My Love Story!!: More Than Meets The Eye

My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!), the shoujo-manga-turned-anime (and soon to be live-action film), has stolen hearts worldwide – all at the drop of giant Takeo’s signature sparkly-eyed thumbs-up. The newly released anime has created a fandom filled with teary-eyed reformed love-cynics hugging their laptops at one in the morning, flooding the Internet with screencaps of their favourite burly protagonist and his pint-sized love.

Rinko Yamato and Takeo Gouda, protagonists of My Love Story!!
Rinko Yamato and Takeo Gouda, protagonists of My Love Story!!

At first glance, the story looks like an exhausted trope: conventionally unattractive boy (the beast) wins over conventionally attractive girl (the beauty) through his “amazing” personality (aka treating said girl as the human being she deserves to be treated as). However, like our oafish protagonist Takeo Gouda himself, there is a lot more to this anime than meets the eye.

The Red Ogre: Appearance and Isolation

Little Takeo as the red ogre in his school play

The overarching framing narrative of the first few episodes of My Love Story!! tells the tale of The Red Ogre. The red ogre lived in isolation, but desperately wanted to gain the trust and affection of the humans. Despite his good intentions, the humans are terrified of the ogre because of his gigantean size and frightening appearance. Takeo Gouda, the now high school freshman, was once nominated by his kindergarten class to play the red ogre in their school play because of the resemblance. Takeo whole-heartily agreed and played the red ogre alongside his best friend the blue ogre, Makoto Sunakawa.

Suna, Takeo’s best friend

Suna, as Takeo affectionately addresses Makoto, appears to be nothing but a cliché stereotype himself, with his conventional good looks and detached personality. He is seen rejecting any girl who falls in love with him (the girls being ones that Takeo himself has fallen for), rendering him vapid and cold. Yet through this telling of The Red Ogre, the two characters are fleshed out and realized as dimensional and complex individuals. In the fable, the blue ogre is a friend of the red ogre and lives alone in the mountains as well. During one of his visits, he tells the red ogre that he will help him by causing chaos in the humans’ village, and allowing the red ogre to chase him away and gain the trust of the villagers. After doing so, the blue ogre disappears. Whether or not this narrative will foreshadow the rest of the anime is unclear, but the fable itself lends its development to Suna and Takeo and brings them to life.

Suna and Takeo as ogres in the play

Suna and Takeo, like the lone ogres, exist marginally in the world. The anime insinuates an interesting commentary on society and its prescience on appearance. While Suna is incredibly popular and girls practically fall at his feet, he actually does not have any friends apart from Takeo. After years of noting the incredible difference in treatment the two receive based solely on their appearances, Suna has grown wary and resentful of those around him. The two spend the majority of their time together. It is not until they meet Takeo’s love interest, Rinko Yamato, that they reintegrate and escape the world they have locked themselves in.

The Beauty who Loves the Beast

Takeo Gouda, Rinko Yamato, and Makoto Sunakawa
Takeo Gouda, Rinko Yamato, and Makoto Sunakawa

Rinko, a petite and typically cute girl, also manages to prove herself to be a complex and trope-defying character. She truly thinks Takeo is the best looking guy she’s ever seen, and is genuinely concerned that Takeo will be too popular amongst girls. Takeo says that she has a “huge misunderstanding” in thinking that he is popular with girls, and has to explain to her that she and Suna are the only two people who find him “cool.”

Regardless, it isn’t a case of Rinko looking past Takeo’s unusual features and size. Rinko is in love with everything about Takeo and has difficulty believing that the rest of the world doesn’t see the same. It is this development in the anime that sets it apart from the worn-out story that falsely advertises the promise of “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Takeo’s character design is almost startling at first, it’s not the kind of “unattractive” anime audiences are used to – generically attractive boy who wears glasses and through a mahou shoujo type of transformation (aka taking off his glasses) suddenly becomes all the more attractive. Such tropes suggest that less-attractive people should either transform themselves to fit societal standards or find someone who is able to look past these faults and love you for who you are “inside.” But, as My Love Story!! argues, why settle for that when everyone deserves to be with someone who thinks you are the hottest thing around just as you are.

