Junjo Romantica

"What's so strange is that when Usagi-san says even the simplest words... it makes me feel like I can do anything." - Misaki

Junjo Romantica is a romantic comedy series that focuses on several different (but equally wacky) couples whose stories intertwine. The main couple in the series is Akihiko Usami, a boys love romance novelist, and college student Misaki Takahashi. I really enjoyed the manga and the anime adaptation that followed, and although I am disappointed that the manga was left incomplete when the publishing company went out of business, I was at least able to continue following the story when season 3 of the anime was released. There was just something so interesting about this series because of the over the top characters and situations. Despite the overall comedic tone of the story, it had some really heartfelt and emotional scenes, and I got attached to many of the characters.

Usami and Misaki (the focus of the Romantica chapters of the manga) were such a bizarre couple that I couldn't help but love them. Usami had been best friends with Misaki's older brother Takahiro since high school, and Usami harbored an intense long time secret crush on him. He first met Misaki when he agreed to help tutor him for his college entrance exams as a favor to Takahiro. When Takahiro announced his engagement, Usami was at first devastated, but then found himself developing feelings for Misaki when he saw the younger man cry over Usami's broken heart. From there the two began a whirlwind romance as Misaki moved in with Usami after his brother relocated for work. Usami's strange habits (such as his fervent obsession with toys and teddy bears), his single minded focus on Misaki, and his habit of writing an exaggerated version of Misaki in his boys love novels left Misaki often annoyed with his landlord turned lover. Misaki saw himself as nothing but an ordinary college student but couldn't deny that he also had strong feelings for Usami. He enjoyed taking care of Usami (who was utterly useless when it came to housework and cooking) and slowly started to find that he couldn't imagine his future without him.

Although I really enjoyed the Romantica couple, I also really liked the Egoist couple, Hiroki and Nowaki, and the trials that their longterm relationship endured. Hiroki was Usami's friend who had hidden feelings for the novelist, and Nowaki entered his life when he was feeling his lowest about his friendship and love life. The two became lovers and constantly struggled against their own fears of inadequacy and a difficulty to communicate their feelings. Their story spanned several years and it was nice to see the growth of their characters individually and the dedication they both had to their relationship despite the changes the years brought. I didn't really care for Miyagi and Shinobu's romance that much, because as offbeat as their relationship was, the other couples were just much more compelling to me. The storylines were mostly contained to the characters featured in a particular chapter or episode, but I always thought it was fun when they would overlap on occasion, such as how Hiroki was Misaki's college professor or when Misaki bought flowers from Nowaki.

Since the series was long running, we were able to see real growth for the characters as the manga and anime continued. In season 3 of the anime, for example, I was really impressed by the progress Usami and Misaki had made. Earlier in the series, the melodramatic Usami could show his jealousy in truly unhealthy ways, such as when Misaki's friend would call on the phone and Usami would pull the phone cord out of the wall. In season 3, Usami would admit he was feeling jealous but that he trusted Misaki, and he could even be in the same room when Misaki was on the phone with a friend. And while Misaki often tried to downplay his feelings for Usami, he eventually found it easier to admit his love and desires to Usami. I felt they had a much more equal feeling relationship later in the series and I enjoyed seeing how far they had come as a couple. It was also gratifying to see Misaki start to find himself and his place in the world as he figured out a career path for himself and took steps to make it happen.

My favorite thing about the series was just how bizarre and out there it was. I loved Usami planning their trip to Hokkaido with the goal of purchasing marimo - I loved these scenes so much that I ended up getting my own marimo! Another favorite scene was when Usami was complaining that he wanted hot dogs shaped like octopi, and then Misaki finally freaked out and then cut them up. Nothing in this series was ever done in moderation - Usami wasn't the only one in his family that was obsessed with Misaki - his brother, father, and cousins also had varying degrees of interest in Misaki. Usami couldn't just buy one marimo or package of candy, he bought almost every one in the store. He had whole rooms in his house dedicated to his bear, train, and other collections. When Misaki would express interest in something like strawberries, huge shipments would arrive at the house. I also enjoyed the running jokes of Misaki's love for lion shaped faucets or how he could never remember the name of the Usami family butler. The outlandishness of the situations and characters made the series really fun.

Junjo was a really entertaining series in both the manga and the anime, which were both special and enjoyable in their own ways. I loved the art style in the manga and how the characters personalities just jumped off the page. I was really impressed by how true an adaptation of the manga the anime was, and I loved seeing some of my favorite scenes brought to life. The voices for the characters were perfect and the music added an extra dimension to the scenes I'd loved in the manga, especially Hiro and Nowaki's emotional reunion in the college library. Though I generally preferred the manga because of the extra content (such as the panels where we got to see a younger Takahiro gushing to Usami about his precious little brother Misaki, which left Usami with the impression that Misaki was unbelievably dumb), I did prefer the cleaner version of the intimate scenes in the anime. Junjo is unlike any other series I've seen and re-reading a volume or re-watching an episode always makes me happy.

Anime Episode
Turning a Misfortune Into a Blessing, Travelers Have No Need for Shame
Life Often Brings Misfortune in Times of Great Happiness, Turning a Misfortune Into a Blessing
Manga Volume
Usagi/Misaki, Hiroki/Nowaki
Usagi/Misaki, Hiroki/Nowaki