What They Say:
Haru Kaido hasn’t had the easiest life. After losing his father and step-mother in a tragic accident, he’s struggled to keep himself afloat. As he starts getting used to working as a host and being on his own, an eccentric teen appears claiming to be his other brother—adopted by his estranged mother in Canada. Even stranger, he talks about a late summer they spent together five years ago, before the accident. The memories are hazy, but something is there…something familiar. Now, with Ren coming into his life, Haru is struggling to bring his family together while dealing with strong feelings he’s developed for the other. Obstinate and even feral at times, Ren proves to be a unique challenge but also a light in Haru’s life. Can they figure out what’s in their hearts, or is this one dysfunction the family can’t handle?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only, no surprise there, encoded in stereo using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that has a couple of outlandish reaction moments that go a little bit bigger but largely they keep to fairly straightforward dialogue material throughout. That means that this is a fairly mellow release in general that accomplishes what it needs to by serving the material well with good placement throughout as needed and a clean and clear problem free encoding. It’s not a show that stands out but it has good use of the instrumental score to swell things at times and the opening and closing sequences get a bit bigger in terms of feel and scope. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78;1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. Animated by Studio Deen, the show adapts the look and style of the manga well with good character designs that go into a lot of detail at times and a really well done real world kind of background environment for everything to exist within.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case with an O-card to wrap it all up in. The case has the familiar key visual of Haru and Ren together in the field that certainly sets the tone but I like that the case itself has a different piece of artwork we didn’t see often with the two embracing outside at night. The colors for both are good and I continue to like the design of the logo with its flair and still simple elements. The back cover for both the case and the o-card is the same as we get a nice country-home kind of feeling to it with a good breakdown of the premise and a few nice shots from the show along with another good key visual. The episodes included are clearly listed as well as the extra. The technical grid breaks down the information for both formats clearly and everything is easy to read and accurate. While there are no show related inserts with this release we do get artwork on the reverse side that uses more of the Japanese cover artwork to good effect that can be reversed easily.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as expected with a static image and some soothing colors that riff on the cover and artwork well enough to blend it together right. The main visual of bringing the two leads together close is what we had for most of the promotional period originally so it’s no surprise to see it used here, zoomed in at that. THe clouds in the background are nice and it draws in the trees just enough to add a little more to it. The logo is clean and nicely placed with the nod to including the OVA and the navigation strip along the bottom is a simple white piece that has the basics, made even simpler due to the lack of language options. It’s an appealing looking menu that sets the tone well and it’s functional both as the main menu and the pop-up menu during playback.
The only extras in this release include the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Miyuki Abe of the same name, Super Lovers is a ten episode anime TV series and an OVA that aired as part of the spring 2016 season. The original manga began in 2010 and has been running since with nine volumes so far and the anime has a second cour of ten episodes that’s been produced as well. Shonen-ai material is always a kind of difficult subject as there’s not a lot of exposure to it simply because TV series are rare. Even worse in a way is that a lot of what does get produced ends up feeling (and is) controversial for a range of reasons. Super Lovers caused a lot of cringing just from the first visual because of the age disparity, though there’s also the element that the “junior” partner in a lot of these shows tend to be done up in a wispy way to someone older and more mature, leading to a lot of problems for people to grapple with outside of the genre.
Super Lovers certainly makes things even more complicated as it doesn’t do much with ages to really make clear who is who but there’s certainly problems to be had with what we get here in terms of power dynamics that come into it as well as the whole consent issue. While the age of consent in Japan is thirteen, there are pretty much laws on the books in every prefecture that sets it locally to eighteen that makes things like this problematic. To Super Lovers credit, however, it doesn’t play into more serious material toward the end of it run of this season but what we get there is likely a deal breaker for some that may have been fine with the relationship as it was growing and changing. It’s not going to be easy watching for most and part of me is just hopeful that as it progresses it turns away from where it is and puts everyone in a better place.
The primary of this show is Haru, a young man who works at a host club that looks to be in his early twenties at least. He’s had a rough life because of family relationships that played out outside of his control, where his mother remarried and he lived with them and the two half-brothers that were born from that marriage. That went south when there was an accident at one point and he lost his memory of the car crash that took their parents. To make it worse, the grandparents of the kids from the father’s side took the younger brothers Aki and Shima in as Haru wasn’t blood and they blamed him for the loss of their son, which infected the relationship with Haru. But Haru is trying to do right by his brothers that he loves and cares for as most of his work goes toward funding their upcoming college education that they’re being primed for.
Where it gets more complicated is that Haru ends up being called to Canada by his mother Haruko as she’s been raising an adopted son there from someone else named Ren. He’s in middle school at this point but is like a wild animal living in the woods with wolves and hard to control, hence Haruko hoping Haru can help since he lived for a time in this place as well and bonded with some of the wolves. That early contentious relationship is fun to watch and you can see Haru easily wanting to help him and feeling a kind of outsider kinship. They spend a good bit of time there in terms of story before Haru ends up back in Japan where he’s trying to move forward with his life only to discover that Ren has come there to get “civilized” and make something of himself. The bulk of the series takes place over a year as they put him in high school and move forward there. Luckily for Ren, Haruko had a lot of very smart people in her life in Canada and he was taught a lot of very advanced things at an early age, but he struggles with all things Japan in many ways and that offers some simple but fun challenges.
As you can expect, the bulk of the series focuses on the way the two have to adapt to living together as Haru is looking to get away from being a host to running his own small cafe and being productive in a way that works better for him and his reputation. Ren spends his time acclimating to Japan and its social aspects all while being very similar in mindset as Haru so they end up both holding back a lot of what they’re feeling or struggling with. To complicate it more, Aki and Shima eventually move into the expanded place that Haru gets thanks to a friend and there’s an interesting dynamic there because these four are brothers even if not by firm blood – or any blood at all. But it’s there and they see much of each other in themselves and how they interact. It’s got some decent bonding to it and Ren also gets a little bonding time outside of the household with a kind of almost adversarial friend that he makes which is amusing but has an odd quality about it that I can’t quite pin down.
The problem, of course, is when the two start to realize there’s more going on with their relationship than expected. This plays out oddly as the show progresses because it has Ren uncertain as to what he’s feeling but knows that he only feels this way when with Haru and that has him confused. Haru, to his credit for most of the show, is very much a paternal older brother trying to do right by the adorable little brother that reminds him of himself in many ways. He makes a mistake of kissing him on the lips early on and isn’t sure why he did it, believing it to be an accident, but it becomes a revisited moment later on that pushes things more. It’s all part of the genre and I’ve seen enough of it to know, but the way it unfolds will just leave a lot of general viewers unsettled, to say the least. A good part of that is simply due to the age difference as Haru really does feel like he must be in his mid-twenties or so at this stage and should know better. But that’s part of the appeal for fans of the genre and the shows’ leaning into it just will get worse in a way as it progresses and made worse by the younger look of Ren.
While I like a lot of different genres and I really want to see more boys-love material out there, a lot of what we end up getting is just so much on the cringe-inducing side that it frustrates me to no end. There are some really good bits in this show and the dynamic has some strong material to it thanks to a convoluted family design, but I really wish we had everyone in the same age and simply going into it as a real honest to goodness relationship instead of these power imbalances that we get like this and with others. But this is what the fans want to see and it’s what gets made and it just frustrates the hell out of me. Funimation put together a solid enough release here that fans will be happy to be able to add another rare shonen-ai show to their library but I wish they had better material to work with.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 17th, 2017
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.