Bandai/Namco’s Tales series has always been quite the collection. Lovely little anime games that bounce between cute and silly and darkly epic – though most of it will waiver in the awkward in-between. They are solid games without quite ascending to masterpieces, but usually embedded with little gems of plot conceptualization and character dynamics that raise them overhead simply mediocre.
At any rate, I had been a few years away from the series, but the siren’s call of alleged gayness in a more recent installment drew me back.
A Steam sale later, and I finally got my hands on Tales of Zestiria. I met Sorey, our upbeat protagonist, and Mikleo, his closest friend. Perfect, they’ll do. I’m youthful, optimistic. Ambitious. Ready for yaoi.
Welcome to California! Not only has the game board expanded, so have the number of players. The most important introduction is the titular “Rich Boy”, but a few more side characters popping in to say hello make this a relatively chill episode. The cogs are definitely moving in the background, but first thing’s first: detective work and gay jokes.
Pack up, boys and girls, we’re road tripping! Banana Fish pretends to chill out for a filler episode, kicking the audience out of the vehicle in the middle of fucking nowhere (officially known as Cape Cod) for some backstory and character development. Ensue the usual hilarity of unleashing city folk into the boonies – murder, knife fights, horrifying recollections of child abuse. Weirdly, the guns don’t seem out of place, though. This is America.
Banana Fish continues to brutally launch itself through a hefty plot, no mercy and no prisoners. It’s clear we have a lot of plot to cruise through, and the ride is going be bumpy with minimal breaks for downtime. It’s a two-way pull: Ash and Eiji are simultaneously being pursued, and doing the pursuing. There’s a lot going on, but so far, the direction is smooth enough to not reduce viewers to motion sickness. For a gang drama with a growing cast, that’s no easy feat, but the main driver is Ash – though Eiji is ready to ball up and take the wheel.
This charming slice-of-life about the bumbling romances of nerdy office workers isn’t the gay you need, or the gay you deserve. But don’t write Wotaki: Love is Hard for Otaku off completely. The series is nothing if not meta and blissfully self-aware. It may not be a BL, but it is about BL fangirls and their boyfriends who are, if not fudanshi, rather good sports about the whole thing.
26-year-old Narumi Momose has a secret: she is a rotten, rotten girl (that is, a fujoshi) who spends her free time devouring anime and writing erotic yaoi doujinshi to sell at anime conventions. When this dirty secret is exposed, she quits her job, moves across Japan, and applies at a new company – this time determined not to expose her inner otaku. She is immediately exposed, however, when she bumps into Hirotaka Nifuji, a socially clueless childhood friend and hardcore gamer who is now her new colleague. This drama comes to a neat conclusion by the end of episode one when it is revealed that this office is decidedly more otaku-friendly. 27-year-old Hanako Koyanagi is a fellow yaoi-lover and famous cross-playing cosplayer, and her boyfriend and the office sempai Tarou Kabakura secretly reads moe comics. Exposed and among “her people”, Narumi, whose boyfriends have always dumped her when they have found out she’s a nerd, starts a relationship with Hirotaka, where date nights are pretty much just playing video games together.
With that little problem out of the way, the rest of the series is as free as its cast to shamelessly nerd out. From regular shopping trips to Animate, to navigating the crowds of Comiket, and playing Pokemon Go long after it stopped being cool, Wotakoi is a delightful insight into Japanese nerd culture.
If you are a gay anime fan who had never heard of Banana Fish until 2018 – join me in pretending to the smug BL connoisseurs clutching their gay 80’s shoujo manga that you totally fucking had. Because that’s what this is, in case you haven’t Wikipedia’d the shit out of MAPPA’s new series yet. A gay 80’s shoujo manga, because #diversity means that violent New York City drug smuggling crime syndicate dramas are for everyone, and that includes teen Japanese girls.
What is the elusive titular “Banana Fish”? Will gang violence irreparably destroy the very fabric of society? And is it gay?