So, in a season of cuteness, more cuteness comes. When it rains, it pours, as they say. Except Ore Monogatari!!) (or My Love Story!! is a different kind of cute from the moe-heavy offerings the Spring 2015 season has already given us. In fact, with our protagonist openly flaunting the typical standards for attractive character designs, Ore Monogatari!! knows it’s a different kind of show. And so, I’m happy to fulfill my promise of episodic reviews for the next 24 weeks of good shoujo anime. Cheers, and I hope you enjoy!
Whatever I was expecting from Ore Monogatari!!‘s premiere, a Mekaku City Actor-style fairy tale introduction was not it. As an allegory for Takeo Gouda’s life, it’s not all the subtle, but it’s perhaps more revealing of his backstory than is immediately apparent. For me, two big things jump out immediately: 1) the parallel between Gouda and the Red Ogre’s respective inability to connect with those they want to connect with, and 2) the sacrificial nature of the blue ogre’s (Sunakawa, presumably) relationship with the Red Ogre. Without more context from the story proper, it’s difficult to totally unpackage the fairy tale and say how much of it is directly symbolic of Gouda’s life and how much is simply there to facilitate the creation of a specific tone, but it was nonetheless a notable and beautifully drawn introduction for the series.
And so, we begin. It was obvious from the promotional art that Gouda was a…fairly decent-sized human, but it seems Ore Monogatari!! is hell bent on displaying just how much of a departure from your normal anime boys he is. The first shot we get of Gouda after the OP gives a decent sense of just how big this kid (and he is a kid) is. And the second one (god bless his heart) shows just how much of a sentimentalist he is. I really appreciate this kind of efficient storytelling, especially in the introduction. Using the visual to show us both Gouda’s physical persona and the contrasting shot of his face to reveal his personality is funny, quick, and also has the effect of not making a big deal out of his size. We, the audience, already know he doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a shoujo male lead; we don’t need the show to tell us that. Better yet, by not making direct commentary on his height, Ore Monogatari!! normalizes Gouda as the protagonist, rather than sensationalizing him. That’s exactly the way diversity in storytelling needs to happen. (More on that in the future, maybe.)
The title of the episode (“My Story“) also claims the narrative for Gouda definitively. This is his story—not his good looking best friend’s story, not his love interest’s story, not even the red ogre’s story. The actual story’s first divergence from the fairy tale comes right on the heels of the graduation assembly, as we see Gouda surrounded by people wishing him farewell. Whatever his romantic struggles may be, it’s clear Gouda is beloved by his male peers and club kouhais. And it’s from this base understanding of him that we watch our Gouda charge off to confess his feelings to a girl. I don’t think Gouda devalues the relationships he has, by any means, but his somewhat passive acceptance of his friends’ goodbyes contrasts with the fiery agency with which he sets out to make his feelings known and tells us one more thing about this guy: he might just be a bit in love with the idea of being in love.
So, there’s a kind of humorous irony in Makoto Sunakawa’s apparent disinterest in romance (and potentially in people in general) as we see the intensity of the attachments that surround Gouda. Sunakawa himself made a pretty strong impression on me—and not just because he looks a whole heckuva a lot like Chihayafuru‘s Taichi Mashima. His stoicism in the face of pretty much everything excepting Gouda just strikes me as really funny. He’s kind of the straight man to his buddy’s overblown antics, lending a touch of dense common sense to the proceedings of the episode. And I really do appreciate that Ore Monogatari!! is took the time to properly set up this relationship, to explain how to mismatched boys like this could become friends (through their moms!) and to show the chemistry they have together. Presumably, this is going to be an important relationship going forward, so getting it right from the start was important.
It’s a great partnership and friendship (and bromance!?!?), and I really like how the show folded Gouda’s exploits standing guard outside the school into their relationship building as a way to show that Gouda is one of the few people who can get Sunakawa to let down his guard a little bit.
We actually get to see the partnership in action during the groper sequence, as it’s Sunakawa who notices the groper, Gouda who stop him, Sunakawa who tells Rinko they’ve got it handled, and Gouda who brings the perpetrator in. I could say a few things about the who set-up here: not much a fan of using the groper rescue as the hook for Rinko’s infatuation with Gouda, nor of the “she was asking for it” line leading to the punch out, nor really of Gounda’s overly gentlemanly rhetoric. It just happens to rest a little too far over the “girls are helpless by themselves” line for me, but I’m really hoping it will be something mostly constrained to this episode, letting the relationship just develop on its own from here on out.
But the good thing here is that it provides an opportunity for Rinko Yamato to enter the story. It’s pretty obvious already that Gouda, not Sunakawa, is the one she’s smitten with and I kind of like the dynamic of Gouda assuming she likes Sunakawa—not because he’s really all that dense, but just because that’s what he’s used to.
