It’s 1st August, which for the anime community means it is Yaoi Day, the day devoted to the genre of male homoerotic and romantic series aimed at women. For this special column, we cover a series which involves going back a bit to one of my first “Beginner’s Guides”.
Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi: Onodera Ritsu no Baai, which translates as The World’s Greatest First Love: Onodera Ristu’s Affair, began as a manga by Shungiku Nakamura in 2006 and is still going. It was adapted into two anime series, which both went out in 2011, and an anime feature film in 2014. However, the series really dates back much further than that, because it’s arguably a spin-off to Nakamura’s most famous title, Junjo Romantica (No. 5), one of the most popular yaoi around. Some of the characters from Junjo Romantica make cameos in The World’s Greatest First Love, such as Akihiko Usami, one of Junjo Romantica’s main characters.
The World’s Greatest First Love begins with 25-year-old Ritsu Onodera taking up a new job at Marukawa Publishing. He left his previous publishing job because people kept complaining that Ritsu only did so well because his father owned the company, so he moved to try and prove his own merit. However, instead of getting a job in the literature department, he finds himself in the shojo (girls) manga department, an area of the company which looks feminine but is staff entirely by overworked guys.
Ritsu’s boss, editor-in-chief Masamune Takano, is brilliant at his job, having turned the department into one of the most successful shojo publishers around. He does make Ritsu very uncomfortable however, for reasons Ritsu cannot fathom. To make things worse for Ritsu, he discovers that Masamune is his new next-door neighbour. Eventually Masamune reveals the reason for his behaviour: 10 years earlier Masamune and Ritsu were lovers. Ritsu failed to realise because Masamune changed his name after his parents divorced.
Due to a series of misunderstandings they split up all those years ago, blaming each other for the relationship breaking. Because the relationship failed Ritsu became jaded and promised to himself not to fall in love again, while Masamune had a breakdown. Takano now vows to make Ritsu fall in love with him again, something with Ritsu completely resists. To make things worse another member of staff, Takafumi Yokosawa from the sales department, is an old friend of Masamune’s who helped him through his breakdown and orders Ritsu not to have anything to do with Masamune in case he hurts Masamune again. Ritsu tries to explain that he does want to have anything to do with Masamune romantically, but Yokosawa does not trust him. As the series progresses, Ritsu seems to slowly realise that he could still have some feelings for Masamune.
As with Junjo Romantica, the series not only focuses on the relationship between the two main characters, but there are also other side characters in their own gay relationships, mainly the other editors who work alongside Ritsu. One, Hatori “Tori” Yoshiyuki, is in a relationship with one of his manga authors, Chiaki Yoshino, who actually writes under a man writing under female pseudonym. However, one of Chiaki’s male manga assistant’s, Yuu Yanase, also loves him and thus Chiaki find himself in the middle of a love triangle. Another editor, Shouta Kisa, finds himself falling for a handsome bookshop assistant called Kou Yukina.
The romance between the characters is obviously the main draw, especially the slow-burning rival of the central relationship between Ritsu and Masamune, as Ritsu slowly comes to admit to himself that he probably still loves Masamune. However, there are other elements to this series that are of interest. The main one being that this series is probably unlike any other covered in this column.
For starters, I personally think that you could describe this series as being a melodrama. While you do delve into the character’s past a bit, it is a rather an emotional series. You will feel happy, sad, and as this is a yaoi, possibly aroused. The other notable feature is that this is set in the world of work. This is mainly set in an office, which makes the series much more relatable than most anime covered here. Also, as it is set in a manga publishing company, you do get to learn a bit about the inside-world of the manga industry, albeit one that is comically exaggerated.
The World’s Greatest First Love is fun and dramatic, with plenty of love thrown in.
Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi: The World’s Greatest First Love is available to stream on Crunchyroll.