Sekaiichi Hatsukoi— How Ritsu Onodera can be a good shounen protagonist in another anime

 

Yes, this is a shounen-ai anime.

It is about a young man named Ritsu Onodera who is painfully shy from romance and any kind of love life. When he was younger he was seemingly betrayed by a older boy he loved and as he was not the social-sort and always a bit timid he resigned to not really be in love.

Unfortunately for Ritsu, the very boy or now man enters into his life ten years later  in the Marukawa publishing house’s Shoujo Manga division. This man (boy) is Masamune Takeno who was once known in school as Masamune Saga . They both do not recognise each other, obviously, due to ten years of absence in each other’s lives. Yet Masamune later on looks closely and realises it’s his first love and decidedly declares to a reluctant Ritsu that in a year he will make him confess his love for him again.

Ritsu is obviously 100% annoyed. This man broke his heart and now attempts to be so casually engaged with love again. Apparently, Masamune mentions that it was Ritsu who had done the betrayal and not him. This also confuses Ritsu because Ritsu has no recollection of ever hurting Masamune. Yet Masamune seems interested in not losing Ritsu this time and for establishing love once more.

Can these two stay together or will there be no way to0 resolve what was probably miscommunication and hurt on both ends?

That;s basically the entire show. The worst thing is it is not nicely executed. One will see this show for its beautiful graphic and colour palette, to see some of the inner workings of a manga publishing house, to see lots of snogging between attractive men and the minutiae of life with attractive men. I know I enjoyed those moments.

Did I like the couples or did I care about them?

Fuck not much.

Seriously, I do not want to offend any fans nor do I want to offend the mangaka but this is very badly executed, even if the singular idea of reuniting love or accepting love is not bad.

I was introduced to this series I think when I was looking for titles as such. I took a small break from it but returned to it a year later because I actually liked the character designs and the real-world based setting. So my chagrin lies on the fact that a potentially good story is quite weak in structure be it symmetrical or semi-chaotic.

I admit I liked rewatching the series for its fluff factor which can be just zoned in to moments but I did not particularly care about any of the characters except Ritsu Onodera and Takafumi Yokozawa which is a bit sad as there are many characters so XD

This isn’t going to be a regular review as it will mostly focus on my personal reflection. It is also going to be LONG and SPOILER FRENZY based on both seasons and the movie. 

Despite me not so interested in this anime I can write long about it. I guess I have a lot of opinions on the series. I do like its fluff and that makes it re-watchable but I felt it had more potential that could have easily been extracted and executed yet alas that did not happen. Oh well onwards!

The main couple, Ritsu Onodera and Masamune Saga/Takano are a bunch of incompatible, uninteresting, too-sexualized, too passive-aggressive, non-flirtatious, non-talkative, stalemate (checkmate), misunderstanding, extremely poor communication bunch of lovers you could see. Their singular spark comes alive in really off-hand and pretty much coerced kisses between the two. Yes, and if you know the shounen-ai dichotomy you are well aware that Masamune is Seme and Ritsu is Uke and that the Seme is supposedly the action-taker.

My foot.

Masamune is a drab guy who somehow thinks that coercively kissing Ritsu is the only way to rekindle what may have been a genuine first love or even a crush. I see most of the action of their youth being taken by Ritsu and also accelerated by Ritsu with only erotic or semi-romantic actions being boredly or even honestly initiated by Masamune, Fast forward 10 years later and Masamune is still kind of a prick who acts all high and mighty.

I can understand that he has a developed a “killer attitude” in the workplace yet with Ritsu he is not as understanding as he should be nor is he tolerable or a person who respects another’s private space. I can understand the separation has instilled in him a desperation that he longs for Ritsu but dude grow up you guys had a huge break and are at a deadly impasse don’t jerk Ritsu about.