Rinko herself (and you don’t need me to tell you this) is almost tragically cute. I say tragically because of her currently unacknowledged feelings, but the bumbling, nervous way she goes about trying to get to know Gouda is incredibly endearing and gives me a lot of hope that this relationship won’t just be a one-sided case after the girl. As far as a portrayal of a high school girl goes, I’m pretty sold (although Megumi Han’s high register for her is just a tad too tinny for my tastes), especially by her behaviors like worrying about being thought creepy or bringing yet another gift to thank Gouda for returning her phone (a little overboard there, I think, chica) or over being too sweaty.
The rest of the episode’s charms really rest on the reliability of Gouda’s thoughts and the easy chemistry between the three main characters. The depiction of his realization that he like Rinko and his later thought in the bathroom that, “There’s no point in developing feelings for her,” are both sensations and thought processes that I recognize myself. If Ore Monogatari!! can keep up that level of grounded introspection (Sunakawa’s reflections on Rinko and the final line of the episode—”My mom likes ’em“—fall into this category, too) it’s going to be just fine.
As far as everything else goes, Ore Monogatari!! look about how I expected it to look. You can definitely see the Chihayafuru influences in the visual aesthetic, as well as in the direction and in the music, and the whole production has a nice level of charming polish that allows it to be pretty without being overwhelming. The voice acting actually did throw me for a bit of a loop, though. Gouda’s voice is lower than I had expected, Sunakawa’s is higher, and Rinko’s (as I said early) usually rests a few pitches above what I’d like. However, Megumi Han does drop down into a lower register a few times, so maybe Rinko’s high voice is more of an act? Who can say at this point?
Anyways, it was a great premiere and I’m very much looking forward to watching and blogging Ore Monogatari!! from here on out! Gotta keep up my shoujo anime blogging brand. The whole show is cute as heck from both character and relationships standpoints, and I’m very much looking forward to the inevitable adorable romantic antics these kids are going to go through. Here’s a cute Rinko to close things out.
19 thoughts on “Ore Monogatari!!, Episode 1”
Moar shojo shows!!!! This one with bolder character design on the protagonist. I was afraid that I’d be put off by it, but I realized that I actually don’t mind it at all and it isn’t an issue.
Yeah, I was afraid Gouda’s design might be a little difficult to reconcile with my moe-loving tastes, but he actually comes across quite endearing!
Paired with his personality it’s great, and his occasional sulking.
Just happened to add this one to my queue yesterday morning, right before it premiered.
Interesting premise, decently done setup, a little trope bending… but it could be a long twenty four weeks depending on how they play it. Sometimes the will-they-won’t-they game is played just too long, and sucks the life out of what otherwise was an enjoyable series.
One of the reasons I loved Sakura Trick is that right off the bat they established the relationship between the two MC’s and the rest of the season was spent working out the consequences of their choice rather than avoiding making one. Gekkan Shōjo Nozaki-kun took a different route by mixing the romantic comedy in with school comedy and mangaka comedy.
So, I’m looking forward to see how it goes. Hopefully the unconventional MC presages many good things to come.
The manga readers seem pretty united in their praise for the series, but I don’t know if that just means they’re all shoujo manga fans who are accustomed to/eager to see the “will-they-won’t-they” game play out. Hopefully it is a bit more innovative than that!
Well, one of the difficulties of adapting from a serial manga to a serial anime is that they come out at a different pace. (Monthly vice weekly.) What works in one media, may or may not play well in the other.
YAY you’re covering Ore! I’ll look forward to your posts!!! 😀
This show had me squealing “kawaiiii!” last night. There’s not much to say besides it was just a really solid first episode! 😀
I promised I would, didn’t I? 😀
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Hmm, it feels like I’m the only person who didn’t really like this episode. Takeo Gouda didn’t really come across as “real” to me. It felt like he was a caricature of a strong man, rather than realistic individual.
As well, the entire episode felt a bit too sweet, lacking the “bite” a good romance has. Which is somewhat odd, given that Takeo basically decided to give up on romance and be a wingman. That choice should have added an edge to the show, but it somehow didn’t.
Interesting point about Gouda. I definitely see where you’re coming from with the whole “caricature” idea and I certainly think they do run the risk of him falling into that place. But, for me, it was the small details (“My mom likes ’em”) that kept him out of that range of characterization.
Your second point is making a lot of sense to me, too. Could the show just be too nice? I guess we’ll find out, huh…
The thing about Gouda is that he reminds me of Akaishi, a secondary character from Cross Game. Only Akaishi is a much, much stronger character, even from just his appearances in the very first episode.