Rinko genuinely loves everything about Takeo - inside and out.
Rinko genuinely loves everything about Takeo – inside and out

Manliest of Men

Takeo himself fails to see his own charm, and has accepted his fate as the lonely red ogre on the mountain top. Takeo believes that he is not desirable – he is not handsome, smart, or cool the way that Suna is, and so he wholeheartedly claims his position as Suna’s faithful “cheerleader.” Unlike Suna, Takeo hasn’t let the way the world has treated him hinder his giant heart. He does everything in his power to keep everyone around him happy, even if it means trying to bring Suna and Rinko together, despite his feelings for her. He uses the example of a song that Rinko and Suna discuss after he chases down a woman to return her child’s shoe. Suna describes the song as being about a bear who chases down a woman who has lost an earring. The song says they end up dancing together, but as Takeo adds “she does not fall in love with the bear.” It is suggested that Takeo still holds some doubt that Rinko’s feelings for him are real. On the flip side, Rinko interprets the song as thinking Takeo’s charm will win him the heart of other girls.

One of the most beautiful girls in the show falls in love with Takeo after he compares her to a flower. In the touching scene, the young girl struggles with her own self-image as her schoolmates compare her to a frightening statue with long, wiry limbs called “The Growing Statue.” After walking home from school one day, Takeo tells her that she reminds him of something. She sighs, anticipating that he will mention the statue. But to her surprise, Takeo points to a beautiful arrangement of white lilies. However, she never tells him of her true feelings for him.

Ai is constantly compared to the ugly "Growing Statue"
Ai is constantly compared to the ugly “Growing Statue”

Takeo still maintains that he is “unpopular,” and unfortunately it appears to be true as he faces daily judgement from those who don’t know him. Upon meeting Rinko’s school friends for the first time, it is evident that they will make no point of hiding their disappointment. Rinko and Takeo overhear their conversation where they refer to Takeo as being “barely human,” a “gorilla” and that they couldn’t believe Rinko would “have the guts to be seen with him.” Rinko is both hurt and surprised, but Takeo reminds her that there “are all kinds of people” and that he is just fine. Takeo is used to this kind of treatment, while it is all new to Rinko. Yet instead of doubting Takeo and listening to her friends, Rinko is all the more impressed by Takeo.

What Takeo strives to be instead is the “manliest of men,” a phrase he is often found saying throughout the show. The phrase seems apt since he seems to be the epitome of idealized masculinity, but that is not what Takeo means. Takeo is often found using the phrase to challenge the idea of masculinity. He coins his friend Oda a “real man” after Oda confesses his feelings about a girl who does not feel the same for him. Oda says that it’s fine if she loves someone else, that he might even cry a little bit, but he’ll embrace his own feelings and all to spend time with her. Takeo is moved by this, and feels that this compassion makes Oda a real man.

Takeo has also proved himself to be a feminist. When he initially meets Rinko, she is being harassed on the train by a groper. Takeo takes it upon himself to help her and seeks justice for her against the offender. He brings the man to the train station’s security, but doesn’t stop there. When the man accuses Rinko of “asking for it,” Takeo, who is almost always true to his gentle-giant nature, loses his temper and clobbers him.

My Love Story!! manages to challenge well-established tropes in the romance genre and creates a warm, heartfelt plot with well-developed, dimensional characters. It breaks down the idea of “attractiveness,” nuancing its meaning and making its audience question the shallow societal norms we participate in daily. While it appears to be nothing more than another romance anime, the stereotypes and barriers it dares to break results in a giant leap forward for the genre. It’s a modern love story (throwing in humorous new-age slang like “selfie” and bromance”) that gives us a little hope that romance might not be dead after all.

Rinko asking Takeo to take a selfie with her.

Overall, My Love Story!! deserves a Takeo-sized thumbs-up.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Was kind of expecting this to be a 12/13 episode series since the manga was produced by the same person who gave us Ao Haru Ride (which was only 13 episodes) but lo and behold we’re up to episode 18 as of today! Can’t wait to see what happens next 😀

    • Me too! I’m glad it’s a little bit longer. I believe it’s going to be 24 episodes but I’ll be sad when it’s over!

