I'll be perfectly honest. I was extremely surprised when I came across this movie in the Top 150 list on MyAnimeList.
I'm so used to LGBT topics being underrepresented in anime that, seeing a shonen-ai movie pop up as I scroll through the Top Anime list made me do a double take. Once I read the description and realized that the movie featured a simplistic pastel art style similar to Hai to Gensou no Grimgar, which I loved so much, I had to watch it.
Doukyuusei's art is a visual masterclass in the bridge between the panel style of manga and the always-flowing nature of anime. The bright, watercolor style of the animation keeps the whole look true to the source materials' breathtakingly simple art. Some scenes even include manga-like panels or angles that reiterate where the story came from without feeling out of place.
The Captivating Simplicity of a High School Romance
If fantastical or truly unique love stories are something you're looking for, Doukyuusei probably isn't for you. Both of the main characters are simply your average high school students, existing in their day-to-day lives by leaning on their strengths to overcome or ignore their weaknesses. They aren't prodigies or experts at anything they do, they simply excel a little at what they focus on.
Kusakabe Hikaru doesn't know what he wants to do after high school. He's not exactly the star student academically, but he's a good guitar player and he's popular with girls. Sajou Rihito, on the other hand, is a loner honor student with perfect scores, doing his best to make it into the same university that his family before him graduated from.
While the two were classmates, they never spoke to each other until Kusakabe notices that Sajou isn't singing with the rest of the class when they begin preparing for the upcoming school chorus festival. At first, Kusakabe thinks that Sajou just thinks he's too good to sing with the class, but then he comes across Sajou practicing alone in the classroom after school. Kusakabe quickly realizes that Sajou can't read the sheet music and offers to help teach him the song.
The tutoring helps the two learn more about each other, which slowly leads to them expressing their interest in each other in the most classically high school way possible. Instead of simply stating their feelings and waiting for a response, there's plenty of assumptions and details left out and running away that makes the story almost painfully relatable for anyone who dated in high school.
What Makes Doukyuusei Different
While, at its core, Doukyuusei is definitely a traditional high school love story filled with stupid fights and lots of assumptions, it touches on one very important aspect that's hardly covered in popular, top-performing anime. Homosexuality is still rather taboo in Japanese culture, something that one study says is primarily due to LGBT invisibility in society.
A recent international online survey by Ipsos, for example, has revealed that only 5% of Japanese, compared to 46% of all participants worldwide, said that they have a colleague, close friend, or relative who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, which is the second lowest among the 16 participating countries.
Doukyuusei brought a gay teen relationship to the big screen, and it wasn't some over-the-top story or ridiculous representation. The movie made 200 million yen at the box office, an impressive number considering the topic and the country where it was being aired.
Set in an all-boys school, the movie also deals with the assumption that boys who get involved with other boys from school are simply going through a phase because there are no girls around. Kusakabe and Sajou's homeroom teacher even outright tells Sajou that Kasukabe "isn't like that" and that he'll lose interest in Sajou as soon as they graduate. The idea that maybe Kusakabe isn't really gay, of course, never crossed Sajou's mind, which suddenly gives him another thing to worry about in their relationship.
Great For Anyone Looking to Watch Teen Romance Bloom
Doukyuusei is a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. It's a simple romance that doesn't need unnecessary plot twists or complicated love-polygons to keep the story going. The little fights and stupid mistakes are things everyone who's ever been in a relationship can relate to, which makes the story a little nostalgic.
It's the perfect film if you're looking to snuggle up in a blanket or with your significant other, watch a romance, and just feel.