So, as we all know, anime has a way of influencing us from time to time, and I am no exception to this. So after watching Wotakoi, Kiss Him Not Me, and No-Rin, which all feature characters that are obsessed with boy love, I decided to give some boy-love anime a try to see what was so great about it.
This journey began by accident, honestly. I watched Wotakoi on Amazon Prime Video and one of the suggestions was Hitorijime My Hero. I clicked on it and it had a pretty interesting description. Add to it Narumi’s obsession and there I was — watching my first boy-love anime. This binge review is all about my experience with that, so if you’re not into boys loving boys, feel free to skip this one.
Hitorijime My Hero | 12 Episodes | SUB | Amazon Prime Video
Hitorijime My Hero was my first excursion into the yaoi side of anime and honestly? It wasn’t too bad. Initially, I had to alter my mindset because I’m so used to trying to figure out who was going to be the “main girl” like you have in most anime and had to switch to there being practically no girls at all. The only female in this show is the mother, who is airheaded and a really bad cook.
The anime is about Setagawa, a hopeless delinquent because in all honesty, he’s a really nice guy. He has the biggest crush in the world on his best friends older brother, who is a teacher at their school. At first he doesn’t realize that his feelings go farther than immense respect and idolizing him, but he comes to know it when Kosuke makes a move on him. It’s subtle, but that’s definitely what it was in hindsight. The rest of the anime follows the ups and downs and obstacles that come from their relationship. The biggest red tape is their teacher / student relationship, but they also have maturity gaps, age gaps, communication lapses, and Setagawa coming to terms with wanting to be with another man. There’s a lot there, to be honest, and the story was really good. There were times when I felt Setagawa was being immature, but he is a teenager and dealing with emotions that are exceptionally confusing, so that can be forgiven.
There’s also the relationship that his best friend has with his boyfriend, and the relationship they have with their little group of friends which changes as they start dating other people. There is also the fact that Setagawa is the runt of a gang that wants to beat the crap out of his older, teacher boyfriend. There is honestly a lot of complexity to this story. I like that though, because life isn’t as clear-cut as anime makes it out to be sometimes. This anime touches on almost, if not all, the obstacles that would face a relationship like theirs. Setagawa’s character was pretty developed and I like that. For my first yaoi anime, I got a clear “foundation” for how the stories are different and similar to anime I’m used to. It was a primarily a love story and I think it set up pretty good guidelines of what to expect going forward.
Banana Fish | 10 Episodes (so far) | SUB | Amazon Prime Video
Banana Fish was next on the list, due to the same reasons that got me started in the first place. After watching Hitorijime My Hero, this was a recommended title. This anime was actually my favorite. It’s yaoi for sure, but it’s a gang-drama type of show. So, there is so much more going on here than two guys trying to get together — rather, it’s more like these two guys are trying to get together on top of all the crazy stuff that’s happening. In this anime, their “romance” is honestly the least interesting thing, and that’s kind of saying something.
Ash is the blond-haired, green-eyed, 17-year-old gang boss in New York. Eiji is our sweet-faced, pole-jumping, sidekick who came from Japan for his own reasons. The two link up and Eiji, for better or worse, gets caught up in Ash’s drama. At first, Ash tried to keep him out of it, but Eiji half got pulled into and half forced his way into the mess anyway. That mess included getting kidnapped, beat, jailed, watching friends get shot, having to shoot allies, lots of guns and bombs and injuries, illegal drugs, gang bosses, underground deals with the government, a lot of prostitution, and skeevy dealer rings. Their biggest obstacle is Old Man “Papa” Dino, who is at the head of it all. He “raised” Ash, so now that Ash is trying to kill him — let’s just say things don’t go all that well or smoothly.
I loved all the action and how much of a badass Ash is. This anime is pretty hardcore and could have a lot of triggers for people who watch it, but honestly, the grittiness of the anime is what makes it so good. It doesn’t shy away from hard topics or sugar-coat them. I mean, it’s anime so some situations and escapes would be pretty impossible in real life, but it’s still great to watch. There is a good mix of action and regrouping and relationships and everything else. This anime is on-going, but it’s so good — I don’t even care. I’m excited for the next episodes. It’s converted me to a weekly watcher!
