Studio: Studio Deen
Director: Shinji Ishihara
Streaming on: Funimation
I’ve been wracking my brain. I wrote an essay about Given, where I disparaged the musical romance for failing to offer up any good music or romance. To sum it up, romance anime is an oversaturated market, so yaoi gets a crap hand; if you aren’t already interested in BL, it’s difficult to find the genre without looking for it. Even if you’re trying to start watching yaoi, Given isn’t going to sell you on the genre.
Then a commenter asked me if there were any BL anime I recommend instead of Given, and, uh, I really didn’t have a good answer. Obvious ones include Banana Fish, but aside from anime that flirt with the idea like Free or SK8 The Infinity, then sure, but there’s no excess of yaoi. Compared to how massive BL manga is, we’re absolutely dry in anime, so since I talked about Given, I’ve been looking for a series I could hold up as a good example.
In addition to my search for an ideal beginner yaoi to recommend, though, I also love good wholesome romcoms. Honestly, my life has been just a little less since both the Horimiya manga and anime ended within weeks of one another. I haven’t been starved for saccharine slice-of-life, between Komi or Remake Our Life, but it’s just not the same. Horimiya managed to strike a rare balance between comedy and drama that I don’t know if I’ll find a series quite like it.
Even if the odds are against me, though, I have to try. Today’s review, Sasaki and Miyano, bears a strong resemblance to my favorite romcom, albeit with an otaku yaoi spin. If you’re enjoying My Dress-Up Darling but would prefer an alternative without the emphasis on ecchi, or just need some more sincere romantic comedy in your life, this one will be a welcome addition.
Miyano is a first-year at a boys’ high school, because no good yaoi happens at a co-ed school, duh. After a chance encounter with Sasaki, a rough delinquent type, the two strike up an unusual friendship. Miyano isn’t sure what to make of the older boy’s flirty comments and touchy-feely behavior, so he can’t say he dislikes the attention either.
As the months go on, the boys grow closer, and Miyano works up the courage to share his passion with Sasaki; yaoi manga. If you asked him, he’d probably swear up and down that he’s straight and just reads them for the articles or something, but he’s keenly aware of the scrutiny of his classmates and the connotation of an effeminate boy reading BL.
Then again, his classmates have been giving him the Seinfeld “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” in the hopes that Miyano will eventually peek his head out of the closet, but no such luck. Sasaki, though, tears through the volumes that Miyano lends him, but he’s a little more cavalier about enjoying yaoi. Even so, he’s not quite clear on his feelings, and while he knows Miyano is flustered by the attention, he can’t bring himself to stop giving it.
In the first couple episodes, the series immediately establishes the chemistry between its leads. They’ve skimmed over the side characters, and there’s not a lot worth mentioning on that front. Ensemble casts are usually one of the best parts of romcoms, just ask Horimiya, Kaguya, or Komi, so I’d like to see a little more of the other characters over the rest of the season. For now, though, I’ve learned to like both Sasaki and Miyano.
They have a typical senpai-kohai relationship, and you get a feel for the extent of that relationship almost off rip. Sasaki will flirt or make a sly remark, maybe brings up the latest manga he read, and Miyano immediately shuts it down, blushing furiously. That’s not a bad thing, either; in the first two episodes alone, the writing has explored the fundamental conditions that drive their characters. Neither boy is certain of themselves or their feelings, so they’re kind of just stumbling through them.
I see a lot of similarities with My Dress-Up Darling, actually. Both Miyano and Wakana hide their hobbies from the world, and their romantic interests show them that people aren’t as harsh as they think, at least not the ones worth keeping around. Sasaki and Miyano are coming to terms with their identities in different ways, but both need to learn to be honest with themselves.
And then just throw in the fact that every interaction between the two is pure cotton candy fluff, and you have a winning formula. I’ve been down in the dumps lately, because Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan are way too heavy right now, so an anime pick-me-up is appreciated. Three-parts wholesome to one-part angst makes for an excellent story, and if you’re like me, you’ll find Sasaki & Miyano is tremendously cozy.
Similar to Horimiya, Sasaki & Miyano hails from a notoriously fickle studio. Studio Deen is equally capable of the second season of Konosuba, or the last three seasons of Seven Deadly Sins, which is genuinely one of the worst-looking anime I’ve seen come from a professional studio. I was right to be wary, though my suspicions were misplaced.
Sasaki & Miyano actually looks pretty darn good. It’s obviously not heavy on action, so it gets an easier time of it, but we’ve gotten much worse from Deen over the years. It’s all-around passable, and the director has a clear vision for the manga’s story. It’s never draws my eye negatively, except for the occasional bad CG train, so I’m actually satisfied.
The series employs a soft color palette with an emphasis on warm tones that really sell the pleasant vibe of the story. The character design does the job, though I’d say there’s room for improvement. The manga has a basic art style so I won’t dock points from the anime, but it rings of just good enough.
Despite that, it has its own look and identity, and uses floating triangles and palette tweaks to signify important emotional moments, much like how Horimiya used a silhouette distancing itself from a character on a white background to show conflicting desires and personas.
Sasaki & Miyano is adequate across the board, and actually manages to be a stronger project as a result. It’s one thing to perform exceedingly well in writing but fail in music, but keeping a consistent baseline of quality in every category is quite impressive. As the story stands, I don’t love it, but it will win over plenty of diehard fans. I know I’ll keep watching simply because it’s a pleasant viewing experience and I don’t have a good reason to stop.
Sasaki & Miyano is not the proper breakout yaoi to push the genre into the mainstream of anime, but it wasn’t built like that to begin with. Heck, go watch one of the other anime I mentioned earlier; they’ll probably scratch that itch. Once you’re done with those emotional rollercoasters, especially Banana Fish, Sasaki & Miyano will be waiting here to cheer you up. There’s always going to be room for feel-good anime, at least in my watchlist.
So Sasaki & Miyano picks up a respectable Boring Pleasing, and I’ll keep coming back as long as Tanjiro and Eren keep avoiding some desperately needed therapy. We’re going to be here a while, huh?
So whether you’ve been enjoying Sasaki and Miyano, or maybe have a recommendation that will fit the niche I’ve been looking for, you can talk about both in the comments below or over on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where I’m currently discussing all the anime I’m watching, even the ones I’m not reviewing. I’m currently trashing on Orient and Requiem of the Rose King, which were so egregious I couldn’t even review them. If that’s your cup of tea, hit me up over there, and as always, thanks for reading.
|Pleasing||Sasaki & Miyano||My Dress-Up Darling||Demon Slayer|