US Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment
Production Studio: Studio Deen
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network

Well friends, this is it. This is the title where I put my foot in it (if “it” can be described as an angry fandom beehive).

Firstly, some definitions are in order. Junjo Romantica is a popular title in the yaoi (boys love) genre. Yaoi features gay male romance, and is typically written for straight ladies, by straight ladies. If the detestably melodramatic plots that commonly pollute daytime television appeal to you, I’ll go ahead and recommend this now. You might rather enjoy Junjo Romantica, provided that you’re not homophobic. Or, if you like boys’ love (no matter how it’s executed), you should definitely pay this title a visit.

But for the rest of us, this beloved yaoi phenomenon falls flatter than a non-apology issued by leading politicians. First, here’s the synopsis.

Misaki is a senior in highschool who needs help getting into Mitsuhashi University. He’s lamenting his poor preliminary test scores, when he walks in on renowned author, Akihiko Usami, glommed onto his big brother. Misaki’s maidenly shock turns into intimidated surprise when he’s confronted with Usami “somehow” becoming his tutor during the opening credits.

When no one seems to be around on Misaki’s first day of tutoring, Misaki lets himself into Usami’s penthouse. There, he discovers that Usami also writes explicit stories featuring our foppish lead’s older brother. Misaki is overcome with maidenly rage this time, storming into Usami’s bedroom to scream stereotypes about this outrageous gayness… on behalf of his older brother, of course. Misaki’s fire is completely doused after opening the door. There sleeps the super-elite Usami, an apparent manchild, surrounded by children’s toys, in a dank cave made for twelve-year-olds.

Usami, being the man he is, immediately gives Misaki something else to be shocked and angry about by sexually molesting him. After that, for some reason, the two become dubious of their ability to get along. But they each privately decide that they will, for Misaki’s brother’s sake, find a way to coexist. You see, Usami is in a long-standing, unrequited, impossible love with the big brother. But that won’t stop him from touching the privates of his beloved’s younger brother, nor from hoping it’ll all work out with a straight guy.

Misaki studies hard under Usami, because he really wants to get into Mitsuhashi University. He soon develops feelings for his abusive tutor, which he agonizes confusedly over because he was never gay before being molested! So why now?!

Meanwhile, older brother gets engaged to a woman, and breaks Usami’s heart. Usami then transfers his affections to Misaki, who is actually attainable and caring for Usami’s heartbreak.

The rest is a similarly repugnant drama, which revolves around their new relationship, as well as the relationships of people they are introduced to throughout the series. Um, enjoy.

Now, what initially drew me to Junjo Romantica is probably its most interesting trait: it features a bunch of gay guys, living their very gay lives. It’s not something that’s often seen in slice-of-life anime, and certainly not without tired fetishizations featured toward a straight audience… but, unfortunately, that’s exactly what I found.

I was disappointed that Junjo Romantica didn’t do anything new with homosexual representation in anime. Well, unless you count highlighting so many gay couples? Since all of the main characters are gay, the show had ample opportunities (and three seasons) to do so.  Instead, it merely appropriated gayness, and used it to re-costume exceptionally worn out tropes.  

Let’s count them, shall we?

  1. The self-denying, petite, blushing tsundere. This one’s a real mass-produced firecracker!
  2. The rapey, possessive, spoiled-rich celebrity boy who’s really not that bad. Promise!
  3. All of the people jealous of the tsundere and the rapist who use their crappy personalities and nice talents to interfere with their relationship.

Rather than doing something interesting with the cast, Junjo Romantica wove its characters into a worn-out format, aimed at shallowly titillating straight girls. Of course, that’s what the yaoi market often is, right? Throw in some racy fanservice to make us blush in every episode, add some tedious drama, and it all comes together like C-Grade softcore porn for the ladies. So, I’m not complaining about the service done for yaoi fans. But I was hoping, to the point of expectation, for Junjo Romantica to be something more.

Well, I might be barking at the wind.  I’m an outsider to both homosexuality and the boys’ love genre…so I really hope my gay editor leaves a note and sets me straighter.

Editor’s Note: No, you summed this up pretty well. To conjure my inner Ebert, I hated this show. Hated hated hated this show. Hated it. Hated every giggling, stupid, vacant, audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would enjoy it. Hated the overt insult in suggesting that this is how gay couples really are. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would ever be entertained by it. – MJF