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Ritsu looks great when he is aroused My God such a beautiful man
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Yeah Masamune stop being a jerk

What this so-called couple needed was good-old fashioned talk-therapy between each other. I mean even as  the anime is expiring and both have kissed each other’s faces off but Ritsu doesn’t know why Masamune thinks he has abandoned him and Masamune shrugs off Ritsu;s complains that he was brusque and insulting to his feelings post-coitus.

In my opinion, Masamune is a culprit. No matter how you look at it you saw that Ritsu is a mild mannered person and anti-social. Laughing like that after sex when Ritsu asked him did he really love him and not affirming his  belief is actually a very nasty thing to do. Obviously, a sheltered and even looking like a bullied person, Ritsu would think that Masamune is just passing time with him as  he does in the library reading (though they did once lock the library and got a bit hot there).

I admit that Ritsu’s escapism is also at fault. If Ritsu just told Masamune straight off that he is being a jerk and he shouldn’t take his feelings lightly even if they are a bit intense I know this whole situation was avoidable. Yet Masamune did everything to initiate it. Even 10 years later he brushes it off as he was going through a lot then with his parents divorcing and how he was a bit of a punk then but that still doesn’t really excuse him. If he is so keen on wanting and loving Ritsu he should just be there for him and prove his love because all those years back Ritsu did all that so now it’s his turn.

No, he doesn’t do that; the guy just prances around and just sexually harasses Ritsu whenever and wherever hoping that Ritsu will relent. At times Ritsu does and they have weird knocked-out kind of sex that Ritsu either intentionally blocks out or has a hangover and kinda doesn’t remember (O_O :/). Instead of also informing him that he had sex Masamune does the whole you don’t remember speech over and over like they are on some of eternal repeat.

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Yeah, it gets that annoying. Not to mention Masamune withhelds information; he is as bad as shoujo-stereotype heroine (as in bodice-ripper) implicitly telly Ritsu that he is not an innocent though obviously Ritsu is sexually still an innocent and quite untainted in his analysis. At the same time he is explicit as a harlequin man doing coercive action hoping it would be similar to affirmative action (I kid you not). Thus he is a merging of two tropes that bring out a bad synergy rather a positive or even tolerable one. Ironically, the best synchronized trope mix is Takafumi Yokozawa who is an ex, friend and colleague of Masamune and also his eventual lover Zen Kirishima (more on that later).

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Yeah Yokozawa catches Ritsu being sexually harassed I mean well with Masamune LOL

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Masamune later on in the movie decidedly and finally apologises to Takafumi for in a way jerking him around. In some ways Masamune blinds himself of the dedication that Yokozawa puts on him. In my opinion, Yokozawa first two TV series is a complete asshole. It also doesn’t help that Ritsu becomes too passive about him. I understand Ritsu’s reluctance to have a verbal spat with a company senior but a few choiced remarks would have been helpful especially at one time Masamune points out (coming to the rescue) that Yokozawa deliberately did not pay attention to Ritsu’s work. Not that he pulled the classical jealous bitch and sabotaged it he just didn’t give it the attention it deserved.

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Yokozawa lashes out at Ritsu because during university years Masamune was a wreck not able to cope with anything, becoming devoid of everything around him and naturally he blames Ritsu’s sudden disappearance from Masamune’s life as the sole cause to his psychological breakdown. Masamune does not especially since we see in the last episode of the 2nd TV series that Masamune’s parents were pretty negligent about him and also they were on the turn for a nasty divorce.

Yet Yokozawa thinking Ritsu is  Masamune’s kryptonite is not abnormal nor unfair though his treatment of Ritsu is pretty unfair. Takafumi thinks that Ritsu is like a tease who specialises in breaking hearts which is a far cry from who Ritsu Onodera is. Not to forget that Masamune doesn’t really translate Ritsu as Ritsu as in he admits that Ritsu has changed a bit  10 years  so Ritsu has obviously matured so he doesn’t know him much anymore. This “stranger” attitude is how Masamune handles the Yokozawa-Onodera situation though he deeply suspects that Yokozawa is being a bitch to him. Takano does not really blast Takafumi much for being a bully to Ritsu which is also something I hated.

