Episode 1 of Sasaki and Miyano premiered on January 10. Based on Shou Harusono’s manga series of the same name, the show’s first episode is fun and sweet, sowing the seeds for a wholesome romance between its main characters.
Miyano Yoshikazu is an introverted high school student and self-proclaimed fudanshi – the term attributed to boys and men who enjoy Boys’ Love (BL) content. He begins to admire upperclassman Sasaki Shuumei after witnessing him shut down a bullying incident. But after Sasaki starts to bombard him with displays of affection, Miyano’s perception of him as the cool senpai begins to shatter.
When Miyano jokes about making a gay fanfic of him, Sasaki asks him for manga recommendations. With Miyano’s guidance Sasaki delves into the world of BL, and the pair’s relationship deepens.
A cliché but fun story
Sasaki is Miyano’s polar opposite in many ways. He’s bold, boisterous, and by all accounts a delinquent, with the heavily-pierced ears and tardiness to back them up. If this setup sounds cliché, that’s because it is. The ‘opposites attract’ trope is prevalent in a lot of romantic stories but perhaps in no other romance subgenre is it used more than in BL. In a genre notorious for its tropes, pairing the protagonist with a confident bad boy is among the most popular of them.
Depictions of same-sex relationships often fixate on clearly-defined roles, so it’s no surprise that characters often fall into stereotypes such as this. However, that’s not to say that Sasaki and Miyano is accidentally falling into these clichés. Rather than that, it seems that the series is playing into them; using Miyano’s fudanshi status to explore BL tropes and stereotypes in a fun and playful way. But whether or not you’re acquainted with the BL genre, any anime fan should be able to appreciate the humor of an otaku introducing a “normie” (as Miyano puts it) into their world.
Same-sex attraction is clearly a foreign concept to Sasaki. While acknowledging Miyano’s cute appearance, he reminds himself numerous times “but he’s a guy”. Interestingly though, the fact that Miyano is male doesn’t make Sasaki shy away from his feelings, nor does he seem to feel any guilt or shame around them – a refreshing change of pace from other BL stories. Instead, Sasaki fully embraces the way he feels for Miyano, even asking him out on their second meeting (though Miyano takes this as a joke).
The fact that he’s never considered same-sex relationships before now also means that he’s blissfully unaware of social attitudes towards queerness and queer content. Several times in episode 1, Miyano has to remind Sasaki not to discuss or even hold a copy of the BL manga he lends him when their fellow classmates are around. But Sasaki’s candidness and unabashed affection for Miyano are what make him such an endearing character, and my favorite of the series thus far.
Despite being a fudanshi, Miyano is the one who seems defensive about his sexuality. When lending Sasaki his first BL manga he assures him that he just likes reading these stories and he’s not actually gay. Perhaps Miyano is still figuring out his sexuality, or perhaps he’s just trying to protect himself from the judgement and bullying that LGBT students are often subject to. Either one is a perfectly natural reaction for someone in Miyano’s situation to have, and though I wouldn’t necessarily call him a complex character, I appreciate that he still feels realistic.
To state the obvious, consuming BL doesn’t inherently make you gay; straight and queer people alike can enjoy the genre. However, since Sasaki and Miyano is a BL and the main characters’ relationship is obviously heading in the direction of romance, it’s evident that Miyano is somewhat attracted to guys.
While Miyano’s line about fudanshi living in the shadows made me giggle, it was also a reminder of the difficulties that LGBT students face, particularly in a socially conservative country like Japan. Based on the show’s light and fluffy premiere, it’s hard to say whether these more serious issues will be explored in the story. But if they’re only touched upon in subtle moments, that would be fine too. Although light-hearted BL are often criticized for ignoring societal issues, it’s worth noting that not every queer romance has to be filled with tragedy and hardship.
While I do think that the light-hearted tone of Sasaki and Miyano‘s first episode was one of its strengths, most of the humor fell flat for me, as I felt it was too exaggerated. The use of slow motion and sparkly romance effects could also be dialed down several notches. Having said that, the animation itself is decent. There were a few clunky moments but these were balanced out by well-done character close ups. The structure of the episode was also a bit jarring, cutting between the past and present at seemingly random times. Though since this was the first episode I don’t expect this to continue throughout the series.
But if I’m honest, I don’t watch series like this expecting stellar animation and comedy. Sasaki and Miyano’s sweet interactions and likeable personalities are enough to keep me watching for now. If you’re looking for something cute and wholesome to watch, this anime definitely fits the bill.
Episode 1 of Sasaki and Miyano is available to watch on Funimation in select regions, as well as Bilibili. If you enjoyed episode 1, don’t forget to vote for it in our Anime of the Week poll.
All images via Funimation.