Name of Anime: Super Lovers
Studio: Studio Deen
Streaming Site Used: Crunchyroll
Episodes Previously Seen: First two. I have read all of the currently published manga.
In some of my previous posts (link), I have complained about the frequency of adaptations in modern anime.
It’s only fitting then that at some point I’d need to evaluate a show as both a work in its own right, and as an adaptation.
Super Lovers the manga is the story of the failing of the entirety of Japanese society, as an ever-expanding cast of characters learn that a 14-year-old (eventually 15-year-old) boy is having an illicit relationship with his 24-year-old brother/legal guardian, and decides, “Whatever, not my problem!”
When I say that Super Lovers is a bad manga, I’m not so much referring to the quality of the art (though I feel Haru’s characterization varies far too greatly, and we don’t understand his motivations nearly enough, even during his point of view chapters). I’m really talking about the fact that the manga espouses ideas about the nature of love (both erotic and familial) which are profoundly dangerous (or at least detrimental) to individuals and society. In short, the manga makes the argument that sexual love can and should exist in profoundly unequal circumstances, and is a healthy and rational response to loneliness, even if it involves the destruction of a non-sexual relationship.
On the other hand, it’s a story about cute bishies hooking up, and the show (and especially the manga) do deliver on that promise:
Anyway, I chose to write about this episode because it is the first episode proper that is about the relationship between the main characters. First, we have Haru, the half-Japanese host with profound loneliness issues only made worse by his parents dying in front of him in episode two, when he was 17:
And then there’s Ren, the ethnically Japanese victim of child abuse who was found feral in an orphanage in Canada and in episode one imprinted on Haru as the first person who showed him human kindness:
And even with these descriptions, I feel it’s time to admit the point of this post: this anime is better than the manga. This adaptation understands why these characters would become lovers, that they are so broken (for lack of a better term) that they don’t realize it’s wrong. Unlike the manga, the anime embraces their brokenness.
Much of the manga ends up being from Ren’s point of view, because as a feral child in Japan, Ren is a great point of view character, and also because Haru seems to exist more as a poorly justified sexual archetype than a character. But three episodes into the show, the anime writers are doing a surprisingly effective job explaining Haru as a character, and justifying his behavior.
As a result, I’m not sure how to truly critique a work like this. Do I talk about it as a show, or an adaptation?
As a show, it is not trash. It is a “Recently My Sister Is Unusual”-style raging moral dumpster fire, espousing ideas so bad that arguments against free speech can be made to prevent their expression.
As an adaptation, well, holy shit, this show’s writers know what they are doing. They are making a compelling case to root for the main characters to be involved, and providing a lot of unity for Haru’s character.
So how does all this play out in the anime?
After the first episode’s flashbacks showing why the eight-year-old Ren would imprint on Haru, and the second episode’s set-up of the primary premise, the 24-year-old professional host who is told to take care of the brother his parents adopted before they died, we finally get to the actual plot.
Haru’s other brothers (whom he doesn’t appear to want to have sex with) aren’t okay with their five years dead parents having adopted a kid who’s now living with their older brother.
The show manages to deserve special kudos for getting through the adoption plotline without bringing up one of the manga’s most disturbing implications (that Haru’s parents adopted an eight year because they saw possible romantic interactions between that child and their 17-year-old son).
Anyway, the rest of this third episode’s first half is the resolution of a subplot involving Stalker-chan (a customer of Haru’s who is obsessed with him). By resolution I mean that Haru leaves a 14-year-old boy some money for food and goes on a drinking bender, and the girl who’s been stalking him shows up to his house and attacks his brother, because if she can’t have Haru she’s just gonna fuck up the world, I guess?
Once again, this adaptation does a decent job of retroactively adding justifications that were unclear in the manga. Haru witnesses a terrible car accident, which reminds him of his parent’s death, and starts drinking heavily to cope (also, his job requires a lot of drinking).
The second half of the plot involves Haru’s plans to celebrate Ren’s birthday (which is Christmas, because orphanages give their children with unknown birthdays the worst possible birthdays, I guess), being derailed by Ren attempting to go back to Canada.
When asked why, he says that he likes Haru:
This whole conversation is difficult because of the limits of language and translation. To the limits of my understanding of japanese, the word for “like” that Ren uses has a decidedly romantic and non-familial connotation.
Haru decides the best response to show up in Ren’s bedroom in Canada:
He does this because:
We are also treated to a callback to earlier in the episode:
I’m just gonna go ahead and cut to the end of the article here.
Is It Trash: Do you even have to ask? It’s a sincerely romantic show featuring a relationship between a 14-year-old and his 24-year-old brother. A relationship that the audience is expected to root for. The fact that the anime improves upon the manga doesn’t matter. If Quentin Tarantino filmed an adaptation of Mein Kampf (without doing a Starship Troopers-style critique of the source material), that would end up bad, not matter what artistic choices he might make in crafting his narrative. That being said, the fact that I’m going to keep watching this show means that while it might be “bad” art, it does appear to be “effective.” All of the choices the adaptation has made so far “improve” upon the source material as a work of art, which make it even worse, morally speaking–like a sculpture made of dangerous, offensive trash. But then again, I’m still watching, so ultimately that’s a recommendation?