying you want to close off the menu. Sentai should have once again given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in the area, which is another mistake.
Content (please note that Content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Takeo Goda is your average fifteen year old student, just starting high school with his best friend Suna. He has never had any luck with girls due to one big problem … he is larger than most people, standing over two meters tall! Combine that with his over enthusiastic attitude for life and his unusually large lips – most would become discouraged, but not Takeo. For as long as he can remember, his calm friend has always attracted the opposite sex ever since they began kindergarten, but has never returned any affection. And now over a decade later, they begin a new journey into academia just like any other student, on the train. However this morning the escapade has a new twist when Suna sees a suspicious man getting uncomfortably close to a young girl. With his muscularly imposing figure looming over them, Takeo quickly twists the assailant’s arm and firmly instructs him they will be getting off at the next station. But as he looks down, the relieved victim shivers in relief, turning around and thanking him in a quivering voice. Our gentle giant has fallen in love at first sight. Though his quick reflexes may have save her, his even hotter temper gets him suspended once the molester vehemently denies he did anything wrong, resulting in a crushing blow from Takeo – which unfortunately was in front of the police.
As he spends the resultant two weeks from school sulking in his room, Suna brings some study notes to his friend and before he can leave, the grateful girl arrives at Takeo’s doorstep, wanting to thank him. She introduces herself as Rinko Yamato, bringing in appreciation a homemade cheesecake, which he hungrily wolves down while praising it between mouthfuls. Once she leaves, he considers how or if they will ever meet again, which is quickly struck down due to his previous luck with girls. But as if in response, an unfamiliar ringtone gets his attention, coming from a cute pink smartphone under a table. Picking up the tiny device, a nervous voice chirps away once he answers it – Yamato left her phone at his house. Not wanting to inconvenience Takeo any more, she tentatively asks if they can arrange for a place to return her phone. The local park tomorrow after school would be ideal, by which Takeo brings Suna regretfully in tow.
They see her slight form standing in the sunlight and are directed to a nearby bench to partake in more handmade treats, this time macaroons. Once again the vigorous appetite of Takeo polishes off the cookies in no time, much to Yamato’s surprise. She loves to make sweets and in a panicked tone, asks if she can make more for her rescuer, by which he graciously accepts. Happy to be rewarded in such a delicious manner, the pair return the next afternoon but on the way home, a construction accident causes an enormous girder to come crashing down on the helpless girl; without hesitation, Takeo leaps in and suspends the massive beam inches away from her head, much to her amazement. After Suna escorts her from the scene, they swiftly return, determined to help their companion raise the mammoth pillar. But as before, the gallant hero stuns them both by heaving the obstruction with a herculean effort, with only a mere scratch to account for the incident. Encouraged by this feat of determination, Yamato tentatively asks for his e-mail address so they may exchange more messages. Promptly that night, she sends a new text, asking to meet again, but without Suna.
As they settle down the following day, Yamato begins to quiz an equally agitated Takeo about a number things. However, the kind hearted teen makes the assumption that she is asking these questions to get closer to Suna, and in an overly zealous outburst begins to list things that his friend likes. As the confusing conversation begins to wind down, an overwhelmed girl breaks down and dashes away in a fit of tears. Confounded by her reaction, Takeo bursts into Suna’s room, as he is often to do, and frantically explains the results of the meeting – not knowing what to do next. Once the perplexing summary is laid out, his faithful wingman starts to chuckle, which causes an annoyed boy to question his reaction. After he recovers, Suna sincerely asks if Takeo ever considered that her questions might have been about himself? Dumbfounded as to this response, the bewildered student never believed anyone would ever like him, since every experience with one of the opposite sex always resulted in them asking Suna for his approval. Unable to come up with an answer, he is shocked back to reality by a knock at the door – Yamato was here to ask for advice. What should he do now?
I usually shy away from shojo anime since they normally are too concerned with the relationship between captivating main characters and never deem to consider the What If story when someone unusual takes the lead. This exception to the rule results in the hilarious show called Ore Monogatari!! or My Love Story!! Let me just say up front: you will not be able to contain your laughter as you watch the clumsy relationship between Takeo and Yamato. Additionally, over time you may even shed a few tears as they attempt to navigate their uncharted course towards love.
What really appeals to me was that mangaka Kazune Kawahara partially based her series on a popular children’s picture book titled Naita Aka Oni or The Red Ogre Who Cried. And Kawahara-sensei does not ignore this fact as she fittingly refers to this time honored tale several times over the course of the anime, with Takeo as the red orge and Suna as the blue one. It is this perennial friendship between the two neighbors which is the main backbone of the story and therefore they rely or sacrifice for each other as they try to understand the rigors of life and blossoming love. While most would consider the sentimental relationship the core of the show, it is also important to realize that without the ogres’ dependency on each other, Takeo most likely would never have understood that he was Rinko’s true goal. Plus without Suna’s constant companionship as his wingman, the gentle giant’s bungling antics would have been much more comical or worse still, nonexistent. That is probably why the opening line for each episode with Takeo reiterating himself as a high school student and later on as Rinko being his girlfriend is my favorite; it seems he has to constantly remind himself that this is his life … otherwise he would have a hard time believing it.
But of course, this anime would be nothing without artist Aruko-sensei’s amazing manner in creating the world of My Love Story!! The most noticeable for terms of impact in the series is the way which the animators play off the main characters’ size differentiation. When you compare the two friends Takeo and Suna as they are interact with each other, the height disparity is not that drastic. However, once Rinko is added to the group, you then begin to notice how towering he is compared to everyone and everything else; the petit girl is only 145 centimeters (about 4’9”), Suna is approximately 6’ and then we get to the person they describe as a bear or gorilla – an impressive 2 meters tall (about 6’7”) at age fifteen! It is this gap between him and so called normal people which the show focuses on since anyone who meets Takeo for the first time thinks he is that ogre – or at times when he is incensed or obsessed with something, looking like a Yakuza enforcer!
How can you not smile seeing him bending over to exit normal sized doors, see a cell phone look like a toy in his massive hands or dishes appear to be doll items to this poor boy? But at the same time, it is his larger than life character which plays so well within the show. His enthusiasm and boisterous mannerisms are in contrast with his kindness – Takeo is a contradiction of opposites. You cannot but help to think that his family had some influence as to his attitude: their name plate proudly exclaiming Goda!! prominently displayed outside the door. He will bellow across the room to get someone’s attention, voraciously consume anything Rinko makes, but also be admired by the guys and yet put off by the girls for his charisma, strength and athletic abilities. One moment he will not hesitate to jump into the river to rescue a child and then turn around climbing tree to save a kitten … but then that same cat will scratch his face in fear of its life. It is this tongue-in-cheek humor which works so well as to make this shojo manga into something so much more than what it appears on the surface.
My Love Story!! is almost in Western terms a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But at the same time Takeo is also a normal teenage trying to survive the trials and triumphs of high school. His lack of confidence with girls, amazing growth spurts, naiveté about what is common sense and lack of knowledge about personal space are all what make him such a likeable character and a hero to anyone who would wish to meet him. If you miss this collection it would be an amazing shame since this show is definitely one of my favorites releases from 2016 … and easily a great way to end the year and look forward to a new one with Takeo and friends.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing Animations & Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 20th, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i mpeg-1/2 video codec
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player