Though I enjoy harem anime, I haven't watched too many romance shows.
I liked Fushigi Yugi and really loved The
Twelve Kingdoms which both had strong romantic elements, but they
were more fantasy than romance in my mind. I didn't really like Suzuka,
which was more of a straight boy-meets-girl story, so I was a bit hesitant
when Boys Be... showed up on my doorstep. A romantic show about
three high school boys? I was prepared not to like it, but as the
story progressed I discovered that the strong supporting cast and realistic
(well, for anime) situations really pulled me in. In the end, I was
sorry it was only 13 episodes.
Taking place over the course of a single year, Boys Be... follows
three high school friends, all male as the title implies, and looks at
how they find romance, deal with rejection, and ultimately come to grips
with interaction with members of the opposite sex.
Kyoichi is the first member of the group. He's been friends with
Chiharu since they were young kids, and though he's always though of her
as one of his buddies, over the past year or so he's started to develop
feelings for her. He's not sure how to tell her, and the fact that
she's a tall, muscular, track star that the other boys have nick-named
"The Amazon" doesn't help things either.
Yoshihiko is Kyoichi's friend and very athletic himself. Well,
sort of. He's great at any sport that he tries; he's just not that
interested in working hard to get better. It's not that he's a slacker;
he just doesn't see the point. He's not interested in women either
until he goes to look for a baseball he hit into the school library.
He bumps a ladder and a girl falls off. He catches her and as a reward
she gives his a kiss. This changes his whole world view, and suddenly
the idea of being close to a girl is very attractive. But why can't
he seem to find the girl from the library?
The final member of the trio is Makoto, a sex-obsessed computer nerd.
When his friends are down he's the first (and only one) to suggest going
over to his place to look at porno. With dating manuals, notes on
each girl in his class' likes and dislikes, and a computer program that
promises to find him his perfect mate Makoto thinks he'll be able zero
in on who he should date, never realizing that cupid just doesn't work
This series started out a bit slow. The first disc just seemed
to have slice-of-life stories that, while nice, didn't seem to be going
anywhere. The characters, both main and supporting, seemed clichéd
and hackneyed. Had I been buying this series a volume at a time,
I would have been tempted to give up after the first one, and that would
have been a mistake. As the series progresses the stories
get more realistic and the people have to make important decisions that
aren't easy. The characters start to grow and evolve and, somewhat
miraculously, turn into real three-dimensional people.
The show held several surprises too. Some characters that seemed
to be destined to join the cast leave after an episode and never appear
again, other people do things that are very unexpected, and some episodes
ended on a melancholy note. Most surprising of all, the show ends
on an ambiguous note for some (but not all) of the people. That was
actually nice in a way and mimicked reality. Whether some characters
get together or not they've grown and learned over the year and that shaped
who they would become.
The entire 13-episodes series comes on four slimcased DVDs. These
seem to be identical to the individual volume releases. The four
cases are housed in a thick board slipcase that is nicely illustrated and
there's also a 48-page book included that includes line sketches of the
characters, bios of the Japanese voice actors, and comments by the directors.
It's quite a nice bonus item.
This show offers viewers a choice between the original Japanese soundtrack
and an English dub, both in stereo. Normally I'd complain about the
lack of a 5.1 track, but this show doesn't really need one. I alternated
languages on the first disc and then settled on the Japanese track for
the rest of the series. I enjoyed it a bit more, though the English
voice actors did a fine job. The soundtrack for both languages has
a nice amount of range and though the audio is usually centered on the
screen there is some nice separation at times. There isn't any distortion,
dropouts or background noise.
The show comes with a fullscreen picture that looks very good.
There was a spot here and there, which I was surprised to see, but the
image was generally excellent with sharp lines, nice colors and just a
pleasing appearance. There was some minor aliasing but nothing too
Scattered across the four volumes that make up this set there are some
pretty standard extras. These include a couple of art galleries,
a textless opening and closing, Japanese promos, and a "Special Track"
an interview with one of the characters that wraps up her story line in
a very nice way. Part of this clip is included in the final episode,
but it was only in the background and easy to miss.
There are also a total of four commentary tracks by the English production
staff. I'm not a huge fan of these commentaries since they don't
offer much in the way of background to the production. Like many
anime commentaries, these are party tracks with a group of people having
a good time laughing and joking while sometimes mentioning the show.
As far as this type of track goes, they were enjoyable.
This is a show that starts off slow but really grows into its own by
the end. This realistic look at high school romance won't be for
everybody. There are not wacky comedy scenes (though there is some
humor) and the conflict is almost always internal. If you're looking
for a heart-felt show that has characters develop and grow however, this
would be a great series to pick up. Highly Recommended.