Iss. 2 || March 23rd, 2022

Romcom and Romance Anime

I never used to like romance as a genre. I found the concept very boring, and never really watched anything of the sort. Part of this was probably my desire to watch darker and edgier stuff to prove that I was 'mature', but it was also probably a combination of that, as well as a genuine lack of interest in the subject. It's only been in the last few years that I'm started to really enjoy it, and I'm actually sort of obsessed, but it's hard to tell which ones will stick with me and which ones won't.

I started with romcoms that were heavy on the -com, specifically Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and Kaguya-sama: Love is War. I really like both series and highly recommend them, but the romance wasn't the strongest pull for me. Nozaki and Sakura are cute-ish together, but wanting them together is really more of a 'come on, let her have this' rather than being really invested in their relationship. I hope that Kaguya and Miyuki will get together, but it's just because they both clearly want it, and I want that for them. Although I'm really happy when they have breakthroughs and can be more honest with each other, I don't 'ship' them enough to think about them outside of watching the show itself. (Maybe that's because my brain is always ticking away thinking about Ishigami and Chika instead, but that's another topic...)

But then let's take Ijiranaide Nagatoro-san, which I had no intention of even watching. I got talked into it by my friend who looked me dead in the eye and said 'you would probably really like this,' and even though I was really insulted, I watched it and she was right. Somehow, I root for Nagatoro and Senpai to get together far, far more than I do for either couple from Nozaki-kun or Kaguya-sama. Why is that? What about it makes them so much more appealing and endearing to me? I wish I knew.

When I watched Horimiya, it was pretty obvious why. There were moments of real vulnerability in the show that made me cry multiple times, and they had lots of chemistry together. They were both immensely likeable as characters. I liked their back and forth a lot, and you could tell how much they liked each other. That show really sunk its claws into me and got me emotional.

I just watched the first two episodes of Sasaki and Miyano, which is what got me thinking about this whole topic in the first place. Even halfway through the first episode I felt as if I've known these two forever. Even though the relationship is still just in the one-sided crush stage, so many of the little details and the sense of flustered love is so palpable that I couldn't help getting excited and flustered myself while watching it. I really, really want them to get together! Each of their interactions is exciting from a standpoint of nervousness, as if their decisions could affect me personally. Maybe what draws me into certain romances more than others is that sense of 'relatability'.

It's not like I relate much to the characters themselves, per se, but certain aspects of how their relationship is prsented. When a character is so obvious about how they feel about someone else, that really hits home for me. Sakura is so hopelessly in love with Nozaki and everyone knows it, so that's a plus... but she gets nothing in return from Nozaki. While it's really funny the way it's presented, it also kind of sucks. Miyuki and Kaguya both like each other a whole lot, and the show is, once again, hilarious - but the payoff is so little and comes so late that their romance is really just fuel for a comedy rather than the reason I'm watching it. I can't take these relationships as seriously as I want to if the show itself treats it like a joke. This isn't a bad thing, per se, but presenting the love as something to laugh at dampens the enjoyment I could get out of it. It isn't to the point that it makes me sad, but it isn't conducive to gushing about the relationship, either.

Nagatoro hits a good balance of having plenty of absurb antics while never laughing at Nagatoro or Senpai for their feelings. Those feelings may be ignored or glossed over by the characters themselves, but the audience can feel that they're there. In Horimiya, the feelings are stated directly, and are a central part of the story. It's stable, which is lovely, and I care about it a lot - sort of like, 'I know these two are together, so I don't have to worry about them outside of the show.'

Sasaki and Miyano is funny, but treats Sasaki's feelings with respect. His thoughts and feelings are very vulnerable and honest, and affectionate, which is nerve-wracking for the audience when he's so vulnerable. This keeps things exciting in a way that it isn't in, say, Horimiya, where the characters are already together. The uncertainty in Sasaki and Miyano since the two aren't yet dating means it's more exciting to watch. And once again, stability is genuinely lovely - Horimiya is so, so good! - but it makes sense as to why I don't think about them too much.

This is kind of dumb, IDK. I guess I'm drawn to series where the pining stage is at the forefront of the storyline, especially when it's gushy or exaggerated and comedic, but not when it's the direct subject of the jokes. I love love, and I love it a lot, and I love when characters get to love each other in the truest sense of their feelings without it being laughed at.

Unless they're being silly about it; love makes you do silly things, after all. I understand that all too well.


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