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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Twilight Out of Focus

How would you rate episode 1 of
Twilight Out of Focus ?
Community score: 3.6



What is this?

rhs-twilight-cap-1

Second-years Mao Tsuchiya and Hisashi Otomo make three promises: 1) That Mao will never tell anyone that Hisashi is gay and has a boyfriend, 2) That Hisashi will never think of Mao "in that way," and 3) That they'll always knock before entering, in case someone is having some "private time." The two's ground rules should ensure a peaceful life together in their dorm, but life is never as simple as it should be, and some things are not so easily promised...

Twilight Out of Focus is based on the manga series by Jyanome. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.


How was the first episode?

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Caitlin Moore
Rating:

If I were to describe Twilight Out of Focus with a single word, it would be “sultry.” Through Mao's perspective, the camera gazes at Hisashi: all heavy-lidded eyes framed with long lashes and tumbling blonde curls, toned ab muscles and pierced ears. He's the kind of guy who looks hot even in pink leopard print with his hair tied up—because every line of his body oozes sex appeal even while lounging around. He's the the kind of guy who can cause a mass of gay awakenings just by walking down the hallway. His gaze carries an authenticity of desire, rather than giggling adolescent fantasies.

What I'm trying to say is, if you're both into men and the idea of men kissing other men (which I am), Twilight Out of Focus comes out the gate strong. It plays in a lot of spaces that are typical for modern-day BL: one character has dark hair and the other has light hair. One has piercings and a delinquent-ish appearance while the other is clean-cut. One is gay and the other isn't; one is sexually experienced and the other is a virgin. There's an ensemble of students working together toward a common goal, some of whom are bound to turn into secondary and tertiary couples.

But I didn't really mind all this because there was also a sincerity that kept it from being all sizzle and no steak… or stakes? Mao and Hisashi have a really good roommate relationship that rang true to my experiences living in dorms. They enjoy spending time together, they talk about their lives, they openly discuss their boundaries. While I wasn't enamored with the scene—where Hisashi, delirious with illness, mistakes Mao for his boyfriend and pins him down—the show moves past that quickly enough that I'm willing to do the same. The movie-making storyline as well is a ripe opportunity for Mao to explore his identity and come to terms with burgeoning non-heterosexuality.

For fans of BL, Twilight Out of Focus is a sure hit. It's got sweetness, it's got spice, and don't forget… *gasp* they were roommates!


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Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

There are some adaptations that feel like they'll mean more if you're a fan of the source material. That's how I feel about Twilight Out of Focus – not only is the start a shot-for-shot adaptation of the open chapter of the manga, but the ending theme is also one big Easter egg for a later plot point. I'm sure it's good even if you haven't read the books, but there was a wonderfully giddy feeling watching this and knowing not only where the story's headed, but also that it looks like the adaptation can be trusted to get there the right way.

We get a good sense of who three of the main characters are as people, too. Mao's personality is nicely summed up in his conversation with Hisashi after his roommate comes out to him. Hisashi is convinced that Mao will want him gone, afraid to room with a gay man, and Mao is taken aback by this certainty. He's without judgement about Hisashi's sexuality, and his analogy about zombies beautifully shows the stupidity of assuming that all queer people are going to hit on you all the time. He gives Hisashi back a personhood that the other boy was sure was about to be taken away from him, and that not only lets us know more about Mao, but also about Hisashi himself. Clearly, he has experienced homophobia before, and enough times that he assumes that to be the default reaction. When we pair that with his fever-speak about not wanting “sensei” to leave him, it starts to look like Hisashi has had more than his fair share of bad experiences in life. Is “sensei” the boyfriend he's mentioned? That opens up a whole new realm of awful possibilities, all of which could help explain why Hisashi is so closed off, even from someone he clearly trusts, like Mao.

Even before Mao realizes that he's got a crush on Hisashi, we know that he really cares about him. His panic over Ichikawa wanting to cast Hisashi in the film club second years' BL movie seems to be two-fold. The obvious reason, the one Mao can admit to himself, is that he doesn't want Hisashi to think that he's broken his promise and outed him. But as he's reading Ichikawa's script, he realizes that he's picturing Hisashi as the romantic lead, with the hint that it's not so much that Mao sees Hisashi as perfect for the part, but that he sees him in a romantic light. It may not be entirely subtle, but it is nicely done.

