Some of the best series I have ever watched have been recommendations from friends. This one was suggested to me by Daz, who runs the nicest and happiest anime group on Facebook and also contributes reviews to this blog, and I am very grateful that he championed this series, because it has to be the loveliest romantic anime I have ever seen.
The main character is a gentle giant of a teenager called Takeo Goda. His best friend Sunakawa is hugely popular with the girls but Takeo is always overlooked. He has got used to that and he doesn’t resent it. Life’s just like that for Takeo, and he realises that he isn’t blessed with Sunakawa’s traditional good looks and there’s nothing he can do about that. Sunakawa remains single himself, turning down every girl who asks him out, but this is a series about people seeing beyond physical beauty to the person inside. One reason Sunakawa keeps turning down all the cute girls is that he hears them gossiping about Takeo behind his back, so in Sunakawa’s eyes they are not the beautiful people they appear to be. There is a hilarious flashback sequence throughout Sunakawa’s life with various girls asking to be his girlfriend and him sending them off with responses such as “I think you’re gross”, which had me laughing out loud. Sunakawa and Takeo are inseparable as friends, and their loyalty and respect for each other is the backbone of the series. This may be a romance series, but it is also quite possibly the strongest portrayal of friendship between two guys that I have ever seen.
One day Takeo and Sunakawa are on the train when they see a creepy guy hassling a girl and trying to grope her. Takeo steps in immediately and saves her. He has an instinctive reaction to seeing anyone in danger, something that is a running theme throughout the series, with plenty of heroic moments for Takeo. The girl he saves is Rinko Yamato, who instantly falls in love with Takeo. This is the first time in his life that anyone has shown any interest in him, and initially he misunderstands her actions as an attempt to use him to get to Sunakawa, because that’s all that has ever happened to him. You can’t help but feel really sorry for the guy and start rooting for him immediately, and that makes his moment of triumph all the more delightful to watch.
I have seen so many series that get 12 or 24 episodes out of teasing a possible relationship, sometimes leaving it unresolved or sometimes giving the viewers what they want in the final episode. This is different. I’m going to have to spoiler this or I won’t be able to write any more about the series, so if you’re interested enough at this stage and haven’t seen it yet then go off and watch it and come back when you’re done. I don’t score things but in homage to Daz I’ll go ahead and call this a 10/10 series, so you won’t be sorry.
So in the space of three episodes Rinko and Takeo are a couple. Yes, this series really gets on with things. Where does that leave us for the remaining 21 episodes? It leaves us enjoying seeing their gentle, cute relationship gradually develop, and it’s the most feel-good series you could ever hope to watch. By some miracle of luck, my wife and I chose to start this series just as we hit coronovirus lockdown here, and watching one episode an evening allowed us to end each day with 20 minutes of pure happiness. It was just the right series for us at the right time. If you ever need cheering up, this is the perfect anime to turn to. The love story between Rinko and Takeo is cute, funny, heart-warming, and most of all it feels real. This has clearly been written by somebody who really understands those awkward early stages of a relationship.
Other elements are thrown into the mix to keep things interesting. A couple of their friends fall for each other and need Rinko and Takeo’s help to get together, and then their relationship progresses much more quickly and that worries Takeo. It shows that relationships are all different and the right progression for one couple is not necessarily the right pace for another. This is a series full of that kind of food for thought. It’s also full of food, with Rinko being an enthusiastic baker of cakes, so you might put on a bit of weight watching this because it will make you feel hungry!
We also have challenges to the relationship, with other people coming into the mix to fall in love with Takeo and Rinko, and their responses to those issues are glorious to watch. Nobody is treated by the writer as a bad person to be defeated and dispensed with. Everybody in their lives is treated with kindness and compassion, even when they pose a threat to Takeo and Rinko’s relationship.
Late in the game the focus shifts for a while onto Sunakawa, with a lovely storyline about a girl who has worshipped him since kindergarten. She seems to be the first person who has ever genuinely interested him and the first person worthy of his love, but Sunakawa is an oddly melancholy character and things don’t end up the way I wanted them to. Sunakawa is fascinating. He comes close to being a representation of depression, but at the same time manages to be a celebration of individuality and a validation of finding your own path in life and waiting for the right time for the right person. Having said that, I did find that the series felt frustratingly incomplete in that respect. For that reason a second series would have been great, but as it stands I’m still delighted with this anime. I remember when I was doing English at school, one piece of advice teachers used to give was to never use the word “nice” in creative writing. Find a more interesting word, they said. But you know what? Like Takeo and Sunakawa, I’m going my own way in life. It may not be exciting or groundbreaking, but sometimes a word just fits.
My Love Story!! is quite the nicest series I have ever seen. RP