One of the new anime this season, My Love Story, is a romance story featuring an atypical protagonist. A protagonist with certain similarities to one of Japan's most famous bullies.
The main character of My Love Story is Takeo Goda, a high school boy with an intimidatingly large physique, and a heart of gold. The story revolves around his romance with Rinko Yamato, a shy high school girl who enjoys cooking pastries.
The "twist" of the series is that while Yamato is essentially the template of your classic romance heroine -- cute, timid, passive, and "girly" -- Goda gives the appearance of someone who would be everything but someone a person like Yamato would be attracted to.
It's both a comedic and heartwarming series that plays off on what have been deemed as romantic "norms", with the Prince Charming character -- Goda's best friend, Makoto Sunakawa -- delegated to a supporting role rather than the main spotlight.
One thing that gives the series an almost hidden layer of entertainment is that the characters of Goda and Sunakawa are obvious homages to characters from an entirely different series.
Doraemon is one of Japan's most iconic manga/anime series. It's a classic that, while aimed at children, has managed to ingrain itself into Japanese culture. Two of the primary characters in Doraemon are elementary school classmates of the main character, sometimes friends, oftentimes bullies. The main bully is Gian, or as he is known in English versions, "Big G."
Gian is a large, boisterous, ox-like boy -- a Japanese Eric Cartman, if you will. He is loud and outspoken, often taking on the role of leader among the major group of kids in school. He will bully and beat up other kids and steal things from them. However, when shit's down, Gian will fight tooth and nail for his friends.
Gian's real name is Takeshi Goda. Notice something?
Takeo Goda in My Love Story is essentially if you took all the positive qualities of Gian, and made him the main character of his own romance story.
Similarly, Goda's best friend, Makoto Sunakawa -- nicknamed "Suna" -- shares positive characteristics of Gian's close friend, Suneo Honekawa -- nicknamed "Suneo."
In Doraemon, Suneo takes the advisor role to Gian's tyrant. He's smart, quick-witted, resourceful, and sneaky. In My Love Story, Suna takes a similar supportive role to Gouda, although whereas in Doraemon, Suneo is pretty much Gian's butt boy, in My Love Story, Gouda and Suna are equals and true friends through and through.
My Love Story is very much its own thing. While Goda and Suna may be homages to Gian and Suneo, it's not as though the author took the characters from Doraemon and repurposed them. They are their own characters with their own personalities and shouldn't necessarily be viewed simply as as grown-up versions of Gian and Suneo. That said, it's kind of fun to view them that way.
There's a lot to love about My Love Story. It's funny, charming, and almost painfully heartwarming, which is quickly making it my potential favourite of the season.
My Love Story is currently airing in Japan. You can catch it on Crunchyroll.