I recently re-watched Doukyuusei because I was feeling down, which should tell you already how I feel about the movie. I’m a big BL fan, being bisexual myself and knowing the Yaoi/Shounen Ai genre is abundant. I almost hesitate to say it based on how much BL manga I’ve read that I deeply enjoy, but the BL anime genre is sadly lacking both in quantity and quality. I won’t go into too much detail here as I’m not Japanese and can’t speak for LGBTQ Japanese people, but nearly all BL is pandering cliche tropes for the enjoyment and titillation of straight girls and women. Doukyuusei, while branded as BL and also aimed at straight girls, is a gentle blossoming love story that doesn’t pander but respects each character, their identities, and their relationships.
Told in four parts, Doukyuusei’s plot feels as warm and lazy as the summer days it shows. The two main characters Kusakabe Hikaru and Sajou Rihito are high school classmates, as the title states, who bond over a song they have to sing for class. The first part covers how they meet and start dating. The second part goes into more of Sajou’s insecurities with regards to Kusakabe and his sexuality. However, he’s not angsting about internal homophobia but rather whether Kusakabe takes him and their relationship seriously. (This chapter also includes my least favorite part: the adult teacher who comes onto a young and confused Sajou. He also gets his own spin-off manga, but I still don’t care for him for what I think are obvious reasons!) The last part is about Kusakabe’s band and again Sajou’s insecurities surrounding Kusakabe’s popularity. The fourth and final part focuses more on Kusakabe’s problems in the relationship, as Sajou studies for college entrance exams. [SLIGHT SPOILERS] Kusakabe says the line: “You know, I think no matter how you choose to live, there will be regrets,” but goes on to talk about how he wants to choose Sajou. Generally summing up the movie, this line describes both the pair’s anxiety towards their paths while reinforcing their active choice to follow their feelings and strengthen their bond despite an uncertain future. [END SPOILERS]
This is a very brief summary of the events though, and each chapter has its own vibe while also contributing to the overall feeling of the couple’s new relationship. Doukyuusei excels in exploring both the feeling of first love as a teen (“The fizzling soda.”) and the anxiety of entering the “adult world.”
Nakamura Asumiko was a common name to me from her BL manga, as she has a very unique and fluid style. When I heard Doukyuusei was going to be made into a movie, I was worried about that transition from manga to anime. However, A-1 Pictures nailed it and I didn’t really need to worry at all. I know very little on the subject of animation actually, but both capturing Nakamura’s fluid style and the watercolor backgrounds in nearly every scene not only impressed but helped develop the peaceful feeling of the story. Further still on a technical note, the soundtrack was soft with relaxing or dramatic riffs as needed. And as an additional bonus, the now disbanded popular indie rock band Galileo Galilei performed the ending theme.
The only flaws I can see—biased as I obviously am—are slow pacing, long introspective narration, and some manga-esque scenes that couldn’t be translated any other way. I believe these are matters of taste but can make a movie challenging to watch if you aren’t into the leisurely tone. For me, Kusakabe’s loud personality and dramatics (thanks to the spectacular Kamiya Hiroshi as always) more than make up for any pacing I found disjointed or slow.
In more than one way, Doukyuusei is a breath of fresh air. This slice of life BL takes a simple feeling and setting and shapes them into a moving and enjoyable movie that values and respects its gay characters and their relationship. I also recommend the manga, there are more volumes and one shots after the events of the movie that do the trick as well.