These next two episodes begin introducing the serious and romantic aspects of Haru and Ren’s relationship, changing it from one of almost parental/brotherly love to one with romantic intent. This is at least true on the side of Ren, as we see consistently that he does’t think of himself as Haru’s brother, but Haru’s feelings are a little more complicated and will take some time to deconstruct. I’ll put this out there right now that I disagree with the opinion that their relationship is one of “grooming,” however it can in some ways be dangerous because of their maturity levels or lack of social experience, which I’ll get into more later.
What we begin to see in these two episodes as well is the social development of Ren as he begins to make friends at school. We see the stark contrast between his high level of education and his very low understanding of human relationships, though his outright frank way of speaking seems to be the breath of fresh air the people around him need. I think that’s what Ren provides to the people closest to him, that sense that he will never sugar coat something. It is definitely something that Haru needs in his life, which may be why he was drawn to Ren in the first place. Additionally, the introduction of Kurosaki provides an outsiders perspective on Ren and Haru’s relationship that confirms that they are more lovers than brothers at this point. He also serves as a foil to Ren to again clearly show the level of his social skills, a way for us to gauge just how much of a deficit he has in that area. This is another area where I honestly wanted to see more of Ren’s interpersonal relationships rather than the romance element. I think they do a great job building Ren’s character and less of a stellar job with Haru’s.
Haru’s characterization is still lacking for me, he keeps falling flat in that even when problems are brought up with Haru’s character that seriously impact their relationship, he never seems to change or grow in any way. When Ren and Haru get into a fight over a past girlfriend, it seems like Haru’s go-to response is to force (most of the time physically) his way back to some semblance of their past relationship. Instead of giving Haru a chance to examine the issues of his relationship and grow that way, he forces them back together, and Ren, being who he is, always forgives him. Even the moments in past episodes where Ren up and leaves for Canada are pretty much wiped away as Haru doesn’t seem to take anything away from that kind of loss, staying the same character he has been since the beginning. Honestly, if this was an anime just about Ren, Shima, and Aki I would be completely okay with it. The story and growth surrounding building a family seems to be much deeper that anything that has been done with the romance aspect.
That being said, lets look at Haru and Ren’s relationship. I’ve tried staying away from it from the most part because I think it’s been discussed to death, but it does need to be mentioned at least briefly. For one, I absolutely don’t think this is a case of “grooming” where an old man intentionally raises a boy to be his lover when he gets older. I think the use of an age gap of this size can create a misinterpretation to that effect and also lead, if indirectly, to the propagation of the stereotype “all gay men are pedophiles” that has been terrorizing media surrounding gay relationships. I also think that what might make this uncomfortable for some is the way their relationship develops. The series starts with Ren, eight at the time, being taken care of by Haru in an almost fatherly way (bathing, feeding, play, making sure he’s wearing clothes and shoes, and sleeping in the same bed) which then changes into one of romance. However, we are still left with those times were Haru was like a surrogate father to Ren. If the series had started when Ren was 15, there may be more acceptance of their relationship. As of now, their past is coloring their future, creating that feeling of taboo.
I mentioned before that while I don’t agree with some criticisms of their relationship, my main issue is the factor of their maturity levels and how both of them lack some measure of social skills that can be semi-dangerous especially in this case. Ren trusts Haru implicitly and has relied on him to be a moral compass in a world he had been separated from for some time. As such, anything Haru says Ren at least seriously considers if not takes to heart. His measure for romantic relationships begins and ends with Haru. Haru, on the other hand, has social problems of his own. His relationship history consists of one serious love followed by a series of casual relationships. I get the feeling from watching Haru that he honestly has no idea what he’s doing. Combine that with Ren’s unwavering trust and Haru can potentially tell Ren anything and he would believe it. This wouldn’t really be a problem if Haru was aware of his naivete in this area, but he genuinely doesn’t think this way. Even if he’s doing it unintentionally, any advice he gives, Ren is most likely going to accept and integrate it into his social norms.
There was a couple more things I wanted to talk about, but maybe I’ll get a chance in the next two episodes. Stay tuned!
Be sure to hit that follow button or follow me on Facebook for updates!