Super Lovers first season has just come to a close, but the second season renewal was just announced on Wednesday, June 8th! It will be coming out January of 2017 for next year’s anime winter season. WARNING: minor spoilers ahead.
On the surface, Super Lovers just looks like a BL love story about a grown man and a teenage boy. Once you read the synopsis about it being about an older brother and his adopted younger brother, than it just seems like a tasteless incest story that panders to an audience that craves stories about “brotherly love.” This shounen-ai story on the other hand isn’t a pandering, fanservice, BL story that only exists to cater to its female audience. It is a story about family relationships and what they mean. Are you really apart of a family if you’re adopted into it? It’s also a story about self-worth and acceptance, which is something generations of continued to struggle with.
Super Lovers is directed by Shinji Ishihira, who directed Log Horizon and is currently directing Fairy Tail, along with series composition by Yoshiko Nakamura, who has written episodes for Junjou Romantica: Pure Romance. Haru Kaidou is played by Tomoaki Maeno, who played roles such as Ko Yukina from Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi, Juichi Fukutomi from Yowamushi Pedal, and was in Ishihira’s Log Horizon voicing Naotsugu. Ren Kaidou is played by Junko Minagawa, who is the staple voice of Ryoma Echizen from Prince of Tennis, Hitomi Minagawa from Kampfer, and Akira Ferrai in Aria: The Animation.
Super Lovers starts off with Haru Kaidou, a young man in his early twenties visiting his birth mother in Canada in the summer. Haru finds out that his mother adopted an eight year old boy, Ren Kaidou. Ren is a quiet, reserved boy who doesn’t like being around people and instead spends all day with the pet dogs instead. Haru makes it his mission to tame Ren, humanize him, and get him to open up. Once they begin to get close, Haru makes a promise to Ren that someday when he gets a place of his own, he’ll have Ren live with him and his twin step brothers back in Japan. Tragically, Haru gets in a car accident with his father and stepmother after that summer. The parents die but Haru is alive, but loses his memory of that summer.
Five years later in the anime, Haru has become a host in order to support himself and his twin stepbrothers, Aki and Shima Kaidou, who are now about to enter college. Haru gets called in by his lawyer one day to tell him that Ren has traveled from Canada to live with him from now on, just like he promised that summer. Haru doesn’t remember such a promise, but takes in Ren anyways. It isn’t until later in the second episode that he starts to remember their promise and they continue their relationship.
Unlike most yaois or shounen-ais, they give a lot of time for Haru and Ren to really get to know each other and form a bond. Even when Ren is a teen, he is still closed off from society like when he was a child. As a teen, Ren is blunt, deadpan, and brief with his statements. Ren is also a prodigy essentially because when he was living in Canada, he was taking online classes and Haru’s birth mother (who is an esteemed author by the way) had him learn from college professors as well. They joke a lot in Super Lovers that Haru’s way of speaking Japanese is like of an old man because it’s so proper.
Ren’s character breaks a lot of the stereotypes of the typical uke (aka submissive partner). He does fight off Haru when he becomes too touchy or close like the behavior of a tsundere, but it isn’t super cartoony or violent like a typical female tsundere. Since Ren is so blunt with how he is feeling in the moment, he will openly get mad if Haru is doing something he doesn’t like and kicks him off with no problem. Because Ren was so sheltered, being homeschooled out in the woods in Canada, he doesn’t know how to be tactful or sensitive, which makes him brutally honest. He also acts old for his age since he didn’t interact with children growing up. He isn’t submissive, meek, aggressive for no reason, dumb, or annoying.
Ren says openly a lot in the series that he isn’t “Haru’s real brother” or “not really part of the family” because he’s adopted. He says this with his usual deadpan facial expression, but is totally okay with that fact. He is fine with not being a real brother. He honestly believes that he’s being a bother to Haru and the twins, which at first the twins don’t like when Ren moves in. Haru LOVES his brothers to the point of spoiling them and looking after them constantly. For instance, Haru became a host so all three of them could live comfortably and be able to pay for the Aki and Shima’s college education. Ren on the other hand, believes that the only reason why Haru loves Ren, is because he was his brother. If they weren’t related, Ren believes he wouldn’t dote on him or like him anymore.
