Every so often a line of dialogue crops up that reveals itself to be useful in a wide variety of situations. For me, Midousuji’s description of Onoda-kun in Yowamushi Pedal – “He’s not a mass-produced model” – is such a line. It’s incredibly versatile, and when applied to a character or a series, communicates a great deal about the subject. And I really think it applies to Ore Monogatari – this show is definitely cut from its own cloth.
On the surface this is a very simple and formulaic series, it seems to me. But there’s something off-kilter about, starting with the obvious (it’s a shoujo romance with a male protagonist) and extending to the subtle. As one wades deeper into it, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is a distinctly unconventional take on a series of conventional tropes. In a conventional setup Suna really should be the main male character, for example. And given their appearances, Takeo should be the quirky and interesting one. And the guy should be the one who can’t stop thinking about the physical side of the relationship, not the girl.
I think Ai-san adds to this impression, because she’s a rather oddball character herself. And I like it when she’s around, because she adds an element of unpredictability and tension that’s good for the sometimes too-sweet recipe the straight-up Takeo-Rinko episodes follow. This time she brings someone with her – her classmate Oda Hayato (Namikawa Daisuke, justifiably hailed as one of the best in the game but underrated as a comic actor). Hayato has a crush on Ai, and has followed her down from college (in Nagoya) to check up on the guy she’s let slip she’s in unrequited love with.
Oda is a handful – blunt and even pushy, a bit of a smartass and hard to discourage. When he goes to Takeo’s workplace to scope him out he initially assumes Suna is Takeo (he and Rinko are there at the end of a schedule of events she and Takeo have planned for his birthday). And he’s not ready to let this go, despite Ai’s insistence that she’s not interested. Eventually he corrals everyone into a group trip to “MM Land” – Rinko is afraid to go solo with Takeo because it’s rumored to be a cursed date spot – with the ulterior motive of forcing Ai to confess her true feelings to Takeo, be rejected, and move on (presumably to him).
The whole Ai-Takeo thing is off-kilter too, to the point where many viewers seem to find it unbelievable altogether. There’s a kind of sad quality to the whole thing – Ai being smitten with a boy so much younger who has no clue of her feelings, the clearly adrift Oda trying to use her as his life raft because she showed an interest in stopping him from ruining his life with his lack of motivation. Eventually Oda winds up spending the night at Takeo’s place (his parents don’t even bat an eye or ask a question), which Ai is none too thrilled about – though he doesn’t spill the beans about her true feelings.
As so often is the case, though, I find the eternally-sidelined Suna to be the most interesting element here. Why is it that no one besides Takeo remembers his birthday – not even him? It’s so very odd seeing a character always existing on the periphery of the moment – Suna is seemingly always present, but he’s never the point. Does this ever grate on him, even a little? Does he ever want to the the “Ore” himself, and if not, why is he content to forever be an accessory to the lives of those close to him? In a series full of people and events that appear normal but are slightly askew, Suna is the most interesting and inscrutable – and he has been from the very beginning.