[The anime under discussion is rated TV-MA. Please proceed with appropriate caution.]
I am ripping my retinas away from Hakuouki to write this post; yes, although it has been four years, I remain in love with said franchise to the point that I’m grinning like an idiot just listening to it play in the background. Writing each sentence becomes increasingly more difficult as my attention wars between this post and delightful Hakuouki dialogue. I suppose I must remove the source of my distraction, for we all know that Christmas is upon us, and there is much to do!
There are posts to write with Scott (because Scifi and Sparkles rides again this holiday season!!), there are pieces to write for my blog alone (like this one!), and there are countless ways in which life makes concentrating on anything other than potential despair all the more difficult at present. (I’ve been screaming in the most vague sense on Twitter. Health problems are scary. Also, are you done Christmas shopping yet? I am, finally! *inserts something half-hearted and hand-wavy about capitalism*)
I’ve dedicated time to fanfiction (I’m authoring the longest current HaraChi fanfic on Ao3, and I’m ridiculously and hilariously proud of that.), but today is also a day for review. Thus, let us make like a Youtuber and eventually get past this long-winded introduction (SKIP TO THE NEXT HEADING FOR CONTENT) because I am ready today, my guys! It’s time to talk anime!
We’re going to talk about The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera. Even though I never wanted to admit that I watched this show… well, I watched it quite some time ago, and there’s certainly a lot to unpack. This is hard to write.
In case you don’t know, The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera (aka Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi: Onodera Ritsu no Baai or Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi: The World’s Greatest First Love) is a BL series spin-off of Junjo Romantica (yes, THAT Junjo Romantica) telling the story of Ritsu and Masamune, one-time sweethearts who now (OOPS!) work at the same manga company! The series also tells the story of two other couples tangentially related to the main pair.
As I’ve said in the past, I don’t like writing summaries, so I’m going to swipe this one directly from Wikiepdia before I move on:
Ritsu Onodera, a literary editor, resigns from his father’s publishing company, due to his coworkers’ jealousy toward his success, claiming that he is simply riding his father’s coattails. He applies for a position at Marukawa Publishing in order to move away from his father’s shadow, but instead of his preferred department of literature, he is placed in the infamous shojo manga department, Emerald. He initially considers resigning, especially because he finds his new boss, Masamune Takano, intolerable and unnerving from the very beginning; however, Takano inadvertently convinces Onodera to stick with the job by calling him “useless,” his pride forcing him to stay in order to prove his worth. Later, Onodera learns that Takano’s old family name was Saga, and that he was an older schoolmate from high school that Onodera fell in love with and confessed to. It turns out Takano still has feelings for Onodera, and he tells him he will make him fall in love with him again. The series shows how Takano slowly achieves this goal, and the obstacles the two face.
There are also two other couples in this show; their stories are shown in later episodes. The characters follow Onodera’s fellow editors: Hatori and his longtime friend (and manga artist he’s in charge of) Yoshino, as well as Kisa and the attractive bookstore employee he has his eye on, Yukina.-Wikipedia
Okay, now we’re all on the same page, yes? Yes. Good. Also, we’re gonna call this title GFL for short, because you’ll have mercy on my poor fingers and nonexistent spelling skills, right?
Studio Deen animates this title, which should tell you everything you need to know regarding how it’s my kind of title, visually speaking. Like many of Studio Deen’s works, GFL employs a bishie-ism that moe studios aren’t brave enough to attempt. (I’m kidding, moe-lovers, please don’t murder me.) Seriously, though, this title is pretty to look at, and when the goal is illustrating handsome men, that’s definitely a plus. It’s no Hakuouki, but the colors are lovely, and the characters are drawn to pretty well mimic its source material’s manga style. If visual continuity is your goal, you’re good there.
(Yes, Studio Deen also animated Hakuouki, so we must thank them for making me into a sobbing mess on more than one occasion. And now I’m going to stop talking about Hakuouki in this post, I promise. <3)
Additionally, the acting… gosh, the voice acting. It’s just phenomenal. It can’t be overstated. In lighthearted and intense, problematic scenes, their voices are so emotional that I’m really just in awe. When Ritsu cries, you know his voice actor is really crying, and I just…
The voices are my favorite part of the whole show.
But to get into the true point of this post, the reason that I didn’t write about this show forever ago is because I was…
?embarrassed? ?ashamed? ?conflicted? ?uncomfortable? ?unmoored? ?confused?
I didn’t write about this show after first watching it because I didn’t know what to say.
GFL is intense and interesting. The relationships between the various characters are well fleshed out and multifaceted for this type of show, and I’ll admit that I really was glad when I saw that it had a second season. Parts of it made me laugh out loud (like, in just one example, when Masamune laughs at an ill-timed joke and Ritsu yells at himself that he can’t be in love with such a total @$$hole as Masamune!), and I watched the whole show in only a few days.
It’s also problematic, and characters sometimes ignore consent in ways that make me incredibly uncomfortable. For example, Ritsu keeps telling Masamune to back off. He keeps telling him that he isn’t interested anymore, that he wants to keep things professional. We as the audience know that Ritsu is conflicted in how he feels, but even so–even understanding that Masamune believes that Ritsu is conflicted, too–the older man doesn’t take no for an answer, and that’s honestly just not okay. He kisses Ritsu when Ritsu tells him to LET GO, and he uses his size to his advantage to hold Ritsu down, etc.
It doesn’t mean–in the context of our show–that Masamune doesn’t love Ritsu, but it does mean he’s doing something very wrong. Masamune should not be accosting Ritsu those ways, should not press Ritsu against a door, bring the smaller man’s hand down and say “touch me” when Ritsu has already said NO.
I’m given to believe that a lot of BL has these sorts of undertones. I’m not exactly sure how to come to terms with a show like this, or whether or not I should, and that’s why I didn’t want to admit I’ve seen it and definitely didn’t want to talk about it. (I mean, I have problems with Love Stage!, too, so it goes without saying that I’d be uncomfortable with a title that takes Love Stage!’s brief lack of consent so much father.) But at the same time, the voice acting is SO GOOD, the music so well-paired, and their emotions make my heart beat so fast. I kept watching it because it made me want to know what would happen next.
To illustrate, please watch the following short scene.
I think the most important thing to note about this title is that, in real life, these situations are not okay. It doesn’t mean they don’t happen, but that when they do happen, they aren’t to be excused. At the same time, recognizing that, I can appreciate that GFL tells a compelling, emotional story utilizing problematic situations. I feel like the feelings and motivations of the characters are amazingly portrayed, even when the creators end up romanticizing inappropriate actions in the course of doing so.
I guess that’s it, really. Maybe I didn’t take the right things out of this, or maybe it wasn’t the creators’ intent, but the reason I liked GFL is that it made me feel something–made me feel like I was watching something real, unhealthy, emotional and honest unfold. At the end of the day, don’t accept this sort of behavior from anyone, even if you love them, and don’t make sexual advances without consent.
If you want to watch GFL, it’s available on Funimation. If you do, please go into the title knowing what you’re about to see isn’t a healthy relationship, but it is undeniably an interesting story.
I will probably regret publishing this. Until next time, please stay home when you can, and wear a mask when you can’t. Wash you hands, and stay safe!