OP: “Boku wa… (僕は…)” by Atarayo (あたらよ)
As is often the case with something as good as that was, the struggle for me is twofold. Finding something to say that would add anything meaningful, and stopping myself from gushing endlessly. I’ll say this much – there’s no bigger BokuYaba fan than me, and I was totally blown away by that. It was as perfect as I could have ever dared hope, and manga fans are not notorious for being forgiving about such things. My standards are high to be sure, and this exceeded them.
I can talk about naming conventions for the episode, I suppose. The official website doesn’t help, as it calls this “Episode 13 (Season 2, Episode 1)”. I’m going with the above strictly as a matter of personal preference, but you’re going to see this called Episode 13 in a lot of places. Whatever you call it, there’s no question that it was pure impact right from the beginning. And I do mean the beginning, given that we got an OP sequence from Araki Tetsurou (and produced at WIT) no less. It’s as great as you’d expect, as is the song (though “Shayou” would be hard to top in that department). The ED sequence and song are perfect too. No boxes left unchecked.
Does Araki doing the OP (hilariously some viewers have expressed outrage that such a thing could happen when this is “only a romcom”) mean Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu has truly “arrived” as a commercial powerhouse? Well, typically you don’t see huge names like them doing that for anything but kaiju (like Spy X Family, which went from Araki to Yuasa Masaaki). Maybe he’s just a huge fan – BokuYaba has many fans in high places. But there are a lot of signs that the series has leveled up in this department. The marketing has kicked into overdrive, cross-promotion and merchandising are much more prevalent, and manga sales have seen a pretty big spike.
The thing is, as amazing as this premiere was what I’d usually be worried about is a show peaking too soon. But with BokuYaba, this is truly the tip of the iceberg. It’s almost scary to think about how good this season is going to be, because the material to follow is even better than this. And with 13 episodes instead of 12 to work with, Akagi Hiroaki and Hanada Jukki won’t have to make any compromises whatsoever. If anything they can slip some original material in (as Akagi’s team did so expertly with Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san, though that needed it) or include some of the twitter extras in the on-air episodes themselves.
It even seemed to me as if the production values had leveled up here, though the production was most likely pretty contiguous. This episode certainly looked fantastic, and Ichi’s character design (one minor niggle I had with S1) seemed closer to Norio’s. Content-wise, well – what is there to say, really? This is the best romcom going, no qualifiers about it. And Kyoutarou and Anna are the best romcom couple. I think what Sakurai Norio is doing with this series is no less than redefining the teen romance genre. She’s busting tropes left and right, setting a new standard that everyone else is going to struggle to approach.
There’s just no bullshit with Boku no Kokoro. The usual annoying cliches you get even with good romance manga and have to brush aside as the toll for admission are absent. It’s just real. Progress happens – it’s slow, it’s painful, but things are never stagnant. And as great as Yamada and Ichikawa are, they exist in a romcom ecosystem where others are hugely important and they function as a part of a greater whole. Take Hara-san, for example, one of the many unsung heroes of this series. She knows – oh, she knows. She gives a little nudge here and there, manipulates things just enough to push the main pair out of their comfort zone when she senses they need it.
Of course Kyou still has his right arm in a cast, which his well-meaning busybody (stay tuned) teacher doesn’t want to let go. Ichi tries to keep Yamada from getting forced to help him, both for that reason and because he realizes that it will make their deception harder to maintain. She overhears, and naturally takes offense. But it doesn’t drag out, and she even steps in to help him when he needs help taking notes (his instincts are improving – asking Hara would indeed have been disastrous). Having Anna deal with Adachi isn’t ideal, but the end result is for the best.
Next is the idol mag which the boys are going nuts over. Ichi can’t help but runway a little with his expertise about Anna’s career, but they don’t make the connection and disaster is averted. Anna is clearly bursting to share her pride about this with Kyou, who stumbles again by revealing that he’s seen her fashion layouts. This is a part of Anna that he’s only starting to understand – her career is defining for her. She genuinely loves doing it, which means it’s something he’s going to have to come to terms with himself.
That Anna is unable to successfully crack an egg is no shocker – that sort of intricacy is not her strong suit. She lets something slip about Christmas Eve, but Hara isn’t surprised by the event, only that Anna is so open about it. Hara lets her guard down and reciprocates, revealing her Hatsumode story (Kanzaki-kun and his sideburns are obviously central). The headline from this scene though: the forehead makes its first appearance. The best is very much yet to come in that department…
Another unintentional reveal is the truth of how Ichi came to break his wrist, which Anna is naturally aghast about. The repercussions of that Akita trip are very much being felt here, as the bag straps (Kentarou and Kenjirou) are a recurring theme this week. The straps are Hara’s proof that this is a couple, first of all. Then, when Kentarou goes missing (losing cheap straps is a definite risk, those chains love to break), all heck breaks loose. The symbolism of those two dogs is pretty important to the main pair, and Anna is very upset. Hara and Kanzaki (who also basically knows) are already searching, but Kyou takes it on himself to save the day (hero mode is one of his default settings). But that’s easier said than done.
I can totally see someone hanging Kentarou on a tree if they found him – that’s a very Japanese thing. But the MVP here is Moeko (get used to that), who’s also very suspicious that there’s more to Anna and Ichi than meets the eye (or perhaps that they’re exactly what meets the eye). She gives them a crucial push here, and the rest is history. When you’re fourteen and in love, hiding that from the world is hardly the easiest thing to do – there are times when their exuberance just breaks through and they’re heedless of who might be watching.
Again, for me as a reader of the manga this was basically note-perfect. And just the beginning of what’s truly going to be a glorious, break-the-internet ride. Having known for years how great this series is, it’s indescribably satisfying to see the world at-large figuring that out. I knew it would happen, even when the initial response was tepid (because that’s how it works with BokuYaba), but it’s no less gratifying for that. No one deserves it more than Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu and Sakurai Norio, truly at the top of the pyramid in the world of romance series.
ED: “Koishiteru Jibun sura Aiseru n da (恋してる自分すら愛せるんだ)” by Kohana Lam (こはならむ)