It's certainly not the most realistic romance ever made, but MY (Love) STORY!! pulls no punches when it comes to its lovable characters and appealing visuals.
Title: MY (Love) STORY!! a.k.a. Ore Monogatari!!
Production: Studio Madhouse
Series Length: 24 episodes
Air Dates: 4/8/2015 to 9/23/2015
Age Rating: 7+ (mild language)
Summary: Takeo Gouda is a huge, hulking beast of a man already at the tender age of 15 who develops crushes on many girls--unfortunately, however, the girls never reciprocate, instead chasing after Takeo's super-handsome childhood friend, Makoto Sunakawa (or Suna, as Takeo calls him). This has been true all of Takeo's life, and the trend seems to stay strong as, one day, Takeo saves a girl his age from being molested on the train; the girl, Rinko Yamato, is exceedingly grateful for Takeo's save, but Takeo seems to believe that she has eyes only for Suna, and Suna has also shown an unprecedented positive opinion towards a girl in general (he says she's "nice"). In an attempt to be both a graceful loser and a loyal friend, Takeo resolves to get Suna and Rinko together as a couple, but it seems that Takeo's perspective on the situation is all wrong--perhaps, finally, after all this time, Takeo is being given a chance at romance...
The Good: Vibrant and inviting visuals; infectious theme songs; possibly the sweetest and cutest anime ever made, and often hilarious to the point of tears
The Bad: May be a little too light on conflict and tension; a few bizarre moments
The Ugly: Trying to figure out the logistics of how this relationship can be, err, well...consummated...
It's kinda strange for me to consider myself someone who isn't a big fan of romance when I've written a lot of positive reviews for romance anime. Huh. Well, anyway, being a big fan of the typical Studio Madhouse output, this was naturally on my radar. Even though, once again, I perceive myself as someone who doesn't typically watch this kind of thing, I decided to give MY (Love) STORY!! a shot. And boy howdy, was I in for a treat.
First of all, I just love the way this series looks. The character designs at first are very typical josei-ish anime designs, but I've grown so attached to Takeo's big, blocky, gorilla-esque look and I'll be damned if Rinko isn't the cutest girl in anime, period, end of story. I also love all the warm colors the series uses and the various filters used to accentuate each scene, as it gives the show a soft and inviting feel that makes it all the easier to get comfortable and grow attached to these characters. It also helps that the animation tends to be quite smooth and attractive, subtle and nuanced during a romantic conversation, and hilariously over-the-top when Takeo's, like, saving another kid from drowning.in the river or something. All in all, with its soft, warm colors and appealing art style, there's no doubt that Madhouse have still got it when it comes to visual mastery.
Another point I'd like to, well, point out, is that this series has some fantastic theme songs. Of course, that's not to say the regular background music isn't good (because it is), but this definitely is a case where the theme songs are just as much a part of the show as the visuals or the writing. The opening theme is called "Miraikei Answer" by TRUSTRICK, and it is a pure joy to listen to, with its soft piano intro and infectious hook right off the bat before launching into an upbeat and all-around feel-good pop song. It's just so good, you guys. The ending theme, "Shiawase no Arika," takes a slightly different route and goes for a very 80s-sounding pop-rock ballad style complete with the requisite earnest male vocalist, and it, too, is pretty freakin' phenomenal--a great ending theme to make each episode end on only the best note.
As for the narrative content of the series, just like it says in the helpful movie reference up top, this is probably the cutest and sweetest anime series I've ever seen. Yes, I did remember Bunny Drop. It's cuter and sweeter than even that. Takeo is your basic beef-headed muscle man, but he has a heart of gold and just wants to find love in this world after years upon years of rejection, and so it's extremely satisfying to see him enter his relationship with Rinko (this is technically a spoiler, but come on, it's like 2 or 3 episodes in). Rinko, on the other hand, is very shy and feminine, and she shows a deep and unbridled admiration for Takeo and his bravado, but her insecurity makes her always on-edge, and that means there are a ton of moments where we get a heartwarming scene where the two simply reaffirm their affection for each other. I mean, we get a LOT of them.
I don't know if I'll even have time to go over the various side characters (I am on a bit of a time crunch, after all!), but they're certainly a lot of fun as well. The majority of the show's focus is on Takeo and Rinko anyway, but fortunately for us, there's a lot of joy to be had in just watching their relationship play out, so I guess the writers really know what they're doing--none of the characters have any really deep philosophical outlooks on life nor are they so mind-bogglingly complex that your little brain can't handle it, but they're nevertheless enjoyable to be around.
To complement the romance that ties the series together, we're also treated to some very memorable comedic scenes, as well! A lot of fun is had with the fact that both Takeo and Rinko are inexperienced at the whole dating thing, and so we'll have funny little moments where they struggle with the complex art of holding hands or barge into Suna's room to ask him for advice on various little things. One of my favorite early laughs is during an extremely over-the-top scene where Takeo is saving one of Rinko's classmates from a major fire and lies motionless in the rubble before Suna just calls his cell phone to remind him that Rinko is freaking out and crying, giving Takeo the courage he needed to LEAP OUT OF THE WINDOW WHILE STILL ON FIRE AND LAND RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. AND GIVE A HEARTWARMING SPEECH. WHILE STILL ON FIRE. It's played for both laughs and feels at the same time, and it sounds like madness (it kinda is), but it just works. I don't have much to add here, other than that I will never, ever look at plastic wrap the same way ever again. And neither will Suna, I imagine.
Now, MY (Love) STORY!! so far has a lot of things going for it, but now it's time for me to be a Nitpicking Nancy. This didn't bother me so much, but for many others, the lack of any real conflict or narrative stakes will be a major hurdle. Many people get into romantic comedies for the "will they or won't they?"s or the "will they break up?"s, and enjoy watching the characters overcome those trials. Will they or won't they? They clearly will, after the first two or three episodes. Will they break up? Not even a chance. Do they overcome major trials? Not really. If you're looking for more drama or unpredictability in your fictional relationships, you sure as shoot won't find it here. But if you're perfectly fine with a romance whose main priority is just being as sweet and idyllic as possible, then this is the title for you (and me)!
Also, as I alluded to earlier, there are some really bizarre moments in this series that kinda blow the lid off of it ever being mistaken for realistic. Takeo can not only survive being on fire, but he can also leap from impossible heights, swim like an Olympic athlete to save kids on the fly at a moment's notice, and--even more unbelievably--somehow fit into a standard Japanese doorway! Again, this is not the kind of series you want to watch if you're itching for some realism, and if the idyllic romance didn't turn you off, the bombastic action sequences might.
But pshawwww to all of that--MY (Love) STORY!! is a fantastic anime series, and as my first real foray into the wild world of what Japan had to offer the world in 2015, my near-future outlook is looking pretty bright: Madhouse is doin' alright, I found one of the most touching anime I've ever seen, and I've only just gotten started. As for you, dear reader(s), this is a no-brainer for any of you looking for a good rom-com anime, as it's already one of the best of the lot, so grab it when you see it!
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10. Its sweet-and-never-salty romance and occasional overly-bombastic action scene may drive away those looking for something a bit more grounded in reality, but nevertheless, MY (Love) STORY!!'s supremely heartwarming characters and abundant charm in both its visuals and its writing make it a title more than worthy of any anime fan's time.