OP: 「斜陽」 (Shayou) by (Yorushika)
「僕は奪われた」 (Boku wa Ubawareta)
“I Was Stolen Away”
It’s finally here!! I’ve been dying for an anime adaptation ever since I started reading the manga and it’s finally here, after what seemed like such a looong wait (though a much shorter wait than for other series). I was really hoping for a top-class premiere (there’s nothing more of a let down than a series for a beloved manga falling incredibly short-a la Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer) and this did in no way disappoint.
I remember the first time I read the first chapter of BokuYaba and thinking “wow, what an intense messed up boy. Is Anna going to be ok?” Horie Shun’s performance of Ichikawa Kyotarou in those first minutes so perfectly captured that intensity-even though I know how things turn out, I still was taken aback by the rather gruesome imagination of this boy-it drew me into the moment, into the character. Anna’s seiyuu (Youmiya Hina) was also spot on with her buoyant personality without going overboard into moe-moe territory.
To quote the Mad Hatter: “We’re all mad [crazy] here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” One of the running themes in Ichikawa’s self-talk is “I’m pretty messed up”-what teenager (or maybe even adults for that matter) doesn’t think that, trying to make sense of themselves in the face of a society where you only see the surface parts, the “normal” parts (though what is normal anyway…).
The beauty of forming friendships is finding that you’re not the only crazy one out there. Like Ichikawa, Anna is in her own universe (and what teenager isn’t), though I think much more so than Ichikawa-he has his feet somewhat on the ground. He discovers that she’s not a cookie cutter Miss Popular, but a messy bag of potato chips with interesting flavor. I love that while Anna’s the beautiful, popular girl that everyone would think is the Queen of Normal, she’s actually quite quirky. Cringey, even, from the bookstore scene (I really did believe for a hot second that she was going to sign that board) or when she totally trolled Ichikawa with that potato chip bag.
Anna’s haphazardness in creating an oddly spaced poster title with permanent marker, no tracing, complete with chocolate smudge-totally something I’ve done before-it cracked me up to see it on screen. Ichikawa’s horror (note: the very boy who excitedly muses over expedient murder methods is horrified at Anna’s carefree nature) as was his adorable reaction after becoming her food wrapper lackey was hilarious to watch. The VA was again spot on in the tonal shift, conveying Ichikawa the bloodthirsty killer in his own universe to typical awkward teen boy when drawn into Anna’s universe.
I love Ichikawa’s awkwardness and overthinking. The number of times I’ve second-guessed myself like Ichikawa about what people will think (though I’ve never lent anyone my boxcutter, I can safely say it’s the thought that counts). In less than 10 minutes, you already get to see so many sides of Ichikawa-his strange murder obsession, but beneath that, his awkwardness, his kindness in caring about Anna. It was so cute to see him get all worked up about Anna’s unused presentation.
In any story, defining a setting for practical plot-purposes as well as emotional connection is super important. BokuYaba gets that right-already from square one, the library is defined as both the practical hide-out for activities one would rather remain unseen (secret snacks and assassination plots) and the place with emotional connection, where memories are made.
The scene with Anna, Hara (Toyosaki Aki), Kenta (Satou Gen) , and Ichikawa had me dying. Everything was so comedically awkward-doubly so because I can relate to so much of it. Anna awkwardly interposing with diet advice at the wrong moment. I’ve definitely had conversations, only to realize midway I’m flagging down a ship that’s already sailed into the horizon. There’s really no good way to back out of that one, but Anna and Ichikawa make the best of it, pretending to be cats behind the bookshelf (Anna’s cat was definitely the more realistic one). An absurd escape route for sure, but Hara and Kenta had the good grace to run with it-Hara even threw them that (fish) bone about fighting cats. Ichikawa’s internal play by play commentary on Anna from behind the bookshelf was chocolate icing on the cake.
As a side note, I’m glad they kept Hara’s body shape instead of slimming her down like they sometimes do in anime. There aren’t many positive examples of girls with larger body types in anime-usually they’re relegated to the joke of the cast, so it was refreshing to see this not happen to Hara.
This is no pure, innocent romcom, for sure. Sakurai Norio doesn’t shy away from raunchier elements, the peanut gallery very much front and center behind Ichikawa. I can’t blame him for wanting to murder his classmates when they talk so loudly about “boy’s talk” in class, in front of the girls-it’s like airing one’s underwear for all to see. Like most teen boys, that doesn’t mean, however, that Ichikawa isn’t immune to such interests (one need not think too hard about what he did with that magazine).
I could see Ichikawa’s “murderous intent”, Anna’s Anna-ness and overall raunchiness to be potentially bit jarring at first, but trust me, the characters grow from here (which you can already start to see) and agghhh, there’s so much I can say, but don’t want to ruin the surprise!! This is only the beginning.
The way Ichikawa gets pulled into Anna’s orbit is truly precious. I think from the very beginning, he had his eye on her, but oblivious to such things, labels it as “prized murder victim”. It doesn’t take him long to go from murderous intent to curiosity about such a strange person (his “is this girl for real” expressions were pure gold) to protective instinct.
He is a kind-hearted boy, awkwardly trying to save Anna but ends up getting hoisted by his own petard, first with knifing his own presentation to distract the class from Anna’s tears and then sending his bicycle flying to distract the dude from Anna. The bicycle scene, especially, was sweet and hilarious-Ichikawa playing the hero from behind, only to have his bike crash straight into the water. (That camera shot with the water droplets was prime.) I’m sure his efforts were much appreciated, if her blushes are anything to go by.
I love, love, love the direction (and no surprise, given that the director Akagi Hiroaki did phenomenal work another romcom I love, Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san). Little things like Ichikawa hastily shuffling behind the bookshelf, the overall flow from scene to scene, and the perfect timing between lines and reactions-seamless perfection. And that scene framing Anna from Ichikawa’s perspective, bangs and all-stellar. Not to mention the beautiful lighting, symbolic, really, Ichikawa camping out in the shadows, Anna in the sunlight-the animation handled excellently by the Shin-Ei staff (who also worked on Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san).
The OP disguised as an ED was on point too-the vibrant colors, the two of them and Anna’s waving hair, the feel of the music. No complaints for this premiere-I sat the whole time with an enormous grin on my face-it was everything and more than I hoped for! I am so pumped for the rest of this series going forward-hold onto your hats and enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a good one!