The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Junjou Romantica 3

How would you rate episode 1 of
Junjō Romantica 3 ?



Hope Chapman

Rating: 2

Has it really been seven years since the previous season of Junjou Romantica? My feelings are torn. For one half of the series (side couples), I feel like it's been too long. For the other half of the series (main couple), it will never be long enough. Well, guess which half of the show we start out with? Bad news for me.

In the first episode of the third season of worldwide yaoi hit Junjou Romantica, Misaki faces a crossroads in his relationship with Usami (or Usagi as he is pet-named.) His university years are ending, and soon he will be working full-time, which means his living situation with Usagi may become impractical now that he can afford to live on his own and may need to change locations for work. The episode is even titled "All Good Things Must Come to an End." Don't be fooled by this illusion of character progression, though. This first episode only takes Usagi and Misaki's relationship backwards, and frankly, I'm getting sick of it.

Not two minutes into the episode, Usagi is once again molesting his stay-at-home uke, while Misaki protests and denies that he has any interest in the seme's physical attention. They have been living together for three years, and Usagi has been routinely butt-sexing Misaki the entire time (what's wrong with just a BJ, guys?) but somehow they're still not at a stage in their relationship where the terrifying specter of gay sex has dispelled? This has gone past terrible into just plain embarrassing, shattering even erotica levels of disbelief-suspension. Unfortunately, the tired non-con foreplay isn't the biggest problem here.

No, Usagi also continues to be jealous over Misaki in a thoroughly unhealthy and downright abusive way that the show can't stop playing for laughs. First he doesn't want Misaki to go back to campus on his day off because he's scared of other men stealing him away, and then he denies him the trip of a lifetime to meet his favorite manga author because he feels threatened by a fellow fan that Misaki only met earlier that day. Just when you think the Romantica couple has reached peak break-up necessity, the sunshine filters in through a surprising moment of thoughtfulness.

In the middle of their fight over the trip, Usagi decides he wants to actually talk about their future problems instead of ignoring them, and poses outing their relationship to Misaki's brother as a first step, making it very clear that he's emotionally prepared to do it. This is notably not framed as a threat to Misaki, just a genuine question meant to expose how he really feels about their relationship. Usagi's doing his best to suss out Misaki's comfort level with commitment in their relationship, and he's being heartfelt and vulnerable and communicative and it's all very nice until...!

Usagi's cousin who wants to fuck him comes bursting through the door.

Yup.

Usagi then switches back to more in-character tactics, trying to turn Misaki to his green monster side by giving positive attention (not even flirting, just affirmation of any kind) to his cousin, and what do you know, it works! Misaki suddenly knows how Usagi feels in not wanting him to be around other men, which means they can continue to constrict around each other in a suffocating ball of dishonest emotions masquerading as true love for years upon years to come! "Get even more jealous," Usagi says. "Get so jealous that you can't think of anything but me." At this point, all my goodwill just floats right out the window, but then again, I knew it was a snake when I picked it up.

I think I've finally run out of patience with this because in the years since 2008, anime has done a better job of portraying healthy guy-guy relationships, even if they're still fetishized for female pleasure, which is its own can of worms. I don't need this stuff to be squeaky clean; it's erotica after all. On top of that, I'm often fine with unhealthy behavior in fictional romantic relationships, whether it's lady-porn or not. Sometimes unhealthy dynamics can make a story more dramatically exciting and depending on your tastes, maybe more sexy. But there's a difference between portraying unhealthy behavior and normalizing it, and Junjou Romantica has settled so firmly into its rut of toxic relationship dynamics paraded as normalcy that it's just hard to sit through in 2015.

It's especially depressing when the other two relationships in the show are more consensual, unique, and dynamic. Clearly the author knows better, but the dominant narrative that sells is still the exhausted cliché that forms Junjou's "main couple", so that still takes up most of the show. I'm honestly stunned that this show has gotten to three seasons trotting out the exact same tired yaoi junk that manages to be demeaning to both women and gay men all at the same time. (Women shouldn't have to romanticize abuse and force their female bodies out of the equation to feel like they have any sexual power, and gay men should not be treated like sex objects any more than women should be.) This is the best-selling yaoi property of all time, and its face is a textbook Everything That Is Wrong with Yaoi. Enough already! We had the Love Stage! anime last year and it was actually pretty sweet and progressive by shonen-ai standards. We don't need more of this 50 Shades of Usagi nonsense.

I know several people that watch this show exclusively for the side couples and skip all the main couple episodes. I can't say I blame them. We can do a lot better than this.

Junjou Romantica 3 is currently streaming on Funimation.


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