My Love Story!! Vol. 13

My Love Story!! Volume 13 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

I had postponed reading the final volume of this series because I didn’t want it to end, but my curiosity about the conclusion helped me deal with my final volume procrastination syndrome. The final story arc was set up previously, with impending separation between Takeo and Yamato. I’ve probably been watching too many k-dramas where a couple gets separated and then they meet again 3 years later, but one of the refreshing things about this manga is that it actually deals with the problems of long-distance relationships instead of just conveniently fading to black and glossing over the separation period.

One of the hallmarks of this series is that in addition to the interest created by having a hulking giant of a boy as the main character in a shoujo series, My Love Story!! is able to step through some conventions shoujo plot elements and make them seem fresh due to the way the manga is infused with so much enthusiasm and heart. When Yamato goes to Spain Takeo is determined to bring his grades up so they can eventually go to the same college. He throws himself into studying with Suna constantly at his side. The unique circumstances surrounding Takeo and Yamato’s provide an opportunity to visit again with characters from throughout the series, as it seems everywhere Takeo goes someone feels the need to encourage him in his epic romance.

There are some hilarious scenes as Takeo goes to Spain in order to visit Yamato, and while a manga series set in high school ending at the point when the characters are about to head off to college is extremely typical, My Love Story!!, as always, ends on a note of such infectious optimism that I put the book down with a smile. This is going to be one of those series I keep around and read whenever I need to cheer myself up.

My Love Story!! Vol. 12

My Love Story!! Volume 12 by Kazune Karahawa and Aruko

I enjoy the volumes of My Love Story!! that focus on the central relationship between Takeo and Yamato, but manga chapters that focus more on Suna are a little bit more rare in this series, so I look on them as a pleasant refresher. Here, a new transfer student named Tanaka has fixated on Suna as a new friend, and while Suna goes along with it to some degree as soon as Tanaka starts badmouthing Takeo, the friendship is over as far as Suna is concerned.

While Takeo is initially very worried about Tanaka using Suna’s photogenic qualities for more Instagram likes, he begins to realize that the transfer student is genuinely lonely and trying to keep up the appearances of having friends. Suna is fiercely protective of Takeo, when Tanaka starts talking about how odd the giant highschooler is, Tanaka is dead to Suna. It takes Takeo’s unusual emotional intelligence to bring everyone together, as he pronounces that dudes just need to hang out and get snacks together to repair friendships. This is true, although hanging out then tends to involve massive feats of strength and physical exertion. Takeo’s simplistic but genuine approach ends up smoothing over the situation with Tanaka, and things seem to be evened out for a little bit.

Since this series is nearing the end, there’s a late breaking complication for Takeo and Yamato’s relationship that I’m sure will be resolved wonderfully in the last volume. It says a lot about the quality of My Love Story!! that I’m genuinely looking forward to some very conventional shoujo plot twists, because everything is just so well-executed and heartwarming.

Shojo Beat Quick Takes – Honey So Sweet Vol. 5 and My Love Story!! Vol. 11

Kicking off the week of Valentine’s Day by reading some shoujo manga seemed like a good idea! Honey So Sweet and My Love Story!! are some of the most adorable and cute manga currently being published. Both couples in this series are in more established relationships, so it is interesting to see how the series continue to develop these romances.

Honey So Sweet Volume 5 by Amu Meguro

Christmas dates are a staple plot element in shoujo manga. In this case Nao and Taiga plan on getting together, but their solo date plans are quickly derailed when their entire group of friends decides that a Christmas party is happening. While everyone does have fun, it turns out that Futami decides to employ some social pressure to make sure that Nao and Taiga get some alone time. Hence, a scene of fierce blushing as the young couple is painfully aware that they are at last alone with each other. Other than blushes and some hand holding, nothing happens because Taiga’s mom suddenly returns home and embarks on a fierce examination of her son’s new girlfriend.

The artwork shifts from the general wispy and feminine style Meguro usually employs into some panels with dark screentone and bold fierce lettering as Taiga’s mom demands that the couple break up. Aggressive mothers are no match for Nao’s earnestness, as she proclaims that she loves Taiga and is determined to stay in the relationship. They then bond over Taiga’s embarrassing childhood photo albums. Nao also has to repair her relationship with her uncle and guardian Sou after accidentally staying out all night. While Sou denies being angry while acting passive aggressive and Nao decides that she’ll avoid the situation as much as she can, it takes a moment of insight and extraordinary emotional intelligence from Taiga for things to get back to normal.

