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Anime Review: Sasaki to Miyano.

Sasaki and Miyano is easily one of my favorite slice of life manga out right now. Published and localized in English by Yen Press, the story is written by Shou Harusono and it’s now a 12-episode anime series. The premise of Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 is simple. Friends bond over sharing manga — but I don’t mean shonen.

You see, Miyano is a fudanshi and enjoys spending most of his days reading Boys’ Love manga. But his world of fiction comes to life when he has a chance encounter with Sasaki in the middle of a fight. Caught up in admiration, the two start to spend time together, but more specifically, Sasaki finds himself embracing every opportunity to get closer to Miyano. While the mutual respect and admiration start as a senpai-kouhai relationship, the friendship begins to blossom into something more, propelled by a shared love of BL.

Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 is great for many reasons. The first is that it can easily serve as a gateway into the BL genre for many new viewers. This isn’t only because the series is fit for young adults and adults alike, but because it takes BL seriously and explores the varying opinions, some grounded in stigmas that the genre faces.

Boys’ Love is a genre of stories focused on relationships between male characters. It can be spicy and it can be sweet, running the full spectrum between the two as well. While last anime season brought the erotica-based The Night Beyond the Tri-Colored Window on Crunchyroll that showcased the spicy, this season Sasaki and Miyano embrace the wholesome end of BL and give audiences a primer on it as well.

Throughout the series, you get explanations of seme and uke, the breakdown of tropes, and a lot of reliving of them. The series serves as a mirror to the genre, and in doing so manages to avoid playing the tropes for jokes and instead highlights a youthful sincerity as the boys discover who they are separately and apart.

While Sasaki is in love with Miyano, accepts it, and solidly tries to work towards a relationship with his new best friend, Miyano is the opposite. Self-conscious of his appearance and desperately wanting people to stop saying that he looks feminine, Miyano carries this into the relationship. When Sasaki confesses, it sends Miyano spiraling. Not in a way that rejects same-sex love, but one that interrogates his love of BL and his own insecurities.

Miyano first explores if his admiration is something more. Having always looked up to and admired his senpai, Miyano has to work through if there are feelings that mean more by exploring whether or not he likes girls, boys, or just Sasaki. Instead of giving a hasty answer, Miyano allows himself to question his emotions freely and keeps from shutting Sasaki down. This is important not just because Miyano is having to explore his sexuality but because he’s also having to make the decision of “what happens to our friendship.”

Beyond that, Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 also meets the fetishization issues in BL head-on and Miyano gives us a look at the way that can impact self-image. As Miyano begins to accept his feelings for Sasaki, another problem arises when Sasaki says what he likes about Miyano is his face. This brings Miyano’s fears of being seen as feminine to the surface, but in a new way. What happens to them if Miyano gets taller? If Miyano’s face becomes more traditionally masculine? It becomes a fear of losing Sasaki which ultimately helps him realize how special his best friend is to him in a romantic way as well.

The sincerity and kindness that runs through Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 are what makes it so special. There is an openness between the two teens that go beyond sharing their hobbies and extends to confronting their fears and hopes as well. While not everything is discussed right away, their willingness to communicate sets this series and their relationship apart from other romances in both BL and shoujo.

But Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 isn’t just great because of the story it tells of the characters it explores. It’s also a stunning adaptation of an extremely charming manga. Animated by Studio Deen, the series captures some of the more dreamy elements of mangaka Harusono’s illustrations. In moments of romance light objects like flowers and shapes appear on the screen in pastel colors to add to the atmosphere of the moment. Studio Deen nails the animation in adapting the nuanced beauty of the series but it also expertly adapted the comedy from the manga.

While the characters themselves have humorous moments like any rom-com in the manga, a large part of the laughs comes from jokes written in the margins between the page’s panels. These notes range from observational humor to puns and more context for the characters. Without this in the medium, I was worried about the animator’s ability to capture the sweet humor of the series. However, they manage to do it. Whether it’s by making some of those moments dialogue or adding more visually to a scene.

That said it’s the vocal performances that allow everything to really shine. While this includes the entire cast, it’s most prominent from Sasaki’s voice actors, both Japanese and English (Yuusuke Shirai and Kellen Goff). They embody the awkward comedy that makes this slice of life a fun rom-com too. The dynamic between the two comes to life not just because of the animation but because of the actors’ ability to use their voices creatively and emotively.

Ultimately Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 is the strongest anime adaptation of an anime this season. As a gateway to BL, a romance, and a slice of life high school story, Sasaki and Miyano is sweet, sincere, and oh so charming. With Season 2 announced, I can’t wait to see more of their story.

Sasaki and Miyano Season 1 is now streaming on Funimation.

My Rating: 10/10

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