There are a lot of different ways to watch the same show. Myriad perspectives and ways of reading into a show’s text and subtext exist—and I don’t believe that all those different interpretations are exclusive to our particular headspaces. Why do I bring this up? Because my take on this episode differs somewhat radically from my thoughts on last episode. And that’s okay. I spent a lot of time thinking about what some of you guys said in the comments on my last post and I spent this episode trying to think about it in different, more positive terms. And, you know what? It made for a pretty great experience—much of it thanks to some of the cool things Ore Monogatari!! was doing this week.
For me, the focal point of the episode doesn’t show up until almost the end of the episode, after the match has ended and Yamato, Takeo, and Suna are walking home together. Here, we get one of Takeo’s rare introspective moments:
“What does it mean to be strong? I don’t know. But, Yamato, I want to be a great man.”
On a number of levels, this quote really resonated with me. Personally, physical strength isn’t a quality I particularly value (which perhaps explains some of why the show’s focus on Takeo’s physical prowess as a defining characteristic for him doesn’t really work all that well for me )—but I do understand the abstract concept of wanting to be “strong.” But I’m not usually all that sure what it means to be strong. Does it matter? It doesn’t to Takeo. As he’s pondering what it means to be strong, observing the matches before his own, Takeo ends up considering Yamato’s perpetual gifts of food to him. The juxtaposition between Tsuyoshi’s defined association between masculinity and strength (made explicit by the way Tsuyoshi’s assumption that Takeo’s contact with a feminine presence has weakened him).
But, as Tsuyoshi will later experience and as we already know, Takeo hasn’t become weaker in Yamato’s presence. If anything, he’s been made stronger by it. This isn’t just an affirmation of romance; it’s a denial of the gendered stereotype that femininity is “weak.” The accompaniment to this reversal (ironically played out in the masculine field of sport) is, of course, Yamato’s own strength. As we’ve seen since the beginning, Yamato is nothing if not intrepid and persistent and bold. Her love for Takeo isn’t weak—it’s incredibly strong. Strong enough to make Takeo cry via rice balls. Strong enough to make her see him in the stars. Strong enough, even, to scare her with the force of her feelings.
Which, to tie things back to Takeo, judo, and what this episode was saying about masculinity and long, goes for Takeo, too. His epic training sequence is filtered through his text conversations with Yamato, he appears in sparkling shoujo flowers with her immediately before his match, and, at the end of his training, he just wants to hear her voice (leading to one of the most genuine, beautiful facial expressions we’ve ever seen from him). Yet, at the same time, this is the same man who gets framed in unequivocally strong shots.
In other words, the point Ore Monogatari!! drives home with all of this—climaxing in the quote I noted at the top of the post—is that strength, romance, masculinity, femininity…none of them are important as just being a great person. All of these images and thematic threads that are so often used in opposing contexts are brought together in the judo match at the same time. As Takeo throws Tsuyoshi and wins the match, he always throws down Tsuyoshi’s false ideal of strength.
If that was where things ended, I think I’d have come out of this episode of Ore Monogatari!! talking about how all those characteristics I listed in the prior paragraph work in balance. And, while I still think that’s at least one way to read the episode, I’m more interesting in the way Takeo discounts strength (and, along with it, all those other equalized traits) as a necessity in becoming “great.” Perhaps I’m giving undue emphasis to Takeo’s internal monologue, but I think their rarity (and general excellence) gives me the leeway to do so. Having Takeo himself, the epitome of strength, relieve himself of the need to understand “strength,” I think the audience is led to understand that it’s the third sentence—”I want to be a great man”—is the most important thing that’s been said all episode.
And the fact that this wish is something Takeo addresses to Yamato reaffirms her importance in that wish. Wanting to become a great man, in whatever way that means for Takeo, is a good thing to want. But, I think, wanting to become so for someone else is even better—more selfless, more honorable, more beautiful. And, so, even though I’m still somewhat left wishing we got a little more from Yamato than general lovestruck moeblob behavior, I’m remind that that this is My Love Story!! and that Takeo is the narrator. This is, ultimately, his journey, and I look forward to seeing how he become the great man he wants to be.
 I’ll admit it comes from a somewhat reactionary place. As a thin, lanky kid for most of my sporting years, I was never able to put on muscle the way other people were—and I think I ended up mentally devaluing the worth of physical strength to protect my own ego (and in resistance towards the hyper-masculinized attitudes that our society often links to physical strength).
