First Impressions – Super Lovers

Super Lovers - 01 -7 Super Lovers - 01 -18 Super Lovers - 01 -37

This is a tough show to wrap my head around.

Super Lovers - 01 -1I don’t know what to make of Super Lovers, to be honest.  Based on the promo art and the premise, it’s frankly a pretty creepy series.  But the manga seems to be pretty well-respected, and the anime has a pretty good staff and cast over at Deen.  One might be tempted to say it’d be better all-around if “The End” had popped up at about the 18:00 mark and that was that, but even within the premiere episode there were a couple of moments that struck a somewhat unsettling note.

Super Lovers - 01 -2The fact is, though, that for the most part the first episode of Super Lovers was pretty good.  There were some genuinely touching moments in the story of a half-Japanese youth named Haru (Tomoaki Maeno) who goes to Canada to visit his novelist mother Haruko (Tanaka Atsuko) who he hasn’t seen since he was eight.  She pretty much a terror (she refuses to be called “Mom” and seems unmoved to see her son after a decade) but she’s also driven the story forward by adopting a wild child named Ren (Minagawa Junko) who’s more at home with her pack of dogs than in the house.

Super Lovers - 01 -3There’s the makings of a really nice story here.  Ren has clearly been abused (he has cigarette burns on the soles of his feet) and even Haruko seems worried for him.  Haru slowly brings the boy out of his shell with kindness, and it’s clear Ren is desperate for that (and for a decent male role model).  That’s all good, right?  But then out of the blue Haru raves about how cute Ren is and kisses him on the lips. That makes the fact that he’s invited Ren to sleep in his bed totally squirmy when it really shouldn’t have been.

Super Lovers - 01 -4Knowing where this series is going (and I don’t mean Japan, though it does head there at the end of the episode) it’s hard to get too caught up in the charm of the moment.  I suppose there’s a morbid curiosity to see how what’s clearly a good writer and a competent anime staff navigates what can only be called a thoroughly disturbing storyline – can they possibly pull this off without it being skeevy as hell?  I suppose another question would be “Why do they have to?” – because there’s clearly plenty of good story here without taking us into the realms of creeperdom.  I suppose I’ll probably drop Super Lovers before it really goes out there where the buses don’t run, but I’m sort of interested to see how long it can keep up the strange balancing act it pulls off rather adroitly for one episode.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

17 comments

  1. Y

    Unfortunately, once the story reaches Japan, the creeper level only goes up IMHO. Super Lovers is undeniably a popular series, and since I enjoyed Abe Miyuki’s Hakkenden, I read Super Lovers (the manga) after…and…I also thought the beginning in Canada was good but once the melodrama starts it kind of became a mess. I’ll probably offend the fans, but I really think the rest of the story is quite contrived. The characters also become contrived for the sake of “subtle fanservice”, and it was a kind of fanservice which only made me uncomfortable.
    Anyways, this is what I thought, but you should probably decide for yourself after giving the anime another episode.

  2. D

    I think the kiss comes from the steroetype that foreigners are overly affectionate and show affection through kissing on the lips, without being aware that it could be interpreted sexually. It’s a trope that comes up pretty often in BL. I mean, it could be seen as an ick factor considering Ren is a child, but right now at least I don’t think there’s any sexual intention attached to it. (Can’t say it doesn’t change later though…)

  3. e

    Ooh boy, here we go :,). Disclosure: I decided to read the first chapter of this a while ago after the anime announcement. Then I basically zigzagged thrugh the rest of what was available, admittedly skipping most of it for reasons that partially overlap with Yana’s above comment… and because it seemed pretty easy to fill the gaps of whatever I missed based on previous experiences/story templates in the genre. Of course YMMV and anything that follows from here about Super Lovers is just my opinion on the work in question, not about its fans.
    Also, there’s a long intro ahead. My apologies in advance. I do get to the point eventually XD.