A shoujo series that only focuses on the main couple gets boring fast, which is why this volume emphasizing relationships with parents or parent-like figures along with the regular romance ensures that the series as a whole continues to be entertaining.

My Love Story!! Volume 11 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

First of all, the skewed Sleeping Beauty illustration on this volume is hilarious. This is one of my favorite shoujo manga currently being translated just because it raises the bar so much for any series attempting to be both sweet and hilarious at the same time. At this point, Takeo and Rinko haven’t seen each other very much, but they are about to be thrown in close proximity due to some coinciding class trips.

Takeo is freaking out about his ability to control his romantic urges, while Rinko keeps not so innocently popping up in his personal space. As always in My Love Story!! there’s plenty of comedic tension but the couple ends up talking things through to smooth over any awkwardness. The next story in this volume focuses on a scenario where Takeo and Rinko try to learn more about each other’s hobbies. Takeo attempts to make pancakes with results that end up carbonized while Rinko starts running around to boxing gyms because she wants to learn how to do feats of strength. Takeo ends up training her in tumbling techniques, and the scenes showing his intensity with constant frowning and fire burning in the background and her determined attempts to be a good student are fun to read. I always put this manga down feeling like I’m in a better mood, and what more could someone want out of some leisure reading?

My Love Story!! Vol 6

My Love Story Volume 6 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

It is nice to have a go-to manga series to read when one feels stressed out, and My Love Story!! never fails to make me happy.

This volume focuses more on the arrival of Takeo’s new sibling, and the reader gets the treat of seeing a little bit of his parents’ courtship. Takeo’s mom is portrayed as unflappingly capable in her younger years, and his dad exhibits the same ridiculous amount of enthusiasm that Takeo often channels. When something goes a little wrong with the pregnancy, Takeo starts exclaiming “I’ve got to be reliable!” as he tries to take care of everything for his family. He’s supported all the way by Suna and Yamato.

The old valentine’s day storyline has got to be one of the most overused cliches in shoujo manga, but My Love Story!! pulls off one of the most adorable examples of this storyline, as Takeo is so excited to be receiving “true love’s chocolate from his girlfriend, he finds himself striking random celebratory poses as he walks along and discusses his relationship with Suna. I was glad to see that there are hints Suna might actually become involved with a girl at last. He’s deliberately aloof, and shuns any girl who speaks badly of Takeo, so he hasn’t experienced romance yet either. I’m really looking forward to the next volume now, where more of the focus will be on him.


My Love Story! Vol 2

My Love Story! Volume 2 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

I thought the first volume of this series managed to be both hilarious and refreshing with its unconventional for shoujo manga premise of focusing on the foibles of a unconventional male hero. The second volume took first place on my to-read pile as soon as I got it, and it was just as delightful as the first volume. There are a few episodic chapters here that all manage to focus on something a bit different, while still providing some continuity in exploring the developing romance between the giant Takeo and his cute girlfriend Yamato, with conventionally attractive Sunakawa acting as a willing and supportive third wheel.

The first chapter shows Takeo tasked with the job of rounding up some boys to go along on a group date with Yamato and her friends from school. BYamato has told all her friends how awesome her new boyfriend is, and when they are confronted with the somewhat ungainly Takeo and his band of misfits, they don’t react well. Takeo does excel at feats of strength, and when a fire breaks out he manages to rescue everyone from the burning building, winning the admiration of every new acquaintance. Yamato and Takeo’s relationship is tested further when he agrees to do the judo team the favor of temporarily joining them before a big match, which causes him to have to spend too much time training. Sunakawa acts as a somewhat enigmatic but still caring sounding board to the couple. As Takeo starts preparing the best birthday ever for Yamato, he notices that the usually reticent Sunakawa seems to be even more preoccupied, causing him to have to choose between his girlfriend and his best friend.

The type of comedy in My Love Story! is tricky to pull off. Even though Takeo is drawn to be exaggeratedly not the shoujo manga ideal and he gets into plenty of ridiculous situations, the steadfast affection of Yamato and Sunakawa ensures that he’s never an object of ridicule. The world might be against him, but he has the support of people who think he’s great the way he is. It’s a nice central message that’s absent from more cynical series. Aruko does a great job with drawing physical comedy of the series, with plenty of exaggerated expressions and action elements, but there are also plenty of more subtle moments as Sunakawa shields his emotions and Yamato reacts with joy to practically everything Takeo does. This is all a balancing act of plot and art, and My Love Story! pulls it off well.