Watching a recent episode of My Love Story I got thinking about how realistic and down to earth the series is being. Sure there are most certainly a few things that are a little on the crazy side, but for the most part it’s doing better than Kiss Him, Not Me for example.
Of course most of us read manga and watch anime and don’t really expect or want it to be down to earth and completely realistic, but in some ways I think it’s important to have a few series that break the trend of being completely sakura blossoms and overblown teenage feelings. Lets take a favourite series of mine, Say I Love You as a perfect example of what I’m going for here. The story is focused on shy Mei who has never really had any friends and certainly isn’t thinking of dating, but when she meets Yamato that slowly changes and the two of them must work through their problems, very real problems that couples have, if they wish to stay together. What makes this better is that the manga, given it has more time than the 13 episode anime, deals with a lot of problems that everyday kids go through at one point or another. I appricate the series a hell of a lot for this, especially author Kanae Hazuko who is heavily writing from her own personal experience.
In the case of My Love Story we’re dealing with Takeo who has never been attractive to the girls, who all much preferred his best friend, and has resigned himself to thinking that Rinko Yamato whom he one day saves is also in love with his best friend as well. Even once we move past this stage of the story Takeo and Yamato still have very real and down to earth issues. Sure, not all of them are as realistic as others, but Yamato feeling like she’s not worth Takeo because she’s not as ‘pure’ as he thinks? Because she wants to hold his hand and cuddle him even though he resolved never to lay a finger on her until she’s older? These are all believable issues that are done very nicely in the anime and I wouldn’t be surprised if the original manga is just as strong.
The thing is both My Love Story and Say I Love You give us realistic characters that are incredibly relatable in one way or another but not a lot of recent series come to mind which are doing the same thing. The series that spring to mind for me are Love So Life (which hasn’t been licensed in English at the time of writing), and Your Lie in April. Although the latter example might have realistic characters the situation they’re in is likely less relatable than other series… Dengeki Daisy has the same issue of relatable characters and a couple with very relatable problems but in such an unrealistic setting that it doesn’t really fit what I’m thinking about here. There is Kimi Ni Todoke to consider as well I guess, which does pretty much fit the bill as far as examples of series doing it right.
I think mostly it’s just that the more Shojo I read and watch I realise the genre has issues and only a few select series really do tackle them, either intentionally or just by sheer luck. Sure if every new series started trying to deal with in-depth and sometimes difficult problems we’d probably all find that quite annoying, but little by little I’d like to see more series like My Love Story surface as they’re always enjoyable to watch (even if they sometimes hit too close to home), and I hold a deep appreciation for them and what they’re trying to do. It could be argued that maybe overall stories like those just aren’t something readers want to see, but considering how much Say I Love You and My Love Story are loved I’m not sure that’s completely true. I’m sure there are a few Shojo readers who look for relatable characters in these stories after all…