Admittedly, much of Bokura ga Ita's content is unoriginal, with the usual high school scenarios on offer - from gym classes where bishies display their sporting prowess to summer festivals with yukata dress codes. Apart from that, there's also the painfully generic protagonist, Nanami. Mentally, she inhabits an ideal world where boys protect girls who are vulnerable, confused, and kawaiiii! In light of more progressive characters such as vivacious Kyoko (Skip Beat) and hilariously dorky Risa (Lovely Complex), Nanami looks like something washed up from a parallel universe where women's lib never happened. Clearly, I cannot relate to her and, as a 25-year old woman, I suppose I'm not meant to. However, if I accept her bland personality and the prepackaged setting as unfortunate but necessary factors, everything that follows becomes a little more interesting.
By this I mean the fact that the characters suffer fairly adult problems. Between irresponsible parents getting divorced and sexual relationships that veer on the disturbing, I sometimes wondered whether Bokura ga Ita was really targeted at young teens. At the heart of its angsty appeal is that Nanami's and Yano's relationship actually involves a bizarre third person - his dead ex. The question is not just whether he can overcome his grief as he enters a new relationship with Nanami, but whether Nanami herself can find some way of fighting her jealousy of the dead. Their emotional journey progresses in stops and starts with so many ruptures along the way that Yano's friend Takeuchi asks them whether its actually worth it. Indeed, this is the kind of unusual shoujo romance where love has to prove itself worth fighting for. More than that, where other shoujo fall back on stereotyped supporting characters with contrived histories, Bokura ga Ita's cast display personalities that spring organically from their backgrounds. The character profiles are comprehensive and surprisingly painful. For instance, the way Yano's close relationship with his mother impacts upon his taste in women somehow rings true.
Bokura ga Ita does not herald a revolution in the shoujo genre (that honour belongs to Brother, Dear Brother). Nevertheless, it delivers romance that's cute, wistful, and infused with that thoughtful sadness I've heretofore only seen in Kare Kano.