Masahiro Setagawa is a hopeless teenager who is often used by the neighborhood bullies as an errand boy. Defenseless, Masahiro knows that nobody will ever save him. However, his life drastically changes when he meets Kousuke Ooshiba, a man known as the "Bear Killer," who takes down neighborhood gangs.
A year later, Masahiro and his former friend, Kensuke Ooshiba, attend high school, only to find that Kousuke is their math teacher. While the three grow closer, Masahiro starts to view Kousuke as his "hero," and Kousuke develops an urging desire to protect Masahiro. However, their normal lives take a turn when Kensuke's childhood friend, Asaya Hasekura, returns, seeing Kensuke as more than just a friend, much to his surprise. Will the three boys be able to live a regular high school life? Or will forbidden love keep them apart forever?
“It might have looked that way to you, but I’m just normal ”
~ Setagawa, ep 4.
And that’s practically ever BL protagonist ever, isn’t it?
Anyway, if you aren’t interested in reading my entire review (because who enjoys reading long reviews, huh?), here’s a TL;DR version of it:
If you’re a fujoshi or someone who's tired of the same tropes being used in BL (abusive seme, weak MC, cliché romance), then Hitorijime is something you’ll enjoy. But if you’re looking for something new, refreshing or path breaking in the BL genre, look somewhere else.
This review will contain my opinions on what I liked and disliked about
the anime. If you’re interested, read on! Man, I remember when news of a new Shounen Ai anime was released. EVERY fujoshi account in existence went crazy over this development, and the Mystic Messenger fandom couldn’t get enough of the fact that one of the MCs totally looked like Jumin Han (which he really did from certain angles, honestly). My Insta and FB newsfeeds were littered with scenes and GIFs from episodes as and when they were released. But me being the kinda person who waits for an anime to finish airing so that she can binge watch it in a day, patiently waited for three entire months for Hirotijime to, you know, finish airing.
Now, since it’s Shounen Ai, the entire anime’s focus is on the increased closeness between our two MCs - Setagawa (the blond aka MC1) and Kousuke (the Jumin Han lookalike, aka MC2), as well as the doubts and trauma they both go through. The anime’s first three episodes, for some reason, were dedicated solely to the love story between MC1’s bestie (Kensuke) and his long lost friend Asaya (whose character design looks suspiciously similar to that of Sunagawa’s from Ore Mongatari). The dialogues were lackluster, the story had tropey elements and had certain aspects that I sincerely hoped the BL genre would have got rid of by now. The biggest sinners, ofc, are tropes where the seme kisses the uke WITHOUT HIS CONSENT and that’s portrayed as totally okay bc the seme is in love with the uke. Uh, no. Consent exists for a reason. But I digress. I did not like how this secondary romantic relationship developed – the seme gave the uke an ultimatum – bed me, or leave me. What the fuck?? That’s not what you say to someone who genuinely thinks of you as a good friend. And magically, this ultimatum made the uke realize his actual feelings for the seme and tadaaaaaaa!! They’re lovers. Again - what the fuck??
Also, the character responses were 1 second too late. So that was annoying.
However, things did improve for the better when the relationship between MC 1 and 2 was explored. But there were several things that were not explained. Like, at all. First, how does a ruffian like MC2 become a respectable teacher in a boys’ school?? How and when did he get such an education? What forced him to make the change? How was his violent past (and I’m assuming, his criminal records) NOT an issue with the principal when hiring this dude as a temp??? Second, when and why does MC1 colour his hair blond?? The change in colour isn’t even used as a plot device, so why bother changing his hair colour at all? If you really wanted him to be blond this badly, then why not make him a blond child, instead of a child with ginger coloured hair?? These two things confused me till the very end if anybody reading this review has an answer, do let me know. Third, and most importantly, how could MC2 be so chill about kissing MC1 so openly in the school hallways? I mean, I get that you don’t care about what people think and all, but DUDE. You could literally be jailed for getting physical with a MINOR. Fourth, why did MC1 have to be a minor? The setting could have easily taken place in a college instead of a school and literally everything would have remained the same, except for the fact that this anime wouldn’t have been normalizing paedophilia. Ugh.