  2. RMoreno

    I enjoy the show at first it was different story The First few episodes but around episode eight start getting boring what’s the same thing over and over nothing happens it became a boring Román Story after a while

    • I think the mid-season episodes are focusing more on character development instead of advancing the plot, but hopefully it picks back up again towards the end 🙂

  3. felicia

    I find Suna’s character quite interesting, and has been one of the main reasons why i have kept watching the show. Does anyone know a backstory on him, or some reveled secret’s that explains his persona?

    • I really like Suna too! He’s definitely a complex character. I think we’ll find out more about him as the show goes on!

  4. Jessie Hall

    The uniqueness of the main characters, especially the main male, Takeo, is what makes this show really enjoyable to me.

  5. YsabelGo

    I didn’t see Takeo helping Yamato as him being a feminist, but rather, a demonstration on how Takeo is a good-natured person. But it’s interesting that you pointed it out.

    I like that you used the ‘Beauty’ and the ‘Beast’ to describe this anime. If anyone is interested in a short manga series that plays with this trope, then I suggest to check out ‘Yajuu Kanojo.’

    • Thank you!
      I feel that My Love Story!! is definitely really up-to-date with current pop culture as well as current issues (using phrases like selfie, emoji, bromance, etc). Its writers are definitely aware of the audience they are writing to. I found that to be particularly true concerning Rinko’s incident on the train. The issue of a woman’s clothes and its relationship to sexual assault has been a huge topic of discussion amongst feminists and has been a trending topic in the media. There have been a plethora of articles about young girls standing against unjust school regulations regarding their clothing, the rise of the “slut walk” to raise awareness about sexual assault, women holding up signs saying “not asking for it.” I think Takeo asserting the fact that Rinko was NOT asking for it, regardless of what she was wearing, was a deliberate nod by the writers to feminism and these recent issues.

  6. DClarke

    Nice work. I really think you capture the essence of the anime and present it well for those of us who have not seen it. You have a great skill to be able to interest your readers in something they are not familiar with!

  7. My favorite character has to be Suna with Takeo as a second. I love their friendship and even though Suna is kinda bland I like how he’s observant and has a ‘sensing the atmosphere’ type personality. Also when he said he’d sacrifice his own happiness for his friend I died. I just love him.

  8. I love this anime, and I think it was the only anime other than Baby Steps that pulled me in to watch it every week. Other series I could deal with missing a week then catching up, but those two I made a point to watch each week and I loved them.

  9. TakeMeBack

    I like it how the show is not typical.typical is the biggest problem with anime now a days .that and constant fanservice

  10. francoise

    Just started watching this anime earlier and I’m on episode 3.

  11. Marilynn Roe

    I have seen like five episodes if this anime and I have to say its so cute. I love how the guy dose everything he can to make this girl happy. It’s so charming , I hope who ever watches it likes it too.

  12. Ashly Liles

    To be painfully honest, this just isn’t my kind of show. When it comes to slice-of-life shows, I am, admittedly, pretty biased and tend to have a rather high standard; or, at the very least, in need of a hook.

    I need something about it that will grab my attention and keep me guessing. A slice-of-life, for me, isn’t necessarily terrible, but unwatchable when I feel like I can predict most any way that it could possibly end.

    And with all respect to my fellow viewers who like this show very much (I understand why you would, believe it or not), I’m not saying Ore Monogatari sucks or anything of the sort. As I said, it’s just not my thing.

  13. ferguson

    This show is really good!

  14. It’s really more of a comedy than a romance after a certain point.

  15. This show is about the world’s nicest people being good to each other. How it still manages to be entertaining is a mystery.

  16. It’s friggin great! It’s so damn adorable I could just die! The evenings when I get to watch a new episode is one of the highlights of my week and always leaves me with a nice fuzzy feelint while I go to sleep.

  17. I’m not into romcom to much, but I needed a break from the heavier stuff and decided to give this a watch being new and such. Turn’s out I love this series.

  18. Dora Barnett

    I’d have to say the show is on neutral ground for me. It’s not a bad show by any means, but it needs to do more for me to consider it great. The novelty of Takeo’s appearance and size wears off pretty quick and I think having the two main love interests get together so early actually works against the show. However, there are some funny and endearing moments and the animation is well-done. Basically, what you’re left with is a unique, but average slice-of-life comedy romance anime.