The episode wants to demonstrate Mao's love of movies in its style, and that more or less works; goodness knows we've seen worse uses of the sort of shots and cuts it's employing. I do like the way Jyanome's art has translated into its anime form; some of the issues I have with the manga art are gone, but it's still very clearly Jyanome's style. I may have enjoyed this mostly because I like the source material, but if you're in the market for BL, I think this will make you happy – whether you've read the manga or not.


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Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

We've gotten kind of a trend with BL shows this year, huh? I know the genre's had a bit of a resurgence the past years, but back-to-back-to-back seasons are still pretty rare. While Cherry Magic and Tadaima, Okaeri were about adults navigating romance, domestic life, or supernatural love bites, this series returns to that good ol' fashioned high school love story.

So far, this show doesn't seem to be doing too much new in that space, but it's handling itself reasonably well. Mao is our sensitive protagonist who's slowly realizing he might have caught feelings for his roommate, while Hisashi is – rather refreshingly – already at terms with his sexuality and apparently in a relationship. Together they go from strangers to friends to presumably something more later on. It's pretty standard, and if I'm being honest, I am getting a little worn out with intensely tender BL romances where all the tension exists solely in a character's head. This episode at least lightens the mood sometimes with some frank masturbation jokes, but when the entire conflict of this episode revolves around Mao overthinking things, it feels rather slight. I don't need intense drama right off the bat, but I'm just a little tired of romances getting by entirely on vibes.

If you're not tired of those vibes, then this premiere should work just fine. While the animation isn't anything to write home about, the overall direction does a great job of building atmosphere, and the soft focus around these characters pairs well with the soft, contemplative soundtrack. There is one scene when Hisashi is delirious with fever that stands on the line of assault, but it's treated with consideration and the characters talk things out afterwards, so I don't think we'll see something like that again. This seems to be going for a slow but intensely sincere romance, and is delivering that effectively so far.

The hook of the film club making a BL story for their next project, and unwittingly recruiting a gay student to play the lead, offers some potentially interesting angles. Will the ostensibly straight writer's vision of gay love bump up against Hisashi's own experiences? Did Hisashi take the role as a chance to express his sexuality in a space with plausible deniability? There's also a chance to dig into the history of queer text and subtext across cinematic history. If I stick around at all, it'll probably be to see if they explore those ideas, rather than anything demonstrated in this episode.


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James Beckett
Rating:

I need to exorcise something incredibly stupid and juvenile out of my brain-meat before we get started today, so apologies in advance. When the catchy OP for Twilight Out of Focus ended with the predictably wistful shot of the two main boys' little plushies, I instinctively shouted “It's the Cute Jerkoff Penguins!” loud enough to garner some very suspicious looks from my family. I just can't help but be terribly amused that this show's mascots are the squeaky penguin toys that our protagonists are supposed to use as signals for when one of them is doing their best Jackson Pollack impression in their dorm room. I am waiting for the day when an anime uses a lovingly drawn still of a single dirty sock hanging from a bedroom door as its commercial bumper.

Anyways, let's ignore my inner fourteen-year-old and get down to business. The good news is that Twilight Out of Focus is a well-made and very gay romantic drama! It wastes absolutely no time establishing the pertinent information that we need, namely that Hisashi is a gay man in a committed relationship and his roommate Mao is just now realizing that he so down bad for Hisashi. To add further complications to the mix, the boys have been roped into performing for their director's passion project, a BL stage play that will undoubtedly bring all sorts of feelings and attractions into the limelight. So far, so juicy.

Really, I have no major issues with Twilight Out of Focus' execution. I think anyone that is looking for a suitably melodramatic and intimate romance about some mostly very pretty young men will be more than happy with what this show has to offer. (I say “mostly” because there are those two guys in the class who have the fugliest bowl cuts. Good Lord). The only reason I'm not rating this show higher is because I'm just personally not as interested in the whole vibe that this story is going for — I usually prefer my love stories to either be a lot trashier or a lot peppier, and the tense-and-melancholic-snapshot-of-emotionally-fraught-youth thing that Twilight hones in on isn't quite what I'm in the mood for. I can respect it on a technical level, but it didn't make me excited to stick around for more.


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