Sasaki and Miyano
Episodes 1-2

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Sasaki and Miyano ?
Community score: 4.1

How would you rate episode 2 of
Sasaki and Miyano ?
Community score: 4.3

The term “slow burn” gets used a lot for romances, but this may be an example where even that descriptor is a little too intense. Sasaki and Miyano is less a burn, and closer to wearing a cotton t-shirt before you've washed it so that it might eventually leave your skin mildly scratchy after enough hours. To call it character-driven is to call the Atlantic ocean damp, as through these first two episodes there has been not even a shred of a typical plot or story arc. This is a show purely about watching two characters slowly, gradually, positively glacially inch their way into emotional intimacy, and if you're not in the mood for that you'd best leave immediately.

Thankfully, I'm always in the mood for seeing awkward teenagers fumble over their own feelings, and in that regard SasaMiya is delivering with aplomb. These opening episodes are all about our titular duo's interactions, starting with their initial meeting when Sasaki saves Miyano's friend from a group of bullies, and then flitting through short moments and conversations as they go from strangers to friends. Though even that description is more straightforward than the actual show, as many of the individual vignettes are presented out of chronological order, often as flashbacks brought about by idle lines of dialogue. The result is a viewing experience defined and propelled entirely by vibes, as true to the “slice of life” moniker as any anime you can find. It's all about tone, atmosphere, and warm fuzzies, and at its best can be incredibly affecting.

That all mostly works because the characters themselves are solid. Neither of our leads are all that complex just yet, but they work as likable, friendly personalities who play well off each other. Sasaki is the more familiar archetype, a tall and strong “delinquent” who in truth only gets into fights to protect others. He's also the first of the pair to realize his budding feelings, and has spent the rest of these episodes trying to figure out just what the hell to do with them. On the one hand, he has no idea how Miyano would react to a confession, and he doesn't want to risk turning their relationship awkward. On the other, it's kind of hard to not broach the topic when their main shared interest is gay romance manga, and that frustration leads to a lot of pent-up feelings that he's getting less adept at holding in with every scene. Easily my favorite moment so far is the post-credits sequence in episode two, where Sasaki is just stewing in his emotions over not giving Miyano valentine chocolate. The whole scene oozes that classic, teenage melancholy that makes these stories so juicy, and I loved seeing the gears turning in his head as he played their conversations over and over, trying to make sense of his own feelings.

Miyano is a bit harder to figure out, if only because he's far less honest with himself about all this. While he enjoys BL, seems to read it almost exclusively, and (half-)jokingly talks about his friends using fandom terminology like uke and seme, he insists that he's not “into that.” While there are certainly straight men who enjoy love stories about gay men, the subtext is pretty obvious that Miyano's in denial about part of himself, and clings to his Fudanshi moniker to avoid addressing a bigger topic. He's clearly internalized some baggage about being seen as traditionally masculine, so indulging in BL may seem like a safer option than considering he might be attracted to men in real life, and that's an extremely relatable conflict. Fiction can be incredibly formative – even enlightening – and in a heteronormative society a lot of people will first learn about queer identity through media. I don't know how long this will stay the status quo, as these two can only tap dance around the topic for so long, but it's a great foundation for the kind of contemplative romance the series seems to be building.

Really, my biggest worry going forward is whether or not I'll have enough to write about on a weekly basis. These kinds of shows can be wonderful to experience, but trying to break them down to get a full essay can be difficult. So for now I'm just planning to soak in the small details and moments that solidify the charm of the whole thing.

For instance: I'm not sure why a teenager in 2022 would still have his BL audio dramas stored on an iPod Micro, but it's a cute bit of characterization to Miyano that I appreciate. The sheer sexual tension of the pocky scene in episode two is great, and capped off perfectly with Sasaki longingly staring at his own hand, obviously thinking “oh fuck, I'm gay.” While the music isn't a standout, it's generally been used very well to build the mood of any given conversation, and there have been moments where it really made the whole thing click. These are all small details in the long run, but highlighting them feels fitting for such a sedate and intimate show. So long as the series can keep delivering them along with doling out its titular relationship, we should be in for a good time.

Rating:

Sasaki and Miyano is currently streaming on Funimation.


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