Junjo Romantica the anime is a softer, gentler version of the stories in Shungiku Nakamura’s manga series (vol. 1-12 available now from Blu). The anime creators took all of the rough edges in Nakamura’s work — any harsh language, the explicit sex scenes, and Nakamura’s loose, scratchy style of drawing — and smoothed them all out. The result is a tamer, but in many ways more romantic, story. While some fans may mourn the loss of smut, I felt that the anime was stronger than the original manga. The stories had a better flow since they weren’t required to stretch things over several chapters.
For those who have not read the manga series, know that Junjo Romantica is actually four interconnected stories. The title story follows the romance between Misaki Takahashi, a college student, and his older brother’s friend Akihiko Usami, an odd, but popular writer. “Junjo Egoist” is about Usami’s childhood friend Hiroki Kamijou, a professor at Misaki’s university, and his younger boyfriend Nowaki Kusama, a medical student. In “Junjo Terrorist,” Kamijou’s boss You Miyagi finds out that his ex-wife’s high school-age brother, Shinobu Takatsuki, is in love with him and “Junjo Minimum” tells childhood stories from the various characters. Of course, stories aren’t good without some complications and Nakamura gives those to us in the form of unrequited love. Usami has long loved Misaki’s older brother Takahiro and Kamijou has loved Usami for even longer than that.
The season one of the anime covers storylines from books one through five, which helps keep the characters to a minimum. (After the early volumes, Usami’s various family members show up and start causing trouble.) The stories were well-chosen, giving fans some of their favorite moments while also allowing viewers who may not be familiar with the series a chance to feel a part of the fun. There is still plenty of humor and lots of romantic moments, with just enough angst to add spice to the mix. The edited love scenes are almost too ambiguous, but they capture the feelings that Nakamura wrote and drew. The art is strong. Nakamura’s familiar long torsos and limbs are there, but the anime artists have a stronger grasp of body proportions, so the characters look much more realistic. An almost pastel color palette gives everything an Easter egg feel, which fits with both the cheerfully wacky stories and with the ever-present teddy bears, rubber duckies, and other toys coveted by spoiled rich guy Usami. Thrown into the ordinary animation are nice little close up moments — on a lighter’s flame, on the shoes a character is staring down at, etc. — which give a touch of artistry to the production.
As I prefer to watch anime subtitled, versus dubbed, I was not bother by the fact that Nozomi/Right Stuf didn’t have an English language track on the anime. In fact I was thrilled to find out that there are two options for the subtitles — one with the honorifics and one without. It has always bugged me when the subtitles don’t use the honorifics and I’m happy to find out that I’m not the only one. Other extras are the anime’s trailers and commercials, clean opening and closing, and “liner” notes (which are on screen, rather than printed out). The liner notes are mostly just information on the use of honorifics, but the information is nice to have. One note: if you have an older, square television, the liner notes will be cut off on the edges because the anime is formatted for wider screens. The anime itself, however, played just fine on my older television and I didn’t feel that I had lost details along the edges. There are two endings for each episode — one written in kanji and one in English — and there is a prologue and an epilogue after each episode, which gives you just a bit more to enjoy. There is also a 22 page booklet of art and production sketches included with the anime box set.
I’m never going to be a big of a fan of anime as I am of manga, so it is always nice when I find an anime that speaks to me. Junjo Romantica is just such a one.
NOTE: This review was previously posted at an old blog of mine, Fujoshi Librarian.