Of course, Cross Game is an absolute top-tier show, so it’s a little unfair to compare Ore Monogatari to it.
And with this episode, the last of the season premieres on my list is complete.
+ All three main characters are immediately likeable and engaging people. No small thing in a genre that’s notorious for its unlikeable/jerk-ish male leads.
+ Takeo is a hilarious protagonist. Almost everything he did had me cracking up, from his “guard duty” at the elementary school to eating most of Yamato’s cake by himself (I know Sunakawa had a slice, but did Yamato get one at all?). Of course, I absolutely love cheesecake myself, so I totally get it.
+ The animation is great, as one usually expects from Madhouse, and the soundtrack complimented it nicely.
– Yamato’s almost TOO cute, with her Bambi eyes and uber-moe voice. This was one of the trailers I showed the kids in my anime club this week (more on that another time), and one of the girls said afterward that she thought Yamato seemed a bit creepy. Obviously she isn’t once you’ve actually seen the episode, but the moe-ness did make it a little harder for me to take her seriously. Hopefully time and character development will fix that problem.
– Like Derek, I’m also concerned about the will-they/won’t-they game. I don’t care how much a series shipteases us if romance isn’t the main focus of the story anyway (see: Kyon x Haruhi), or if the story is so rich that there’s a lot more to enjoy about it than just the romantic plot (see: Ryuuji x Taiga). But when a romance series builds its entire main plot on a foundation of shiptease, I often find myself more frustrated than entertained, because it usually requires so many contrivances and contortions by the author to keep stringing the plot along. This feels like it should be a better show than that, but we’ll see how well it toes the line.
Overall, a very enjoyable episode and an easy keeper.
I wouldn’t be nearly as concerned if this wasn’t a two cour show… The premise, and the small cast, seems a bit thin to support 23 episodes. And I also hope they won’t reach for the other possible over worn tool in the box (one that just occurred to me) – too many episodes about misunderstandings that arise from Gouda’s size and impulsiveness.
Don’t get me wrong, based on the first ep this is a keeper beyond question, it’s just that in a series that long there’s a lot of chances for missteps.
Oh gosh I was watching Takeo eat piece after piece of the cake going, “Dude, no. Dude, no, leave some for Rinko! DUUUUUDDE!!”
This music definitely has some Chihayafuru vibes to it (which is good, as the Chihayafuru OST is one of my favorites—and the only anime OST I own).
Yeah, Yamato’s voice seems to be not generally liked. I was pretty excited for Megumi Han (Gon in Hunter x Hunter) to be acting her, but I wasn’t expecting this. Maybe it’s just initial nervousness or something and she’ll settle into a lower register…
As for the shiptease, Sunakawa seems to be pretty clued into the fact that Rinko has feelings for Takeo, not him, so maybe some of the drama will come from Sunakawa himself maybe being interested in Rinko? Although I didn’t really get the feeling Sunakawa is the type of guy to backstab a friend like that.
I’ve read a few chapters of the manga, and it’s hard to comment properly until at least 2-3 episodes without spoiling anything, so I’ll keep it down for now. But I feel the adaptation is fantastic, and I have high hopes for the future. I do get the complaint of it being too nice and sweet, but well, if this is how I’m going to have diabetes then I’ll do it with no regrets.
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Cool; I’ll be looking forward to hearing some input from a manga reader. And I greatly appreciate you holding off on the spoilers, so maybe we’ll hear back from you in a couple weeks. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the adaptation so far, though!
Tossing in since i saw your review!
Yamato is always really cute but i feel she really will grow on you as a character because she’s really sincere! Also during the groping scene, I did appreciate that she spoke up instead of hiding in a shell and not saying anything. Which is something I’ve seen in a few mangas where the girl 100% clams up.
Also on the high pitched voice. My Japanese friend pointed out that when talking politely, the voice goes up higher. So when Yamato is freaking out about being a creeper, she’s actually kinda dropping her polite speech and speaking a tone lower. With that said it did surprise me on how high pitched it was but I also like it, because I like her.
Oh, I already like Yamato as a character! I think she’s adorable in her nervous agency—it’s super cool that she’s actively doing things on her own already, but you can totally see that she’s trying really hard. Like you said, she spoke up about the groper rather than just getting super scared and quiet. Good stuff.
That’s an interesting point about the vocal register. So, maybe as she gets more comfortable with Gouda and Sunakawa she’ll get less squeaky sounded. This was actually something I was wondering about potentially being intentional since Megumi Han is a very good voice actress.
I really love this anime. It has sense in every episode it makes my heart pound of joy. MORE POWER! Hhahahahahahh this is the anime that i loved most!…….