How Takeo Broke the Mold in Ore Monogatari!!
Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) has recently garnered interest, as Kazune Kawahara’s manga was adapted into an anime on April 2015 and a live-action to be released on October 2015. Despite being a shōjo anime, which is geared towards female viewership, Ore Monogatari!! has intrigued both genders, because of it’s mix of comedy and romance as it follows the unique love story between two individuals. Although Ore Monogatari!! still contains shōjo archetypes, (such as the demure love interest), what makes this manga popular is Takeo Gouda -- the ‘gorilla-esque’ man who this manga’s love story focuses on. Not only does Takeo not look like the stereotypical male protagonist, but he also has his unique charms to make this character likeable.
However, in order to showcase how Takeo ‘breaks the mold’ or defies shōjo stereotypes, let us analyze Takeo in the first season of the anime and use his best friend, Makoto Sunakawa, to contrast the differences.
Takeo vs. Suna
In majority of shōjo anime/manga, the protagonist is always a bishounen character – an attractive male whose beautiful looks attract the majority of girls in his high school. Examples of shōjo mangas with bishounen characters are Takumi Usui from Kaichou Wa Maid-sama, Kyouya Sata from Wolf Girl and Black Prince, and the Host Club from Ouran High School Host Club.
Hence, in the first episode, Takeo explains how many of his love interests fall for his best friend, Sunakawa (or Suna for short), as he rushes to confess to his middle school crush before graduation day is over. Sunakawa perfectly fits the archetype of a bishounen character – he’s tall, slim, and has sharp facial features. Girls have developed crushes on him since kindergarten, but he always casually rejects them. He thinks girls are troublesome and doesn’t seem to notice them fawning over him as he walks down the street. In short, Suna looks like a typical ‘ice prince’.
In comparison, Takeo is a tall, gorilla-esque man that looks intimidating despite his kind heart. For example, Takeo is always quick to help strangers, whether it’s by carrying a stroller up a steep flight of stairs, or rescuing a drowning child in a river. However, these strangers (usually mothers) only pay attention to Suna and thank them for his help, despite Suna telling them that it’s all thanks to his friend. Although this adds to the comedy of Ore Monogatari!!, it demonstrates how bishounens always attract attention, despite the fact that Suna is not the main protagonist in this series.
However, Kazune Kawahara breaks the mold by having Rinko Yamato – a cute, demure girl – fall in love with Takeo on first sight when he saves her from a molester on the train. Yamato fits the archetype of a demure girl because she is cute, gentle, and caring. She shows housewife qualities, such as her love for baking, and always takes care of Takeo and Suna. Usually, such girls are attracted to the handsome bishounen, thus Takeo is quick to assume that Yamato has fallen for Suna when she asks Suna not to leave the room. This leads to an internal conflict, as Takeo struggles to support Suna and Yamato’s relationship while suppressing his own feelings. Eventually, Kawahara introduces her plot twist, as Suna tells Takeo about Yamato’s true feelings after Takeo accuses Suna of making her cry in episode 3. As the love story progresses, Suna continues to remain on the side as he constantly third wheels Takeo and Yamato’s dates.
It is uncertain whether or not Suna will find a love interest in the series. His main goal is to support Takeo through his first relationship, such as creating a schedule for Yamato’s birthday or help shop for a gift. Perhaps this is to highlight the friendship between Takeo and Suna, and the brotherhood these two men have between each other. This is proven when Suna tells Takeo in episode 3, “Who’d want to date girls that talked smack about their friends?”
Nevertheless, what can be taken from the first season is the fact that despite Suna’s attractive good looks, it is Takeo that shines in the spotlight. After all, it’s his love story – a chapter he wished for since the beginning of high school.
Lack of Romantic Rivals
Suna is not the only one that has a friendship with Takeo. For example, in episode 7, the Judo club members kneel before Takeo asking him to temporary join the club so that they can defeat their opponents. In episode 8, the customers in the Bro Café admire Takeo’s deltoids and ask him how he achieved them. This admiration of Takeo proves that Takeo has no ‘love rivals’, which is another aspect that breaks shōjo archetypes.