No. 6 | 11 Episodes | SUB | VRV
After Banana Fish, No. 6 was on the list. This was my least favorite of this group of anime. The story wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I think the real problem was, after reading the description, I was excited for what the anime would offer, but I was let down. I was hoping for an anime with some action, but this was aimed at being more of an emotional anime? It’s hard to explain — but I’ll try.
Sion is a really nice guy who’s also really smart. He lives in a city called No. 6 and the rules there are different. You must obey the government and never speak against them — this is a policy that is strictly enforced. Sion is found helping Nezumi who is an escaped criminal and loses all his rights and position in the city and is forced to work as a park clean up ranger. There he realizes that people are dying from parasite bees. When he sees this, he begins to question the government and so they try to dispose of him. Nezumi saves him and takes him outside the wall, where most of the story takes place.
The first episode was the best, and Nezumi as a character was pretty cool. I actually liked all the characters who lived outside the wall. I disliked Sion altogether. It may be kind of harsh, but I truly felt that he had no redeeming qualities in what I saw. He was annoying and childish and pretty useless the entire time, all the while he was spouting immature ideologies. He didn’t even get angry at the city for trying to dispose of him and the people who opposed the government. The thing that bothered me most about Sion, is that he never picked a side. He was neither for going back to No. 6 or staying with Nezumi. He never decided what he was going to do to try to help the people. Like… he honestly served no purpose. This anime would have been practically the same without him as one of the main characters. He was needed to save Nezumi in the beginning, but that should have been it. Even after he’s like “I can make an antidote” we never see that happen. He doesn’t know how to fight or have any useful connections, and he never gets the opportunity to put his intellect to any use.
I didn’t understand the bond between him and Nezumi either. They were friends when they first met because Sion saved Nezumi, that much I can understand. I also understand why Nezumi would save him — to return the favor. Other than that, we never see their relationship develop. They spend time together, but we don’t necessarily see it. And when we do, they’re arguing or yelling at each other. Nezumi is constantly telling Sion the equivalent of “grow up” and there isn’t any “romance”. They kiss twice, and both times feel awkward and cold and forced. It wasn’t exciting at all to watch. I didn’t feel like they’d made any progress to get to that point and kind of rolled my eyes both times.
I could go on about why I didn’t like Sion, but I’m not. Overall, this wasn’t a bad anime. The beginning was good, the middle was mediocre and lacking any real plot other than “what can we do about the giant corrupt city over there when we aren’t actually doing anything at all”, and the ending was a letdown of the biggest degree. The anime will pull on your heartstrings from time to time, but… not worth watching if I had to suggest it.
Love Stage!! | 10 Episodes | SUB | VRV
Love stage is literally a romance story about these two guys in the middle. This was the first one that I watched that had very little “other stuff” going on and was all romance. It was cute. Izumi has the misfortune to look like a girl, so when his parents — who are famous actors and singers — needed a stand in for a flower girl in the commercial they were doing, he was picked. Fast forward 10 years and the boy who was in the shoot with him is a super popular heartthrob. He remembers the “little girl” from the shoot, so when the company approaches him about a remake of the commercial with him as the groom now, he agrees to it only if it’s the same cast and if “she” is in it. Izumi gets roped into it, and that’s where the story really takes off.
Ryouma is the aforementioned heartthrob, and he confesses his love to Izumi while he’s still dressed as a girl. Needless to say, his secret comes out and then Ryouma’s entire attitude changes. Then ensues his coming to terms with being in love with a guy, apologizing, trying to convince Izumi to be friends with him, and trying to sort of go from there.
It’s no surprise that they get together at the end.
I enjoyed this one because, like I said, it was cute. I also liked that both Izumi and Ryouma struggled with liking each other because they were both guys. That’s — what I would assume — a very real thing for people in their first same-sex relationship and I’m glad that the anime didn’t skip over it. I also liked that Ryouma didn’t force himself on Izumi and made it clear to him like, “I love you and I want to be your boyfriend, but I’m cool with just being friends”. For the most part, he stuck to what he said and kept their relationship at the friend level. And when Izumi started to push his limits, he let him know that too — he wasn’t afraid to remind Izumi that he was in love with him and has been holding himself back to just be friends with him. Ryouma also wasn’t afraid to apologize and talk to Izumi, which — based on the other anime in the list and other anime in general — is a real problem for some characters. Overall, I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a yaoi romance. It definitely hit all the spots for it.