9 thoughts on “Ore Monogatari!!, Episode 7”
I thought this was a terrific episode. Like you, the “what does it mean to be strong” line really resounded with me. It’s a question that a lot of anime asks and I almost always find their answers to be better than the default Western assumption, which always ends up being some variation on being strong = being tough. Despite the fact that Takeo is physically strong, he’s not the “tough guy” that people seem to assume he is from his appearance. It’s clear that he doesn’t seek that kind of strength. I think he’s well on his way to being a great man and I think if I were Yamato I totally would’ve fallen for Takeo too. 😉
My favorite scene though was both of them seeing constellations of each other in the stars. OMG sooooo cute!
Well, I also do think I’ve seen plenty of anime for which the answer to “what is strength” is either “protecting women” or “beating up other guys,” so I guess I wouldn’t be quite as generous to anime as whole in saying that it’s better than the Western assumption. Which, I guess, means you should hit me up with some of your favorite shows that tackle the question well!
I mean, Takeo doesn’t have to search out physical strength since he already has it—as far as that goes, it was his humility about his strength that really impressed me this episode. There’s no false humility in him.
Hmmm…. I’ve seen plenty of anime where at least one answer to “what is strength” was “protecting people you love” but never “protecting women” specifically. And I’ve seen plenty of anime where “being strong” led to “beating up other guys” but that also always dug deeper into the question than that. My point is that I am able to find dozens of anime that I think treat the question for more maturely and insightfully than I’ve been able to find in more than a handful of Western books and movies I’ve watched from the past few decades. YMMV but that’s just one reason I pretty much exclusively watch anime these days. Of course, I also really enjoy a lot of the mainstream shonen action series whereas it looks like the circles you run in tend to look down on them. So maybe we would just see it differently.
Holy shit Bless, it’s so easy to just dismiss this one as an inconsequential fluff episode, but you went an extra mile and made this really thoughtful post. I’m impressed.
Your post made me realize that I really grow to like Takeo of the latest episodes. I mean, I liked him from the start but more b/c of comedic reasons, while I respected and relate with the guy a lot more after this ep. It really helped that the show has cut down on the more repetitive gags (while still being funny as hell) and put even more focus on Takeo’s mental state and thought process as he navigated the minefield of first relationship…
“….general lovestruck moeblob behavior”
I got the feeling you wanted to be more critical of this 🙂 Yamato’s behavior this ep isn’t really that over the top when I remember some of my own friends’ constantly spazzing out about their first boyfriends back then, and she works really well as Takeo’s romantic foil obviously, but as her own person her relative one-dimensionality really sticks out compared to the other leads. Forget the bros, I found Ai to be a more nuanced, fleshed out, and interesting character with just about a third of Yamato’s screentime.
Eheheheh thankssss ^_^”
As far as I’m concerned, the more of Takeo’s internal thoughts we get, the better. His headspace is so authentic and (in a sense) simple, but it has a sort of profundity to it, as well.
Yeah, it’s not so much the specifics of Yamato’s behavior as it is that she’s well…not done all that much besides being totally head over heels for Takeo—while Takeo is getting to do all sorts of neat stuff. I crave more depth to Yamato’s character and the longer we go without getting it, the more suspicious I am of the show’s intentions for her.
I loved this episode with the text conversations and star constellations! And the variation on the Rocky theme, which is one of my favorite movies! XD And yes, Takeo wanting to be great for Yamato was wonderful! I love their relationship, as they’re learning to communicate and trust each other in mature ways–it’s very encouraging for me to see. And Suna is the great best friend ever!
Suna is like the ultimate facilitator of healthy communication—dismissing understanding for both Takeo and Yamato as they arise. Which is super cool, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them work thought one of these conflicts on their own…
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Thoughtful posts like these are just ♡!
I find it hard to relate the Takeo myself, sometimes, and the macho behavior doesn’t help with that (“if u were a man, you’d!”), but ya can’t help but feels inspired by his earnestness and humility. Those qualities plus his desire to question the truth of himself in his world, are the kind of building blocks to personal growth I hope I never lose out on.
Thankssss 🙂 ❤
I also don’t relate to Takeo and his macho behavior, but I do love that the way he expresses his masculinity is funneled through humility, earnestness, and an utter lack of imposition on others. Like, yes, he always runs that “If you were a man!” line at Suna, but it feels much more like a friendship-level of discourse than an actual admonishment. He’s making a choice to be a certain type of person because that’s what he wants, and that’s absolutely great.