Mere months after finishing its wildly popular anime run, My Love Story debuted on silver screen as a live-action film.

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My Love Story is the tale of three teens: Takeo, a hulking man’s man; Suna, a pretty-boy ladies’ man; and Rinko, a petite girl with a love of cooking. After Takeo saves Rinko from a molester, she immediately falls for him. He in turn falls for her. However, Takeo interprets her interest in him as her way to get closer to his best friend, Suna; and so Takeo resolves to get the two of them together—even at the cost of his own happiness.

One of my favorite aspects of the My Love Story anime and manga is that it is a story of a developing relationship—as opposed to the far more common story where the couple admitting they like each other is treated as the happy ending. In fact, in the anime, it only takes a grand total of three episodes for Takeo and Rinko to start going out, leaving the larger part of the series to explore their relationship.

The movie, however, chooses to follow the much more common formula—it is simply the story of the two figuring out they do indeed like each other. Of course, being that this happens quite quickly in the source material, many moments from further on in the story when they are dating—i.e., introducing Takeo to her friends and Suna’s birthday—now happen in the movie before the big confession.

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While this change removes the “two people already in a relationship” aspect of the story for the sake of a self-contained film, this is likely for the best as it gives the film’s story a definite beginning, middle, and end. Lengthening the amount of time it takes for them to get together also allows more time to explore why the two (who are clearly head over heels for each other) are having such trouble getting together. The answer, of course, is at the core of their characters.

For Takeo, his problem is a simple one. Despite his intimidating appearance and superhuman strength, he is a person who will always put others before himself. While he has a crush on Rinko from the moment they meet, as soon as she appears to show any interest in Suna, he backs off. More than that, he makes it his goal to get the two together—regardless of how it hurts him emotionally.

Coupled with this is Takeo’s low self-esteem when it comes to romance. Over his years of friendship with Suna, one thing has become clear to Takeo: The girls always fall for Suna and never for him. He believes this so strongly that it would take an inordinate amount of evidence to make him think otherwise.

Rinko’s problem is that she reads far too much into things—creating doubt in her about her own choices as well as doubt about the motive of others. Takeo is as pure and true as they come. He is always blunt in conversations and there is never any kind of hidden meaning to what he says. However, Rinko can’t help but see subtle rejections where there are none.

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In the end, it is their own inadequacies that are keeping the pair apart and nothing more. And only by overcoming them and maturing a bit can the two be truly ready for a relationship.

Of course, this is not only Takeo and Rinko’s story, it’s Suna’s as well. Suna finds himself in an odd situation in the story—he is both an obstacle to the budding relationship and a source of emotional support to both Takeo and Rinko.

Suna sees the world in a far different way than Takeo. This is because he understands that beauty is only skin deep in a way that his friend likely never could. Everyone treats Suna as if he is a good and special person simply because he is physically attractive. Time and time again he sees people ignore or fear the true hero Takeo—just because of how he looks. To Suna, there is only one person in the world (outside of his family) that truly sees him for who he is: Takeo.

However, while popular, Suna is far from sociable. The only person he ever talks with on more than a superficial level is Takeo—and Takeo isn’t exactly the model for deep, riveting conversation. So even though he can see Takeo and Rinko’s true feelings for each other, he is unsure what to do—and what he can say that would help. But as he gets to know Rinko, one thing becomes clear to him: She sees Takeo for who he truly is and that makes her something special—someone worthy of Suna’s best friend.

While the anime and manga often show the characters’ thoughts, the film rarely does so outside of a single reoccurring joke. This in turn makes the nuances of each actor’s performance so much more important.

Ryohei Suzuki makes for an amazing Takeo. He perfectly exhibits the character’s manly voice and over-the-top reactions—while still knowing how to keep it low key when needed. What’s most impressive is how his face tells the whole story in the film’s more dramatic moments. You can tell at a glance whether Takeo’s smile is one of true happiness or one of loving kindness in giving another happiness, even at the cost of his own.

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Likewise Kentaro Sakaguchi as Suna gives an impressively subtle performance which adds depth to the character. You can actually hear the pain in his voice whenever he is given credit for Takeo’s actions—and his frustration that the world at large won’t see Takeo as he truly is. Moreover, Sakaguchi works hard to show the social awkwardness of the character—making him seem less “quiet and cool” and more a person who feels that expressing himself to others would serve no real point. In this way even his silences speak volumes.

While having more than a few changes from the anime and manga, the live-action My Love Story film is true to the core of the story. The actors excellently bring the characters to life and you will laugh at Takeo’s over-the-top reactions, cheer for his heroics, and root for his love story. This film is a perfect fit for fans of the anime, manga, or light-hearted rom-coms in general. As far as live-action adaptions go, it would be hard to do much better than this.

My Love Story was released in Japanese theaters on October 31, 2015. There is no word on an international release.

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