- Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: EMT Squared
Ryo Sakaguchi (Gucchi to his friends) is your typical high school boy. Well your typical high school anime boy at least. He’s tall, handsome, friendly and popular. Gucchi’s high school life should be a breeze, right? But Gucchi has a secret that’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep and threatens to upend his entire world. Did he accidentally kill someone in an undisclosed hit and run? Is he deeply addicted to his friend’s prescription drugs? Did he unknowingly get mixed up in a money laundering scam and is now inextricably involved with the local mafia? No, he likes Boy Love books. A LOT. I do too.
I’ll admit it, I really only watched this show because the suggestive title appealed to my deep-rooted loves of smut and kitsch. I wasn’t expecting much more than a teasing fanservicy comedy with pretty pictures. The pictures were generally pretty.
The High School Life of a Fudanshi is a short program with all the drawbacks and advantages that entails. The obviously limited budget led to some pretty noticeable shortcuts taken in the animation. The artwork itself is quite pretty, the designs heavily inspired by traditional BL manga (as the creator is also a BL mangaka this is hardly surprising, but it was a nice touch). The animation however is subpar and frequent use of chibis, one color backgrounds, close-ups and still shots (with voiceover to simulate inner dialogue) felt a bit cheap and had the unfortunate side effect of making one episode look very much like the next. Because those visually stripped-down scenes were so frequent in 3.5 minute episodes, without the dialogue you could easily mistake one episode for another.
The narrative is not really relevant here. This is a sitcom type slice of life following Ryo’s daily adventures as he navigates his high school while trying to indulge in his favorite hobby. Due to the format of the series and time constraint, the majority of characters as essentially just tropes used as punchlines or plot devices rather than actual characters. Ryo and his two closest friends Nakamura and Rumi are given some personality, though it can pretty much be reduced to “friendly”. Not bad and pleasant in the moment but generally forgettable.
This said, the focus on wacky, fairly uncomplicated friendships was very nice. I enjoyed how the show was careful to not insinuate any romantic relationships and actually emphasises the value of platonic friendships. Ryo and Rumi are very charming as they bond over their shared love of BL but aren’t into each other that way. It’s still rare to see platonic relationships between members of the opposite sex and it was fun to watch.
One the other hand, despite what the title may lead you to believe, the BL aspect is surprisingly toned down. There is little boy on boy teasing, mostly short scenes in Ryo’s imagination, and pretty much no fanservice. Rather than concentrate on BL itself, the show centers on Ryo’s personal experience as member of that particular fandom. It has its moments but I found some of the constant gay jokes a bit cringey. Even though the show itself is a commentary on how Fundanshi/Fujoshi community is not always comfortable for male fans, it did seem to espouse some pretty old fashioned stereotypes about homosexuality. By and large though, these were mostly harmless if not always funny.
To me, The High School Life of a Fudanshi was really at its strongest as a commentary on fandom culture at large. The fact that BL was used is just incidental and a very similar show with the same underlying themes and message could easily have been made about any other fan culture. For instance, it would have worked just as well as: I Was an 80-year-old Brony.
It really explores our odd relationship with our fandoms. On the one hand, our passions bring us together, allowing unlikely friendships to blossom and giving the opportunity to truly be honest about ourselves to those around us. On the other, these same passions label us. Subcultures can be difficult to integrate, fans are protective of their particular obsessions and won’t necessarily let just anyone into their little group. We, as in humans, tend to be elitist, we want to feel special and accepted at the same time. So even when we find someone who shares our interests, some of us will be suspicious rather than inviting. Someone will always insist on dividing any group into better, truer, original versions.
I have mentioned a few times that I am generally isolated from the anime community. One of the several reasons for that, is that I have often felt unwelcomed by it. Not bullied or anything bad like that, but I always seem to have to “prove” myself as a fan for some reason. Since no one has ever bothered to give me established guidelines on how to go about that, I have often failed. There’s no need to let me know that this is stupid and that not all anime fans are like that. I know, most of us are freakin wonderful! But there is one or two of us who can also be jerks at time. This show makes fun of the jerks. I liked that.
Favorite character: Toshiaki Nakamura
What this anime taught me: in Japan, manga and doujin come with extras that are different from one store to the next
Open bar is a dangerous game. Respect it
Suggested drink: Taboo
- Every time Nakamura is mistaken for a girl – take a sip
- Every time Rumi and Ryo get into a fandom argument – smile knowingly
- Every time Yūjirō flirts – take a sip
- Every time Ryo blushes – take a sip
- Every time someone other than Ryo blushes – drink some water
- Every time Ryo ships two guys – take a sip
- Every time Yūjirō crossdresses – take notes
- Every time we see the cooking club – have a snack
- Every time Ryo is embarrassed by his fandom – take a sip
- Every time Ryo is super enthusiastic about his fandom – raise your glass