Review: Given (anime)


Somehow, the guitar that he used to love to play and the basketball games that he found so fun just lost their appeal… That was until Ritsuka Uenoyama randomly met Mafuyu Sato. Ritsuka had started losing his passion for music in his everyday life, but then he hears Mafuyu sing for the first time. The song resonates with his heart and the distance between them starts to change.



I had no idea what to expect going into this show, except for the fact that it would be gay and about a band, but it was so much more than that.

First off, if you’re looking for classic yaoi with its tropes, over-the-top dramatics, and awkward power dynamics, this will not hit the mark for you. While this show is undeniably gay (there are several m/m kisses and relationships), and it is following the relationship of several men, the relationship itself isn’t the driving impetus for the story.

In fact, while the band plays an integral part to the story and the characters, it’s not the driving impetus either. Both Ritsuka and Mafuyu’s relationship and the band are more like vehicles to explore Mafuyu’s…journey. And that journey has a lot of twists, and a heavy dose of reality. It’s fantastic.

Reasons to watch:
1. Realistic portrayal of queer men.
2. Positive portrayal of being queer, with supportive friends.
3. Realistic depiction of mental health issues and topics like depression, suicide, and abuse.
4. Complicated relationships in both the main pairing and several side characters, whether those relationships are romantic or friendship.
5. It’s dark and at times very heavy, but ultimately uplifting. You go on an emotional journey with the characters.
6. Unlike most band anime, you are not forced to listen to the full length of the “main” song repeatedly in every episode as the band comes together.
7. The art is pretty while staying realistic with a dash of humor thrown in.

Downsides:
1. Currently sub-only (although I have my fingers crossed!)
2. It’s a slower-paced show, especially in the beginning.
3. Trigger warnings for (highlight to view):

suicide, overdose, family abuse.

As I told my friend, this felt like a combination of Kids on the Slope with Sweet Blue Flowers (and a dash of Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad thrown in).

A+ Would recommend to anyone with taste.

Review: Magical Girl Raising Project (anime)

When I first saw this title advertised, all I could think was how obviously perfect it was for my friend who loves all things magical girl. But a cast of all girls is generally not for me. However, their reviews had me interested, so it got slotted for our regular get-togethers.

And I’m so glad I did. This anime is a fantastic mix of cuteness and darkness, with a look at what happens to these characters as they are put under extreme duress. It’s a large cast, but the show does a fantastic job of building an in-depth character within one episode to help the viewer better understand the character’s motivations and backstory.

The show does rely on some tropes, but never lets that restrain the story, and does an excellent job of dealing with some very dark and heavy subject matter. While not for everyone (there is a fair amount of character death), for anyone who loves magical girls and wants a new (and dark) take on them, this is definitely worth a watch. It’s a fairly short show, but they utilize every minute and keep raising the stakes to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat.

SPOILER WARNING

Spoiler: there are two cannon lesbians who both die, but most of the cast dies, so I cannot hold that against it – plus the relationship was very well handled and portrayed.

Review: Hitorijime My Hero (anime)

I started this 12-episode show while pet-sitting for my parents and just finished it last night (before leaving to pet-sit for someone else). It’s based on a Japanese yaoi manga series, but this will just be looking at the anime. Because of the lack of sexual content, I’d place this more as a “boy’s love” story or just plain ol’ romance.

Overall this was a sweet/cute story following four guys (two couples) along with their friends. It was an interesting watch, but it didn’t entice me into “just one more episode” until the last four. Part of this is because while the couples aren’t already established as we start, there is a certain sense of “finding” a relationship that was already there, which removed a lot of the emotional build-up between the characters. (Also the first episode confused me as one character’s hair color changes with a time skip and I mistook him as someone else.)

I will warn that the one couple includes a guy who is in first year HS (roughly 16, I believe) who ends up with a teacher (his friend’s older brother). I’m guessing the age gap is 10 years, which in itself is reasonable but at that age can be problematic for viewers. However, the anime does a good job of handling the age gap problems (as well as addressing student-teacher issues*) and their relationship is sweet rather than sexual, as far as we see.

I hope this show is an indication that more yaoi is moving away from the horrific tropes that make up this genre–while it does include many of the traditional motifs of earlier yaoi, it avoids making the relationships entirely physical; there’s no on-screen sex, if they are having sex at all; and while seme/uke visual tropes might be invoked, there is a stronger sense of actually having consent…which yaoi often ignores. There are a few scenes which are callbacks to the time before consent, but overall it’s much improved from…well, pretty much anything from the ’90s and early 2000s.

If you’re a fan of the genre in general, this is worth a watch as long as you don’t go in expecting the reluctant uke and the domineering(/rapey) seme. The dramas are cute, although very low-key; the final arc hit my emotional notes especially, although your mileage may very. There’s a sprinkling of humor mixed in, the dub was well done, and the art for the most part was enjoyable.

While it didn’t blow me away, I can definitely see myself watching this when I want a sweet relaxing show to play in the background.

* The show brings up the student-teacher issue and has it as a dramatic point, although I’m not sure it really resolves it satisfactorily – unless the last few scenes imply something I missed.