Warning: This post will discuss rape and is also probably be NSFW due to a discussion of the sexual content in the manga at hand.
So last summer I watched all of the adorable BL anime Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi (The Best First Love in the World). It wasn’t anything new or special when it comes to boys’ love titles, but it got a second season this last fall, and in between waiting for episodes to come out I discovered that SekaHatsu‘s manga-ka Shunjiku Nakamura had also written Junjou Romantica (Pure-Hearted Romance). Now, I had never read it, but from what I can tell (based on availability of merchandise at cons) Junjou Romantica is a relatively popular title within the BL genre. So to pass the time I figured I’d check it out.
Now I certainly don’t expect every gay romance story to deal with gay issues, or for its characters to be paragons fighting for queer rights and whatnot. Sometimes a problematic romance story is just a problematic romance story, regardless of the orientations of the two involved. But, after reading all the chapters I could access on my questionably-legal manga-reading iPhone app, I was left with only two feels: that Junjou Romantica was boring, and that it was rapey. I’d explain the plot of the series, but… it’s mostly relationship drama—there’s not much of one.
Let’s deal with the latter first. A continuing story trend I’ve noticed in boys’ love titles is this: There is an older guy who is the seme (he tops), and a younger guy who is the uke (he bottoms). This can be as close as a freshman-senior in high school gap to a full generational gap. The younger guy is crushing on the older guy, but is super tsundere and won’t admit it. So the older guy just pushes and pushes and smooches and gropes and the younger guy (from whose perspective we view the series) doth protest too much and if there’s not an eventual happy ending, it’s only because the series is ongoing and they can’t yet. In each of these series it’s portrayed as obvious that the younger kid wants it, he just refuses to say so. So each of these sexual encounters is begun despite the vocal refusal of the uke character, which is generally just rapey to me. BL has a really unfortunate tendency to create rape apologists out of its fans.
But Junjou Romantica takes it a step further for me. For whatever reason, whether because Japan still has a somewhat repressive culture when it comes to homosexuality and so Japanese people can’t just realize they’re gay, or for some other stupid reason, the manga-ka couldn’t just have had Misaki, the main character, meet his love interest Akihiko and realize he might be interested in him and have the relationship progress from there. No, Akihiko pushes himself on Misaki on basically their first meeting and rapes him. Misaki then has a sexual crisis, deciding he must be gay because he sure enjoyed that older man forcing him. Not a omg-I-was-just-raped crisis—a wow-good-thing-that-guy-showed-me-I-like-being-fucked-up-the-ass-I-better-stick-with-him-forever crisis. And that’s the basis for their whole relationship. From that scene onward it’s just pretty bog-standard Shunjiku Nakamura hijinks, but I could never move past the fact that their relationship was jump-started by a rape scene.
Moving past that, the rest of it is just boring. I’m not invested in their relationship whatsoever, because their characters don’t have any depth. Even the sex is boring—there is no mixing up of the seme/uke dynamic, like, ever, and each time they get it on Akihiko gives Misaki a blowjob and then fucks him. That’s it.
So, besides the gratuitous-but-boring sexing, I still can’t for the life of me figure out why people read this series. There are two other relationship subplots that are far less rapey and gross, but they’re not exactly compelling either. If you’re looking for some hardcore BL, pick up a doujinshi or something; if you’re looking for adorable gay romance, go… somewhere else. This series isn’t worth your time.