Ep. 92 – My Love Story!! vol. 1 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
The Mangasplainers dig into a “Missed Connection” from a prior episode, as Deb hosts a rollicking discussion of My Love Story!! By Kazune Kawahara and Aruko! This shoujo manga turns a lot of the conventions of the genre on its head, but will that mean the crew enjoys it more… or LESS? A very fun episode of the podcast awaits!
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IN THIS EPISODE
00:00 My Love Story!! vol. 1 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
49:23 THE BREAK
50:00 We pick new books! A fun isekai story, a kooky grown-up romcom and the manga that almost everyone recommended we put in front of Chip… and now we will!
My Love Story!! vol. 1
By Kazune Kawahara and Aruko
Translated by: JN Productions
Editor: Amy Yu
Lettering: Mark McMurray
Design: Fawn Lau
Published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media Available in print / digital.
FREE PREVIEW: https://www.viz.com/read/manga/my-love-story-volume-1/product/3458
Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki
BEFORE WE GET STARTED
Hi it’s Christopher! This is a pretty fun episode! It stops being STRICTLY family-friendly just before we go to the break with a particularly spicy story, but it’s still a good time. Hope you enjoy!
ABOUT KAZUNE KAWAHARA
Born March 11, 1972 in Hokkaido, Japan, Kazune Kawahara is best known as the creator of the romcom shoujo manga High School Debut, originally released beginning in 2003 and published in English in 13 volumes by VIZ Media. That title was a huge hit, getting a live-action film, light novels, and even some merch if I remember correctly.
[DEB:] High School Debut is one of my favorite shojo manga series. It’s about a gal who is super sporty in middle school (she’s a softball player) who decides that she wants a ‘glow-up’ / makeover when she enters high school. She meets a classmate who’s good-looking, but kind of not into the idea of dating anyone. He agrees to coach her to be the kind of girl guys want to date, but on one condition: that she not fall in love with him. And haha, we all know how THAT will go, amirite? But like My Love Story!!, High School Debut shows how Kawahara is so good at turning shojo manga tropes slightly sidewards and creating characters and relationships that are quirky and endearing at the same time. If you love My Love Story!! do pick this up as well.
VIZ’s English edition of High School Debut came out in 2008 and wrapped up in 2010.
But then a curious thing happened, two more volumes of High School Debut came out! Volume 14 released in Japan in 2011, and volume 15 released in Japan in 2013! These volumes were never separately released by VIZ, probably because the original license was only for the first 13, and probably because releasing a random volume 14 or 15 would be a financially interesting decision. But fear not, fans! VIZ would let those original editions go out of print, and reprint the series in five 3-in-1 editions, and the fifth volume contains the previously unpublished volumes 14 and 15! So all’s well that ends well.
While Kawahara-sensei has had many, many series in Japanese, it took four years for her next English-language release, the 13-volume series Ore Monogatari, or in English, My Love Story!!, which is today’s read! This time, Kawahara partnered with artist Aruko to tell the story, and it did really well in Japan too! This one got a 24-episode TV anime series, as well as a live action movie.
It’s available to watch on Crunchyroll. You can also watch it on Hulu, or download-to-own on Amazon Prime.
I think the anime looks pretty good, and it has solid reviews! The live-action on the other hand…
Like… I dunno. It loses some of the charm.
Anyway, since My Love Story!! wrapped up in 2017 with volume 13, Kawahara hasn’t had any new English-language releases… But good news! I was just doing a search on Amazon, and it looks like Kawahara will get a new release at the end of this year! Seven Seas will release The Secret of Friendship, a one-volume shojo series written by Kawahara and illustrated by Aiji Yamakawa (nothing else in English). I don’t know if it’s officially announced but it’s up on Amazon, so, uh, hopefully Seven Seas isn’t too pissed at me today.
Born July 26th in Ishikawa Prefecture, Aruko (pen-name! no picture online!) made her debut with the short-story “Ame no Chi Hare” in 1999, and created a number of short works until her first serialized hit, Yasuko and Kenji in 2005, about Kenji, a former delinquent who becomes a shojo manga creator to help support his family, including his younger sister Yasuko.
Her entire career is full of short stories and one-off volumes, and she seems like an interesting creator!
Aruko’s big breakthrough came as she illustrated Ore Monogatari!! a.k.a. today’s title My Love Story!! Running 13 volumes from 2011-2016, as we mentioned above the story did very well in Japan. After taking a few years off to release short stories and maybe rest a little, Aruko leapt into her next story, partnering with author Wateru Hinekure on My Love Mix-Up!, which we read earlier on this podcast!