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That is why Masamune is such an incompetent lover. Aside his kissing vibes and actions he hardly understands Ritsu nor is engaged to Ritsu as a person. The mangaka just treats these people as instruments of romance rather than actual invested lovers. I read in wikipedia that Shungiku Nakamura actually wrote Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi as a spin-off to Junjou Romantica which I am partially familiar with. Nakamura may have just treated this as a pet project or something because to me it is not the best first lobe in the world <sweat drop> On the contrary it trivializes the precepts and concepts, of love and romance to a certain degree though to give it credit it has  a few gem moments.

My favourite character is Ritsu Onodera. As a character he is the best written one in this series. Though a traditional uke in some design blueprints and precepts of personality he is ambitious, non-conformist at some turns, not a belligerent hardass nor a complete doormat. In reality he is more fiercer than Takafumi and Masamune.

This young man of 25 has more spunk and direction than the 27 year old annoying git Masamune.  Ritsu has an impressive family history in the publishing industry but decides to just escape from it. Masamune does say one valuable thing: your lineage is just a surplus, a little ladder that gave a small boost it isn’t you in your entirety and it won’t qualify you or your work if you don’t understand or are conscientious. That is the most valuable gem in the series and Ritsu is a living embodiment of it.

Ritsu would have better in a shounen anime or another drama where he is bisexual or a thought experiment of an anime.  This is my own personal thing but I can easily visualize him in  a university drama like Honey and Clover or a male model in Paradise Kiss who is Yukari’s classmate/lover/friend. I can imagine him as a ninja in Naruto or a detective in Death Note or even Misa Amane’s co-star who is rightly suspect and discovers things about her. I can even imagine him as Prince Tutu, and extension of Princess Tutu. Or even as a cast of Free! or Haikyuu!! Yes, I can imagine him like this because Ritsu Onodera is so beautifully delicate and strong, such a large potential of attributes and personality with a repertoire of diligence and finesse that I seriously think he is wasted as just the love of a guy named Masamune Saga/Takano.

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This is honestly my opinion. I think in all those incarnations he would work in publishing because he has a literary and artistic talent that is quite beautifully presented if not wholly fleshed out. Yet he can work on other things I can see that capacity for it. Masamune, on the other hand, can be the archetype seme and just be that; his character is narrow and static. Ritsu’s is not.

DRAMAtical Murder cursory stance

I just saw the end of DRAMAtical Murder the TV series based on the yaoi game of the same name. If those of who don’t know DRAMAtical Murder (DM for short) is also produced by the same creators who made Togainu no Chi, Sweet Pool and the lesser know semi-furry themed yaoi game Lamento — yeah, it is made by the distinguished boys’ love producer NiTro+CHiraL. This post does have spoilers as most of my posts. Spoilers on DM and also other Nitro-CHiraL stuff.

(Ok I started writing this like some days ago but posted it now)

DRAMAtical Murder is the second time their series was made into an anime. And yeah, it was an improvement if Togainu no Chi. Not that I had the same complaints as the fans of TGNNC that it was not fair to the game, in my opinion, it was a good adaptation of a game that uses points of character elimination (as in character death) to actually progress with story.  I am not really going to talk about DRAMAtical Murder in full in this post because a) I need pictures and b) I will make an in-depth review of the whole series and c) I will do an episode by episode review as well as I watched attentively the whole series.

Chiral is the artist who helps write, I assumed, most of the original framework for these yaoi stories and she does a great enough job. NiTro+CHiraL is known for his deep and riveting storytelling and DRAMAtical Murder was no exception. I will not lie I do want more layers in the story but given it is a yaoi visually based game with routes involved I do applaud its integrity to make somewhat impressionable stories if not altogether remembering. Its premises are always something that can twist the ordinary but not so overly shoujo or shounen; it has its own directory of both powers, minutiae of everyday life and a cast of characters that will pervade or not.

