What They Say:
Masahiro Setagawa has been having problems. His dad’s gone, his mom’s apathetic, and the local delinquents have turned him into a lackey and errand boy. Rescue comes in the most unexpected form, however, when a street fighter known as “Bear Killer” puts the beat down on the bad boys and takes Masa under his protective wing.
The surprising part is that Masa already knew his rescuer, because not only is Kousuke Oshiba the older brother of Masa’s best friend Kensuke, he’s also Masa’s homeroom teacher! But with so many ties between them already, is it surprising that Masa starts to feel more for Kousuke than a normal student teacher relationship? Math class will never be the same once Masa realizes that the numbers in his stars are all adding up to one person!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with an English language dub done the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is almost entirely just dialogue based and works with the small moments between the characters so there’s some good placement throughout and easy work with variable levels that adds to the fun. But, in the end, it’s largely a center channel based piece when you get down to it. There may be a couple of slightly larger moments of silliness here with a reaction or two but it’s pretty standard fare throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with a nine/three layout that’s fairly standard. Animated by Encourage Films, the show has a really nice look to it with detailed and appealing character designs combined with a color palette that gives it a really nice touch. There’s a lightness to it overall that reminds you a little of watercolor in a way though it’s traditionally animated. A lot of the show is pretty straightforward in that it’s standing around or sitting around talking so it’s not a high-action or movement piece. This lets the design work shine through well and the encoding captures the color palette really well as everything has a great solid look. It may not wow in terms of fluid animation or really big scenes but it allows you to get drawn into the story perfectly.
The packaging for this release is a little unusual in a way yet it works. Set in a standard sized Blu-ray case, the front cover uses a bold yellow background that definitely catches the eye. It spread shots of the characters throughout in different configurations without a real central focus that feels odd yet manages to work, partially for the animal inclusion and partially just for the weirdness of a group of four pairs of legs from the waist down walking along the top. The back cover goes for a pink background for most of it and uses some nice key visual imagery of the leads while sliding the summary of the premise through the middle as it captures the show well. The extras and episode count are clearly listed and we get a nice little selection of colorful shots from the show underneath. The production credits and technical grid break down everything in a clean and clear format with accurate information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple but effective with a static image design. It works a similar idea with a bold yellow background for both of them while the bulk of it is filled out with character illustration pieces. They look good with lots of detail for their outfits and hair that captures who they are. The left side handles the navigation as we get the episodes listed by number and title where they’re done as yellow text on red, which sounds garish but works really well within the context of it all. It’s all quick and easy to navigate with language selection being a breeze and moving around both as the main menu and the pop-up menu is problem free.
The only extras included in this release are 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 of the same name by Memeco Arii, Hitorijime My Hero is a twelve episodes anime series that aired during the summer 2017 season. Animated by Encourage Films, it set Yukina Hiiro to direct with the scripts by Yusei Naruse. Arii’s original manga began serialization back in 2012 in Gateau magazine and it’s still ongoing with seven volumes published so far. Suffice to say, it’s not a series that’s churning out a lot of material quickly. The anime is one that plays better than most boy’s love anime adaptations do since it’s not quite as rough and tumble as many of those play. Anime adaptations of this genre are still fairly rare overall with maybe one or two at best each year, which means it’s almost always famine for anime fans and they tend to be happy with whatever they get.
For me, I’ve seen a lot and I have a really troubled relationship with how boy’s love material is presented. And I try to not apply my Western values upon it because I know that this is pretty much how a lot of boy’s love material plays out in Japan and this series is actually fairly tame overall. But Hitorijime My Hero suffers from a lot of the same things that if it were done in a live-action US TV series it’d get a lot of pushback for what it does. And since that’s still my primarily cultural values side, well, that makes this a hard show to watch, at least in the beginning for one relationship and throughout for the other. Which is unfortunate because I really want to have some really strong material presented for everyone, those that identify this way and those that don’t, because there are so many great stories to tell without the usual problems that we get.
Those problems here are two basic ones; one is that one relationship is incredibly forceful (and then the whole relationship is largely sidelined) while the other is a power imbalance that isn’t appealing when it’s male/female either.
The first relationship involves Kensuke and Asaya as they’ve been friends since childhood and have always been around each other. Asaya is very into him and possessive of Kensuke but he hasn’t really broached his true feelings. As they’re now all entering high school and new challenges are ahead, Asaya makes a stronger play to make it real for Kensuke, which at first involves some phrasing to try and get Kensuke to realize the truth. But with Kensuke being oblivious to the subtext and simply not having thought of his friend in this way, Asaya basically thrusts himself forcibly upon Kensuke in order to make it clear. It’s a rough moment that even in a male/female relationship regardless of which side was being forceful it would leave you cringing. But it comes across rougher here because there is such obliviousness on Kensuke’s face about everything until this moment. Of course, he just becomes blissfully happy with it and the two largely go on their merry way without much in the way of real hardships or misunderstandings, just little bits and bobs here and there.
The relationship that really dominates here is the one involving Masahiro and Kousuke. Kousuke is Kensuke’s older brother that has a reputation in the area from years back in dealing with delinquents while Masahiro was a delinquent/suck-up type for a group that was just looking to belong somewhere because of a problematic home life. He ended up viewing Kousuke as a hero, something he didn’t think existed outside of bad TV shows, and his crush on Kousuke has grown into something far more. Kousuke’s a teacher and has been brought into the high school where the boys go to help out and that means he’s actually teaching Masahiro, which makes it very difficult for him to really concentrate. Especially since there are some girls that are crushing on the young teacher themselves and he gets very jealous about that.
The back and forth of all of this runs a good chunk of the show and I really simply found it hard to connect with. I know it’s a tried and true piece going back decades into the anime side of things, from the boys loving one of their teachers in Urusei Yatsura to it being a foundational piece of Maison Ikkoku. But it’s such an common piece of boy’s love material that it really makes it a difficult piece to get past with the student/teacher aspect. The power imbalance itself can make for good storytelling when it comes to adult characters but it’s also simply something that’s used far too often. And we end up losing by not getting any normal and healthy relationships. Kensuke and Asaya comes across more “normal relationship” material later in the series but that’s only because they’re less of a focus. And after watching the way Kousuke deals with Masahiro while being a teacher, well, it just left a bad taste for me through and through.
Hitorijime My Hero has a really nice animation style about it that at times almost feels like more illustrations than anything else, especially with the color palette used. We get some solid performances throughout it and there are some decent subplot moments, especially in how Kensuke’s friends act and react to things. But both of the primary relationships here simply do not work for me with how they’re presented. I understand its origins in the manga series and just how common they are in both manga and anime adaptations, but once it again it leaves me craving something that doesn’t deal with the problems it has here.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 30th, 2018
Running Time: 300 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.