What They Say:
Three intertwining love stories threaten to unravel as each couple struggles to find its own path.
Romantica: College student Misaki and his unlikely lover, the eccentric novelist Usami, are slowly growing closer – but their relationship could be in trouble when Usami’s older brother appears and the two begin to vie for Misaki’s attention!
Egoist: Nowaki loves Hiroki with all his heart, but sometimes he’s afraid Hiroki doesn’t feel the same way. When Nowaki asks Hiroki for permission to address him by his real name, as others do, Hiroki flatly refuses. To Nowaki, this is just another reminder of the invisible gap that separates them… a gap that he must close, if they’re ever going to truly be a couple.
Terrorist: Miyagi is growing anxious. Shinobu used to be relentless in his devotion, but recently the relationship has gone quiet. As a 35-year-old university professor, is Miyagi really content with living at the mercy of a younger man whose actions are still such a mystery?
Contains all 12 episodes of season 2.
This release contains a single language track on it with the original Japanese track presented in in stereo encoded at 192kbps. With this primarily being a dialogue driven show outside of some music cues here and there and the opening and closing sequences, this isn’t a show that stretches itself all that much. A lot of the dialogue is basically center channel based but it’s a solid and clean track with a good presentation that fits the material well. The heightened moments of dialogue don’t go over the top thankfully and everything is clean and clear. This is a problem free language track that works well for what it’s intended to do.
Originally airing throughout 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release is a re-packaging of the previous release that came out in 2011, so the authoring is the same. The series is split across three discs with four episodes on each giving it a good bit of space to work with. The show has a very nice look to it with a lot of bold colors throughout and a very clean look to it. Like a lot of shows of this nature, it isn’t exactly high on active animation that moves a lot as it tends to focus on the characters talking and the like. The character animation is good though and it comes across very well here with a solid feel outside of some backgrounds here and there and a few touches of visible gradients in a few scenes. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is very minimal during the numerous panning sequences. The show has a very good look here and is pretty appealing visually.
The litebox packaging presentation for this release gives us a standard sized case that holds the three discs snugly against the interior walls. The cover is framed with lots of cute elements to make it light and flowery while using blues, yellows and greens for the overall border. The front of the box has a really nice image of Misaki and Akihiko together as the bears take up a nice bit of space with their own personality, all while having an almost Christmas-like feeling about them. I do like the cursive logo for the series as it adds a little bit of extra charm to it. The back paper cover uses the same framing while the white space is filled up with some nice artwork of Hiroki and Nowaki together. It’s also got the nice full set of stuffed animals here which is very cute. A lot of the cover is given over to text which breaks down the three relationships before delving into the lengthy features list. The technical grid is laid out clearly along the bottom in a small and tight but legible form that makes it easy to see what the release is about.
The menus take their cue from the front covers of their respective thinpak cases as it uses the character artwork from there as its central piece. The layout is standard for a Nozomi release with its selections that’s quick and easy to use with quick load times. The menu does a good job of setting the overall mood with a bit of a flirty atmosphere to it and good clean looking character pieces that are even more striking here than on the thinpak covers. Submenus load quickly and everything has a smooth feel to it. Since there’s only one language on here, player presets are a non-issue but you can select a subtitle track that also has honroifics included with it or just a standard subtitle track.
The extras for this release are spread across all three discs and there’s some good stuff to have here, though it’s fairly average overall. The main extra carried across all three of them are the liner notes which have some mildly interesting pieces for the more experienced viewers and a lot for the newer viewers who aren’t as fluent in the conventions of anime. In addition to that we’ve got the norms in the clean opening and closing sequence and the trailer made for the US release. After that we get a series of DVD commercials promoting that release in Japan as well as a TV spot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Junjo Romantica was a fair bit of fun as introduced us to three different couples over the course of its twelve episode run, though the dominant relationship was that of Misaki and Usami. While the other relationships are important, it never felt like they really connected all that well at times or that they were meant to be the main on. There are passions among them, but it didn’t have the kind of intensity that we saw from Misaki and Usami. With this set, it’s much the same as the focus feels stronger on that pairing than the others, and it also introduces a number of supporting characters that interact with them from Usami’s family, which gives that storyline more prominence as well.
That storyline has its ups and downs to be sure as the two men have very different approaches to how a relationship works. The usual back and forth of the first season is still very much here as Usami is very possessive of him, so much so that he hates other people looking at him at times because Misaki is his above all else. For Misaki, he really dislikes this feeling, but there’s something to their relationship that makes it acceptable. Though he can’t formulate it into words, Misaki likes being the one that’s put in a cage since it lets him push back against it, which has him going against Usami each and every time. It’s a back and forth that provides for conflict, but it also brings them closer together with the passion it generates. There’s seemingly always subtext between the two of them with everything they do and it seems like it almost always ends with Usami taking what he wants from Misaki.
This relationship also draws some on Usami’s family side as his brother causes problems that help to illustrate some of Usami’s upbringing. We learn about how he used to play a lot with a child across the way, but he also spent a lot of time in a small room by himself where he’d write. When Misaki gets drawn into the household, seemingly as a captive no less, he ends up learning a bit about Usami in this way but it’s not the kind of writing he expected since he thought there would be journals there. The more we learn about Usami’s life, the more apparent it is why he got out of there as quickly as he could and insists that he wants nothing to do with it or any inheritances or other monies involved. Unfortunately, he can get out only so far based on how things work with the legalities and the like, but he does his best. Of course, family draws him back in regularly and uses Misaki to manipulate him.
The other relationships have their moments as they’re brought into play, occasionally touching lightly on the other ones, but largely I keep finding that all three relationships deal with the same issues in a way and it’s frustrating. All of the couples have such a power imbalance in them, usually with one of them being so strongly opposed to being in the relationship for different reasons, and so much shame in a way at times with how they feel about even being interested in another man, that it’s off-putting. With the age differences involved with most of them as well, it’s even more out there. When you look at the main relationship of Misaki and Usami, there’s such a desire to be free but to be caged by Misaki, it’s something that can be a bit much. If it was the only relationship like that in the show, it’d be one thing, but there’s nobody among the main three that are completely and simply in love with each other without all the drama associated with it. And that’s really unfortunate since there isn’t any baseline for normal. The relationships all work, I’ve certainly had my reading and experiences in understanding it, but with three couples like this, it’s overwhelming. You want each couple to work, but there’s no couple you can really get a hundred percent behind and feel like you know that relationship like you know your own.
As much as Junjo Romantica frustrates me at times, it is a show that is fun and has its moments. There are outlandish pieces, and some of Usami’s family really can get grating, but the positives are definitely there. The reactions of the characters as they interact with each other and the situations have some good exaggerations to them and the forcefulness of certain partners definitely gives it a good feeling. There are some resolutions to be had here as it progresses towards the end and a buildup that makes sense with how Usami’s family is, but like most things in real life, relationships don’t have endings but evolutions and we certainly see that among all three of them. Usami and Misaki are by far the favorites, they’re given the most time, but each of them has something to offer depending on what you want out of it. Nozomi has done a solid job with this release in bringing it down in price and making it accessible as it’s one of the better boys-love shows out there with some solid production values to it and fun characters.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, U.S. Season 2 Trailer, TV Spots, DVD Commercials, Clean Opening and Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.