And from there we sort of roll right into this week’s episode..
01:45 Here’s how VIZ Media describes My Love Story!!
A gentle giant with a heart of gold finally stops being a love underdog in this hilarious romantic comedy!
Takeo can hardly believe it when he crosses paths with Yamato again, and he finds himself falling in love with her… But with handsome Sunakawa around, does Takeo even stand a chance?VIZ Media
[DEB:] We didn’t mention this on the podcast but there was also a Nisekoi / My Love Story!! crossover story!
[CHRISTOPHER:] Both titles are Shueisha, running in different magazines, which makes a crossover sort of very cool and rare! There were actually two crossovers, a “Girls Side” which ran in shojo manga magazine Margaret and a “Boys Side” and the “Boys Side” ran in Shonen Jump’s digital magazine.
I went looking to see if this was still legally available to read (It’s not, it’s been removed from the Shonen Jump app) and it also pulled up this crossover, between My Love Story!! and the manga Aoi Ride:
Which is like… wild. Lol. Anyway, Niseoki, My Love Story!!, and Ao Haru Ride (or Blue Spring Ride as it’s localized for the anime version) are all published in English by VIZ, but for whatever reason none of these special chapters is available to read legally online.
But I’m sure you know how Google works.
03:56 “I want a guy that looks like the kinda guy guys like.” There’s a page-long introductory text piece to this volume from the author, Kawahara, and since we reference it a few times, as well as this image of Takeo by Kawahara instead of by Aruko, I want to share the whole page here.
One of the things I like about shojo manga, that kind of threw Chip when we read our first shojo back in the day, is these kind of notes from the author directly to the readers, which tend to replace pages/section where advertisements would otherwise run, and they need something to preserve pagination. I love hearing the whys and wherefores of how a comic comes together, and in shojo you get it in the book, not just in interviews later. Although you get that too!
David then mentions ‘big dude’ Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho, who doesn’t look THAT dissimilar to Takeo.
09:35 The reaction faces in this are fantastic, and Takeo Gouda is constantly pulling great over-the-top reactions in this, and they get better and better as the series progresses.
11:20 Turns out Tsuna’s older sister has always had a crush on Gouda, and you start to realize that this dude’s self-image isn’t entirely lining up with how everyone sees him.
12:04 So yeah. Jaian, Gian, Big G, aka Gouda Takeshi from Doraemon is one of the neighbourhood kids that bullies Nobita, the human protagonist of Doraemon. The robot-cat protagonist of Doraemon being, uh, Doraemon himself.
He’s clearly the ‘bad guy’ in the series, when the bad-guy isn’t Doraemon’s over-the-top, Cat-in-the-Hat-esque inventions going awry. And he’s something of a type, and an icon, in Japanese culture because of Doraemon’s long history. And he wears a Charlie Brown shirt sometimes.
Which makes it cool and interesting that, without drawing too much attention to it in the text itself, Kawahara and Aruko named the protagonist of My Love Story!! Takeo Goda (剛田 猛男, Gōda Takeo), after Doraemon’s Takeshi Gōda (剛田 武, Gōda Takeshi). Their last names even use the same characters, and young Takeo in My Love Story!! Doesn’t look entirely dissimilar to the character.
So yeah, that’s a really nice homage, one I didn’t pick up on my first read through, and I’m glad that we re-read this one.
Pronunciation note: In Japanese, Gouda is pronounced more like Goh-dah, with a long O, not like Goo-dah, like the cheese. For point of reference.
12:45 Christopher mentions the gay manga anthology MASSIVE, which we read here on the podcast and which has a few ‘bigger’ protagonists.
13:55 All straight dudes get together and practice kissing, to make sure they’re doing it right, right?
14:25 We reference the “Blue Ogre, Red Ogre” story, which is a neat little shorthand by the author that introduces their relationship.
18:00 Takeo pulls off a few nearly-superhuman feats of strength in this series, like this bit from volume 1, where he catches a falling I-beam:
Or this part from volume 2 where he leaps from a burning building!
20:30 This core tenet of this shojo will-they-won’t-they, “All the girls love my hot friend, and since he seems to be nice to her, I’ll put my own feelings aside,” is pretty well done! Poor Takeo! It’s handled really well here, but the best thing this series does is to resolve that idea quickly, and let the characters grow and have other problems for a little while.
24:02 Moonlighting is an American dramedy television series that aired in primetime from 1985 to 1989. The premise of the series, which starred Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis, centered around two private detectives who bickered constantly, but had a simmering sexual tension. That tension eventually erupted into an episode at the end of the third season where like, the will-they-or-won’t-they vibe fully went they will, with a surprisingly long, rolling around on the floor scene, that pushed the boundaries of what’s showable on network TV sort of thing when it first aired.
