OP: Akatsuki no Salaryman 「暁のサラリーマン」by Yoshiki Fukuyama
「ファ美肉おじさんとおじさん」 (Fabiniku Ojisan to Ojisan)
“A Guy Who Reincarnated as a Fantasy Knockout and Another Guy”
Fantasy Bishoujo Juniku Ojisan to is a unique isekai that plays around with gender-bending and sexuality to explore the bond between two friends. In the process of seeing how their relationship changes immediately after one of the male friends is transformed into a woman, it develops into a romantic comedy that transcends barriers between male and female and begs to question when a friend becomes much more than just a friend.
LOOSE LIPS START SHIPS
The bold, funny twist on both isekais and rom-coms is admirable considering how they cut to the chase and give you exactly what you’d want out of the main premise. As soon as Tachibana drunkenly wishes he could be a girl so that his friend Jinguji would stop policing the women he tries to date, his wishes are answered and he’s transformed into his ideal girl on his way to a fantasy world. But because the Goddess of Love & Beauty is slighted by Jinguji’s sass, he places a love curse on them that will make them pine for each other until they defeat the Demon King on her behalf. With the same idea in mind, they both realize that they need to defeat the Demon King immediately before they fall in love with each other.
It’s hilarious to see how direct and to-the-point the story is about cutting to the chase and having Tachibana and Jinguji contend with their predicament. Both of them come to a mutual agreement to fight their urges since they both still identify as straight men. But throughout the episode, they are quickly at odds with their curse as they constantly catch feelings for each other out of nowhere.
NO TRIP IS WITHOUT A LITTLE BAGGAGE
If we’re looking at the romantic aspects of this rom-com though, it’s quite a fascinating show. As a straight cis guy, Tachibana is given a raw deal now that he’s trapped in a woman’s body and magically attracted to his best male friend. Even though he’s spent most of his young adulthood pining for women and desperately wanting to find a bride-to-be at the mixers he shows up to, he winds up enchanted to have an uncontrollable crush on a man. But while Tachibana’s biggest hurdle is finding out how much of his feelings for Jinguji are part of the Goddess’ curse, he doesn’t exactly have as much ground to complain about being transformed into a girl since his body and personality weren’t any better back when he was male.
Jinguji has it easier because his body remained the same after he was isekai’d and the most trouble he currently has is the conundrum of separating his best friend from the beautiful girl that stands before him. Ironically, Jinguji is coded as being the friend that he prefers men, given his disinterest in the women he attracts and his investment in making sure Tachibana doesn’t ignore him in favor of dating a woman he disapproves of. Later in the episode, Jinguji feels less worried that he finds Tachibana to be cute and more concerned that he’d like a woman as much as he likes Tachibana’s girl form.
PUT TO THE TEST
This doesn’t go unnoticed by Tachibana, who has been sick and tired of Jinguji’s jealousy for a while now. With all the times he’s pushed away any woman that threatens to take Tachibana away from him, Jinguji breaks his boundaries as a friend regularly by proclaiming himself as the barrier women must cross if they want to get with Tachibana. When the whole reason Tachibana was transformed into a girl was that he’d be able to find a partner more easily than he could as a guy saddled with Jinguji, it makes it all the more troublesome that Jinguji is acting like Tachibana’s keeper, but still insists that he felt nothing for him until he became a girl.
In a way, that’s what makes Tachibana’s actions in the second half all the more cathartic. As Tachibana questions whether the Goddess’ curse is really affecting them that much or if his transformation was just a convenient way for them to confront each other on what their relationship really is, Tachibana takes this as a challenge to see if their mutual crush was a long time coming.
Tachibana’s methodology of deliberately turning his charm on and seeing how quickly Jinguji succumbs to his temptation is funny on Tachibana’s end, but it also is a double-edged sword. At what point would Tachibana end up finding that he enjoys trying to entrance Jinguji? At what point would Jinguji end up folding to come clean about how he feels about him? How real would any of these confessions be if part of the Goddess’ curse is to have them enthralled by each other for the time being? And finally, by the end of their journey, would they entirely drop their feelings and forget everything that happened, or would they carry their feelings with them back to the real world?
IT’S THE EXP THAT COUNTS
What I found cool about the isekai mechanics of this story is how the experiences they carry with them in the real world are properly reflected in the game. While Tachibana’s wish and penchant for mixers gave him barely any stats aside from Troublemaker and Peerless Beauty, Jinguji’s fitness regimen dumped an absurd amount of strength stats on his plate. It was hilarious to see how quickly Jinguji knocked apart one monster purely off of the basis that he did a lot of resistance training back in the real world. It has a New Game + vibe to it that hasn’t had as much representation in the isekai genre since everyone is often starting either from a blank slate or with out-of-the-ordinary privileges.
To me, what helps Fantasy Bishoujo Juniku Ojisan to stand out is how it places the ball in Jinguji and Tachibana’s court as far as how their experiences in the game reflect on their feelings for one another. It feels like a quirky, fun, tongue-in-cheek mixed in with the earlier chapters of Kaguya-sama: Love is War that involve the mind games that are played between the two leads. You can tell everyone is having a ball with it, and it’s a blast to hear Kugimiya Rie having a good time as the mischievous Goddess who curses them. I’m looking forward to seeing what other surprises this show has to offer.
ED: FA“NTASY to「FA“NTASY と！」by Luce Twinkle Wink☆