Like any other genre that features romance, Boys’ Love (BL) has a flair for the dramatic. However, BL has a particularly strong relationship with drama due to its subject matter. Since its creation with From Kaze to Ki no Uta, a tragic story about characters suffering from bullying, abuse and more, it follows a trend of the times. Stories about same-sex relationships so often ended badly for the characters because they weren’t socially acceptable. In order not to challenge this mindset, fiction has often used the narrative that being gay does bad things.
Conflict is the source of all storytelling, but it doesn’t have to stem from love triangles or societal taboos. Many slice-of-life anime prove this by keeping the issues small, believable, and grounded. Finding that kind of story in BL, however, can be a difficult task. Many fans praise Given for this, due to its realism when portraying grief and leaving a toxic relationship. However, there is a slightly older story that deserves similar praise: Classmatesalso known as Doukyuuseiis a 2016 film adaptation of Asumiko Nakamura’s manga.
Set in a school for boys, Classmates follows Kusakabe Hikaru and Sajo Rihito as they fall in love with each other. The process is gradual and mutual, although Kusakabe is more open about his feelings than Sajo.
It starts with stolen kisses in an empty shed or classroom, escalating as rumors spread and are eventually confirmed. Their interactions are cute and tender, with the faintest hints of spice as they get closer. Neither of them know what they’re doing, and this naivety really makes their relationship feel like a first love that everyone can relate to. It’s clunky and clunky, but they do their best to make it work. Unfortunately, neither Kusakabe nor Sajo are perfect, and the relationship isn’t always smooth.
The problems they encounter are typical of a high school couple. Kusakabe crosses a border, so Sajo keeps his distance for a while. Sajo gets jealous of a girl and tries to break off the relationship, but Kusakabe comes running to reassure him. Because Kusakabe changes the subject each time he is approached, Sajo does not tell him about his college plans. This leads to their first big fight and they take a break. These are the ups and downs of a teenage relationship, and it all comes down to inexperience and lack of communication.
Nakamura uses tropes the BL genre is known for in Classmates, but she gives them her own twist. The best example of this is with Hara Sensei, a teacher who is attracted to Sajo and who arranges to create a potential love triangle. At the start of the movie, Kusakabe thinks Sajo is just doing something to make Hara happy and gets jealous. Later, Hara takes advantage of the time alone with Sajo to seduce him. Instead of going that route, however, Kusakabe literally throws a rock in Hara’s way.
Currently, the only ways to watch Classmates for English-speaking audiences are on Amazon, for a fee, or by purchasing the Blu-ray from Aniplex. That’s probably one reason why Classmates remains obscure despite being so beloved, but anyone who can watch it and enjoy wholesome BL content should seek it out.