The only thing that makes Super Lovers a shounen-ai anime is that Ren and Haru kiss. A lot. It’s very sweet though. Haru insists that Ren give him welcome, goodbye, good morning, and goodnight kisses. So they are normally pecks and maybe an occasional make-out. But the make-outs are short lived because Ren will openly push him away. Not because he’s embarrassed, but because he gets uncomfortable after a while. He considers it normal at first because they are brothers, and he thinks Haru is just being very brotherly. Which he is. But he doesn’t kiss Aki or Shima. That’s because they are too old to kiss, it isn’t till episode nine that Haru realizes how much Ren has grown both emotionally and physically. He isn’t the little boy who could only play with dogs and couldn’t do anything for himself. He’s a grown teenager, starting to go through puberty and realizing what their actions mean now.
Haru on the other hand is just a very affectionate older brother as well. He continues to be a guardian and parental figure in Ren’s life. For example, he quits the job at the host club after he raises enough money to start a cafe that’s right next to their house. Haru would only have the cafe open till 5PM so he could be home by 6 to make dinner for Ren and the twins. Since the beginning, he has loved his brothers to death, and will do anything for them.
Ren on the other hand, has grown closest with Haru. In episode eight of Super Lovers, he tells Shima one night before bed how much Haru taught him that one summer. Since Ren only responded to Haru because of his persistence, Haru was in charge of teaching him everyday tasks, like holding chopsticks, how to greet people, how to use a utensils, saying “please” and “I’m sorry,” to eat three meals a day, to sleep in a bed at night, express his feelings to others, etc.
In that same episode, since he’s so deadpan and doesn’t even show as much as a smile, his homeroom teachers makes it a mission himself to get Ren to start smiling more, so he doesn’t come off as standoffish to the people around. It’s a genuine challenge for him, and can’t force a smile. Most characters who do this aren’t told to smile more because that’s just their character. For Ren, it goes much deeper than that. Towards the end of the episode, he is about to go to bed for the night with Haru, and Haru simply asks him “What’s wrong?” and gives him one of his trademark smiles. This gives Ren a revelation.
“Haru has never told me to smile. Aki and Shima have never told me to smile either. That’s because they know. I’m sorry I didn’t notice…that forcing yourself to smile is so painful. Haru was always smiling. He’d get mad sometimes, but afterwards he would always show me a smile. As a child, I found it mysterious. I felt like I was constantly looking at Haru’s face. He did it for me. For a child who didn’t know how to smile.”
For a show that’s about gay incest, it’s one of the most touching moments in the whole series. It displays perfectly both Ren and Haru’s character of being more than just brothers. They understand each other. They need each other. They were both alienated growing up and they both lost their parents. When Ren wasn’t capable to take care of himself or smile for himself, Haru was there to show him the way while smiling throughout. Haru needs him because he craves to be depended on and to be able to depend on Ren.
Super Lovers wraps up with his adopted mother, Haruko, visiting from Switzerland to see Ren and conduct some business. Long story short, the show hints of who Ren’s mother could be, and Ren gets the feeling again that he is only loved and accepted in the family, because he is legally part of the family. That if he didn’t get adopted into the family, no one would want him. Including Haru. This is what Haru said in response:
“You didn’t understand what it meant to love or hate or be abandoned, right? I don’t care which family you’re a part of. Even if you’re not a Kaidou, as long as you’re still the serious and stubborn Ren who loves me, I don’t care whose kid you are.”
Super Lovers isn’t the sort of anime that forces a couple together, shows unpleasant nonconsensual affection, or has a thin plot. It is trying to be more than just a shounen-ai anime. It still shows cute boys with flower borders and slow pans, but has a serious story about family, identity, and overall belonging. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously and has clever funny moments as well. All the couple moments you do get in the show are harmless, funny, and for the most part purposeful. I wouldn’t call Super Lovers an artsy, serious shounen-ai on the level of the yuri drama Aoi Hana, but it has a lot more to say and more class than a typical shounen-ai or yaoi OVA.
It’s a light, fluffy show with a meaningful plot that still caters to the female demographic the genre wants to attract.