Worth a look.
BL TV series tend to be fairly scarce on the ground, and a lot of the recent ones have run toward the worst excesses of the genre (everyone loves molestation, right? right???), so while I’d heard decent things about the manga, I did feel some trepidation upon starting the episode. Lucky for me – and for you, too! – this opening episode largely skated clear of the common pitfalls, and even managed to be good.
The premise is pretty basic stuff. Guy’s been hanging out with the wrong crowd and going along with being the errand boy for a bunch of delinquents, so sure that he couldn’t possibly expect something better that he doesn’t even resent his position. Into this steps Kousuke Oshiba, a guy whose favorite hobby is to go around kicking the crap out of delinquents at night, and who tells our hero, Setagawa, to drop the bad friends and get on with living right. Setagawa takes the lesson to heart and starts high school determined to stay out of trouble. It helps that he’s got a true friend in Kensuke, Oshiba’s younger brother, although Kensuke seems to be dealing with his own issues, having re-encountered a former friend he treated poorly in elementary school… and learned that his older brother’s going to be teaching math class at his school.
It’s a completely chaste opening episode, so much so that there are shows which never move past implying homoeroticism which nevertheless have first episodes that seem more obviously gay than this does. Honestly, I like the more low-key approach it’s taking at the moment, as it so far leaves the show developing in a way that feels natural rather than contrived. Too much of the yaoi which makes its way to the small-screen goes about things in a way that suggests that the most important thing is that the boys will be kissing boys, with the relationship underpinning that playing second fiddle. (Mind you, its not as if you can’t have guys kissing right off the bat, it’s that it never seems to be executed in a way that’s compelling or convincing – no, it’s the “I’ll molest you until you love me!” school of “romance”! Ones that pull it off for whatever reason remain in firmly in the land of manga.)
The way the characters are presented is similar to this, as they’re presented across the course of the episode and the audience is permitted to get to know them by watching them interact with various situations and other characters. It works especially well for Setagawa, which does make sense given that we spend the most time with him.
I do want to mention the visuals, as they proved a pleasant surprise – this is a good-looking show, and while the style isn’t wholly novel, it does have its own look. So many BL shows look so painfully, achingly cheap that I can’t help but be thrilled by this fact.
The one thing that’s a bit sour in all of this is that its pretty clear that the romance which is poised to be the focus of the show is between Setagawa and Oshiba; given their age difference and the hierarchical nature of student-teacher relationships, this is discomfiting at best. I genuinely wish Setagawa was a year or two older, although that would still leave the student-teacher thing in-play. (This seems to be a sign, by the way, of my having gotten older, as I was less bothered by this sort of set-up in fiction when I was closer to the ages of the students featured in these works than I am now as someone closer to the age of the teachers!) I’m not going to drop it outright over this, but I am uneasy with it. I hope it can tackle it with sensitivity.
Ultimately, I think one’s enjoyment is largely going to hinge on how they feel about student-teacher romances, because if you’re a BL fan, you’re going to check it out, and if you’re not a BL fan, you won’t be. It’s one of the stronger premieres thus far for the new season, but I’m no fool, and I know who’ll actually be giving it a go. Whatever the case, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it pans out as well as the first episode suggests it could.