World’s Worst First Love

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.

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22 Responses to World’s Worst First Love

  1. Caddy C says:

    I’ve only watched two episodes so far, but to be honest I saw this type of stuff coming from episode one. The fact that it has only gotten worse just … well, I can’t even say it disappoints me, because I can’t even be bothered enough to care. Junjou Romantica was chock-full of the same tropes, which is what creeped me out about that show.

    I think what disappoints me is that the audience is supposed to just take this crap and be happy with it because it’s all the BL we’re going to get. It’s like, if you want Bl, you have to put up with the worst of BL stereotypes! BAH!

    And, it disappoints me that there is apparently such an audience for this shit that it keeps getting made! Japanese girls are bombarded by the rape = love idea from shoujo, shounen, and BL – WHY?! You’d think that BL could be a nice safe haven from that patriarchal idea because it’s primarily made by women for women, but no. I guess that’s too much to ask.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I’ve always been extremely disturbed by the incidence of rape in otome games, where it is essentially deployed as punishment against the player’s character. This is really, really disturbing; there’s no other term that really hits it quite correctly. These games are essentially telling girls that they are at fault if they are raped or sexually abused or sexually harassed. What a toxic message to send to people!

  2. j says:

    I think this is an excellent post, and that this problematic BL cliche (which also seems pretty common in a certain genre of shoujo manga, urgh) needs to be called out more often.

    But I’d also just like to say that the term is ‘sekuhara’, not ‘sekihara’. ^_^;;

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Interestingly enough, it appears that the sekihara/sekuhara thing may be a matter of a shift in language – sekihara appears in older titles, but it does seem that in more recent material that sekuhara is the term preferred (probably since sekihara is actually a surname for some, whereas sekuhara isn’t).

      Glad you liked the post =)

  3. Ida says:

    I have to disagree with you. HenZemi is the worst title of the season, hands-down. The second episode particularly made half of our seasoned club-members rage-quit. Sekai-ichi is just… meh.
    What I dislike the most is discontinuity of the show itself. You stalk someone for four years, and then can’t even remember their face? Granted, people do change, but not _that_ much.
    I do think it is better than Junjou Romantica. At least, they didn’t have random molestation sequence seven minutes into the show which everyone ignores later on.
    Is simple plot to much to ask in a show like this? They started off quite nicely, in the manga-publishing industry. It doesn’t have to be Bakuman, but if they actually continued to depict them working in the more serious fashion (as opposed to just to set the mood of employer/employee), and actually acting like adults, it would have been much better.
    But just like I don’t care about the main couple in Romantica, here I do enjoy Kisa’s storyline more (they should start doing it next episode). Also, the OVA was quite adorable.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      As I said in my post, Sekai-Ichi is totally toxic, and perpetuates harmful ideas about sexual harassment and rape.

      It really is too bad about all the rape-y stuff, since the business portions are actually pretty good. The interactions with the co-workers and the manga authors are actually even funny at points. But the “romance” is such utter garbage that it thoroughly obliterates any of the good points of the piece.

  4. Pingback: Rape in Yaoi « Contemporary Japanese Literature

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  6. starpowder says:

    And to think I was wanting to watch this vile piece of crap. I’m so glad I decided to read this entry before I made that mistake.

    Thank you.

  7. Toffee says:

    Oh god I agree so much with your post!!!! While I may not hate it to your extend the whole noncon/ducon thing in yaoi has been bothering me for a while now. I was thinking the whole time, is it really just me who doesn’t like it ? I have yet to find a yaoi anime that doesn’t have rape/sexual harrasment or rape = love in it. This is sad …

    That being said I do enjoy the other two storylines in SIH though since they are a whole lot more consensual than the main pairing.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      The C-line pairing was actually legitimately quite good. So of course it got the smallest screentime! The kiss behind the notebook was so… sigh.

      Close the Last Door didn’t have rape = love, which was nice. It is rather rare, though. The only one I can think of other than that is Our Road of No Return, although I think there is at least one other floating around out there that avoided that trope. Can’t think of it, though; it was an older OVA from the 90’s or 80’s.

