Hitorijime My Hero was the token boys love anime of the summer season, and as not many mangas of this genre are adapted into anime, I was pretty excited to see what would become of this one. Unfortunately, I can say now after watching it though twice that this one doesn’t really give me much to be excited about anymore. For those of you who like the traditional boys love/yaoi tropes — semi-abusive semes, weird power dynamics, and overly naive ukes — this show will probably be fairly enjoyable. However, for me, I very nearly gave up halfway through after I found I wasn’t looking forward to a new episode every week as much as other shows on my list that season. I won’t say I completely hated it, there were moments that I liked, that made me laugh, but it definitely not a show I’ll be returning to.
The story follows the love stories of two couples — Masahiro and Kousuke; Kensuke and Hasekura — as they try to reconcile their feelings for each other. For the majority of the plot though, we focus on Masahiro and Kousuke as Masahiro’s admiration for the man who saved him from a life of gangs turns into love and Kousuke must admit that their relationship is more than teacher and student. Based off the mangas Hitorijime Boyfriend and HItorijime My Hero, the story was licensed for the anime adaptation by Sentai Filmworks and picked up by Encourage Films for the animation. It was simulcasted in the US by Amazon’s Anime Strike and ran for 12 episodes last season.
There’s not much to say about the animation only that it’s not that exciting to talk about. Except for a few scenes where the characters are running, it’s fairly solid. A lot of the comedic moments are played out through chibi-fied characters, so you will also see many scenes where they switch back and forth with their more simplified designs. The chibis definitely add a sense of light-heartedness to the show, but can run the gamut in amount of detail and design. What I did find myself liking, however, were the opening and ending. The opening theme is “Heart Signal” by Wataru Hatano while the ending is sung by the voice actors of the four main cast. Both songs are accompanied by animations that fit with the beat of the music and give us some meaningful introduction and characterization for the main cast.
The one thing I’m constantly noticing, especially watching the current season now, is just how often I encounter Kousuke’s voice actor, Tomoaki Maeno. It seems like he’s been in everything, but for the most part his voice just reminds me of Haru from Super Lovers, which as you know I’m not a huge fan of. It seems like he almost always plays the older, more mature and cultured love interest. Just this season, you can find him as the Manager in Blend S and Lupin in Code: Realize. It’s honestly surprising at how prolific his history is. I bring this up because the connection between his voice in Super Lovers and Kousuke here may have colored my opinion of the anime as a whole. It’s not that his voice acting is bad, far from it, but that they just sound too similar for me to separate him from the role of Haru.
Like I said in the intro, I feel as if the characters follow closely some of the typical yaoi and boys love tropes that we see time and time again. Take Kensuke for example. To me, he is the kind of uke we see pop up quite often. He’s incredibly naive, easily manipulated, and extremely loyal. What usually draws the love-interest to this type of character is their tendency to freely express their emotions and their loyalty to the people closest to them. We see it similarly with the main relationship in Junjou Romantica where Usagi-san becomes attracted to Misaki because he expresses the kind of sadness and anger over his troubles that Usagi-san is unable to. Similarly, we see some of that in the character of Masahiro: his tendency to become upset easily and his loyalty to Kousuke contrasts with Kousuke’s own tendency to bottle-up his emotions. Some characters in the series also remark that the reason Kousuke was initially attracted to him was the expressiveness or need he saw in Masahiro’s eyes.
In terms of Kousuke and Hasekura, we see some of the typical manipulative and suppressed emotions found in other yaoi love-interests. In the end, these two things seem to be at the heart of almost all the drama and relationship issues these two couples face. Hasekura’s relationship with Kensuke is the first to be brought up and resolved in the anime, and — while he calms down towards the end of the series — we see some strong manipulative tendencies at the start. He and Kensuke start as childhood friends, and because of Kensuke’s naivete and loyalty to his friendship, he both doesn’t notice and plays off Hasekura’s advances. That is until Hasekura basically gives him the choice of sleeping with him or breaking off their friendship for good. In a way I can understand his combination of anger and frustration, but he basically causes more problems for himself by setting up that ultimatum. Kousuke’s brand of manipulation is a little different. He knows that Masahiro has feelings for him and deliberately sends out mixed signals, again causing more problems for himself. At first, he rejects his feelings and then kisses him in the hallway sparking conflict between him and Masahiro. Later on he’s able to manipulate Masahiro’s emotions to the point where he gets the desired reaction out of him. I think the most important conflict that comes up for their relationship is the problems that arise with Kousuke being a teacher, but even then that becomes a non-issue in the end.
Besides these relationship dynamics, I think the other major issue I saw with this series was the characterization — or lack thereof — of the side characters. By the end of the series I felt that the only friend who got even a modicum of personality and backstory was Shige — made more evident because it took me forever to go back through the episodes to even remember what his name was. Yet, even when we get to the episode where we see conflict between Shige and the rest of the group, it’s for a fairly superficial reason. It wasn’t that he didn’t approve of their same-sex relationship, it was that he thought Masahiro was too cool to be going out with an “old fart” (as he calls Kousuke). I think that scene was generally put in there to show more of Kensuke’s loyalty to his friends and to force Masahiro to finally speak up and defend his relationship. As for the other two, their main characteristics boil down to overworked class president and guy with neck scarf. They’re entirely forgettable, and that’s really a shame because having a fleshed out cast isn’t hard to do and can contribute a lot to the depth of the overall story. I won’t even get into Kousuke’s group of friends, who, suffice to say, have some of the same problems.
As you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of this series and will not be adding it to the list of other shows I return to from time to time. Overall, I think this a pretty good standard boys love show for people who like the average stories in this genre, but it relies too much on the typical character tropes without doing something new with them. I didn’t get a chance to get into the pacing of this anime either, which was probably made worse by the fact that they had to combine two different manga’s into one cohesive story. This front-loaded the Kensuke/Hasekura story which then gets pushed aside for the main Kousuke/Masahiro romance.
However, if you have Anime Strike and think this anime might suit your interests, I encourage you to watch it and let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m going to be taking a break from writing reviews over December (you can see the announcement here), but there will be two or three more reviews going up before then. Keep a look out and make sure to follow me on here and Facebook for updates!