So, anyway. Some of the dialogues were very well written, especially in the second half. My fav was when the dude who was ‘grossed out’ by MC1’s relationship (and was eventually shunned by his friend circle) said,“Nobody’s on my side. The one who speaks out is automatically the villain”. Not because it’s very deep, philosophical or ground breaking, but simply because of how REAL it was. I also enjoyed the little character details which made the show a little more memorable for me. For example, MC1 is a nice boy, yet he has ear piercings and wears rings on his knuckles (which nice guys absolutely never do in anime). His mother’s a prostitute, and it’s a miracle the boy turned out to be as normal as he is. Perhaps that’s also why he was totally chill when his bestie started dating a guy – you’re not exactly in any position to judge anybody when you yourself come from a pretty questionable place, you know. MC2 is a chain smoker (I didn’t like that, but it’s a unique quality nonetheless) and has big eyes, while it’s the uke who has smaller eyes. Generally, it’s the other way around, so this one thing that definitely stood out for me. However, MC1’s eyes were so beady (they reminded me of the eyes of the MC from Yahare Ore whatever the fuck its name is) that they actually made me not like him as much as I’d hoped. Why go for such an eye design? And he was the only one with such small eyes. Another breaking of clichés that I enjoyed was the seme encouraging the uke to take an initiative to kiss him. We don’t generally get to see that in BL bc it’s almost always the seme who’s the more dominant one (and by extension, the one more in control) in the relationship.
It was cute to see how one of MC1’s friend reacted (and handled) to his relationship with MC2. The friend then went on to join a different group of guys, and the way the group leader spoke to him made for an unnecessary (and yet more likeable) aspect of the details of the anime that I enjoyed about it.
Episode 11 was definitely the highlight of the series. It had raw dialogues, show cased the internal/emotional struggles between both our MCs when MC1 decided to call of the relationship, and both the boys reacted exactly like normal people would in such a situation. I believe that episode was handled quite well. The engagement at the end of Episode 12 was totally ripped off Yuri on Ice, but I liked how it was played out. Totally did not see that coming!
***End of Spoilers***
The shounen-ai genre has been pretty lacking over the past few years, so whenever a new one comes out I always take a bit of time to check them out.
Hitorijime My Hero (AKA My Very Own Hero) may not reinvent the genre, but it's respectful, consistent, and uplifting.
Other recent releases in the genre such as Super Lovers, Love Stage, and sort of Yuri On Ice have shown it's possible to make a decent shounen-ai anime, but in all three of those shows sacrifice something to get to the worthwhile moments. Super Lovers, although enjoyable and adorable, the age gap and family aspect can
be very offputting at times. Love Stage was really funny and well written but some of the actual "love" moments ignored the importance of consent. Yuri On Ice was truly fantastic, but it felt almost afraid to acknowledge its lead characters as homosexual.
Hitorijime makes few comprises to get to the pleasant moments, but is overall an enjoyable watch. The characters face adversity due to their sexuality, they treat the people they love with respect as they should, and the characters had chemistry with each other.
The show opens with its main character Masahiro, we see how he's had quite a hard life, being the leeched off of by thugs, and never having a safe place because his prostitute mother brings home her clients. His life seems grim and it shows through his subdued personality, constantly seeming out of it. Then he met his eventual love interest; Kousuke, referred to as "the Bear Killer" by the group of thugs because he's known for beating up criminals. Masahiro is saved from having to spend time with the thugs and later meets the Bear Killer through his brother at his school.
The first arc is brief only lasting a few episodes, it follows Kousuke's brother, Kensuke, and his love interest, Hasekura. Masahiro gets developed through this first arc even if he's not the main focus. The first arc is pleasant enough but after Kensuke passes the baton to Masahiro he and Hasekura get very little development. Although Hasekura gets shafted in the first arc in terms of development, his character does eventually get explored in the later episodes.
The majority of the show is spent at the school Masahiro, his friends, and Kousuke goes to. Well, Kousuke isn't quite a student, he's a substitute teacher... Ok so this might be where some people move toward the drop button, but I just want to say...
STOP RIGHT THERE!
It's really respectfully executed, they acknowledge how their relationship is risky and the experience gap between them isn't huge. Masahiro knew Kousuke before he became his teacher. This wasn't a hurdle for me to overcome, and I'm sure for fans who are well versed in the genre won't have any trouble either. Their relationship is kept fairly tame but is explored in surprising ways throughout the show. They experience turmoil as people in their lives question their relationship, which is where the core of the conflict lies. I don't want to give away any more about the story, but I'll just add that all of the leading characters are incredibly endearing and they have great chemistry which keeps every scene comedic, cute, and occasionally dramatic.
