Masahiro Setagawa was pretty much heading to become a delinquent when he crossed paths with a teacher (who seems to spend his nights beating up punks). Impressed by his strength, Setagawa begs the teacher (and older brother of a class mate) to let him be his underling. Now a high school student, Setagawa has some hard decisions to make about his relationship with Kousuke.
I have to admit, I wanted to watch this show when it first came out but it wasn’t available on any of the services I was using. However, having recently decided to give HiDive a try this suddenly became available so I spent one afternoon binge watching it (because it kind of seemed like the perfect kind of show to watch when I was home sick with a fever). I then rewatched it over a few nights when my head was a bit clearer and the end result was that I really enjoyed this show despite a couple of glaring issues. I’m going to take a plus/minus approach to this review to try to keep my thoughts relatively organised.
The entire second half of this anime, when the focus shifts squarely onto Setagawa and Kousuke as they both have to take a long and hard look at their relationship and the potential consequences, is fantastic. There are a few contrived moments (Kousuke’s friends testing Setagawa’s response, a half-overheard conversation, etc) but these don’t really hurt the overall tone that this part of the show takes on. I loved that the main issue these characters were trying to overcome wasn’t that they were both male (though that is an issue discussed by the anime). The main issue was the far more problematic one that Kousuke is a teacher and Setagawa is in high school (and in the school Kousuke’s teaching in). In honesty, this was my biggest issue with their relationship from the start because the power imbalance is so wrong and I know this happens a lot in anime and manga, but seriously, teachers should not date students. So, the anime taking this issue head on and having both of the characters really considering the problems head on was nice. Admittedly, they take a happily ever after approach to the issue rather than the social reality, but it is a story and to be honest a realistic ending would have sucked, so we’ll let that one go and just be happy that they at least acknowledged the problem.
The first four episodes just aren’t that good. The primary focus for part fo the first episode is Setagawa and his oh-so-troubled-youth but realistically, these episodes mostly focus on Ken (Kousuke’s brother and Setagawa’s friend and classmate) and Ken’s childhood friend who has returned and has a crush on him. To make it worse, this relationship between Ken and Hasekura kind of embodies a lot of the issues with relationships in these kinds of stories with Hasekura essentially demanding Ken sleep with him or that they break off their ties entirely, leaving Ken with no options in the middle. They try and play this down later and make it seem like he was just really insecure and desperate but the emotional blackmail here is still a major issue and while the show is happy enough to let these two be a cheery and happy couple for the rest of the series looking on and even occasionally assisting with Setagawa and Kousuke, I just don’t see it myself. Their relationship remains for the most part one where Ken hangs desperately onto their friendship while conceding to Hasekura’s push for a more physical relationship. It doesn’t at any point come off as one of mutual love. Anyway, as the introductory episodes to the series, it really doesn’t set a great tone, particularly as these two are fairly minor characters in the second act (necessary, yes, but still bystanders to the final performance).
The group of friends surrounding Setagawa and Ken feel pretty legitimate throughout most of the series. Okay, you have to wonder why none of their parents ever seem to feed them given they are perpetually at Ken’s house where Setagawa feeds them, but at least the camaraderie, the silly misunderstandings, and their day to day interactions work quite well. Even Shige’s initial hostile reaction to the news that Setagawa was seen kissing Kousuke played fairly true because he was genuinely surprised by the news and being a teenage boy didn’t react well and then found himself cornered and couldn’t back track. It adds a feeling of reality to the show.
The entire sub-plot with the delinquents was incredibly unneeded in this story. It added nothing (except maybe an episode of content) and really, Setagawa could have just had a crappy home-life and often wandered the streets. He didn’t also need to have gang ties. Having Kousuke be the legendary Bear-Killer literally added nothing to the story in the end and so could be scrapped without any further consideration.
The music and character designs are nicely done. Okay, Setagawa’s eyes are a bit creepy, but for the most part the characters are all nicely distinguishable and I really enjoyed listening to the theme. It was a little poppy and upbeat given some of the subject matter but it kind of captured the overall theme.
Please let the characters not be drawn running ever again. This was really badly done. Distractingly, badly done. The rest of the animation was all much for muchness with it neither being particularly good or bad. Though, there was actually a minor improvement as the series went on. In early episodes when Kousuke talked his mole would stay dead still even though it logically should have moved with his mouth. That was a little distracting. Later on though, it started looking a little more natural. And no, I wasn’t just staring at the guy’s mole for the fun of it. The show makes a big deal about it and there are a lot of close ups early on of the lower half of his face so it is kind of hard to miss.
This one is probably the biggest one. For all the character reflections they don’t come to a ‘right’ answer. There isn’t one. They know what they want and they also know that it might not be good for the other person. They get torn becuase they desire to protect the other person even as they desire to possess them. When Setagawa says he is scared in a later episode, he isn’t scared of what will happen to him. He is scared of what might happen to Kousuke and he’s also scared that he might be the reason for it. He’s scared that being the one to blame for Kousuke’s downfall might be more than he can handle emotionally. And then he feels guilty for trying to protect himself even as he is trying to protect Kousuke. His thoughts go round and round in circles and he becomes almost paralysed and unable to act or to decide knowing that every path might lead to pain so he’s trying to balance small pain now against greater pain later. It really is great to see this kind of thought process. No one just comes out and says ‘it will be fine’. No one dismisses the problems as unimportant. They acknowledge the problems. They know they have to face them. They don’t know what the outcome will be. But this is the choice they come to here and now. It kind of works for this type of story and was almost more perfect than a true fairy tale ending.
So yeah, I really enjoyed my watch through of this and these characters were pretty fun to spend time with. Okay, another minor gripe would be the absence of any decent female characters, but it isn’t as if they had copious space in the run-time and all that would have done was cluttered a story that more or less did what it need to do. As for a recommendation, if you were looking for a boys love story that avoids too many of the predatory tropes the genre is plagued with, this one might work for you if you can get over the whole teacher/student thing and the set-up for Ken’s relationship early in the series.
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