The problem of adapting is that it is by the book. Some people hate when loyalty to a medium is severed. I myself complain at times of the same thing. Yet the medium is not a novel. It is a route based game so certain deviations are put as in an anime adaptation you will see all the routes somehow balance one another. The storyline is almost verbatim to what people had experienced in the different routes in the game (minus of course NiTro+CHiraL’s infamous bad endings which are graphically violent, bloody and disturbing to say the least really scary shit). I feel that to fans it is a good treat of seeing their beloved characters in motion and doing things without that multiple choice menu meaning someone else is doing the actions for them and as it is animated it now has cinematic pace. Yet my nagging feeling is that is it always necessary?

Togainu no Chi had an ending that actually carried on the story a bit. People hated it because there was no conclusive coupling. I actually applauded there wasn’t because the decision would be too sudden and too misplaced: though they hinted some Rin/Akira tension mostly because of all the routes that was in my opinion and even on a good pace the best ending of them all but I am not complaining because I am satisfied because that was not conclusive either. And it was also deviated from Rin’s route. So, there was no real coupling and it just focused on Akira’s growth as a person. It was a bit dark and murky but given the circumstances I preferred it the way it was. Of course, people hated it. I for one was happy seeing Akira realizing his destiny at stopping Shiki and just going for it. Shiki himself, like some Voldemort character, has accepted Akira as his rival, though Nano was always his obsession rather than rival. It made sense to me as the series was more or less based on Akira just realizing what and who he is and going on from there.

DRAMAticak Murder follows the same themes only different storytelling and other minor or major differences. Firstly, you will immediately notice that its art and animation is not dark and gothic inducing as TGNNC and that it has brighter colours. It is more based on internet, web, digital applications and interfaces so it also has a neon tint and timncture in colouring. Also it does not have character elimination much. It actually allows any character to become more ruthless rather than just die of your choices or presented circumstances of said choices. So if your route character becomes evil you either suffer or become as debased as him so in that way the bad endings has a darker flare than TGNNC but I guess because of the way it is presented it was somewhat tolerable to me though it is as dark and twisted as TGNNC. If you have a good ending what I enjoyed is I think many other characters can move on with their lives too. I am happy that this is not self centered. I mean why should the main character be so valuable as to always affect others so exponentially. And because it has less character elimination you feel overall happy getting a good ending.

DRAMtical Murder TV series or anime was a more heavy experience than Togainu no Chi the anime. This was both good and bad but mostly it is good. TGNNC was a bit lacking in story narrative that is okay because it was NiTro+CHiraL’s first work so it can have a few scratches here and there. Watching TGNNC felt ok, but it was a very loose and elastic experience. You feel that there are plus points but that this anime needs more to be 12 episodes long and it isn’t. Rather I was more interested in seeing how Akira and Shiki settle scores in the end. That was my feeling for it; I have mixed feelings. With DM those were not so much there. They imp-roved on their story execution and each epiosde was loaded. Yes, for a 12 epiosde anime arc I will say loaded. It can do better but what it did was not so bad. It focused on Aoba Seragaki and also on the emotional turmoils and formations of the other characters a bit too. Each episode after epiosde six felt like a mini route or mini arc on helping both Aoba and a character that has a route and that is pretty good. This sort iof execution was missing in Togainu no Chi anime because well TGNNU was a bit more difficult to arc and branch as character selection in game that led to routes were I think pretty sudden death too. Though some trhings in DM may remain a mystery it is not so nagging. The anime covered pretty much all the bases.

