June 22nd, 2011 by Lianne
Let’s say you had a brief, passionate affair with a classmate in high school. You were both super emotional because you were teenagers, so at one point you said the wrong thing or bought the wrong birthday present and the other guy screams “I NEVER WANT TO TALK TO YOU EVER AGAIN!” and storms out of your life forever. You regret it – you really liked that guy. You have a series of relationships after that, but nothing helps you forget your first love. Until one day, ten years later, you’re running your little corner of the manga publishing industry and prepping materials for the new hire and HE TOTALLY WALKS IN. He doesn’t seem to remember you, maybe because you changed your name and it’s been so many years (possibly also because he’s kinda stupid). So now you’re his boss, you’re the only one who remembers the relationship, and the ball is totally in your court. Do you:
a.) Try and leave him gentle reminders to jog the good parts of his memory, bringing him back to you via rose-tinted nostalgia?
b.) Sit him down, confess everything, and tell him you want to start over?
c.) Go out drinking with him, reveal the news once you’re both smashed, and hope hormones (and a long dry spell) will make your reconnection a bit quicker?
d.) Hold him down between deadlines and stick your hand down his pants.
If you answered anything but d.), we could really use your ethics in yaoi.
However, despite the depressing disrespect for consent and workplace sexual harassment laws, I have to say that World’s Greatest First Love is the closest I’ve seen to a mainstream yaoi title since Gravitation. Hell, Bad Jew watched a bunch of episodes and liked it. That’s because the silly love stories and creepy sex attacks take a back seat to hardcore publishing action. This series isn’t really about love or sex – it’s about WORK AND DEADLINES. Love and sex just get in the way, dammit.
The fictional magazine Emerald is a shoujo manga anthology run by a small staff of incredibly dedicated male editors. They’ve boiled girl’s comics down to a science and they’d sooner make a mangaka cry than accept a chapter with an insufficient volume of heart-pounding contents. They’re also pretty gay. There’s the editor-in-chief, the fiercely intelligent book wizard who could edit a bestseller while drunk – he’s occasionally humping the new guy, because apparently they went out in high school or something. There’s The Serious One, who takes special care of one of their lonely male mangaka because they used to be friends and because they’re destined for some totally inappropriate editor-on-mangaka action. Baby Face spends half his free time in a big retail store where the books he edits sell surprisingly well, mostly because a totally handsome sales clerk is hot for his editorial skill and/or body. And then…there’s another editor who mostly just smiles, but my guess is he’ll be boinking dudes before long. There’s also a marketing guy who’s super, super mean but for some reason has a key to the editor-in-chief’s apartment (gasp!) and a lazy supervisor, who’s actually from Junjou Romantica (this series is technically a spin-off by the same mangaka, in case you couldn’t tell from the trapezoid heads). It’s a tangled web of girlish comics, boy-on-boy action, screaming matches, and departmental meetings.
Long story short: I really like this series. You get a good look at the Japanese manga publishing industry from a bunch of angles: mangaka and their assistants, editors, printers, marketing, retail. You can ignore the (mostly stupid) love stories for a while, but once they take center stage later in the story, at least they’ve successfully developed enough to be interesting. Besides, even though the editor x mangaka love story is SUPER BAD, the retailer x editor love story is SUPER GOOD, so it all balances out. For those of you who liked Junjou Romantica, this series is less romantic but has a lot in common with its popular predecessor. But I prefer World’s Greatest First Love by quite a wide margin.
Educated impression: Standard “yaoi/BL is full of sexual assault so view with caution” aside, this is a great little series with a much broader appeal than Junjou or almost any other yaoi I’ve seen. Not for kids, obviously, but for those of you who like gay office sexcapades, publishing nightmares, and characters who have bags drawn under their eyes 75% of the time? This series is totally for you. And Crunchy Roll is streaming it for free, so go ahead and start wasting your precious time. (Lianne)