Yamato might be kind, and the apple of Takeo’s eye, but she is oblivious to the fact that she is in a love triangle in Volume 9 of My Love Story. Her boss, the chef Ichinose, discovers that Yamato is his pastry muse, and tells Takeo to break up with her, because she will be happier with the pastry chef than a high school sophomore, and he needs her pastry muse power in order to create tasty treats. Ichinose doesn’t stop there, and in a horrible but bitterly humorous diatribe, belabors the point by stating that not only would Takeo have more in common with savages, gorillas, and bears, but he’d have more to talk about with these non-speaking animals.
Yamato is not present for this exchange, and as she is very happy working for the pastry shop, Les Cerises, Takeo can’t bear to disillusion her with his knowledge that her boss is a snob and a creep. Additionally, Takeo is too kind-hearted to see how vile Ichinose is himself, and even after being told that he should mate with animals, he can’t help but see things from Ichinose’s point of view. Because Takeo is gigantic, other characters mistake his introspection for stupidity, but the reader gets to see that Takeo’s wheels are always spinning. The villain of volume 9, Ichinose, contrasts quite well with Takeo, because as the former’s vain ambition to create the perfect pastry sample leaves him with just enough room in his tiny heart to believe that he loves Yamato, and nothing but contempt for Takeo or anything else, Takeo loves her so much that he daily loses the struggle just to say her first name.
“Beauty and the beast” is one word used by other reviewers to describe volumes in this series, and I just don’t see it, as Takeo, unlike the Beast of the fairy tale, has no resentment or bitterness in his heart. I highly recommend the addition of My Love Story to your reading pile, not because it is reminiscent of old fairy tale and literary archetypes, because it is not, but because it is a striking new fairy tale for our times. My Love Story is a fairy tale of “Outer Beauty and Inner Beauty,” which, as I can’t find a fairy tale analogue online, may be best expressed in this manga. If Takeo was a Beast at heart like the fairy tale character, My Love Story would not be so original. But Kazune Kawahara and Aruko have found in Takeo a protagonist that is not only unique, but also still manages to feel uncontrived—unlike the many other Gentle Giants of literature, which are often tortured with other faults, e.g. Lenny in Of Mice and Men. In his own way, Takeo is just as beautiful as Yamato: he has grace, strength of character, and enough humility not to know that Yamato will never leave him because of these beautiful attributes, or for being true to himself.
Editor’s Note: My Love Story Vol. 9 was released to stores on July 5th, 2016. Viz Media provided the review copy.