The first shoujo anime I ever watched was Sailor Moon. I was around 6 and I would watch the show with my older sister every Saturday morning. I didn’t understand plot elements, the romance, all the jokes, but I do remember having a great time and it being a fond memory. I will admit that since childhood, I have not watched many shoujo anime. In fact I have a tendency to avoid shoujo anime. The esoteric world of shoujo, with it’s soft color pastels, large eyes, bishounen protagonists are all foreign to me. I often find I get bored, busy, or drop the show in favour of a show I find more interesting. However Ore Monogatari has proven to be an exception. Every Wednesday I searched for the subbed episode and found myself watching Ore Monogatari before all other anime. In the shower I would sing the protagonist’s catch phrase, “I love her” in the style of “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson. I would chat on skype and other formats expressing my love for the show. The show just felt so different, so fresh to many of us. However one day I spoke to an anime fan who has seen a great deal of shoujo, she admitted that she didn’t understand my fascination with the show. She stated that the show may not be as groundbreaking and different that I thought it was. I wrote this review as a way to explore my own opinions and thoughts about this series, I hope it is a benefit both to you and me.
The reason why I felt this anime was so different was because of the protagonist, Gouda Takeo. In the opening of the show there is a scene of Takeo atop the Empire State Building, an allusion to King Kong. Takeo is similar to King Kong in that he is enormous, his size causes others to fear him and to misunderstand him, but beneath that scary exterior lies a heart of gold. It is only when people get to know Takeo better, do they start to realize how great of a person he is. Going back to the Sailor Moon reference, the male lead Tuxedo Mask is a handsome, mysterious, bishounen type character, everything Takeo is not which I found refreshing. There is a complaint that Takeo is far too simplistic of a character. Some find this annoying, but others like myself find it endearing. No matter how many times Takeo said “I love her,” I never once found it annoying because I felt the character was being genuine to himself.
Besides Takeo the other main leads are Yamato and Suna. Suna is Takeo’s good looking best friend and Yamato is the girl Takeo loves. The three characters have great chemistry with one another. Perhaps some of the best moments are when Suna and Takeo play off one another. The two complement each other so well with Takeo being very blunt and direct while Suna being more reserved and laid back. The anime spent time to show their history in the form of flashbacks. Usually I am not a fan of flashbacks but some of these flashbacks were so funny and cute that they were a joy to watch. The flashbacks also helped to make these characters feel more real and genuine. I would classify Yamato as being a “girly girl” who is very cute and reminds me of a rabbit with large eyes. As a love interest she would be any person’s ideal. However as a stand alone character she is far less interesting. The only thing I know about her that is not related to Takeo is she is a good at making desserts. With so much time and emphasis being placed on exploring the background of Takeo and Suna, I would have liked to have learned more about the female lead.
This is where Ore Monogatari falls flat. I have begrudgingly acknowledged that aside from Takeo not being a bishounen lead, Ore Monogatari appears to follow the standard shoujo format I have come to expect. The male leads saves the female lead from being groped on a train, romance ensues. It is always Takeo who saves the day with Yamato or her friends being a damsel in distress. The conflict of whether Takeo gets the girl, gets resolved very early in the series. This is a 24 episode series, after that initial conflict nothing much if anything happens. Instead the show begins to shift focus on secondary characters and simple misunderstandings between the leads. I did enjoy some of these shifts in focus, but in a 24 episode series I would expect more focus to be placed on the leads themselves. Especially when this anime is named “My Love Story!!”.
I feel the main problem with the leads are that they are too perfect. Takeo may not be the ideal boyfriend but he always does the right thing and Yamato is the perfect girlfriend. This makes the show fairly predictable even in the finale. However in a real relationship people are not always perfect, they fight, they argue. Simple misunderstandings tend to evolve into something more serious. It can be argued that this romance anime is meant to portray young, teenage love and that the two have not reached a sour point in their relationship. That is fine, however the fact remains that this is a 24 episode series, there is opportunity for more than just budding love.
Ore Monogatari reminds me of a one shot romance manga. For those unfamiliar, a one shot manga is a manga with only one chapter. I make this comparison because I feel as though Ore Monogatari does not have enough substance to warrant it being a 24 episode series, it could have easily been cut down to 12. Lastly I will say that I strongly identified with Takeo’s struggles of having a low self esteem, thinking you are worthless, placing others ahead of one’s self. It was one of the reasons why I first loved this anime. However this theme is only brought up in the beginning and ending of this anime, this theme is so strong that I wish they would have brought it up more. This and other dark moments of the show are when I felt the most engaged. However the show brushes off many of these moments and never addresses them again.