  8. Chalulu says:

    I would have to agree with you on certain points that Takano is way too pushy and controlling.He does have a ” I will force my love on you ” kind of attitude .And if that kind of guy exists in real life it would be hell for the victim . But I don’t agree with the fact the viewers are supposed to totally woot for Takano and not feel any emotion for Onodera .In fact, Onodera’s ‘hard to get attitude’ is what differentiates SIK from Jonjou Romantica and makes it more realistic.In Jonjou, the uke’s(Misaki) protests had no effect on the seme(Usagi) whereas Onodera puts up a good fight and provides a challenge for TAKANO .The whole narrative is from Onodera’s perspective and the fact that he is avoiding Takano and doesn’t want to be alone with him makes the viewer (specially a maiden) identify with what one feels when one falls in love but isn’t ready to be in a relationship. In my opinion,the viewers identify more with the clumsy ,naive and kawai Onodera and feels disdain for Yokozawa who unfairly blames our cute uke …And if you read comments on videos in youtube or crunchyroll ,you will understand that most people actually woot for Onodera more and think he does not deserve that condescending treatment/attitude from Yokozawa .
    As for Takano …yeah he is a little short of being a rapist but i feel that the lack of attention or the lack of company he had in his childhood with his parents getting divorced plays a major role for his behaviour . Since he basically lacked attention /love from parents,he tries to forcibly get love /attention from his loved one. I don’t intend to defend him but I’m just saying that I kind of understand why he behaves that way .
    As for the episode where Onodera goes to Hokkaido, I don’t think Takano had any doubts on Onodera’s ability. He had more doubts on the author’s ability and was only being practical in the beginning. He didn’t want Onodera to waste time going there when there was no surety whether the sick author could deliver or not. But when he saw that Onodera was really adamant and being immature about it , Takano let Onodera have his own way and even said that he would take all responsibility in the event of a misfortune.
    As for Onodera , it is really hard not to identify with him as his feelings are very real.A real person usually feels the same pangs of nervousness /pessimism that Onodera felt when he arrives to a new company as a noob and doesn’t get the job he intended to do. Also, the way he feels jealous when he hears about Yokozawa and Takano spending time together,the way he can’t look Takano straight in the eye and the way he tries hard to avoid Takano only adds to the show’s charm and epitomizes the feelings of a girl in love .In episode 4 also, where he wakes up half naked in bed and screams – thats exactly what an actual person( Specially a woman ) would do if one finds oneself in that situation .That is why I don’t really agree with your point of view that ” the makers of the show intended that viewers are not supposed to sympathize with Onodera or his behaviour “.

  9. Isla says:

    I didn’t like the main story line of Sekaiichi, (with Takano and Onodera) but I enjoyed the Chiaki, Yuu and Hatori love triangle side story. I found the rest of it watchable, but I certainly wouldn’t watch it again. There aren’t many good BL manga out there without molesting and rape. If you know any good ones, please tell me.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      A lot of Yugi Yamada’s work is good on that count. Close the Last Door was quite good, as was the unfortunately-titled No One Loves Me (that title even had – GASP – a man who actually identified as gay!). I also liked One Cell Organism. And I couldn’t go without mentioning Only the Ring Finger Knows, although avoid the light novels. Yatternaze is a good older title, as is Komatta Toki ni wa Hoshi ni Kike. Sakae Kusama has some good stuff as well, such as her one-shot The Constellations Shine in the Sky (which is in a volume of the same name). Hope that’s been of some help!