The art is decent, it's simple but enough to get the job done well. Unlike similar shows, it never has any low points in terms of quality. The only real annoyance I can speak strongly towards is the fact that one character has entirely white eyes. Its really strange but and I couldn't say why they chose to depict him that way, but thankfully he is only in a few brief scenes then never seen again. Other than that single issue the art is good and works well to make the show all the more adorable.
As well as solid visuals the sound serves to only improve the show. Great piano pieces that add a healthy dose of drama to the more poignant moments. The opening and ending credits both have fantastic songs that had me humming along after each episode.
To top off an already stellar series is an immensely satisfying conclusion, that feels incredibly rewarding and totally in keeping. While it leaves itself open for a sequel, which is appropriate considering the manga is ongoing, I do think it was as good as it possibly could have been given the material they had to work with.
Final score 8/10
Hitorijime My Hero is a very good entry into a genre that has been lacking for the past few years. Many other shows of this kind struggle to balance a budget and suffer from tonal inconsistencies, but thankfully the folks behind this have an understanding of distributing a budget properly. This show feels like the culmination of a genre after a series of headshaking misfires from other less successful studios. It brings together everything I love most from shounen ai in a solid concise effort.
It won't turn any heads for its innovation or depth of themes. But if you're a fan of shounen-ai, I'd recommend giving this one a shot. Just be aware of the major one caveat, the teacher/student romance.
Hitorijime My Herooooo! I was very excited to have another shounen ai be adapted, and I was not that disappointed.
Story- basic concept that can be guessed from a teacher/student relationship. Common concerns and drama are present. If you're tired of the cliches, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this. However for those you enjoy fluffy cliches in this genre, oh boy you'll love this.
Art- It's a bit lackluster. No explosions of color or movement. It's relaxing.
Sound- romantic vibes all around. Gets repetitive in using the same fluff song. But the overall soundtrack is good.
Characters- Is there huge character development? Ehhhh not really besides some reconciling.
There was potential in other characters like the barista and the mom (you'll know what I mean). Our main character is conflicted the entire show and that's what really drives it all.
Enjoyment- I will almost always enjoy a shounen ai anime just because it's still uncommon compared to other genres. Still, the anime left a sweet note with me and lifts up the heart!
Overall- I would recommend this to someone who is new to shounen ai or just anyone who loves sweet conflict.
Hitorijime My Hero is a decent BL story with likeable characters and fairly healthy relationships compared to the majority of the genre. It’s pacing, though, could use some work. And by some work, I mean A LOT of work.
Lucky for Hitorijime My Hero, all four main characters are engaging and play off each other well. It’s also nice to see our two couples not only interact with their love interest, but with other people - which is rarer in BL than I’d wish.
There’s also more at stake than just “will they get together,” especially with Masahiro Setagawa. It’s easy to get sucked into
his story, because not only are you wondering if he and Kousuke Ooshiba will figure things out, but you’re also wondering if his bad home life will set him on a potentially dangerous path, raising the stakes of not only the story, but the success of his romantic relationship.
Despite spending time on Masahiro’s subplot and letting the characters interact with people other than their love interest, the anime spends the majority of its time focusing on the budding romantic relationships between two core couples - as any romance should.
The biggest success of Hitorijime is that it’s really easy to root for the couples. Not only are all the characters likeable, but the relationships are fairly balanced, healthy, and end up benefiting everyone involved. Unhealthy relationships can make for a good and drama-heavy story, but it wouldn’t fit the lighthearted tone of the show, so thankfully, there’s no overly forceful semes to ruin the fun, mostly relaxed atmosphere.
The animation, soundtrack, and voice acting aren’t anything to write home about, but they’re all solid and well-done.
The anime’s biggest issue, by far, is pacing. I believe this stems from the fact Hitorijime not only adapts the manga it’s named after, but a prequel too.
The first episode introduces us to the main couple. The next two episodes sidelines the main couple so heavily, that I thought they were the side couple. It was jarring, to get an intro, outro, and initial episode that seemed to set up one couple, only to switch to another pairing.
While the side couple is cute, their story isn’t nearly as engaging as our main pairing, leaving the first few crucial episodes as some of the story’s weakest. Once the story switches back to the main pairing, things smooth out until you realize that all of the plots and subplots are already wrapped up, and there’s still a handful of episodes left. There are other issues the characters have to work out, but the anime does a poor job giving the viewer cues what those problems will be until the characters are already dealing with them head-on.
If you like BL, Hitorijime My Hero is a must-watch. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, heartwarming romance, you might want to consider watching it. It’s an enjoyable, easy-to-watch story, but lacks anything that would take it from “decent & enjoyable” to “instant classic.”