The style very much follows the standard art conventions of shoujo anime. Soft colour palette, characters with large eyes, Suna looking like the typical bishounen character. I would be lying if I said there was anything extraordinary or different when it comes to art and animation. I will say it is all very fitting, the whole point of this artstyle is to give a sense of warmth and feeling of Kawaii, and that is exactly what it gave me. The cutest parts are the inner monologues some characters have, where their thoughts and feelings get physically manifested by cute little drawings. The artstyle is noticeably simplistic, and some scenes feel washed out. It is almost as though the show is run through one filter when some scenes would do better without it. In regards to the characters designs, Takeo is huge and Yamato is petite. When the two are together their physical characteristics are highlighted. For example when Takeo and Yamato hold hands, her hand looks at though it were a baby’s hand next to his. There was a joke made by one of Yamato’s friends about how they would kiss. When I picture it in my head I can’t help but laugh, I keep picturing Takeo’s enormous lips and I wonder how exactly it would work. My point is, I wonder if the character designs inhibits the anime from being taken very seriously. I get that Takeo is drawn this way to play up the laughs, but perhaps it is a double edged sword.
I feel as though this is Ore Monogatari’s most overlooked aspect. I would describe the musical score as being subtle and whimsical with a soundtrack that at times can be flat out gorgeous. The group responsible for the musical score and soundtrack is S.E.N.S, the duo also did the music for Kimi Ni Todoke which has a similar feel to this series. However I would say this is a vast improvement mainly due to the added orchestral elements to this soundtrack. Often a track starts with a simple melody on the piano or guitar but then orchestral instruments like the violin, harp and flute fill in the empty spaces. Many tracks like “Story of Mind”, swell to a climax that allows the listener to succumb to a state of euphoria. The issue is that the musical score for this anime mostly uses that first thirty seconds in a track where it is often fairly simplistic. There are tracks like “Hurry Up” and “Dull” where I had to take off my headphones and make sure I was listening to the right soundtrack. At a certain point songs can get very complex with many underlying tones. I understand that the score has to fit the anime and the producers wanted the show to have a warm simplistic feel, however I do feel bad for S.E.N.S. because it feels as though many of their efforts had gone to waste. There must have been a better way of incorporating this beautiful soundtrack into the score.
This is a romantic comedy and S.E.N.S were able to make the comedic score not sound juvenile by using Takeo’s physical and mental characteristics. An example of this is the song “Eye of the TAKEO” which is an allusion to Eye of the Tiger from Rocky III, however sounds more like Rocky’s theme from the original Rocky film. Takeo is often compared to a gorilla and S.E.N.S play this up by producing tracks like “Clumsy” and “Health First” that sound like they could come from a Donkey Kong video game; they even subtly incorporate 8 bit music to the track. The one aspect I wish the soundtrack and score used more of were jazz tracks which I thought would complement the tone of the show perfectly.
The voice acting was very fitting however I will say that some voices can be polarizing. What can seem very cute and sweet to one person can sound very annoying to another. An example of this is Yamato’s high toned voice that has a very distinct accent. I would like to give a special hand to Takuya Eguchi who is the voice of Takeo as well as Hachiman from Yahari Ore No Seishun Love Comedy. These two characters couldn’t be more different both in voice and characteristics which helps to emphasize Eguchi’s range as a voice actor.
Sound: 7/10 (Would be higher if they could have used the soundtrack better)
While Takeo is looked down upon by many females of the show, every male character who meets Takeo loves him. Takeo is manly, great at sports, all the girls don’t fawn over him, honest, loyal and always has your back. Someone you want to be friends with. I think that is why so many guys I have talked to, including me, fell in love with this show. We do not want to see some pretty boy have all the girls fall in love with him and also get the female lead. We relate to Takeo’s struggles of self esteem, not being incredibly handsome and being awkward around girls. That is why I feel that Ore Monogatari is a great introduction to shoujo for many male fans who like me were initially wary of the genre. I have heard of other great shoujo shows and now I want to explore the genre more. I think this show is perfect for couples out there to watch together. I see tons of articles like “Chick Flicks Your Boyfriend Will Love”, I feel this would be the anime equivalent of a movie on that list. The show does have it’s faults, flat characters, lack of plot progression, repetitiveness, reliance on tropes, however the characters are so endearing that many of these faults can be overlooked. That being said endearment can be polarizing, if you don’t enjoy this anime 3 episode in I would recommend you to drop it.