Junjou Romantica 3 where the third time proves to be… kind of charming.
I wrote earlier this summer about my expectations for Junjou Romantica’s third season. After watching only the first few episodes, I was hopeful about the growth the latest season exhibited compared to where the show first started off. There were a lot of opportunities for some great development that would move the series into the romance story it strives to be.
So, now that it is all said and done I can say Junjou both pleased and disappointed me, but mostly I’m happy with what I saw.
From the very beginning of the season, the series appeared that it was trying to move on from the tired old tropes that had plagued its earlier iterations. Akihito and Misaki appear to finally find themselves in a relationship where they are both working hard to pull equal weight. Akihito, who once (and arguably still does) fall into the possessive Seme archetype, is now trying to give Misaki room to breathe. We see him more relaxed this season as he helps his lover prepare for job interviews and takes him on numerous vacations. These might sound like simple things one would expect from a lover, unfortunately it’s difficult to find understanding and supportive Semes in yaoi. They are bound and set in the role of being the standoffish broody type, which often makes them feel… inhuman. That used to be Akihito, who only softened up in moments when he was professing his undying love to Misaki and even then the words came out more possessive than loving.
Here we see a change, he appears more comfortable in his relationship with Misaki as they share a moment of brightness in the mundane. Such as going on vacation, hosting family members and even celebrating each other’s achievements. Akihito becomes as a character who the audience could fall in love with just as easily as Misaki as he shows us that he is willing to listen and learn from the past.
Akihito isn’t the only one who appears different this season; we see a similar change in Misaki who appears to be growing bolder when it comes to his relationship. He now instigates romantic gestures, albeit awkwardly, but who doesn’t feel a little awkward when saying lovey-dovey words to their significant other.
For Misaki, we see him try to step out of his role as the young inexperienced uke and into the role of an adult as he struggles to come to terms with what life is like after college. He wrestles with questions regarding what he wants to do in his new adult life and if that life to involve Akihito. Additionally, he must decide if he wants to make one of the biggest decisions in the entire series when he considers telling his brother about his relationship.
All of this laid the foundations for this season to deal with very real and relative issues that would concern any homosexual couple. Issues that didn’t revolve around jealousy and love triangles but more on acceptance and breaking stereotypes. Throughout the first half of the series Junjou appeared to make a real attempt at this by bringing in Akihito’s cousins and focusing the show on how Misaki plans to move forward into adulthood.
Misaki is able pick out a job that he would actually enjoy doing and gets hired. He’s also able to make a friend who isn’t using him for one reason or another and makes strides to being a more assertive lover to Akihito. All of this meant a load of great development for our two main characters but in the end some things just never change.
Because yes, eventually the series does drip back into its old bad habits. Misaki’s new job leads him to a new love interest who just doesn’t take no for an answer despite Misaki’s clear admission of, “I like you but not that way.” Nope, once again our couple must fight off another unwanted suitor so they can settle into their own happiness. Luckily the changes we’d seen in the characters before (mostly) stay true. Misaki’s growth in confidence helps him tell the suitor more than once that it wasn’t going to happen and Akihito didn’t storm between them like a jealous high schooler (much).
It could be that the additional love story was thrown in to actually prove to the viewers how much our couple had changed over the years, but even that still has disappointment. Misaki never tells the man they can’t be together because he’s with someone else. Akihito is still suspicious of everyone who dares look at Misaki, but by this point I can’t even blame him. I would be moody too if my lover was always attracting attention and refuses to acknowledge to anyone. So yeah, they still have a lot to work out.
In the end, it’s not the rehash of old talking points that ruined Junjou’s growth but the lack of closure. The series introduced elements that would surely build up to climactic moments: Misaki’s brother finding out the truth and the inevitable conclusion of the latest love rival. However neither get’s resolved. It ends on somewhat of a question mark regarding both plot lines. Misaki is left wondering if his brother might already suspect and the love interest… well, he still claims to be in love with Misaki.
This all might sound highly negative, but the series overall was decent. Growth is important and the creator is clearly trying to bring her characters full circle while keeping in mind the genre she’s writing for. In fact, Junjou creator Shungiku Nakamura is considered a top name in the Yaoi genre who has created some of the more formulaic stereotypes seen in the Yaoi genre herself. If someone were to start a trend of meaningful stories that don’t simply settle on love-triangles and petty jealousy, she would be the one. The effort is seen in Junjou 3 but unfortunately so is the struggle.
Despite the weak ending, the tie-in between Misaki’s struggles in his adult job and his relationship were interesting enough to keep me engaged and, as always, there were some pretty laughable scenes as Junjou capitalizes on adorable expressions and bear motifs. Junjou Romantica 3 isn’t the end of the series as the manga is still going strong. It makes sense that even with all the growth we’ve seen in these characters they still need to be left with some faults and mysteries. Maybe we’ll see Junjou Romantica 4 come out within the next year that will pick up where this one left off.