    One of the reasons if not possibly the reason why BL was born – and this also is my answer to Enzo’s ‘There is good story potential here without going into creeperdom. Did they have to go there?’ in his review – is that manga aimed at girls and with girls and/or het relationships wasn’t really allowed to deal with dark and edgy – and explicitely sexual – material back then. Then came Takemiya-sensei and her Kaze To Ki No Uta… considered the first BL. It featured a very tragic, deeply damaged, deeply dysfunctinal-family-entangled male main character, and a trauma conga line of rape and incest. And a both cathartic and tragic friendship-romance bond between teen boys.
    How did that fly back then? Basically having male characters in such situations functioned both as a loophole and as a safey filter for girl readers’s minds… and allowed much more freedom to the mangaka herself, as it freed her from creating a safe female MC that followed expected gender expectations and her own gender bias… by bypassing the presence of female characters altogether :p leaving place to these rather de facto androgynous creatures that live and thrive – and tendentially die like flies in beauty and sorrow, because hey few manga authors old and new can be as ruthless as Takemiya – in a space beyond traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ concepts.
    Alualuna linked a BBC article on Twitter less than a month ago that tangentially sheds some light to it (the main subject is the UN debate about equating fictional children abuse and problematic scenarios to RL CP and subsequent ban of CP-y art and literature works) where Takemiya speaks a bit of the roots and influence of her work – including how a rape victim wrote to thank her because her work helped to both realize and cope with her family abuse as a teen -, and of course there is Takemiya’s friend and mangaka fellow Hagio Moto’s interview in her A Drunken Dream volume curated by Matt Thorn about the whole ’70s female mangaka and BL revolution.
    TL;DR: in a way the unsettling relationship, non-kosher/non-standard romance/sexuality, and difficult themes have been par of the course since back then… it’s right there at the origin of both the BL bloodline and of some shoujo titles – not to mention its smut spawn – thereafter 🙂 . Depending on individual authors and titles it can make for reading material running the whole quality and intensity of the edgy spectrum, sometimes memorable in good food for thought ways, sometimes the polar opposite that makes one wish for brain bleach (my personal BL black beast is the Viewfinder series but I am still somewhat thankful to it for giving me a clue on which BL strains and authors I better avoid XD), often is a mix of both for me. Cognitive dissonance, yay. Currently swimming in it with Saezuru Tori, aka the Broken and Sexually abused-PSTD People Yakuza Story [done right. With quite the plotty plot. And one pretty nasty heartbreaking one shot prequel whose family dynamics would make Takemiya-sensei proud]. Odd as it may seem there is something that reminds me of the early chapters of Gangsta. A ton more sex though – fair warning – .

    A most egregious example of the dark strain that stuck with me: Jerard and Jacques by Yoshinaga Fumi – if you can survive the first chapter. She makes it work and almost pull it off by the end – the chosen historical setting helps – , frankly it’s a borderline miracle the story works as well as it does given the premise… it would be UN CP ban material – .

    TL;DR TL;DR: among all this… Super Lovers? Does not cut it for me because the creep factor seems to be there for soapy titillation and ‘ aww isn’t this pseudoincest grooming cute&sexy’ more than anything. And yes it does gets worse as the story goes. As payoff for the squick that’s simply not nearly enough for me, BL or otherwise :,).

    Also the anime feels… cheap? Not feeling the incentive to watch further.
    If I really wished to deal with child abuse, grooming by an exotic-and-hot-by-Japanese-standards family figure, a supposedly healing sort of Stockholm Syndrome relationship that is supposed to be perceived as both very wrong but also very right plus some melodramatic twists and turns I’d rather deal with the above Gerard and Jacque all over again. Including that cursed first chapter and some odd reactions (that would still be within the in-context-PSTD and actual physiology realm anyway). If anything that author is not suggesting me to see that kind of relationship as funny and cute ‘forbidden’ entertainment and is giving me some concise but poignant character arcs+ final catharsis bonus out of the raw ordeal. Or I’ll go back agonizing over Saezuru Tori and braving its brand of fan service and fan disservice for the sake of its PSTD uke’s journey and dem mad internal politics. Because you can find fluff aplenty but substantial BL stuff that is non-squick-heavy and non-dark&dramatic a-la Hana Wa Saku Ka is a once in a blue moon occurrence for me.
    Good BL can be a pretty trying but also really rewarding experience 🙂 . In any case pity the thoughtful but not uber edgy stuff is not the kind of BL that is likely to get an anime… My wait continues.

