As a huge yaoi fan, I make it my mission to read and watch any and every yaoi work I can get my hands on. I sure as hell don’t end up liking all of them, but I still give them a fair shot. Along the way, I naturally come across a good chunk of yaoi that amazes me and quickly become a part of my all-time-favorites list. This just so happens to be the case for SuBLime’s The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera.
I was already a massive fan of the series due to its anime adaptation, Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, so naturally I was ecstatic when SuBLime announced the series license back in June. It’s not completely fair to already love a manga series based solely on its anime adaptation because the two could be completely different. Thankfully, the manga was just as good (and even better) than the anime series--and it’s just the first volume.
The World’s Greatest First Love tells the story of Ritsu Onodera, a jinxed editor who quits his job at his father’s publishing company in order to stand on his own two feet. This leads to him transferring to Marukawa Publishing, where he’s assigned to the shojo-manga editorial department that’s run by Masamune Takano. Not used to working on shojo-manga, a type of manga garnered towards females, Ritsu struggles to keep up with his eccentric co-workers and his immediate chemistry with his boss Takano. The attraction is instantaneous and Ritsu has a hard time figuring out why his strict boss flusters him so much. After a heated kiss in the break-room, Ritsu learns that Takano is his first love from high-school who “laughed” at his confession of love, thus kicking off the main plot point of the series. After a series of misunderstandings are cleared, Takano vows that he’ll make Ritsu fall for him once more, leading to a hilariously flustered Ritsu who promises himself that sure as hell won’t happen again. By this point, however, it’s painfully clear that Ritsu had never fallen out of love with Takano in the first place.
The manga intertwines humor and drama in the perfect places and focuses on Ritsu and Takano’s daily interactions with one another at work. The two, coincidentally, also end up being neighbors, much to Ritsu’s vexation and Takano’s delight. It’s at their workplace where we’re introduced to a key player in Takano and Ritsu’s love story: Takafumi Yokozawa. Ritsu continues denying his feelings for Takano only to get jealous and sad when Takano and Yokozawa interact. It becomes clear that Yokozawa sees Takano as more than a friend and co-worker. His hostility towards Ritsu also becomes apparent and confusing; Yokozawa despises Ritsu for breaking Takano’s heart back in high-school. This flabbergasts Ritsu, who believes he was the one whose heart was broken by Takano. Oi Vey, all these misunderstandings spin my head right round!
Takano continues making his romantic intentions clear towards Ritsu while Ritsu spends the entire manga overthinking things and overtly denying his own feelings. As much as Ritsu denies himself, he can’t help the way his heart races around Takano. Whether it’s Takano supporting him or simply touching him, Ritsu finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean that’s called Takano’s love.
Towards the end of the first volume, we’re shown a flashback (through Ritsu’s dream) that details Ritsu and Takano’s high-school love story. Ritsu falls in love with Takano at first sight and kinda stalks him until they finally speak at the library where Ritsu embarrassingly confesses his feelings for him. Takano causally asks Ritsu out thus leading to their sweet and awkward hang-out at Takano’s house (which also leads to some…sexy time between the two). Ritsu’s love and devotion to Takano is so painfully clear you can’t help but wonder what went wrong. All the manga tells you is that, Takano “laughed” at Ritsu after he asked Takano if he loved him. It’s guaranteed that the manga will disclose the full story sooner or later.
I absolutely love The World’s Greatest First Love. I found myself laughing and getting sad while reading the manga just the same as I did while watching the anime. Ritsu’s inner turmoil frustrated me at times, but it also made complete sense. His monologues and inner feelings made him more of a relatable character and helped the reader understand why he’s acting the way he is. On the other hand, Ritsu’s constant denial of Takano and his feelings made me feel sorry for Takano, who’s trying his best to break down Ritsu’s walls. I’m pretty biased (because of the anime), but one of my favorite characters is definitely Takano. His humor and personality is so blunt and occasionally sarcastic that you can’t help but love him. He’s made all the more endearing by his romantic attempts. Takano frequently comes across as forcible (like a typical yaoi seme), but it’s the sweet and calming moments in between that make me fall for him just the same as Ritsu. The humor present in the story helps balance out the romance and sets up a more “realistic” atmosphere. Takano and Ritsu are not your typical lovey-dovey pair; they argue and are super sassy with one another, which makes you root for them to be together all the more. Even Yokozawa is a pleasant aura in the manga, to me, because he’s a factor that’s pushing Ritsu to realize his feeling for Takano.
The World’s Greatest First Love’s primary focus is Takano and Ritsu, but it’s not their only focus. Just like Junjou Romantica (another popular yaoi manga by Shungiku Nakamura), there are two other couples we have yet to be introduced to. I’m looking forward to their eventual introduction and can’t wait to pick up volume two!
If you’re a fan of yaoi or don’t mind boys-love mangas, check out The World’s Greatest First Love. It’s sweet, humorous, dramatic, and all-around entertaining. The first volume is available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, RightStuf, and The Book Depository. I give it a full 10 out of 10 stars and highly, highly recommend it (obviously)! Thank you SuBLime for adding this amazing manga to your line of stellar series!
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