.I Love You article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 5, No. 3, Feburary 2002
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Yuka Takase's I Love You is as sweet a story as you could expect from a Chao Comics anthology manga. But don't let the title fool you, romantic love is only one of the themes in this series. The love of a family which has suffered through adversity underscores the entire story, making it deeper and more touching than your average shojo romance.

When Nijiko was in elementary school, her parents got divorced. Her mom left. That was five years ago.

The series begins with a typical morning for our heroine. After putting out the laundry, she rouses her adorable little brother, Taisuke, to whom she is like a mom. Then she tries to wake up her older brother, Tetsuro (long o). When cajoling doesn't work, she pulls off his blanket and gets a shock. Her resounding scream brings her supportive eldest brother, Kazuhiro. Nijiko doesn't need rescuing, she's just embarrassed and annoyed that Tetsuro (long o) slept without any clothes on! Tetsuro (long o) can be rather clueless, especially when it comes to girls. Next, Nijiko feeds her brothers a healthy, traditional breakfast --Dad is often working abroad-- and expresses motherly concerns to Taisuke and Tetsuro (long o) as she sees them off to school. While she cleans up breakfast, Kazuhiro thoughtfully asks why she goes through so much effort; if she didn't make breakfast every morning, she could get more sleep. But Nijiko wants them to know homemade cooking. She knows she's no substitute for a real mother, but she wants to do as much as she can, especially for little Taisuke.

At school, her classmates also rely on her motherly skills. When some boys have been delinquent in their cleaning duties, the girls send Nijiko to get them in line. The boys run away. She chases them until another boy steps into the hall. It's Kusakabe! Despite all of her matronly responsibility and skills, Nijiko is still a teenaged girl. Too shy to bear the gaze of the guy she likes (especially after he's heard some of the things she was yelling at the boys!), Nijiko drops the notebook she was trying to bap the boys with and runs away. "He's going to think I'm scary!" she worries, yet he follows her to return her notebook.

After school, Nijiko wistfully watches Kusakabe play ball. A raindrop sets her back to mother mode --she has to bring in the laundry! She yells at Tetsuro (long o), who's also on the baseball team, to remember to pick up some eggs that are on sale, then rushes home. Nijiko works hard to fulfill her dream of providing her brothers a safe and happy home until they start families of their own one day...

Life can't be that simple for Nijiko. First there's Asami, the girl who has always worked to best Nijiko at everything. Once Asami figures out about Kusakabe, she goes after him. As a motherless, single child, Kusakabe admires, envies and empathizes with Nijiko. Unfortunately, bad advice from Tetsuro (long o) causes him to mess up his attempts to express how he feels. On top of this, Kazuhiro's been secretly meeting with mom and wants to reconcile her with Nijiko, but Nijiko's feelings of abandonment have developed into a formidable, unforgiving anger. Things get even more complicated when Kusakabe's dad decides to remarry. You guessed it: Mr. Kusakabe's fiancÚ is none other than Nijiko's mom!

More emotional plot twists await Nijiko and her siblings in this delightful six-volume series. There's also a healthy amount of humor to balance off the plot. If you're looking for a endearing and entertaining romance, give I Love You a try.