Each character was given ample enough time for a 12 episode arc; each character had someone else they hated or disliked or even pursued which was detailed. There was no one really wanting because if you see the series in one go even you will notice that it gave every major and some minor event in DRAMAtical Murder the game credence and attention. That is a good feat for a 12 episode anime arc that played around with a yaoi game that had many routes. There were both slice of life activities, both character arcs and details about the main plot. The series is character driven more. It is not shounen or shoujo that each thing is easily cured by a fight or interaction so they did focus on some messy things and some communication/ In shounen you have elaborate fights, in shoujo you have elaborate interactions in DM you can a equal pacing of talking and some reveals. Some may say that makes DM boring and they might not like it. I understand this. It is not a regular anime. It is yaoi based anime that left all the sex and sweat off. Except for some tame shounen-ai moments you get nada and I appreciate that too. The anime is not aimed to be yaoi. It is meant to please fans, attract new viewers and probably just mix some ingredients together. If it was yaoi you would find it in the hentai section.

The minor characters in the anime are still minor characters here. One of the mot crucial minor characters here is Sei Seragaki. Sei’s existence is pretty much tied up to Aoba realizing some stuff for himself and he is mostly used as a plot device. I actually mention Sei because Sei is a character I really love. I think even the two fuckers Virus and Trip are given more exposition in the original game (if you get bad routes) than Sei. Sei is both a noble and a very good natured character. He wants the best for his younger twin brother Aoba and wants his end as he has suffered a lot and now wants freedom from it. Because his physical state is so bad he knows he will not survive thus asks Aoba to use his scrap of destruction (he had the scrap of creation) to destroy him. This is where I wanted severely for NiTro+CHiraL to deviate from the original script and just go ahead and keep Sei alive. Ren can do something else to keep on living so it is important to me that Sei should have been given a second chance at life. Instead, they followed it to much on the script only deviating that Virus and Trip (because I think in the original it was not) calls Aoba to inform him that Sei is in the hospital after a year has passed from the Endgame. I mean it took Ren  a year to live in his new body as Sei has told him to use his but if Sei was so damaged I think it would have been suitable that his body die out. I know the soul can triumph where the body can’t and now Ren is no longer Aoba but a soul independent I think he can somehow get a new body. I am thoroughly displeased at Sei’s death as to me he was the best innocent there was; though he says he is responsible for helping Toue Konzerin for long I do believe he was always treated as a lab rat thus he is more a victim always than an perpetrator.

Sei’s death is very unsatisfactory to me. In Togainu no Chi many characters die due to your choices and though many find it sad I accepted it as a narrative route strategy . With Sei my acceptance is mired with vexation at best, it is quite thin. To kill of a character that may have potential for other things is surely very pathetic. It doesn’t fit either structurally or artistically with the entire story. In the end Aoba evolves himself and his power a lot. He becomes able to do both what he was designed to do and also pick up Sei’s quality (as Ren projected himself into an ALLMATE puppy). Ren then, not as Aoba’s consciousness anymore or Aoba anymore, due to the grand scheme of things became his own entity. So, in the end there is a lot happening to Aoba and people around him. Sei is not given a chance to evolve though his character is such that because of possibly neural pathways he shared with Aoba (as their hair was connected as birth making them conjoined to a degree) he may have a natural telepathic link with him. To ensure his death was final he decided to tell Aoba to destroy that link so that he can ensure that after his physical body dies nothing fragmentary even has a chance to stay behind. I find Sei interesting so I did not value his character profile as some moody guy who just wants to make his death final. It is stupid and quite arbitrary for him considering there can be more done for him.

In the end, DRAMAtical Murder is enjoyable. It is something if put more thought into can actually expand bigger. But no one really want to do that. So, it just became a copy of the game add hoc which is somewhat frustrating. I do think this yaoi or otome or harem franchises should grow a pair and evolve themselves. Tenchi Muyo did it long ago and I was so pleased that in Tenchi Muyo in Love 2 there was a form of conclusion or even aftersense. I think these animes need more screen time, more substantial writing, more everything…I could actually see some if not many rhyme battles happening in DM, many more plot twists, many more antagonists and a lot of even traveling other places but not they are happy with just adapting with the same formula as game. I won’t lie there were times I fan girl squealed and there were moments I liked but I do want more substance in my anime.