This is considered uncommon, as many shōjo animes/mangas include a love rival to test the couple’s relationship, as the rival tries to interfere with the development and confuse the individual’s feelings. The rival is usually more attractive or just as attractive as the protagonist, and poses as a threat that can last for the entire series or an arc.
The only person that can be considered to be Takeo’s rival throughout the series is Tsuyoshi Iwayama -- a friend of Takeo from his middle school judo club. However, this character is considered more as a sports rival, as Takeo and Tsuyoshi face off to determine who is the strongest between the two. Although Tsuyoshi accuses Takeo of focusing on relationships rather than sports, this cannot be considered a romantic rival because Tsuyoshi has no intention to steal Yamato from Takeo. Rather, his jealousy provokes Tsuyoshi’s competitive side and Takeo to question what is strength -- neither of these aspects being obstacles to the relationship.
Perhaps Kawahara has not yet interject this plot device into Takeo’s love story because she prefers to explore the innocence of Takeo and Yamato’s relationship. The only scenario in which a love rival is introduced is when Hayato Oda approaches Takeo in episode 13. However, the circumstances are different, as it is Hayato who thinks of Takeo as his rival because of the feelings he has towards Ai – Suna’s sister. But throughout this arc, Takeo remains clueless to the rivalry Hayato feels towards him, as his attention is only focused on Yamato and the amusement park’s jinx. He does not even realize Ai’s feelings towards him, which demonstrates Takeo’s naivety towards his surroundings.
But it is Takeo’s naivety that makes him break shōjo stereotypes, as his innocence makes his relationship with Yamato refreshing in comparison to other shōjo couples.
In many shōjo animes/mangas, the male protagonist is devious and more experienced in relationships than the female. They will slyly perform actions to make the female blush, such as stealing their first kiss or pinning them against the wall. In Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Takumi agrees to help Misaki and uses a kiss as his reward. In comparison, Ore Monogatari!! takes a more innocent approach as Takeo awkwardly stumbles through his relationship. For example, he does not know how to hold hands or kiss, and asks Suna to help him practice by bringing plastic wrap (so that it doesn’t count).
He is more innocent than his girlfriend, as one of the conflicts Ore Monogatari!! presents is the struggle of intimacy. In episode 5, when Takeo is prompted by Ai to tell her what he likes about Yamato, he states that he likes Yamato for her purity. Unfortunately, this embarrasses Yamato, and the audience finds out later how much Yamato fantasizes about him, as she states:
“Takeo has really nice skin… and his eyebrows and sideburns really get to me! And his broad shoulders and nice pecs… and his lips are so sexy! His hands are so big too, they make my heart race. But Takeo-kun says he won’t lay a finger on me until I grow up.” -- Episode 6.
Takeo never reveals whether he has the same thoughts about Yamato, which demonstrates how innocent Takeo truly is. The only thought that runs through Takeo’s mind is how much he loves her, as he sees her smile or dress up beautifully on their dates. This innocence is what makes Ore Monogatari!! so refreshing, as it highlights the precious moments of first love and the struggles high schoolers face in their first relationship. There are other mangas that focus on innocent relationships as well, such as Hibi Chouchou, but no other anime has been able to combine humour and romance while breaking the shōjo archetypes as Ore Monogatari!!
There have been other animes with live-action adaptations, such as Death Note, Ouran High School Host Club, and Nana. The fact that Ore Monogatari!! is included in this list demonstrates the popularity of Kazune Kawahara’s works. Ore Monogatari!! proves that the male protagonist does not have to be stereotypically handsome to achieve a love story, as it is the personality that makes them attractive and how much effort they put into the relationship.
For those who are interested in watching the trailer of the live-adaptation, you can watch the video below.
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