While it resolved the romantic tension that was building up for a while, it’s generally conceded that after the pair ‘got together,’ a lot of the appeal of the story was lost. From there, the ratings for this series dropped, and it limped to a finish with season 5.
Anyway, I have no idea if it holds up, I can’t imagine the sexual politics hold up, but typing it into YouTube turned up basically the whole series to watch. So, I dunno, if you’re curious to see when Bruce Willis was America’s Heartthrob, go check it out.
25:52 David didn’t sparkle it, he beeped it, but I forgive him. But since we keep mentioning Fuyumi Soryo’s Mars, a shojo manga series that we covered as a bonus-read in our Witch Hat Atelier episode.
Also: I got a little real there. Whoops!
26:58 Deb really liked these Cat Miniatures at Comitia.
Comitia is more than just doujinshi (although the doujinshi is my favourite part). Here’s Deb’s thread from that Comitia excursion, with links to these miniatures and so much more!
28:50 The holding hands gag is very good.
29:40 The difference in emoji usage between protagonist Takeo Goda and girlfriend Rinko Yamato is a running gag through the first volume, but it’s also used to show how Rinko hides her true feelings behind emoji, where Takao needs to add a few in to communicate his.
32:10 We mention the manga AJIN, another manga that we previously read on the podcast, mostly because it’s another example where the writer and artist “parted ways” and the artist continued with the series by taking on the writing himself! And it got WAY BETTER too. It’s wild. Go listen to that episode.
32:22 Macho men making faces, on page 107. That’s wild, Aruko draws him at like, Incredible Hulk sizes here, for effect.
33:08 David mentions the graphic novel Road to Perdition (a graphic novel that also got adapted as a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks!) by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. He also mentions the spin-off graphic novels On the Road to Perdition, which featured art by José Luis García-López and Steve Lieber.
33:50 Here’s that image from the front of the book again, where writer Kawahara draws her version of Goda.
Worth noting that these interviews, notes, and insights from the creators continue through all of the volumes of My Love Story!! There’s a pretty significant interview at the end of volume 2, and lots of other bits and bobs throughout the series.
35:36 This is an excellent bit of physical comedy that might normally be hard to coordinate between a separate writer and artist, but works really well here. Like Chip, I’d love to know how tightly scripted this was, or whether this came from the writer, or from the artist, etc. Very cool though!
37:15 Christopher recommends the out-of-print manga series Love Roma by Minory Toyoda. This five volume series isn’t too far away from My Love Story!!, with two middle school kids who like each other end up slowly learning what it means to be together. Super cute, very weird. Published by Del Rey back in the day, but not picked up by Kodansha during the merger. It doesn’t look TOO expensive on the secondhand book market, although volume 5 apparently had a low enough print run that there isn’t even an Amazon listing for it. Anyway, it’s pretty cute, low-impact manga. Check it out if you get a chance.
38:15 Meanwhile, a book that IS NOT OUT OF PRINT is Frederik Schodt’s Manga Manga, and it’s basically THE introduction to manga, or at least was, for a generation of readers. It, along with its partner title Dreamland Japan, were the first/best big books on the medium, and they still remain relevant and important today. We mentioned them in last week’s episode too, but yeah: Go get yourself a copy.
Oh, and good news! Dreamland Japan is available as an ebook from Stonebridge Press. I just picked that up to re-read.
40:15 So there is a lot of… fanservice… shall we say… given to the potential romantic angle between Suna and Takeo. It’s not particularly subtle. Here’s a bit from volume 2.
But it never feels bad, at least not to me. In the same book, in order to save money for a birthday gift for Rinko, Takeo goes to work at a gay muscle cafe/bar. It also is not subtle.
There’s a lot of BL and BL-adjacent shojo that basically just pretends that gay people aren’t real, and these two characters who have intense feelings for each other are like, unicorns, wholly unique in the world. Not so! They’re just people who have a complicated lifelong friendship, who are still developing and figuring stuff out along the way. It’s… It’s really good.
As for Muscle Cafes, here’s YouTube channel Tokyo BTM’s visit to a Men’s Muscle Cafe in the gay district of Shinjuku, where we find out that even in a ‘gay’ bar, many of the muscle dudes there just see it as a job, and aren’t necessarily gay/bi/queer/etc.:
Meanwhile, David mentions Ladies Muscle Cafes, which captivates Chip for the rest of the episode. And yeah, I should point out that we recorded this episode back in January, and then just this month Connor from Trash Taste went to one of those Ladies Muscle Bars, and made a VERY POPULAR VIDEO about it on the internet:
42:24 Yeah, there’s a history of queer erasure in media and culture in general, yadda yadda yadda, and the Studio Ghibli movie Ocean Waves is ‘rumored’ to be a big part of that. You can read the i-D Magazine/Vice article on it if you’re a reader, or if you’re ready for even more YouTube content, you can check out the original video essay linked in that article.
