My Love Story! Vol. 1

My Love Story! Vol 1 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

It is fairly rare for a shoujo manga to manage being both hilarious and heartwarming, but My Love Story! delivers. I was looking forward to this title because I absolutely adore Kazune Kawahara’s previously translated series High School Debut, and this new manga more than lived up to my expectations.

My Love Story! is extremely refreshing because in a dramatic shift from most shoujo series, it focuses on a boy as the main character. And the boy that it focuses on is Takeo, a hulking giant who is drawn exactly like the manga stereotype of a local gang leader, with a hulking body, thick eyebrows, and overabundant sideburns. Takeo is looked up to by everyone who plays sports with him, but his true friend is Suna, conventionally attractive in exactly the way a shoujo reader would expect, with windswept hair and a habit of rejecting all the girls who have crushes on him. Takeo has a habit of falling for girls who are crushing on Shun, who are then promptly turned down when they confess their feelings. On a fateful day Takeo saves a girl from being groped on a train, and she shows up the next day at his house with a cake to thank him. Rinko is an incredibly sweet and cute girl who enjoys baking and shyly blushing whenever she comes up with an excuse to be around Takeo. Unfortunately Takeo is so used to being passed over for Shun, he tries to set up Shun and Rinko, while being utterly unaware the the cute girl that he loves actually loves him back.

There’s plenty of caricature and humorous reactions as Takeo goes through extreme emotions. While it would be easy for Takeo to be the target of jokes, Shun genuinely cares for his best friend. While much is made of Takeo being an unlikely shoujo hero, he’s actually surrounded by supporters. It turns out that Shun is rejecting any girl who speaks badly about Takeo, because he has no interest in dating anyone who shows themselves as a mean person. Shun manages to get Rinko and Takeo together, and it is nice to see a manga series centered around people who just simply care about each other. My Love Story doesn’t suffer from second volume syndrome at all, by the end of the first two chapters I was utterly won over by the combination of characters, humor, and random feats of strength exhibited by Takeo as he goes about his day. The art maybe relies a bit too much on the contrast between Takeo being a blundering thug in a sparkly shoujo world, but there’s plenty of plot driven and situational humor to balance out this aspect of the manga.

As Rinko and Takeo start going out, Shun learns that his older sister has also been nursing a crush on Takeo that she has never expressed, because she was waiting to tell him her feelings when she was older. She immediately concludes that Rinko must be no good, and heads off to intervene, but Rinko and Ai quickly bond over their shared feelings. The end of the first volume of My Love Story! is too funny to spoil, but I’ll be looking forward to the second volume for this winning combination of laugh out loud moments and quirky romance.