This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series I Need More Than Just Romance. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to illness, death, and anxiety, as it appears in the manga.
Shuji and Kosuke have been dating for three months. It's going pretty well. They meet up multiple times a week at a diner, where they make small talk while Kosuke works, then they head to Shuji's house and watch movies or talk some more. It's all very routine and pleasant. But it's hardly an intimate relationship as far as Shuji is concerned. What is the difference between what they do and what friends do together? Shuji wants more from Kosuke. He wants to kiss, touch, and, hopefully, have sex, but no matter how hard he tries to hint at his physical cravings, Kosuke just never takes the bait.
One evening, while he is pleasuring himself, he gets a text from Kosuke, inviting him to the diner they go to every time they meet. Unable to hold back any longer, Shuji makes a determined decision: he will prep himself, and no matter how the night goes, he will consummate his relationship with Kosuke. But will Kosuke reciprocate Shuji's feelings? Or will their relationship end before it even begins?
First off, the cover art gave me Owal vibes, which I was all about since I love Owal. It isn't quite as identical as the cover suggests, but it is still so nice. It's a very sketchy style, but I really enjoy how rough it is. It gives it real character, though it does go a bit wonky at times with odd-shaped faces in side profiles and inconsistencies in facial features. I especially love the character designs, though. Both are very average-looking dudes, a pleasant change from the hyper beauties or muscleheads we see in some BL. I also love how different the two characters are, with Shuji being the more athletic, popular type and Kosuke taking on the nerdy, shy look. They contrast each other, but their designs are so complementary in that way. I love it.
What's even more fun is their contrasting personalities. Shuji is the more forward, dominating power bottom, while Kosuke is a submissive top. I love that dynamic so much, and it isn't all that common in BL that I've read thus far. However, they also have this interesting power switch. Because Shuji is so forward, he's also very open in sharing that he feels insecure sometimes, which makes him appear more submissive, giving Kosuke a chance to take the lead and be more dominating. It's so nice to see them share the power, as oftentimes, BL relationships are founded on substantial power imbalances. They're very communicative as a couple, thanks to Shuji, which makes this all very fluffy and sweet.
I also love that we don't have homomisia as the primary source of conflict. Both of our main characters are secure in their sexuality and fine with being together. Then, when Shuji's brother is introduced, his issue isn't with his brother seeing a man. He just wants his brother to be happy and fears Kosuke's anxiety will prevent him from being happy. It's refreshing not to have to deal with the obvious, run-of-the-mill drama of bigots to cause tension in BL. Instead, we have a protective older brother who wants to make sure his brother is with someone who will be strong for him. It's a beautiful way of creating tension that isn't rooted in homomisia. It's also nice that tension isn't based on the “will they, won't they” scenario since they are in an established relationship at the beginning of the story. It's just such a refreshing scenario.
The only downside for me, if you can even call it that, is the lack of sex. We get one major sex scene at the beginning, one at the very end, and then some spice in between. I am admittedly a huge degenerate, so I can never have too much sex in my content. But, instead of gratuitous smut, we get a wholesome view of Shuji's family. They, like his brother, are just happy that he is happy. No homomisia in sight. Shuji's dad, in particular, has a very heartfelt moment with Kosuke. He is very quiet and reminded me a lot of Kosuke, which also made me think of the belief that people end up marrying or dating people who resemble their family members (as gross as that may sound). But it was very touching to see these two quiet men have a moment with each other, where Shuji's dad takes the opportunity to comfort and encourage Kosuke. It really just made my heart so happy.
To say I loved this would be an understatement. It's fluffy and sweet with plenty of spice in between. It's a refreshing take on BL with a healthy and communicative couple. It's not super deep, but it didn't have to be. It's a fun time with very little drama or stress. I'd readily recommend this to most people.
Have you read I Need More Than Just Romance? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!