The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sekaiichii Hatsukoi

Title: Sekaiichi Hatsukoi
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Studio Deen
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 8 Apr 2011 – 24 Jun 2011

Synopsis: Onodera Ritsu leaves his father’s publishing company to join another called Marukawa Shoten in the hopes of separating himself from his father’s name. Here, he is designated as an editor of shoujo manga despite his wishes to work in the literature department. Just when things can’t get any worse for him, he learns that his first love, Masamune Takano, the man he spent years trying to forget, is the editor-in-chief of the department. This becomes even more complicated when Takano begins to make advances on him, determined to make Ritsu say the words, “I love you,” again.

The Highlights
Arcs: Formulaic.
Characters: Very dull, or very annoying.
Romance: Goes in circles.

Shounen-ai series don’t have the best reputation in the anime community. Even as a gay man, I tend to avoid them like the plague. Written with the intent to attract women, they often cater their appeal to fangirls, relying on cheesy romances and a cast of attractive men to pull in their audiences. Sekaiichi Hatsukoi for the most part is no different from standard shounen-ai fare. Though some aspects to the romances of the series are compelling, the generally archetypical characters do nothing to break the boundaries of the genre, resulting in a series that carries appeal to its target audience without providing much for viewers uninterested in shounen-ai series.

The story starts in a fashion typical of the genre. Onodera Ritsu, the initial protagonist of the series, joins the shoujo section of a manga editing company. Here, we are introduced to a slew of attractive young men including the editor-in-chief, Masamune Takano, who also happens to be Ritsu’s first love. Ritsu, with his jaded attitude for love and his dismissal of Takano’s advances, starts out as an interesting character, though Takano feels like a rehash of Gravitation’s Eeri Yuki. However, as this first arc progresses, Ritsu’s wishy-washy feelings for Takano become grating, and Takano’s persistent advances, most often through a forced kiss, makes the romance feel pandering and a bit creepy.

Then, right as the story begins to gain momentum when a love triangle is introduced, the arc is abruptly brought to an end and a new one begins, this time about another editor at the company and the male manga-ka he manages. This next story-arc begins to follow a similar path as Onodera and Masamune, introducing a love triangle between the hapless manga-ka, the editor, and the manga-ka’s assistant. And, in the same manner as the first story arc, this one abruptly ends with the introduction of another storyline involving an editor and his crush. The jumps between storylines make it hard to gain full interest in them, and the flat, generally annoying characters and cheesy melodrama don’t grab enough attention to really build investment.

The lack of investment one may feel toward the characters is further buffered by the undeniable formula that each of the arcs follow. The main protagonist of each storyline fits the role of the “uke.” Awkward, nervous, and unsure of entering into a relationship with the love interest, they never break the bounds of their stereotypical role in the shounen-ai mold. Similarly, the love interest of the protagonist of each storyline takes on the role of the “seme.” Confident, taller, handsome, and more commanding, these characters aren’t particularly compelling as they are based on clichés within the genre. The strict adherence to the designated roles designed for characters by the genre may appeal to fans attracted to this formula, however, this adherence prevents the series from being able to create any nuanced romances that break the mold of shounen-ai series.

Sekaiichi Hatsukoi has everything the typical fan of shounen-ai would love: cute ukes and handsome semes, dramatic romances, and an abundance of kisses between men. However, for those who aren’t fans of the genre, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi doesn’t do much to garner interest. Between the annoying characters, the romances that go in circles, the uneven breaks between storylines, and the general pandering toward the target audience, it’s not an anime that breaks through its niche genre to appeal to a larger demographic. As a gay male, I long for the day that a realistic drama comes out tackling the issue of homosexuality, but as it stands, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi just joins a long list of mediocre titles that make up its genre. Perhaps the second season will redeem the series, but I can’t say I expect that much.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Hayama

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