And even that may be a bit generous.
Oh, Sekai-ichi. I knew you were a terrible show, but it seems like either you are actually worse than Junjou Romantica, or the passage of time since that show aired had managed to soften my memories of it.
Uh, that, and you also in episodes three and four managed to turn up the creepy sexual harassment factor up by about one hundred notches. And that doesn’t even include the truly disgusting way in which we are supposed to regard this sexual harassment.
While my reaction would’ve been the same had I not read Chronolynx’s post about sexual harassment and rape’s use in Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi, I do think I am going to use his post as a jumping off point, and encourage you to go look at it. He very succinctly sums up the basic problem with Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi, namely that in it that rape and sexual harassment are meant to be signifiers to us as audience members of “true love”. In the paradigm of SekaKoi, then, rape = love. But he also explains why rape = love itself is bad. So read it, bitches.
Also, he’s succinct, something I am generally not. My Shiki posts are pretty strong evidence for that!
Going along with the sexual harassment (which I will now abbreviate with the Japanese portmanteau sekihara simply because its easier to type) and rape as romance angle, though, is the fact that Onodera, our main uke in the whole mix, is so thoroughly blamed for his boss, Takano’s, behavior. Not only that, his own feelings of unhappiness are frequently belittled, if not directly, in the manner in which they are depicted – Takano asks why Onodera is avoiding him, and we are not meant to say “well, duh, maybe ’cause you’ve been sexually harassing him”, we are meant to chime in with a “yeah, why are you avoiding him?!?!”. It’s disturbing.
In the world of SekaKoi, as far as we can see, victims are responsible for their plight. Yokozawa angrily corners Onodera in the bathroom and tells him that it is his fault that Takano is messed up – that, even though Onodera recalls his early dating experience with Takano ten years prior as having ended with Takano’s cruelty, he is actually mistaken and it is really his own fault the relationship ended and left both he and Takano bitter. Thus, Onodera is completely deserving of the way that both Takano, his harasser, and Yokozawa treat him.
Yokozawa also plays in another instance where Onodera’s discomfort is essentially depicted as being his own problem as opposed to being a reaction to abuse. Takano starts raping Onodera (it is difficult given camera angles to know exactly what happens, but it looks like he sticks his hands down the front of Onodera’s pants), only to be shoved away. Onodera grabs up the storyboard he’s been editing from the floor and stands up, then starts to leave, only to find Yokozawa waiting at the door. Onodera has clearly been crying, and Yokozawa puts him down yet again, assuming that he is teary-eyed over being lectured, and tells him that if he doesn’t have the guts to deal with being lectured by Takano, he should just quit already.
The sad part about all of this is that there are situations like this in real life. Yokozawa seems to be interested in Takano himself, so his behavior toward Onodera, a man whom to his knowledge broke his close friend/love interest’s heart, isn’t at all unbelievable. What is problematic about the situation is that we are supposed to view Yokozawa’s behavior in the bathroom as him being in the right and Onodera being in the wrong, and his words to Onodera at the apartment only as unfair in that he doesn’t believe Onodera has the backbone or skills necessary to be successful at the publishing company – not because he is being awful to a rape victim. Additionally, his cruelty in that instance is also something we are supposed to frown at because he is jealous, and he would be even more jealous had he known that Takano was getting aggressive with Onodera.
And, while we’re at it, might as well hit upon on the bed scene. On the subway home from work, Onodera falls asleep. He then wakes up in bed next to Takano, with no shirt on, and freaks out. Takano gets annoyed, and states that Onodera is being outrageous since he, Takano, went to the trouble of carrying him back from the subway and putting him to bed. Onodera backs off slightly, and its very clear where our sympathies are supposed to lie – not with the man who just woke up half-naked in a bed with his sexually abusive boss, but with the sexually abusive boss. To me, this was the most ludicrous and offensive of all the moments in the show thus far.
Basically, it all boils down to the fact that Takano is a classic abuser. He is the stererotypical bad boyfriend who smacks his girlfriend around, and then shows up the next day with flowers and empty but pretty promises. He rapes Onodera, but then lets him dash off to Hokkaido when Onodera insists that he can get a manga chapter from an author and turn it in in time for it to go to the printers even though Takano himself initially disbelieves it. He verbally abuses Onodera, but then tells him he was confident in his abilities all along. He tells Onodera that it is his fault, not Takano’s, that everything between them went pear-shaped. He does not love Onoderas; he loves controlling Onodera. Takano is quite possibly one of the worst anime characters I have ever encountered, something that is compounded by the fact that we are supposed to be rooting for him to get the guy.
Throughout episodes three and four, I was thoroughly unnerved by how I viewed Onodera’s behavior as that of a man trying to deal with an abusive boss and how this contrasted with the clear intent of the anime for me to view his behavior as “stop being so silly, uke-chan! he loves you, that’s why he’s doing all this, why can’t you see that?!?!”. It was really, really creepy. SekaKoi is one the best depictions of sekihara in anime that I’ve seen, and yet we are supposed to be cheering on the abuser, not the victim. We aren’t even supposed to view it as sekihara. We’re supposed to go molestation and rape —> love! It is so unbelievably disgusting that it truly beggars belief.
This is why Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi is far and away the worst show of the season. HanaIro might be a sleazefest, Astarotte might be pedotastic, Dog Days might be a massive piece of crap, but nothing is as offensive as SekaKoi. Nothing perpetuates toxic stereotypes as much as SekaKoi. This damn thing makes Junjou Romantica look like art, for fuck’s sake.
Ugh, just turn this thing the fuck off. I feel so disgusted right now.