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 that way.
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 distracting.
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.