I watched the first five episodes of Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!) this weekend. The premise intrigued me: this shoujo anime is shown primarily from a male point of view, and he’s not the typical bishounen love interest. Instead, Takeo is the bishie’s big, clumsy best friend. I was immediately intrigued by this break from the mold, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to hold my interest. I’m too easily bored.
So what did hold my attention? Friendship and sacrificial love. Takeo, especially, is willing to sacrifice himself for his friends, his crush, strangers, and even enemies.
First, there’s the friendship between Takeo and Suna. Suna looks and acts like the typical bishounen male lead (I might have squealed a little when he first crossed the screen… it’s a habit I developed somewhere between The Wallflower and Kaichou wa Maid-sama). He’s cool, collected, has a great laugh, and knows how to deal with a spastic main character. But instead of dealing with a spastic heroine, he watches over Takeo.
Ever since they were kids, Takeo would have crushes on girls who eventually confessed their love to Suna… and were turned down. The same girls talked cruelly behind Takeo’s back, and Suna wouldn’t have any of that. Meanwhile, Takeo got used to being looked over in favor of his more charming friend. So when the girl he saves and falls in love with shows even the tiniest sign of caring about Suna, Takeo gives up on having a relationship with her. And he decides to help her and Suna get together.
I can understand Takeo’s thought process, to a degree. When someone you’re close to is more charming than you are, it’s safest to assume they’ll always get the best of everything: the crush, the cutest puppy… everything. That way, you don’t get your hopes crushed. At that point, you have two options: become resentful, or support your charming friend. Takeo chooses the second option.
Takeo is humble and selfless, but imperfectly so. The girl he likes, Yamato, clearly likes him, and he has no clue. She asks for his email (basically the equivalent of texting), not Suna’s. Then she messages him, and not just to figure out when to meet and eat cake. Even before that, he should have realized his huge advantage over Suna: he saved her. And unlike countless others he’s saved, she wasn’t unnerved by his huge figure; she recognized his goodwill and thanked him. And when she specifically asked to spend time with him alone? Come on. Even I am not that dense to romantic interest. I’m pretty sure that half Takeo’s blindness here is self-protection. He won’t get his hopes up. Easier to think Takeo and Yamato are interested in each other, and to “help” them get together. As a result, he spends his time with Yamato talking about how great Suna is, and she bursts into tears, thinking it’s Takeo’s way of rejecting her.
It’s great, even Biblical, to put others above yourself, to hold them in high esteem and support their needs above your own. But that does not mean ignoring your own worth. Takeo has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, most girls can’t see that. Yamato can, and she wants him to share that with her. He completely misconstrues her actions and assumes she likes Suna. He decides to help her pursue Suna, even though she never says she wants that. And she takes it as a rejection. At that point, Takeo’s actions are no longer an example of sacrificial love. He makes assumptions to protect himself from disappointment, sacrificing her feelings as well as his own. Humility and selflessness aren’t always simple. Sometimes, you need to see yourself and others clearly in order to better serve others.
Thankfully, Suna sees their true feelings and helps sort things out. Takeo and Yamato confess their love to each other in the third episode, and they’re all rainbows and sunshine… but there are still challenges.
Takeo often puts himself in harms’ way to save others, and he doesn’t feel entitled to any thanks. But one particular incident from episode 4 stands out. Takeo and Yamato have just heard two of her friends badmouthing him. Yamato is upset that they don’t see how cool he is, and she worries about his feelings. She runs out of the building, and he follows. Shortly after, a fire explodes in the buidling. Most of their friends make it out… but not the two who badmouthed Takeo. He doesn’t hesitate to run into the burning building and save them. He’s seen a picture of Yamato happy with them, and he wants to preserve that. So he carries the first one out. Then he runs in for the other. He manages to protect her from burning debris, but he gets trapped under it in the process. He’s certain he’s going to die, but he doesn’t mind; he saved Yamato’s friends.
Of course, Yamato minds a whole lot. She doesn’t want a dead protector: she wants Takeo, alive. Once again, it’s Suna to the rescue. He calls Takeo and says, to paraphrase, “Yamato is really upset. She’s about ready to run in after you. And my life would be a little boring without you, too. So get out of there.” Takeo can hear Yamato yelling in the background for them to let her go after him. That does it. He can’t die if it will make her sad, and he certainly doesn’t want her running in after him. So he musters his strength, throws off the debris, and bursts out the window.
Takeo isn’t just willing to die for Yamato. He lives for her.
Takeo reminds me of much that Jesus said and did during his time on earth. When Jesus talked to his disciples about loving one another, shortly before his crucifixion, he told them, “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
What does it mean to “lay down your life”? It’s not just a matter of dying; it’s also how you live. Jesus laid down his entire life and death for us. He is God, yet he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7). He gave up heaven to become a man—and not even a full-grown man, not at first, but a zygote, then embryo, then fetus, then newborn baby, born in a stable. He was still fully God; he did not deny his identity or remove that essence. Humbling himself did not mean thinking less of himself. He never stopped deserving glory; but he gave up living in that glorified state, choosing to live as a humble carpenter’s son instead. Why? To give us a way to salvation, and to glorify God.
Jesus spent his life on earth living perfectly, so he could be the perfect sacrifice. Was he tempted? Yes. But he remained strong. He lived his live to glorify the Father, and, as part of that, to love us.
He died a horrible death. There, we find the traditional connotation with “lay down your life.”
Then he was resurrected. What good would a dead savior do? How would we know he had the power to secure our resurrection or reconciliation? How would we know his sacrifice was approved by God? And what’s the point of following a dead guy’s footsteps? I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather have a live protector than a dead one. So he came back to life. And he continues to live in heaven, as our mediator, until he comes back to set up his kingdom on earth.
One more note: the girls Takeo saved from the fire were more like enemies than friends at the time. And he had no guarantee that they would like him after he pulled them out of the fire. Similarly, Jesus didn’t just lay down his life for his friends. He died for us while we were still sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:6-11). Many still choose to reject his help. He doesn’t stop them from making that choice; he loves us too much to just brainwash us into loving him. But because of Jesus, we have a choice. He reconciled us to God, and now, many of us call Jesus “Friend” as well as Lord.
Takeo’s selflessness isn’t perfect. He’s only human, and fictional at that. But he loves and sacrifices without demanding anything in return. That’s something we can learn from, in more ways than one.