Taking a detour from the usual fare, this week I’m going to take a look at an anime that belongs to one of the more infamous genres in the anime/manga world: yaoi. This also goes to show that here at thechewns.com we show no discrimination and that everyone is welcome, no matter what you’re into…
This anime is based on a manga series by Shungiku Nakamura and there have been 9 volumes so far. The anime is produced by Studio Deen, who has been around since 1975 and have brought us some classic animes such as Patlabor, Rurouni Kenshin, Getbackers, Fate/Stay Night and even the recent hits Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and the hit of the summer season Sakamoto Desu Ga! Apart from the manga, there have also been a number of light novels, a couple of OVAs and a movie. This is also apart from the infamous BLCDs that one can listen to. So there are plenty of ways for a person to get their BL fix.
Studio Deen has brought us many classics over their 41 year-long career.
This story is taken from the viewpoint of Onodera Ritsu, a young man of 25 that has always been involved in the publishing business. He has been given a bit of a hard time though because although he works at a publishing company, it’s not a secret that this company actually belongs to his father and has been a legacy in his family for many generations (Onodera Shuppan). This being the case, many of his fellow employees accuse him of riding coattails in order to get ahead in the company and be assigned as editor to the star authors. As a way to prove himself, Onodera then decides to leave his father’s company and go to a competitor’s company (Marukawa Shoten) to be a literature editor. However, nothing goes according to plan when Onodera is assigned not to the literature department, but to the shoujo manga department! And later on he comes to realise that the guy who is his current boss, Takano Masamune, was actually a guy he dated briefly back in high school. According to Onodera, things couldn’t guess worse but for Takano, this is a chance to try to win back the love of his life… however this is going to be an uphill challenge because the sweet and innocent Onodera he knew in high school is long gone and now he’s got to deal with this jaded and critical version of his first true love…
A jaded Onodera makes the decision to move to another company.
Although the plot described above follows the main storyline, there are 2 other sub-plots and a “bonus” episode which cover the stories of 3 other couples. The first plot revolves around one of the other editors of the shoujo manga department and his love for his childhood friend/mangaka that his is currently in charge of; the second plot is about yet another editor in the shoujo manga department and his obsession (which eventually becomes love) with a younger guy that works part-time at a book store; and the third plot is about the director of Marukawa Shoten and how he came to love his childhood friend/current secretary.
Other storylines to enjoy across the two seasons.
(L-R) Hatori & Chiaki, Yukina & Kisa and Asahina & Isaka.
I will be the first to admit that I was a bit taken aback by the concept of a guy having dated a guy in high school (who turns out to be his boss at his new company) and I initially thought that I wouldn’t really want to watch that because it was outside of my “comfort zone”. However, my interest was piqued so I did a bit of investigating on this particular genre and eventually decided that it deserved a fair shot because who knows – it could turn out to be better than I would have thought. And I would be right…
Although getting used to the idea of this being boys love (BL) might take a little while, you will eventually start to see past this and start to appreciate the show for what it has to offer – plenty of laughs with some sweet moments that transcend the guy x guy thing. Having been based on a very popular manga, one immediately has expectations because there must be a reason for its popularity and this anime shows it in spades. Rather than relying on the “love” aspect here, this manga relies a lot on comedy! The first episode sets the tone for the show because it is filled with loads of laughs which are in complete contrast with what one would expect from a show called “World’s Greatest First Love”. This is as a result of the characters themselves as well as the environment in which they work.
An accurate representation of what working in a publishing company looks like.
This anime actually gives you a pretty comical view of what working in a publishing company is like but it also reflects reality. From all of the animes/mangas I’ve read it appears that working in publishing, especially in departments like manga which have tight deadlines depending on how often the publication comes out, is a job that entails long hours and immense pressure in order to get everything done on time. What you see in this anime highlights this in a comedic way but stays pretty true to the reality that these workers face. The comedic style relies on both the character interactions as well as the animation itself with use of the typical “gag” effects that might seem obvious but are actually used pretty effectively. I like that they keep it simple in that way to play out the comedy. The main characters have a very antagonistic type of relationship with each other because Onodera is against getting involved with anyone because of his previous experiences with love which sets up some of the comedy as well.
The traditional gag style is simple yet effective.
However, the “love” aspect isn’t left out entirely because that is the point of BL after all. There are a lot of introspective moments from the viewpoint of the main protagonist(s) which let you know where their headspace is at as the story progresses. It also addresses those relationship issues that are pretty much universal – jealousy, insecurity, wanting to protect yourself from being hurt again etc. – and how these guys deal with that on top of the additional “problem” of being guys. The idea of two guys being with each other is something that is handled in a more realistic way where each of the couples feels the need to keep their respective relationships under wraps because it isn’t a completely socially accepted relationship. Also, it doesn’t help when the main characters are meant to be boss and subordinate, so even if this weren’t a BL relationship it would be frowned upon because it’d be an office romance. So although the show has gags, it also has this side that deals with the BL aspect in a more realistic way. That said, be prepared because the physical side of the various relationships are also taken into account because they are guys after all. The characters are well-defined where some are openly gay and admit this and others don’t define themselves according to this and rather just say that the person that they are in love with just happens to be a guy. Whether that’s considered denial or not is arguable since those characters have dated girls as well. Apart from their romantic/sexual orientation, their personalities are also distinct and are part of the reason why the gags work so well.
Apart from the laughs, the characters have their moments of introspection.
In terms of production, Studio Deen stays pretty true to the art style of the manga which may take a little getting used to. This mangaka uses a bit of an angular drawing style which doesn’t always appeal to everyone because it gives the art a “rough” appearance but once you get used to it, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Not to be swept under the rug, this show has a number of big name stars that lend their talents in bringing this story to life, e.g. Katsuyuki Konishi, Nakamura Yuichi, Hiroshi Kamiya, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Maeno Tomoaki, Hikaru Midorikawa and the yaoi/BL emperor himself Morikawa Toshiyuki to name a few. It should also be noted that this manga/anime has ties to another done by the same mangaka – “Junjou Romantica”. The company Marukawa Shoten is a feature in this story as well except it’s taken from the viewpoint of an author rather than a company worker. So if you’re looking for something similar, then you could always try that anime out.
If you liked Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, Junjou Romantica is a must-see!
This was the first BL anime series that I watched and I have no regrets. If you’re curious to see what BL is about and want a tame opener, then this is a great start. There are a lot of laughs and a high rewatchability factor and you get plenty of bang for your buck (no pun intended) with this anime because there are plenty of stories to keep you occupied about the world’s greatest first love…
Image credits: Studio Deen
End: Sekaiichi Hatsukoi anime review