Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi S1

I was planning to introduce my S2 pilot review with a brief recap of S1. Alas, I was all but brief. So, here is my take on S1. I've divided it by pairing and occasionally tie back to Junjou Romantica (the older brother of Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi). For a more structured review, read Aaro's here.

The number of times I made this face while watching parts of this show XD
Disclaimer #1: BL (Boys Love) alias boys loving boys. Implications - homosexuality.
Disclaimer #2: A pinch of exaggeration was added for flavouring.

First of all, one of the things that I liked about Junjou over this series is the complexity of relationships. While Aaro tends to favour simplicity, I prefer a few more strings that make things messy. Junjou gave me that in terms of varying ages and social classes, not to mention a diverse portfolio of personalities. Sekai Ichi S1 disappointed me on this point. However, I enjoyed the season because of its comedic fluff and the emotional runaround it dragged me along for.

Takano & Onodera
The primary pairing left me pulling and pushing. I would not go far enough to label my affinity for it as "love-hate" but it came damn close. Takano is an editor-in-chief at Marukawa Publishing House which is of the best pedigree in the business. Onodera was recently assigned to the shojo department of Marukawa, having moved publishing houses to escape the shadow of his father - the CEO of Marukawa's rival corporation. Their meet cute is introduced towards the end of the first episode in a flashback, when their high school romance is brought to light.

Onodera's vehemence in pushing Takano away is nothing short of infuriating. I expected him to be emotionally mature given his age (mid-to-late twenties) and dedicated work ethic. But what Onodera has in workplace maturity, he horridly lacks in romantic dynamic. While I can understand that he does not just want to offer up his heart to a man who's already broken it once (albeit due to a trivial misunderstanding), I can't stand his steadfast denial of still having feelings for Takano. He denies himself any emotions toward Takano barring that of a respected shojo manga editor-in-chief. In this matter, his will is flimsy and he resides next to that blurry line between confused love and self-satisfying lies.

Despite everything, I couldn't bring myself to hate Onodera because his annoyances made Takano's better qualities; who is surprisingly patient with the former's antics. In this pairing, Takano is definitely the character to watch. His internal battle between coaxing and coercing Onodera to love him is interesting. He is the stereotypical bottler who randomly bursts from pent up UST and frustration. For the majority of the show, I found myself justifying some of the terrible things he does to Onodera just because Onodera is brilliantly frustrating. But just like I felt shitty for ill-wishing him, Takano buries himself in guilt for his forwardness and repeats the bottle-burst cycle. What I like best about Takano is his ability to segregate his professional and personal relationship with Onodera so well. While there are a lot of romance-oriented scenes in the workplace, they are limited to after-hours and kept separate from the supervising and mentoring processes. Takano's balance of vulnerability and almost arrogant confidence also make this pairing interesting to watch, and I have to credit this balance to Onodera, without whom the vulnerable side of Takano disappears entirely.

It could be considered cheating that I've already watching the first episode of S2; regardless, I look forward to the entertaining development between Takano and Onodera. I hope they are kept as separate from the Asami/Misaki pairing from Junjou in S2 as they were in S1.

Hatori & Chiaki
Hatori is an editor who works with Takano and Onodera, and Chiaki is one of the manga-kas he manages. Chiaki publishes his works under a female pseudonym because he believes it will better sales. They have been fast friends for years now and Hatori entered the manga publishing business in order to support Chiaki's career. This is the secondary pairing of the series.

It is ironic that Chiaki and Onodera aesthetically resemble each other because Chiaki was possibly the most annoying character of the series for me. The second layer of irony is that many a year ago I probably mirrored his frivolous, dense character traits. After being forced to watch this personality type I have only one thing to say: Aaroro…Thank you for not leaving me. T-T!

Chiaki has the interest of two of his old, good friends; one being Hatori, his editor, and the other Yuu, one of his assistant artists. Needless to say, Chiaki ends up with Hatori. He continues to maintain close relations with Yuu, ignorant of the latter's feelings for him. I probably did not like this story or Chiaki very much because he emulates the stereotypical shojo heroine. I'm not a fan of BL stories where the uke is effeminate and girly - it may as well be shojo at that point.

