What’s it about? Takato Saijyo has been the star of the entertainment world for twenty years, ever since his debut as a child actor. However, his spot as the number-one ranked sex symbol has recently been usurped by young upstart Junta Azumaya. When the two wind up working together on a drama, Junta reveals he’s head over heels for his senpai.
Content Warning: For discussions of sexual assault and nudity.
The sheer, mortified rage many people showed at the mere suggestion that Banana Fish might conceivably qualify as proto-BL was more than a little baffling to me. After all, the English market has recently been scattered with gems like Go For it, Nakamura!, I Hear the Sunspot, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Bloody Mary, No. 6, the This Boy… OVAs, and others.
And then I watched DAKAICHI and I remembered what kind of BL series is overwhelmingly chosen for adaptation. It’s the kind I generally like to refer to as “countdown to assault (ft. murder weapon chins).” While well-written, consensual BL series languish in obscurity, an ever-oncoming march of butt-ugly pretenders to Junjo Romantica’s dubious throne make their way to animation every year. It is, to put it mildly, fucking depressing.
What’s more depressing about DAKAICHI (in what’s becoming a theme for this season) is how close it comes to being pretty good. The core dynamic of Takato as a Machiavellian jerk who gets knocked off balance by Junta’s straightforward enthusiasm, resulting in him playing mentor when he set out to be a ruthless rival, is perfectly serviceable rom-com tension.
The scenes of Takato wildly misattributing a complex, conniving motive to Junta’s earnest desire to spend time together is actually pretty funny, and that kind of interpersonal miscommunication provides plenty of fodder for a prospective couple to work through. For outside tension, the fact that they’re both in the public eye means their relationship would be the center of a media hurricane.
And the drama they’re working on, apparently BL itself or at least brimming with subtext, provides an opportunity to throw in the “expected” forceful kisses and wall-pinning (and the moments of flustered realization that usually come with them) without it actually being a part of the couple’s developing relationship.
Which is what makes it so disappointing that the show decides to throw in an attempted rape anyway. It’s skeevy and unpleasant, seemingly there because it’s expected and downright disconnected from basically everything else that happens in the episode. Even the art goes wonky for that scene, with Junta developing an eight pack, arms of eldritch length, and an alarmingly protruding collarbone.
Hell, it’s not even the only bedroom scene! The two have consensual sex at the end of the episode! In a way that ties into the whole “sexiest man alive” thing! WHY IS THIS HERE? It’s bizarre is what it is, a clumsy tool meant to push the characters together and assure the audience they needn’t wait even twenty whole minutes to see attempted boning go down, and it tanks my respect for the writing right off the bat.
It’s not unheard of in BL for certain titles to get the “necessary” (that’s not enough air quotes, but you get the idea) assault over with right out the gate and then move on to the consensual stuff they actually wanted to write, but that constant uncertainty sours the fun of watching the good parts. It also leaves me with the suspicion that this show will fall back into the loathsome dynamic of the allegedly straight protagonist being harassed into sex by a predatory partner.
The escaped-from-2007 art, the fact that these adult men act more like teenagers (there’s a lot of melodrama that seems out of place for people in their late 20s), and the bafflingly vague staging of the actual consensual sex would be easy to shrug off as par for the course—but in the end, this came close enough to good that I’m mostly left disappointed it couldn’t do better.