45:45 Fun Fact: I went to Hooters since we recorded this episode. It’s more of an American theme restaurant, reasonably family-friendly, here in Taipei. Also here in Taipei, it’s kinda upscale. The wings are great though.
46:25 Man, David bleeped me out saying “f**k” but left “swingin’ Neo Dicks” in there. NICE.
47:31 Finally, let’s end this episode with a picture from the karaoke portion of mine and my husband’s bachelor party, where Chip stripped for us as a Hot Cop. Thanks Chip. <3
49:23: THE BREAK
50:00 It’s time to pick new books!
First up, Christopher mentions that the teaser trailer for the Pluto anime dropped. Look for it on Netflix later this year:
So in honor of that, Christopher recommends the print-only title Pluto Volume 1, by Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki from VIZ Media
Luckily, Chip was able to get a physical copy of the book in time, so look for our chat on this manga in an upcoming episode. Also, SPOILER: We didn’t all read the original Astro Boy story. I forgot to remind everyone and we ran out of time.
However, if you feel so inclined, you can read Dark Horse’s edition of Astro Boy vol 3 to read the original Tezuka story that was adapted into Pluto. SPOILER: It is VERY different in a lot of fascinating ways.
David recommends the manga My Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! By Nami Hidaka, based on the novels by Satoru Yamaguchi. That’s right folks, we’re doing an isekai. Get a headstart on this one by picking up the manga from Seven Seas:
Deb is the “umeboshi”, or pickled sour plum, as it were here, and recommends the ‘kind of grown-up but maybe not really? romcom The Untouchable Midori-kun by Toyo Toyota from Kodansha. Long-time listeners may remember that she made this digital-only title one of her shout-outs way, way back.
And speaking of shout-outs:
CHRISTOPHER shouts-out Tokyo BTM, which also had a video on a STRAIGHT muscle-bar, in Akasaka. But how straight could it possibly be? Also, love that they charge different prices for men and women. Lol.
DAVID shouts-out two artbook collections by Katsuya Terada, SKETCH and RAKUGAKING, which are available at your local cool book shop, Kinokuniya, or online (though Rakugaking might be OOP).
Sketch is published by PIE Books – https://pie.co.jp/book/i/5427/?lang=america
Also worth noting that our friends at DENPA have a brand new title out by Katsuya Terada, Rakuda Laughs! Go check it out at theRightStuf site!!
Fun extra: Here’s Deb’s video of Katsuya Terada drawing The Monkey King at San Diego Comic-Con. I think this is a drawing she later gave to David?
CHIP shouts-out Ambulance by Michael Bay, on David’s recommendation from earlier in the season. Jake Gyllenhall is dreamy, isn’t he? <3
DEB shouts-out the Oshi No Ko manga, by Aka Akasaka and Mengo Yokoyari. This particular manga is completely bonkers, and every volume gets crazier and crazier. It’s about a pop idol, her doctor, her secret children, just…? Deb really oughta make Chip read it at one point, it’s wild. Out now from Yen Press.
[DEB:] The anime series just debuted on HiDive and it’s… A LOT. It does require subscribing to HiDive, but this one just might make it worth your while…
So after Chip chooses the books in order, that means the future reads will be:
Ep. 93 Bleach vol 1 & vol. 55
Ep. 94 Pop Team Epic vol 1
Ep. 95 The Boxer vol. 1
Ep. 96 The untouchable Midori-kun vol 1 & 2
Ep. 97 My Life as a Villainess: All Paths Lead to Doom! vol 1
Ep. 98 Pluto vol. 1
But honestly, there MIGHT be a special interview episode in there somewhere, as we’ve recorded it already, but it’s gonna be timed to coincide with something cool.
So yeah, lots of fun stuff is coming up!
And to answer a question from Twitter: As of today, all of those episodes above are recorded, so we’re not going anywhere. We were just on a bit of a break. 😉
And that’s this week in Mangasplaining! This episode is also available wherever you get your podcasts, so please subscribe and leave a review, so others can discover our show.
Also, if you’d like to get the latest episode delivered straight to your inbox along with exclusive interviews, articles and new chapters of manga you can’t read anywhere else, subscribe to our Substack newsletter. See what you’re missing at Mangasplaining Extra!