  4. You know, “Why do they have to go there?” question was rhetorical. I mean, I know why they have to go there. But wouldn’t it be cool if someone made an anime about what this series would be about if they didn’t go there? Wouldn’t that be a good series? I guess it’s a commentary on fandom more than anything else.

  5. e

    @Enzo: well, in that case that would be more suited to a different demographic and magazine, provided the author has both the interest and the storytelling chops to make the leap (you could compare Yoshinga Fumi’s works across different magazines/demographics and see the difference that makes. Gerard And Jacques vs Kino No Tabeta vs All My Darling Daughters vs Ooku The Inner Chambers. I don’t agree with everything she has done or align with all and every tropes she uses especially in BL but the above works are all well done works for the record and she has a strong voice. But you can also see how changing the demographic also affects what she can do ). Or well, take even what we have seen in Showa Rakugo vs the mangaka’s yaoi titles. On the downside (?) of BL historically stemming by a certain set of boundares and taboo-breaking the demographic and genre for it tend to overlap in a way that require some sort of sex or at least implied – and more or less ‘unusual’ – male x male romance to the mix, to the point that yes it is identified with it and expected to feature certain developments. It can be perceived as a fandom issue in its extremes, especially when these do not align with our sensibilities? My experience with BL is that it can feature both hentai pwp exploitation and more ambitious storytelling , in a more apparent way than in other demographics maybe – the pro and cons of being Pandora’s Box for a good chunk of manga and anime are at play here – , but you can find the whole gamut of quality and what-means-to-what-ends balance ( or lack thereof ) elsewhere in animanga too. There are fandom rabbit holes everywhere, and if this is the point you intended we can agree about that. For these same reasons I don’t particularly obsess over the BL breed of could have beens. You might need to dig harder but the nuggets of gold are still there. Not in anime form possibly, but there are few anime slots available vs thousands of manga sources in any demographic in any case… I feel like BL per se isn’t extra guilty of the state of things being what it is.
    Unfortunately going by what I gathered in my skipathon I doubt Super Lovers would make for a good anime in the way you seem to fancy ( sensitive sensible family drama with child abuse issues recovery?) even if you removed this first episode BL specifics anyway. Goin back to expand on the beginning of this comment: either/or the mangaka, editor, magazine could not be suitable – should check the track record of each ad frankly I don’t feel like to :,D – . The demographic still might. Never lose faith in mold breaking >D.

  6. Honestly, my answer would be that I think you’re again being too specific here. I’m not concerned so much with the author’s intent or the needs of the publication or even the demographic. My point is simply that it’s grating that the only way a series with the themes this one ventures into when it’s not pandering is ever made is when it is pandering. It’s an anime-specific problem – there are plenty of manga out there that deal with troubled kids, parent-child and sibling relationships in a serious way without resorting into prurient territory. There’s just no interest in adapting them because they won’t make money – and that sucks.

  7. W

    Sorry for my English.
    I think there are two problem with you blogging this series. First, you are looking for something that isn’t there. Second, you are clearly not into BL. I understand that you somewhat interest in Hakkaden and want to see more anime from the mangaka, but anyone who is interest in BL can tell you that Hakkaden is just a mystery manga with an air of BL, while Super Lover is BL through and through wrap in the frame of family dilemma. So it’s not about why they ‘have to go that way’ or ‘of all trouble family series why they pick this series’. This is not a trouble family series add BL element to gain audience, this is just a BL series about a trouble family just to add variety to the genre, meaning that either you change your view angle with this series or just drop it altogether because it will definitely not go where you hope it to go.

  8. No offense, but I think there are several problems wth your reasoning here.

    First off, “clearly not into BL” is a pretty broad statement. How do you define it? I’ve spoken out many times about how I wish male-male romance was given some kind of exposure in anime that wasn’t either played for laughs in series aimed at male otaku or played for cheap thrills in series aimed at female otaku.