  10. GintaxAlvissforever says:

    I don’t see Takano as abusive. Pushy yes but not a complete monster that you put him as. This is only from a few episodes? That’s not enough. And I must remind you, Takano doesn’t rape Ritsu. In fact, he comes on to him but it NEVER gets to that point.
    Hatori/Chiaki however is a completely different story. If you’re going to review a dysfunctional couple, then review them. The main pairing comes off as a couple that’s always fighting (jerk fighting with the tsundere is normal in anime). Not this one sided abuse as you paint it as. If this was an essay you would submit to a teacher telling your side of the story, you wouldn’t do well because you need BOTH sides of the argument to make this work.
    I see this more as ranting about how you hate yaoi in general because of the cliche.
    Also, you’re forgetting that both of the characters were hurt when they broke up. Ritsu is hurt because of a misunderstanding (and not all of his backstory is revealed yet. Just bits of pieces) while Takano broke because Ritsu was the first person that gave a damn about him (there is a manga chapter from his point of view showing what he thought of Ritsu during the high school years). Takano has parents that are giving him hell and Ritsu just up and leaves him forcing him in state of depression. He basically loses the will to continue life and Yokozawa is the one that pulls him out of his depression. Then we find out that Ritsu has lied to Takano and kept many things from him such as not telling him of his fiance that he was engaged to when he was going out with him and then leaving out of the blue.
    So what I’m trying to say is that you’re saying Ritsu is the only victim here. How is he the ONLY victim when Takano suffered just as much as him? (Yokozawa too). While Yokozawa’s actions aren’t supposed to be good, you paint Ritsu as if he’s a weak uke that can’t stand on his own ground. Ritsu is a very strong, capable person unlike the typical uke. He’s not going to take Takano’s shit. It’s one thing that you can’t say about his boss but as the series goes on, he outright tells him that it doesn’t matter if he’s his boss. He’s going to let him have it. You wouldn’t know that by watching four measly episodes concerning them.
    But your quotes are just god terrible. “Sekai Ichi will poison your brain about harassment and rape in real life?” Please, I’m pretty sure the audience can tell the difference between fantasy and real life. You’re taking this too seriously. Oh, I noticed that you ignore posts that disagree with your point of view. You don’t even mention the pairing that doesn’t revolve around “rape” at all. Yukina/Kisa is the most stable pairing in the series yet your failure to bring that up is sad. You just focus on the main pairing, slap that it’s an abusive boss/co-worker relationship and then expect people to believe you. How about watching the entire series and the OVA without saying that its despicable. I’m not saying that Takano/Ritsu are the most stable relationship but compared to Junjou Romantica, its very tame especially since there IS NO RAPE. Not when they’re together for the first time. It’s stolen kisses and unless you consider that rape then there is something wrong with you.
    And I feel for the people on here that don’t have open minds when watching the shows. People like you have no experience with the show in terms of looking at it from another angle. I don’t see Takano/Ritsu as the ideal pairing. Yukina/Kisa is the most ideal pairing if you give the angle.
    Besides, if you believe their romance is the worst you have ever seen, you should see Mirai Nikki.
    Finally, since the series is from Ritsu’s point of view, we’re supposed to sympathize with him, not Takano so when you say that it’s always Ritsu’s fault, that’s not what the audience thinks even when the evidence of the breakup being Ritsu’s fault slowly coming to the surface.
    -sigh- You remind me of those arrogant people online that think they can say what they want without the evidence. Write something that has both point of views instead of stereotyping this series as another yaoi series that taints the minds of girls. That’s Twilight’s job.

    • Lawlilawliet says:

      Well, the thing is, I don’t like dub-con or non-con (which is why I hated the drunk!Onodera chappy.) But I like this anime, and I have no strong aversion towards the main couple, besides the aforementioned chapter. I suppose I never really saw sex as sex unless it was penetrative in nature. >_> Now, I don’t think that one blog post will shove me of Sekakoi, but it has made me think. So thanks. I guess. 😛
      Also, please don’t vilify Takano just based on the first 4 episodes. I swear it only gets.. worse. -_- Why do I like this series?

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  12. Kiba says:

    i guess you wouldn’t like loveless since it’s kinda like the same thing xD

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  14. Mar says:

    I guess those who like the Chiaki/Hatori pairing so much haven´t even heard about the BL novel in which their chapters are based. There is in fact rape in Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi but it doesn´t involve Onodera and Takano at all. It is Hatori who rapes a sick and almost unconscious Chiaki, who keeps on begging him to stop. Just that the rape scene was turned into a kiss in the anime.

  15. Anontheanon says:

    Finally! Someone agrees with me! It’s even worse in the manga, especially the new chapters where Onodera befriends. Haitani or someone, who previously worked with Takano. After finding out he was having a friendly dinner with him, Takano was practically furious and forced and yelled at him to cut off contacts with him and forbade him to see Haitani, saying Haitani is a creep and rapists and he is nothing like that, then raped Ono on the couch. I thought the new chapters were better because of the positive comments, turns out I was wrong, just a bunch of fangirls going “oh my gawd takano is jealous so kawaii”.

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