Review by: Felicia Day
Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
Love takes many shapes and forms but it is still love.
While yaoi and other boys-love titles are an acquired taste that might not suit everyone’s palette, those who do enjoy it have a deeper understanding that sometimes love stories of the unconventional type are often the best love stories. To prove my point, I ask that we turn our attention to Season 1 of Junjo Romantica, a BL series that is a delightfully appealing and heartfelt look into the romance of three couples. Believe me when I say that if you’re not already a fan of yaoi then you certainly will be after picking up this series.
Focusing on three different but somewhat related relationships, the 12-episodes that make up the first season of Junjo Romantica first gives us a glimpse of one couple before moving on to the other two couples that link up with various characters throughout the series. We meet Misaki Takahashi, a high school student preparing for his college entrance exam only to find himself frustrated with the fact that his scores aren’t as high as they should be to get to the university of his choice.
Suddenly, Misaki walks in on his older brother about to be kissed by a handsome gentleman by the name of Akihiko Usami who happens to be a law school graduate with a few award-winning books to his name. Misaki’s brother suggests that Usami should tutor the younger Takahashi and Usami agrees. However, during their time together, Misaki realizes that Usami has always loved the older Takahashi and now that love is not going to be returned because Misaki’s brother is about to get married to his girlfriend.
Compelled by strong feelings of regret that Misaki’s brother is overlooking true love, Misaki demonstrates how he feels about Usami’s unrequited love. Usami is touched by this act and actually kisses the younger man. Now, Misaki finds himself being pursued by the older man who – often comically – seduces Misaki every chance he gets. Misaki fights him off each time but a big part of him realizes that he has strong feeling for the man who collects big fluffy teddy bears and secretly writes steamy BL novels.
Is he just a substitute for his older brother or does Usami really love him for him? These are questions that Misaki asks himself as he tries to make sense of this relationship that is very new to him. In the meantime, we meet Hiroki Kamijou, a young professor who has – at one point before Misaki – had a passionate fling with Usami but realizes that Usami is deeply in love with somebody else. Crushed by the fact that the man he loves cannot love him back, a toy rocket lands near his feet and its owner happens to be a gorgeous younger man.
All of sudden, Kamijou is literally swept away by Nowaki Kusama and the older man spends the day at the park with Nowaki (whose name means “typhoon”). To his annoyance, Nowaki will not leave him alone and won’t take no for an answer when he asks that Kamijou become his tutor. The older man does end up tutoring him, I mean, how can he not when Nowaki is refreshingly honest and pure? Things, however, change when Nowaki reveals that his is in love with Kamijou. For the younger man, it was love at first sight.
So here we have another dilemma as Kamijou, trying to fight off the advances of a strange young man who insists that he is really in love with him as well as his feelings for a man that will not return his love. Finally, we meet You Miyagi who happens to be a fellow professor and friend of Kamijou at the same school. One day, Miyagi happens to save a young man named Shinobu Takatsuki from a group of bullies. Instantly smitten by Miyagi, he feels that it is their destiny to be together but – unfortunately – he finds out that Miyagi is about to get married to his sister. A few months later, though, Miyagi gets divorced and Shinobu returns from Australia in hopes that the older man will fall in love with him.
The problem with this relationship is that Miyagi has never had a relationship with a member of the same sex since he not only married Shinobu’s sister but also was also deeply in love with his beautiful teacher when he was younger. However, he comes to realize something about Shinobu and because of this he comes to a conclusion that there’s nothing wrong with falling in love with a person who loves you regardless of the other person’s gender. Love is love no matter what shape it takes.
The series alternates between each couple‘s budding relationships, mainly touching on their problems that range from the insecurities of different characters. For instance, Misaki finds the female editor that keeps showing up at Usami’s place threatening while Kamijou feels conflicted about Nowaki’s sudden departure from Tokyo to study in New York City. We see the difficulties of each relationship and the heartfelt and occasionally even comical way the characters deal with these events.
For the most part, the series does a great job in displaying the beginnings of romance between each couple and, yes, there’s sex involved … particularly when it comes to the Misaki-Usami relationship. Sometimes the scenes can get a tad graphic but these scenes are overshadowed by their sexier kissing scenes. Junjo Romantica is about romance and it handles it with absolute respect to the manga and makes us feel it.
A funny, sweet and endearing series that pushes the boys-love theme to a very entertaining level that yaoi fans will not help but fall in love with it from start to finish, Season 1 of Junjo Romantica should be among your collection if you enjoy this genre. While the love scenes can be a bit on the hot and heavy side, it shouldn’t stop its intended target audience from having a blast watching this one. We are so looking forward to the second season.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Misaki turns to his older brother’s friend as a tutor only to find that this famous author by the name of Usami has had feelings for his brother that are unreturned but, suddenly, Misaki finds himself being seduced by Usami. In another relationship, we find the older Kamijou pining over Usami only to finding himself drawn by a handsome young man. Finally, there is Shinobu who thinks he is destined to be with his ex-brother-in-law, Miyagi, who is recently divorced.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is actually excellent so it’s good to see the series look sharp and colorful on DVD the way it was meant to look. The actual love scenes are definitely on the steamy side that viewers should consider the 17+ rating but other than that yaoi fans will definitely love watching these hunky men kiss.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting in the series is topnotch with a standout performance by Kentaro Ito as Kamijou. As for the series’ original score, it’s quite beautiful as well. On top of that, the opening and closing theme songs are our personal favorite here in the office with “Baby Romantica” by SCRIPT being the better of the two.
Each of the three discs comes with helpful Liner Notes as well as original trailers for the show as well as other RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment releases. There’s a fun 24-page booklet included as well with character bios and artwork for the series.
Season 1 of Junjo Romantica is everything you can ask for in a yaoi series and it won’t take you long to become a fan of the wonderful animation, great storytelling and outstanding performances that make this a great series for those who love the genre. Even if you never picked up the manga, you will find yourself drawn into the three relationships almost immediately. This is definitely a series worth checking out.
Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment