In My Love Story Volume 12, Takeo’s new project is Tanaka, a maladjusted youth that wants to be friends with Suna because “good-looking people…can be useful,” and that has, via Twitter, chat rooms, and other social networking platforms, abstracted socializing to the point of being antisocial. In short, Tanaka is a stand-in for the twenty-first century’s disconnected citizens that believe themselves connected due to the hypnotic illusions of their cell phone and the reach of their selfie stick. When Tanaka makes the mistake of voicing his disapproval of Takeo, Suna promptly tells Tanaka that he doesn’t like him.
Most people would have nothing more to do with such a despicably superficial person, but Takeo pities Tanaka. And, to be fair, Tanaka is pitiful. Takeo and Suna watch as Tanaka uses his selfie stick to contrive outings with imaginary friends to post to his social media feeds. Takeo manages to crack Tanaka’s antisocial shell through—well, I can’t call it brute force since he’s so friendly, earnest and sympathetic about it, so how about burly amiability?
Takeo’s next obstacle is his hardest one yet, since it is one of the two people dearest to him—Yamato. When Yamato’s dad gets a job in Spain, she not only runs away from home, she puts Takeo on the spot at the train station, so that he feels compelled to come with her. While they’re on the lam, Takeo calls Suna and Mr. Yamato periodically to let them know that they are ok. Takeo cringes as he watches Yamato blow through her savings and is mortified when he discovers that they’ll be sharing a room. The reader gets even more insight into Yamato’s feelings when she signs them in to the hotel under the names “Rinko Yamato” and “Takeo Yamato,” giving Takeo her surname.
While the main continuity of My Love Story Volume 12 ends with Takeo and Yamato still on the run, a bonus manga follows in which Takeo and Suna’s friendship survives the destruction of Suna’s new book. This is all I’m going to say about this chapter, as it’s a funny story that fans will enjoy more if they go into it without too many spoilers.
To what do I attribute the magic of My Love Story, one of my favorite manga and my second favorite anime? Takeo, Yamato, and Suna are such strong exemplars for good people, good behavior, and good friends, that it not only creates a believable bond between them, but also centers the spotlight on the friendship between them so that it becomes a nearly tangible thing. Not that they’re perfect kids; Takeo and Yamato occasionally are entangled in their low self-esteem (such as in volume nine, when both kids were subjected to the advances (Yamato) and insults (Takeo) of Chef Ichinose), and Suna has such impossibly high standards that if Takeo had not muscled into his life, Suna might never have had a friend. If only one of these kids was good, they might have been quite lonely, and the miracle of their friendship is buoyant to the reader.
But My Love Story isn’t as simple as a tale of joie de vivre, as there is significant tension in the unfolding of the narrative, a tension that is not dissipated by the authors’ foreshadowing and the readers’ foreknowledge of events. Kazune Kawahara and Aruko are such consummate storytellers that though we know what is coming, we anticipate it anyway. For instance, when Suna tells Tanaka that he doesn’t like him, that gives long-time fans of My Love Story the pleasure of seeing that coming from a mile away. Similarly, when Yamato calls Takeo to meet him at the train station, and we already know that he’s going with her, we look forward to the way it will unfold. The mangakas disappoint neither the readers’ anticipation nor their prediction; they imbue their slice of life tale with tension though Takeo acts according to common sense—as he sees it, anyway—and the story takes believable turns.
My Love Story volume 12 was one of my favorite chapters in the lives of Takeo, Yamato, and Suna, as not only was it comical, it momentarily became satirical in the pathetic example of Tanaka the social media junkie. Moreover, in Yamato and Takeo’s flight, the creators found a way to return the couple to their heart-wringing origins.
Viz Media sent the review copy.