This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Bad Boys, Happy Home. 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 homophobia, gang activity, child abuse, pedophilia, rape, drug use, murder, and prostitution, as it appears in the manga.
Akamatsu is a bit of a wild child. Chocking it all up to puberty, he finds himself pent-up with rage and frustrations over life. One day, he passes by the park and sees another young delinquent hanging out there. The guy looks tough, and Akamatsu, brimming with energy, feels compelled to fight the stranger. So, he calls the guy out and starts a brawl, which leads to Akamatsu being knocked out. Satisfied with this new outlet, Akamatsu returns day after day to fight this mysterious man, and he is only happy to oblige.
Akamatsu is pretty happy with this setup until the day his sparring partner is forced to leave the park because his sleeping place, some large pipes, has been taken away. Faced with the reality that he won't be able to let out all of his pent-up energy on the man anymore, Akamasu does the only thing he knows to do: offer the man to stay with him. The man ends up agreeing, and finally, after all this time, he introduces himself as Seven. So begins Seven and Akamatsu's awkward life together. As Seven and Akamatsu grow closer together, their pasts start to haunt them, but even so, it only seems to bring them closer and closer together. Can these young men overcome their complicated pasts and forge a new future together?
This is a really unique BL. I have yet to read anything similar, and I am not sure that I will find one any time soon. It is not your standard romance, so don't expect a ton of fluff or romantic gestures. Don't get me wrong, it is cute in a lot of ways, but it feels more platonic and innocent than most BL. Most of your standard tropes aren't anywhere to be found here. There are no accidental kisses, there isn't any gushing or dramatic confession to be found, and the romance grows gradually and naturally, so if you're expecting a whirlwind romance, you might be disappointed. Instead, the romance is awkward, random, and stilted, just as a romance between two people who aren't sure about romance and sexuality would be. Sometimes, it feels more like an exploration than anything else, and it is because of this that I really, really like this one.
First off, the art style for this is unique for the BL genre. It's not exactly beautiful or pretty, but it is well-drawn, though the proportions get a little crazy with their mouths and jaws; I think that might be for humor. I'd say it almost leans on the side of realistic, not hyperrealistic, of course, but more than what I usually see, which is unusual based on all of the BL I have read. As for the character designs, I wouldn't call either of these guys attractive by BL standards, but that's what makes this so great. It feels more realistic, and I believe this story. The art style works for the story, and that's where this really shines and makes this a really interesting and fun BL.
Speaking of story, let's talk about how unique that is. Romance is not the focus of this story. I would actually say it's the subplot to the main story: finding their identities and learning about each other. This is very much a coming-of-age story between two young men, and in their exploration of themselves, they explore each other, finding their sexuality and love along the way. It's a realistic view of how naturally and casually sexual exploration can occur and how that, in turn, could become love amid the chaos life can throw onto people. Yes, there is romance, but I don't feel like it is the focus. It is a vehicle that leads these two to find themselves and allows them to grow with each other.
The worst part of this is the big trip out into nature. It was an attempt at comedy to push the two of them to finally confess their love out loud and to encourage them to have sex, but it was so silly it was hard for me to enjoy. The boys were silly throughout the series, but having a troupe of animals they rescue and then, in turn, save them felt like a bit much to me. I would rather have been something more subtle, but what can you do? It just felt so out of place. Again, the boys are silly, but that is endearing. The random animal rescue bits were overkill for an otherwise engaging, funny, and sometimes heartrending tale.
This was really interesting. I am sure there are more like this one, but this was the first I have experienced. It took a very interesting angle on the BL genre, and it was a really refreshing take. If you are into your standard BL fair and expect more of the same here, then I am sorry to say you will probably be disappointed. But if you're looking for something new, look no further. This is a hard one to say I recommend because I know it's not going to be for everyone, but I do feel it's worth giving a shot if you've exhausted the standard BL fare.
Have you read Bad Boys, Happy Home? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!