You might ask why I am starting the gargantuan task of analyzing the characters in every chapter of the Junjou Romantica manga by Shungiku Nakamura. (I’ll also be writing an analysis of every episode of the Junjou Romantica anime series in separate articles).
After all, it’s a manga series with a first volume published in 2003 in Japanese, and in English in late 2006 so, if there’s a party, I am so late to it half the people attending are probably already dead.
But, it’s simple really.
After over four years of reading hundreds of manga, I finally binge-read every current volume of Junjou Romantica last week, after binge-watching every episode of the three-season anime. Twice.
And all I can say is no manga I have read or anime I have watched have ever hit me like this.
Like a punch in the heart from a cast of complex characters, all of whom became people I cried for, belly laughed with, poked fun at and loved beyond any others.
Because such is the writing ability of Shungiku Nakamura ((中村 春菊).
A mangaka who is able to create fully formed, utterly believable characters in just a few strokes of the pen — both written and drawn — and whose ability to make you love them despite their sometimes annoying or even dreadful flaws is incomparable.
Junjou Romantica Act 1 character analysis — Usagi-San — (Manga — Volume 1)
You know that feeling you get when you come across characters whose every emotion steals your breath, sets your pulse racing and your heart suddenly breaking. Breaking as if they were real people sitting in front of you spilling their souls.
That’s how I felt when I watched the Junjou Romantica anime — and came across two people who I am now so in love with, it’s hard to believe they are just drawings on a page.
Those two are Usagi-San and Misaki — the main characters in the Junjou Romantica anime and, of course, in Shungiku Nakamura’s manga series of the same name.
A manga series I sought out the instant the last scene of the anime ended, as I greedily looked for a way to not miss them as much as I immediately did.
And, of course, Shungiku Nakamura’s Junjou Romantica manga is just as beautiful as the anime. Even more so really, as Usagi-San and Misaki originally exploded from the tip of her pen and onto the page.
Two people who broke my heart and took my breath more times than I can count. People who seem so real, they surely must be in Tokyo as I write this. Living their lives.
Two people who Shungiku Nakamura must have thought about for months before she drew that first line, to be able to create people like that.
That’s why in this Junjou Romantica Act 1 character analysis of Usagi-San, and in all future character analysis I write, I am treating the people I write about as if they are real.
Because to me, and to millions of Junjou Romantica fans, they are.
Junjou Romantica Act 1 character analysis — Usagi-San
Out of the two main characters in Junjou Romantica Act 1, while both stand out, Usagi-San (aka Akihiko Usami) is the one who first stole my heart.
After all, while he comes off as rude, grumpy and incredibly aggressive as he grabs Misaki, throws him onto the bed and does unspeakable things to him, it is all as a cover for being hurt at what Misaki screamed at him.
“Stay away from my brother. Any man will do, right?”
Something that hits him right in the heart as he is still in love with Misaki’s brother Takahiro, but knows he doesn’t stand a chance.
So, no, in fact, any man won’t do. But how can he explain that to Misaki? A boy he has known for all of 10 minutes. A boy whose closeness to his brother he doesn’t understand, as Usagi-San never felt that with his own.
With a sexual attack, of course. As that’s what people who struggle to show their feelings will sometimes do. Strike out angrily first. Deal with their emotions later.
The problem for Usagi-San, however, is he isn’t a mean guy. In fact, he is sweet and kind and considerate, as we soon find out when Misaki tells him the reason he wants to go to a certain university.
His brother was accepted there, but couldn’t go because their parents died, and Takahiro suddenly had the responsibility of taking care of then-8-year-old Misaki.
Being willing to do anything for Takahiro, because he loves him, Usagi-San agrees to help Misaki improve his grades so he will be accepted to university and make Takahiro happy.
In the weeks that follow, however, the 18-year-old boy and the 28-year-old man become closer. Even bonding to some extent over Usagi-San’s love for Misaki’s brother, and its obvious No Chance outcome.
But it is towards the end of Junjou Romantica Act 1 we see Usagi-San’s real personality, emotions and feelings emerge when Takahiro introduces his future wife to Usagi-San and Misaki, and he feels the loss like a dagger to the heart.
Again though, feelings he cannot reach or even deal with. Not while standing in front of people and only feeling numb.
Until, that is, Misaki is suddenly crying for him, and the boy’s raw emotions begin to burrow their way under Usagi-San’s armor and into his heart.
Even with that, though, his first thought isn’t to hug Misaki.
Instead, it is to forcefully push him against a wall, kiss him, then step forward thrusting his leg between Misaki’s legs to pin him there even harder.
A twisted instinct as, while a hug might have caused Usagi-San to break down in tears himself, an aggressive kiss allows him to maintain control.
Even if he loses that control a couple of minutes later when he finally allows himself to hug Misaki, and begin to cry.
You see, Usagi-San’s emotions and feelings are locked up inside armor he put on when he was just a child.
Emotions and feelings he cannot show to anyone as, if he did, that would reveal his vulnerabilities and that is something he cannot do.
Not when there is no-one he can trust.
But, in what must have come as an enormous shock to Usagi-San, an 18-year-old boy who is empathetic towards others’ feelings even when he doesn’t understand his own, is able to gain his trust in mere moments.
Proving as closed off to others as Usagi-San has allowed himself to be, all it took was that one person who understood, and all those barriers began to give way.
“As if I’d let anyone but you see me like this…”.
As Junjou Romantica continues in future chapters, however, while Usagi-San may seem wide open with his “I love you’s” and “Stay by my side’s”, there is still a lot of himself he keeps hidden.
Even in front of the person he loves.
Old habits die hard, you know, and a lifetime of sadness cannot be erased in a single day.
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