Back last year, when WGFL was first green-lit to have an anime TV series, I was really happy. I didn't know anything about it other than...
a) It was by Shungiku Nakamura, creator of Junjo Romantica.
b) It was about two guys who dated in high school but end up working in the same publishing company.
My expectations weren't amazingly high. Not because I thought it would be bad, but because I was determined to be as neutral as possible, even after watching the introductory OVA. I didn't want to look like a Junjo and Junjo only fangirl, and I'm kind of stepping off the BL train (until they can get better stories and characters), so this is going to be one of my last BL series I watch.
Well, I don't think I got anything much out of World's Greatest First Love. It's pretty much Junjo Romantica all over again, and while the first few episodes were okay, it really didn't do much for me.
The stories that concern the romantic lives of Ritsu Onodera and Masamune Takano, Yoshiyuki Hatori and Chiaki Yoshino and Yu Yanase, and Shota Kisa and Ko Yukina are all sweet little self-contained stories, and yes, I'd much rather see BL TV series than terrible OVAs that skip immediately to rolling in the hay, as if the animators know that the fangirls are just going to skip to that portion of the video anyway. (Much to fangirls' disappointment, there's not that much ravishing going on in this series.)
But... I think it's the characterisation that really threw me off on World's Greatest First Love. All the semé in this series were overly possesive douchebags, with the exception of Ko.
While the Ritsu and Masamune coupling was okay at first, it soon turned into Ritsu blushing and whinging and thinking about Masamune every single waking moment, and Yokozawa bullying the poor guy with a neverending slew of 'MASAMUNE'S ROMANTIC LIFE WAS RUINED FOREVER BECAUSE YOU DUMPED HIM!!!' I just didn't see any love or chemistry between them. I like them as a couple, but I feel the anime could have done better to develop them.
The Hatori, Chiaki and Yu storyline on the other hand... oh dear gods. I really didn't like it. Hatori was just a massive creep. In fact, he's almost a carbon copy of Usami from Junjo Romantica (left), only difference being that Hatori works in a publishing company, whereas Usami is a successful author with a side-gig of writing adult novels. Now, I like Usami, despite his incredible possessive-ness, but Hatori just took the cake. Expressly forbidding Chiaki from going anywhere near Yu, or showing his body to anyone except Hatori... urgh. There was just no real romance there, just Hatori being a creep and Chiaki trying to fight him off but still being such a bloody doormat that his resistance was futile.
To be honest, I would have much preferred for Chiaki to get with Yu, because Yu seemed to be much more fun-loving, caring, and generally had a better personality. But we can't all be my favourite coupling, I suppose.
Speaking of favourite couple... let's move on to Yukina and Kisa, the bookshop worker and the manga editor. I find their relationship somewhat adorable and somewhat silly, because it's based on the fact that Kisa happens to have edited most of Yukina's favourite books. Being a fan of the author I can understand, but not the editor. Anyway, their tender little relationship grows over time, and is done quite well in the space of two episodes, even though there really should be more.
There are 13 episodes in this series if we count the OVA. 2 episodes (15%) of Yukina and Kisa, 3 episodes (23%) of Hatori, Chiaki, and Yu, leaving us 8 episodes (62%) of pure Ritsu and Masamune non-romance. I feel maybe they could have cut out a few of the Ritsu and Masamune episodes to better develop the other couples...
Now, I was really worried about the art direction in this series to begin with. I was pleasantly surprised that the art wasn't quite the spindly piano-fingered, thick-necked, trapezium-shaped faces that were oh so present in both the anime and the manga of Junjo Romantica. It still had the look of it, but Ritsu and Masamune weren't so bad. However, Hatori has to have the most spectacularly square-shaped mandible in anime history. The animation was okay in this series, and it used a lot of panned stills, chibi moments, and minimal animation to a fairly decent effect that I can't shave points off of for. I'm watching a BL slice of life series, I'm not looking for the most exquisite piece of animation I have ever laid my eyes on.
When talking about the music, there isn't much to credit. I barely remember any background music in this series (mostly remembering talking and talking and more talking). However, the opening and ending song eventually grew on me. I used to think the opening was this obnoxiously loud pop song, and the ending was a dull ballad, but they weren't so bad after several listens.
This being a slice of life series, there wasn't any grand overarching story. It was just couples being drawn together and going through their various problems. Ritsu was stuck in a job he didn't like, Chiaki was a stressed manga artist, and Kisa was 30 but didn't feel like he'd accomplished anything with his life. In comes the semé characters to kick them up the butt (or more than just that), stick their tongues down their throats, and remind them that true love conquers everything. Just not publishing deadlines.
All in all, I was rather bored of this whole series by the time it ended. The drama was a bit silly at times, the couples weren't that great, and it was basically Junjo Romantica but set at a publishing company. (Well, actually, the very same publishing company who publish Usami's books from Junjo Romantica, I believe.) But there were some very positive things about this series. It was nice how realistic the publishing company setting felt, rather than just being your stereotypical office job. Ritsu and Masamune have to crunch figures, write tonnes of spreadsheets, talk about colour pages and black and white pages and even attend sales meetings to determine how many books will be published. It may sound really boring, but it was quite interesting to see how manga gets published, whether it's in magazine or volume format, and this lent a certain grown-up feel to it.
I'm glad this series is about. It's a fairly mature romance that while it does pander to BL fan-girls at times, does have a heart and a soul and there are some genuinely decent and heartwarming moments. However, I'm afraid I'm going to have to give this series a 5/10 for the characterisation of some of the uké and the semé. As I've said above, they could have done a lot better than just having pushy, coercive semé for 2/3 of the couples and ukés who unfortunately have a condition where their thoughts are always audible and they never cease.
If I had it my way, Yukina and Kisa would be the star couple, but unfortunately I'll have to stick with what I've got: volumes 3-5 of the manga and episodes 8 and 9 of the anime.