Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

The opening setting of Japanese anime series “Sasaki to Miyano” immediately reminded me of the 2016 animated feature film Doukyuusei (Classmates), a coming-of-age romance between two school students with the quintessential “opposites attract” theme. But while Doukyuusei feels more straightforward, serious, personal and nostalgic, “Sasaki to Miyano” is more of a teen romantic comedy, with a generous dose of hilarity.

Based on the Japanese manga series by Shō Harusono, the anime adaptation is produced by Studio Deen and directed by Shinji Ishihara who is known for his work on popular anime series like “Fairy Tail,” “Tokyo Majin,” and “Super Lovers,” among others. Spanning 13 episodes, “Sasaki to Miyano” introduces both its protagonists almost simultaneously: Miyano, a shy and sweet otaku* who loves reading BL manga (short for ‘boys love’), and Sasaki, his senior, an intimidating tall student who instantly feels drawn to his junior. Over the course of their school year, the senior-junior duo bond over manga and their unique friendship blossoms into something more.

The animation by Studio Deen is bright and has a very summer-romance touch to it and there are a lot of very brief nature-themed interludes that serves as smooth transitions to changing scenes. For example, after a conversation between Sasaki and Miyano, the scene will shift for two seconds to show a cat yawning on their school grounds; or if it’s raining, the animation would fleetingly show rain drops on a flower. The creators use a lot of pleasing natural ambient sounds throughout the series, instead of relying on music, and these sounds give a nice laid-back rhythm to the story.

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All of the episodes are quite binge-worthy as Sasaki and Miyano’s clashing personalities offer a lot of comic relief and amusing moments. Even though both characters are confused over a lot things, Sasaki is calm, confident and a lot more self-assured about his feelings, while Miyano is an energetic mess with an inconsistent personality. A few of the side-stories involving their friends are also engaging. Miyano’s close friend Tasuku Kuresawa is probably my favorite after the leads, he is nerdy, collected and always supportive of Miyano. And even though Kuresawa is a great friend, he also always puts his girlfriend over friends, that might a be a pro or con, depending on how you see it. Sasaki’s closest friend Jirou Ogasawara also has a girlfriend, and just like Miyano, Jirou’s girl is huge BL fan and the couple is constantly fighting over her preferences and imagination.

“Sasaki to Miyano” relies on some typical BL tropes that might feel dated. For instance, Miyano is portrayed with girlish features, and when Sasaki first meets him, he mistakes Miyano for a girl, leading to a confusing crush on his junior. While the ambiguity around the leads’ sexuality is understandable given their young age, the series disappointingly leans towards the safe “they are only gay for each other” trope. Given that there are a substantial 13 episodes, the anime creators could’ve tweaked the script and spent more time in exploring the characters’ identities. Anyway…

Except for some minor bullying scenes in the beginning, this series is quite wholesome and funny. Almost all of Sasaki and Miyano’s friends are supportive, and some of them help the two navigate their feelings for each other, giving them a gentle nudge or two when needed. I really liked the friendships in this series and the slow-burn romance between the protagonists is obviously an added bonus. “Sasaki to Miyano” manages to evoke a sense of both slowness and rush simultaneously, cutely capturing the chaos, confusion, excitement, nervousness, frustration, and elation that come with teen love.

You can stream the series on Netflix.

(*Otaku – Japanese term for those who obsessively consume Manga and anime.)

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