Super Lovers | 20 Episodes | SUB | VRV
Super Lovers. There is a lot to say about this one! First of all, it was my second favorite on this list, or maybe even tied for first with Banana Fish. I really loved this anime. I loved the characters and the story and everything. This anime gave me those “SQUEE” moments where I had to pause and giggle and playback and watch again. It was so cute and funny and awkward and just… it was great.
This story is about Haru, the light-haired, green-eyed host who falls in love with the Ren, the dark-haired wild child. These two really care for each other, and it’s interesting to watch them come to terms with it and try to deal with their feelings and emotions. Ren is a teenager, so he has a lot more to work through with his emotions and just maturing in general. He’s also, somehow, the most mature and honest of the two. Haru is older and takes care of Ren as his guardian, but he is a womanizer and has a hard time as seeing Ren as more than a child. They work past this though and it’s just overall fun to watch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, while I loved this anime, it wasn’t perfect. The number one problem of this anime is that Ren and Haru are brothers. Ren is adopted, but still. There’s also the age gap between them, which I would estimate to be about 6 years. It’s not explicitly stated though, so that’s just a guess. Now, once you get past those two things, you have a really cute romance anime. There were other things that I didn’t really understand, like how them kissing on the mouth is normal. Or Ren sleeping in his bed. His twin brothers know the truth, because he doesn’t act that way with them, but they just sort of overlook these things and accept them as normal. It was weird at first, but once you get over that, you just sort of go with it.
So… this anime is labeled as mature, and for reasons I won’t list, it’s kind of yaoi gold. Now, my experience in the yaoi realm of anime is limited to the anime listed here, but that’s my opinion. I would absolutely watch this again for those “SQUEE” moments.
Honestly, I enjoyed this genre of anime, but not necessarily because it was boy-love. I liked it because there were a lot of different aspects to it that you don’t usually get in normal anime. Keeping in mind that my experiences are limited to these 5 anime, when compared to other Slice of Life anime, here’s what I noticed that are the big differences.
There Aren’t a Bunch of Harems
One of the things I loved about these anime, was that there weren’t a bunch of people fighting over the same person. I honestly get tired of watching (usually girls) fighting over the same guy. I understand that it’s a thing that happens — that’s not a problem. The problem is when pretty much every anime that has any romance involved uses that plot. The main guy has 2-3 girls who like him and he never makes a choice and girls are all happy to just be side chicks. I’ve never met any girl in her right mind who would be okay with that and it’s a really dumb and overused cliché in my opinion. But that’s a rant for a later time. These anime didn’t have that and I enjoyed it.
The Girls Were Normal People
This may seem like a weird thing to notice, but the women in these anime, for the most part, were normal. They were drawn without giant (or completely flat) chests and skimpy clothes. They weren’t painfully shy and quiet or loud and brash or just… too much. They were there, they were people, that’s it. They were moms and lawyers and friends and classmates who weren’t sexualized. That was also a nice breath of fresh air. They weren’t depicted as beautiful or ugly, just… normal. I think Super Lovers did the best job with that.
There Was More to the Story
There was usually more to the story than just the main characters getting together. Super Lovers and Love Stage were the exceptions, but even so, there was still more going on in the story than just when they would see each other next. It was most of the story, but not all of it.
The Guys Aren’t Depicted as Menacing
Generally, the men in anime who aren’t the main characters are depicted in a dangerous way. This wasn’t the case. They were obstacles and annoying, but not necessarily “fear for your life” danger. Banana Fish is the exception to this, but the whole undertone to that anime is “Ash lives in a dangerous world but can handle himself”. This observation is probably just because of the way society is arranged around a patriarchal power structure, but it’s also something I noticed. There were no “I’m walking home and there’s someone following me, am I going to get kidnapped or worse and die” scenes.
Overall, I really enjoyed this type of anime. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure at this point so I will definitely keep watching it. It’s enjoyable and entertaining and refreshing in ways that I don’t often get to watch in other anime. I definitely see the appeal and I guess you can count me among the ranks of Narumi, Hanako, Serinuma and Nakano.
The Otaku Couple