Next week on Mangasplaining:
Get ready for our next episode, Bleach vol 1 & vol. 55, hosted by David!
Thanks so much for listening! Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment for this episode.
Love the show! And I have a small request: would you consider either doing traditional bleeps for swearing or just foregoing the censoring all together? The reverse audio censor frequently sounds like an audio glitch or blip which distracts from the conversation and takes me out of the podcast as I try to figure out what was being said- and by that point I have to rewind to re-listen to the last 15 seconds.
You don’t censor the word “shit” when said during the podcast and the actual content of the show (especially this episode with Chip taking about strip clubs and Deb recommending a book about porn stars) is particularly kid friendly, so I don’t think censoring “fuck” is particularly necessary. Unless it’s the only trigger word that gives you the “explicit” tag on podcast apps.
Thanks for the great work and I look forward to the Pluto episode!
I bought volume one of My Love Story when it first came out from Viz, and felt basically the same way all of you seem to feel about it. Yet, for some reason I never bought another volume (to be fair, back then, due to work and money, I dropped a lot of manga titles that I enjoyed but wasn’t desperate for each new volume.) Listening to this makes me think I should at least check out volume 2, or maybe the anime…
As always, love how often Manga! Manga! gets mentioned. As I said in previous show notes, I honestly think it would be a *very* quick read for Chip. Yeah it’s relatively thick, but it reads extremely quickly. Good to see Dreamland Japan also mentioned in the notes–I remember when it came out, I was expecting a followup to M! M! that would just cover the 15 years since that came out, and so was disappointed by the new approach. But, in hindsight, I can see how it complements the earlier book.
I recently pulled out my copy, and realized that, just as Manga! Manga!’s chapter on shoujo completely informed what classic shoujo titles I still am obsessed with, Dreamland also did. Specifically the short chapters devoted to Banana Fish (how exciting it was that in less than a year after the book was published, Viz started their long, slow, serialization of Banana Fish,) and Reiko Okano’s josei classic Fancy Dance (which was kinda a phenomenon apparently in Japan in the 80s and now I never see mentioned among Western *or* Japanese fans.)
Schodt also talks a lot more about gay representation in manga at the time and he devotes a small chapter to another 80s josei masterpiece, also from Petit Flower, Wakuni Akisato’s Nemureru Mori no Binan and its follow up Tomoi, about a gay Japanese doctor who moves to NYC to live more openly. Really one of the first attempts at a realistic (though wonderfully melodramatic) depiction of being gay, and also I believe the first Japanese manga to address AIDS. It’ll never come out in English, though fan translations have existed going back to when I was a teen in the 90s, and I appreciated Schodt’s sensitive reading of it (even if, by 2023 standards he seems to be bending over backwards to point out that non gay readers might actually like it too.)
Finally, am I the only person who really loves Ocean’s Waves? I think it’s director Tomomi Mochizuki’s best work (he was brought in to direct on the strength of his work on shoujo OVA Here is Greenwood and the Kimagure Orange Road movie) but maybe it helps that I first saw it at 13 via a fansub (which is why I always think of it as I Can Hear the Ocean) when those kinds of stories spoke to me. Sure it feels homoerotic but then chickens out (but I don’t think that’s on Ghibli as I’ve been told it’s very faithful to the book it’s based on, which also has been adapted to live action with a sequel) but I see it more just about how intense and confusing teen friendships can be. It actually surprised me when, five or so years back, I found so much online about how it was a faux-gay movie, and also a boring one at that.
(But interestingly, the fansub group I got it from back then, Tomodachi Anime, filled the rest of the video with their fansub of a very strange, shoujo sci-fi OVA adaptation of the long Hana to Yume manga, Ryokunohara Labyrinth: Sparkling Phantom which seemed to confuse everyone who had that tape. I loved it–gay weird sci fi complete with a, I now realize, Drifting Classroom homage? Hell ya!)
I’m someone who kinda hates Oshi no Ko and am extremely cynical about it (it really does want to have its cake and eat it too, but so does a lot of Otaku anime and manga I guess?) and yet I wouldn’t mind hearing you all discuss it. Oh and Tokyo BTM deserves all the shout outs.
My Love Story is a favorite of mine. Read a bunch of it on pirate sites back when I didn’t have any money and once I did I went and bought the whole series. Helped that Comixology was having a sale 😀
I really love the bromance between Takeo and Suna, a lot of times it feels just as important as Takeo and Rinko’s relationship. Particularly at the end of Volume 2 at the hospital. That scene consistently turns on the waterworks for me every time I read it.