“My Love Story” is the newest American release by KawaharaKazune, the author of the popular, uncouth love story “High School Debut”. Having won a slew of awards in Japan, a warm American reception was expected for this slow-starting manga that reaches for your heart (and man-card).
This charming tale opens on the day of middle school graduation for Gouda Takeo, the burly Judo captain. He is attempting to escape from his adoring kouhai to find the girl he is in love with—A classic confession scenario. When he catches up with her, however, he finds that she is already confessing to someone else: his best friend, Sunakawa Makoto. He can only look on as Makoto openly rejects the girl, in a manner that Takeo finds stunningly hurtful.
As the two head for home (they of course live in the same apartment building), Makoto points out a groper on the train. Angered, our Takeo stomps over and easily strong-arms the pervert off the train at the next station. The police arrive to question the parties involved, when the groper quips that the girl was ‘asking for it’ because she was wearing an ultra-mini. At this point, Takeo loses his cool and actually punches the guy smack in the middle of the face—And with a meaty hand like his, it looked as if the point of impact was pretty much the entire visage itself!
The next panels are of the following day: Takeo lounging around his room eating junk food due to suspension for the violence (in front of the police, no less). Makoto drops by to pass on the notes from school that day, when Mrs. Gouda pops in to announce the arrival of a guest, named Yamato Rinko. Neither boy can place the name, but it turns out to be the girl from the station… And when she enters Takeo’s messy room, his love is born.
Rinko explains that she asked the cops for Takeo’s information so that she could thank him properly. She takes out a homemade cheesecake and the trio eats together. Accidents bring them together a few more times, while Takeo struggles to come to terms with the fact that a girl so pretty, talented and sweet would never fall for him.
But let’s cut to the chase: this series is called “My Love Story”, and Takeo is the main character. I could never ruin that sweet, also accidental, confession scene for new readers, so I will just leave it at that! In any case, this book is a touching view of the oft-overlooked self-critical male.
Now, shoujo’s target audience is girls and women, but there are a few men out there who enjoy a sweet story every once in awhile. Taking a gander at my manga collection, I found a ratio of exactly two male-centric shoujo stories for every eleven female-centric. This is a quite a staggering number, considering that shoujo claims to be story-oriented (a feature any gender can enjoy), but usually only depicts the theme-du-jour from a female standpoint. What about us guys who yearn for a cutesy, dramatic, intricately-woven slice-of-life? There are just not many books out there for people like us.
Shonen, power-of-friendship sagas are a dime a dozen, but you have to really dig through the plethora of manga now on the market to find a spectacularly ordinary story that can whisk you from the confines of your reality, to the hopes, dreams, and desires of someone in another place. And when this occurs, we start to realize how similar we all truly are. Because when it comes down to it, we have all traipsed through feelings of inferiority or unworthiness at one point or another. These darker times are part of what makes us human; our experiences build us into the complex people who we are today. In this series, there are some brilliant moments brimming with unanticipated optimism, and the first volume of “My Love Story” does a truly marvelous job of encapsulating a turning point in Gouda Takeo’s life.