Genres: Manga, Romance
Misaki Takahashi is in big trouble! His grades are slipping and he needs to attend Mitsuhashi University. He turns to his brother, Takahiro, only to be led to Akihiko Usami- Author and secret 'Boys Love' writer! At first Misaki doesn't trust the older man, but eventually, their relationship turns from reluctant student and strange, spoiled tutor, to one of pure romance.
Hello folks! Here’s another edition of Manga Mondays! Today we’re looking at Junjo Romantica (or Pure Romance) by Shungiku Nakamura.
Naturally before we get into the logistics, we look at the cover. This first volume issue depicts a very irritated young highschool-boy in the embrace of a more playful older man. The older man holds a manga in one hand, and a set of words in another. These are the main lead couple in the series, and their story is one of, as the title suggests, ‘pure romance’.
Before we go further, I must warn, this series is very adult, and doesn’t skimp on the ‘adult’ imagery. It’s a bit smutty, so if you’re not looking for that, then turn elsewhere.
First published by Kadokawa Shoten, and brought to the U.S. by Blu Manga, Junjo Romantica is a ‘yaoi’ series- it features two male leads who fall in love with one another. And this series is a staple due to its three– yes THREE– romantic pairings.
The first couple we read about, and the two who predominate the series, is Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami. Misaki is a high-school senior (18 years old) in the beginning, and in trouble. How? His grades are dropping, and he needs to be at the top of his game to get in to the college he wants to attend. He seeks, first, help from his older brother, but instead is directed to his brother’s friend, Usami. Usami is a 28-year-old writer, who writes erotic ‘Boy’s Love’ (another term for yaoi, set among highschool students) novels on the side of his more ‘serious’ works. Usami tutors Misaki, but the two have a hot-cold relationship as far as their interactions. When Usami learns that Misaki’s older brother has gotten engaged, it comes to light that the older man had a crush on Misaki’s brother. Misaki becomes enraged and tearful on Usami’s behalf, which makes the writer fall in love with the younger man. Misaki manages to get in to his desired college, and he and Usami become lovers.
The second couple in the series is Hiroki Kamijo and Nowaki Kusama. These two, known as the ‘Junjo Egoist’ chapters, are a very mis-matched couple. Hiroki is a professor at a college (Misaki’s college it turns out), and Nowaki is studying to be a pediatritian. Six years prior to the main telling, when Hiroki was still a teacher’s assistance, he went through a deep heartbreak, and was discovered by Nowaki, crying in a park. Nowaki, four years younger than Hiroki, hounds the older man in to being his tutor. Hiroki gives in, and eventually the two become lovers. Nowaki, whose name is ‘typhoon’, goes in head-first and with unrelenting determination in everything he does, and that includes both romancing the older and more stubborn Hiroki, as well as pursueing his dream to be a doctor. Due to their age difference, Hiroki often worries that he’s too old for Nowaki, while Nowaki wants to be Hiroki’s equal.
The third couple, called ‘Junjo Terrorist’, is about Yo Miyagi, another professor at Misaki’s college (and head of Hiroki’s department). One day, Miyaki’s confronted by his ex-wife’s younger brother, Shinobu Takatsuki. Shinobu declares that he’s loved Miyagi since he met the day that the teacher was set-up for engagement with Shinobu’s older sister, and demands that Miyagi ‘take responsibility’ for it. Miyagi at first resists the young man’s ‘terroristic’ advances. His reason for the resistance is the same reason why his marriage failed: he carried a lingering heartbreak and devoted love for his deceased first lover, who had been his teacher. When Shinobu appears to be giving up and moving on, Miyagi realizes he adores Shinobu as well, and they become full-fledged lovers.
Honestly, the older volumes of this series have the WORST artwork. The hands are too large, their bodies seem hyper-stylized, and for the most part, the main couple and the ‘Terrorist’ couple have moments of severe ‘dubious consent’. It feels a bit wrong, and uncomfortable. But as the manga goes on, the style, body proportions, and relationships grow in to ones that are more enjoyable and worth staying invested in. My personal favorite story-line involves Hiroki and Nowaki, because of Nowaki’s desire to catch up to his boyfriend, and that Hiroki is slowly becoming more open about his relationship. In fact, this is the only pair that doesn’t feel like a ‘forbidden love’ scenario and reads the most like a real couple.
I give this series 3.5 stars. The characters have moments where I’m loving them and their romances, but they also have moments when they come across as total jerks. While the artwork in the beginning is very terrible looking, it, like the stories, gets better. If you’re interested but don’t want to wade through the original art, try the anime adaptation. It’s also a bit more ‘censored’ in the sex department, and has a very pretty animation and style in comparison.