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.