Surprisingly, Chiaki is the rock of the relationship because Hatori's suave and cool exterior is coupled with a childish, easily bruised interior. He often walks away from situations leaving Chiaki to fume and then chase him. As much as I disliked watching this pairing in S1, this relationship's redeeming quality was the nice balance between luck, understanding and commitment. It was when this facet of their story surfaced that I felt a few moments of satisfaction which kept me from raging every other time Chiaki was on screen.

My hopes for S2? Chiaki: man the #!%& up.

Look at how cute they are! ><

Yukina & Kisa
(sigh) By far my favourite pairing. Kisa, I love him so for being so fickle and admitting it.  Yukina played the part of the young, charming boy coaxing a cougar out of his cave. This pair made a mess of me in the best possible way. Right, right, the backdrop! Kisa is another editor who works in the Marukawa shojo department and Yukina is a salesperson in the Marukawa store which sells the largest amounts of Kisa's publications. This is the tertiary pairing and the only one without a real love triangle.

Kisa is a little old 30 year old. He has the makings of a creepy stalker turn pedophile, because really, when you like pretty boys you have a type; the older you get the younger they become. Isn't that called a preferential pedophilia? Maybe a few decades down the road… Luckily, he met Yukina, safely 21 and oh-so-interested much to his surprise. Kisa is the character that is about to hit the shelf, only to expire entirely in a few years (or so he believes - I think he looks like a high schooler and has many more naughty nights in him).

Kisa's internal monologues are amusing. He wanders around the store staring at Yukina mentally placating his hard on by assuring it he has no chances with the pretty sales boy. During these daily visits, he avoids Yukina like the plague. Kisa seems to have an old man version of anorexia, wherein he looks in the mirror and sees an old, pruned sage. It's an entertaining juxtaposition, because with the men in his league he is confident enough to be a player, but with the boys he categorizes out of his league (alias, his type) he is a self mutilating monster.

Kisa and Yukina meet when the former is trying to evade a disgruntled one night stand (maybe a one week stand), who is disillusioned and thinks they had a good relationship going. Kisa deals with this fling with repetitive cruelty, which lands him in trouble. Oh no, our hearts skip a beat! Who will save him? Well, Yukina of course; duh. Then they talk for a while, walk for a while and eventually set up a coffee date.

Their first kiss is adorable. Watch it! It made me wish real people were this cute, because we sure as hell are as emo as Kisa is sometimes. After their first kiss, apprehension settles into Kisa and he begins a cycle of neurotic worrying over the matter. As cruel as it may be for me to enjoy his plight, I took shameless sadistic pleasure in this aftermath. Of course, all is well that ends well, albeit ambiguously, and therein lies the real reason and motivation for me to pick up S2.

Yukina & Kisa are my favourite because the older uke, younger seme combination sets my heart a-flutter. Guilty pleasure, wacky fetish, shameless fangirling, call it what you may; in BL, these are the pairings that are most fun to follow. I hope S2 is generous with screen time for these boys.

Overall Reaction 
Perhaps I should not compare Junjou and Sekai Ichi so much, but it is very difficult to resist comparing two works in the same genre by the same artist published in close succession. Barring my adoration for the Yukina/Kisa pairing, I still like Junjou significantly better than Sekai Ichi. Unlike Aaro, I feel that the two series are largely different. While Shungiku-sensei has done a good job of separating the characters and relationships in the two series, I do not like the mismatch between the complexity of the characters and the simplicity in the dynamic of the primary pairing in Sekai Ichi. I can altogether ignore the secondary pairing, but having committed to S2, I do look forward to Chiaki's metamorphosis from a shim to a man, and Hatori's personal growth as he learns the nuances of relationships. Lastly, Yukina & Kisa will make me squeal without a doubt. It is safe to say they are the reason I'm tuned in.

If you have watched Junjou and you enjoyed the styling and story-telling, I would recommend watching this series. If you like stories padded with fluff focused around the chase (the foreplay, if you will), then this one's for you. If you're searching for deep relationships and an angst-joy balance, try the first 3 episodes to test the waters. Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi is by no means a waste of time for any BL fan (unlike UraBoku - god that was torture for no reason). In fact, it is a good first brush with the genre because it focuses on the courtship rather than the relationship, allowing first timers the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the genre at a moderate pace. I definite "no harm in trying" series.

Rating [6/10]