  19. Probably one of the best in years, actually.

  20. I felt frustrated in the first few episodes, but luckily it gets resolved by episode 4, and then I had no problems at all

  21. Flowers

    I have mixed feelings of this anime i dropped it halfway.should i continue?

    • I think it really depends on your preference when it comes to anime. The show is definitely more about character development and exploration than it is about plot, so if you prefer anime with more dramatic and exciting plots, it might not be for you. While I enjoy drama as well, I find My Love Story!! to be really cute and always puts me in a good mood when I watch it! I think it has a lot to say about relationships and people and it’s definitely a feel-good watch.

    • transit

      JUST DO IT

  22. This show gave me diabeetus. Would recommend.

  23. Allthefujoshiunite

    I really like this show, too. As you stated, it is a fresh breath for our overly-stereotypical shojo genre. I still think Rinko and Takeo’s love is sugar coated too much but what the heck, it’s pure and sweet, it is not always the unpredictable that makes you keep watching something but the characters and their interactions during the process itself. : ) Only thing will give me diabeetus is seeing Rinko’s sweets and grabbing the Nutella jar xD.

  24. Love this anime. I love your post too it was great.

  25. I gave it a chance when my friend suggested that I should watch it, and for the first episodes I agree with you. I found it interesting, different and original. After 9 episodes, I guess, I dropped it because I found it boring and repetitive. I don’t mind slice-of-life or characters development, but in this case something just doesn’t work for me. De gustibus!
    Nice article though 🙂

    • Aww sorry you felt that way! I watched all the way through and I really enjoyed it! It did have some slow parts.

      Thank you!!

  26. smarrie

    While I applaud the show for its stance against victim-blaming in its first episode, I cannot help but think that Takeo is more subversive gender-wise as a character than his girlfriend. Takeo is huge but not easily angered and normally quite harmless, he is expressive and he cries quite a bit. Rinko on the other hand talks in that cutesy falsetto voice expected of women to appeal to (otaku-ish) men, appears demure and diminutive most of the time, she is great at baking at does so all the time, giving her that “waifu” quality that real women in Japan might not always have, and she only demonstrates her physical strength once and it’s meant to come across as unexpected, since women are not supposed to be strong it’s implied. At least the show acknowledges that she, and women in general, do have sexual desires, but not in a way that could be truly offensive to men whose sensibilities include wanting a “pure, virginal soul” who is inexperienced in the ways of sex: Rinko’s big bad secret is that she wants to hold her boyfriend’s hand and even though her girlfriends thought she had sex with her boyfriend one evening, it’s a misunderstanding, thus reassuring the audience that she isn’t really a “bad girl.” This kind of thinking is already out there thanks to the otaku fanbase of idol groups who want their singers dateless according to contracts to maintain their “sexually available but pure” image as well as how in other romantic comedies (usually aimed at men but sometimes women as well) characters will not initiate or move their love to the intimacy stage for fear of angering fans or scandalizing them.

    • I 100% agree that the writers definitely could have developed Rinko’s character more and pushed the boundaries when it comes to gender binaries. While Takeo proved to be a complex and relatable individual, Rinko did fall to the background and became a bit predictable towards the end. Her “big bad secret” was anti-climatic and a bit of a letdown to the series. I thought that perhaps it was done to keep the show age-appropriate for a wider audience, but I agree that it didn’t do much to develop Rinko as a character, and more so as a female at all. She started out as a unique deviation from the typical shoujo-romance female by falling for Takeo, instead of someone who’s traditionally good-looking, usually callous, abrasive, and cold (promoting an unhealthy idealization of abusive relationships), but unfortunately didn’t end up making it too far from that by the end of the series.

  27. this anime has been a pleasant surprise, I especially love the character detail of Takeo and Suna alongside the tale of the red and blue ogre.

  28. I’ve watched a few episodes of this and I surprisingly really enjoyed it. I haven’t had time to catch up but i definitely will now.

  29. I was honestly waiting for some kind of darker turn to the story because it seemed to nice to be true, but it was strangely refreshing to learn how wrong I was. Seemingly too good to be true, this anime was great and was a story I thoroughly thought of as light and heartwarming.

  30. Definitely an anime I’ll add to the list! 😀

  31. I’ve seen titles with one or three exclamation points, but never with two.

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