    Let’s be clear here – if indeed this series is what it seems to be, the problem is in no way with the gender of the characters. The problem is that it seems to be setting up a romantic relationship between an adult and a child for exploitative purposes. Maybe that’s your thing, but a lot of people don’t like to see that portrayed as OK or used to pander to a target audience. I was trying to withhold judgment but the comments by the manga readers seem to leave little doubt that’s what’s going on here.

    In a way, I think it’s even worse if it’s done with a kind of a wink – just be open about what the goal is and don’t try and play it both ways.

  9. W

    I don’t know why i can’t reply to your below comment so I have to reply to this comment.
    OK, I’m sorry for saying you are “clearly not into BL”. You’re right, that’s a broad statement. What i meant is that you not into THIS kind of BL – pedophile, to put it strait – and of course, most people don’t. My point is, there are people do, me for example. And obviously Japanese government are okay with it or the manga would not see the light of day. And yes, that doesn’t mean you have to like it, or stop saying negative thought about it. Everyone to their own opinion. What i want to say – like i said in the previous comment – is that you looking for the wrong thing. Yes, I’m all for a serious male-male romance anime (actually I think there already are, just not well known), but I’m also like to watch kinky yaoi story that going out of the normal boundary, like pedophile (and I’m not the only one, not even one of a few, and again, Japanese Government are OK with that.). “a lot of people don’t like to see that portrayed as OK or used to pander to a target audience”, but there are people do, and that why this anime was made, for people like me, not you. I dislike Death Note very much but it’s simply not for me.
    This is not a serious family series. I know you want it to be – the mangaka is talent, and the art is gorgeous- but it’s not. This is a BL story of a man and an underage kid, who happen to be in the same family, and if you are put off with it then it’s simply not for you.

  10. W

    I just realize that I basically said: “If you not into pedophile, do not watch this” :v

  11. T

    I think everyone is dancing around the subject that the fact is there are ALOT of BL that is problematic as hell and while it is aimed at womyn most of its authors fantasize how queer relationship between men happen, which can lead to very problematic issues and tropes in BL. Now there are also great BL that do show holistic relationships and even makes commentary on societal issues. In this case Super Lovers is problematic in a lot of ways and I’m sadden that actual good stories don’t get animated because its not “scandalize” enough or shocking enough. I just feel that this does not really help representation of LGBTQ folks in Japan that are fighting for better representation of their stories to be told.

  12. b

    HAHAHA IT GOT AN ANIME ! YOU HAVENT EVEN READ THE MANGA TO JUDGE. YOU HAVENT READ OTHER MANGAS ABOUT ADOPTED SIBLING MANGAS.

  13. I was gonna check out the 1st episode (as I usually do with all series) but after reading your review I think I am gonna pass. Seems too BL or pedo for me.

  14. C

    – It’s called “Super Lovers”
    – It’s not hiding the fact that it’s BL
    – It features a boy and young man
    – It’s called SUPER LOVERS

    I have no idea how anyone could expect anything that isn’t blatant shotacon-pandering.

  15. I completely agree with you. I’m sorry to all yaoi or shounen ai fans but I’d rather they didn’t romanticized the relationship of those two. I also wish they didn’t go there. i think it’ll be a pretty great story without it and just focused on Ren’s past and his actual background and the relationship of those four brothers. Mottainai. I agree about the first episode being pretty cool though the kiss was totally uneeded. These are all my opinion and just my preference. I’m totally fine with subtle shounen ai though. In fact, I like it better if the majority of the main casts are male rather than female! I totally love Hakkenden and it’s what brought me to watch Super Lovers(also because of my favorite voice actors – what lured me in further) and the fact that I’m crazy about close relationships between two people where both are protective of each other no matter the gender or relations. In that part, I am thoroughly satisfied. Lol they even went beyond.

  16. h

    WELL the manga is not bad. I dont know why he kissed Ren though. Well .
    Ren’s small for his age (height wise) …and sekaichi hatsukoi has the same age gap . And there are many mangas about adopted siblings.

Leave a Comment