for Cinetalk.net

Kusano Shogo’s What She Likes… starts like many other teen romances. However, as it advances, it downplays the lovey-dovey bits in favor of a more sober approach.

Jun is a quiet student, and tries to avoid his classmates’ daily gossip and conquest comparisons. What does he know about favorite porn actresses or the cute girls in school? Jun is taken anyway.

By an older man.

By denying his sexuality to everyone but his boyfriend, he feels he’s making life less hard for those around him. He’s self-effacing because he believes distance keeps everyone safe.

Mostly a loner, he seems intrigued by another student who also keeps to herself. Sae is obsessed with BL aka “Boys Love” visual novels – gay romance geared toward female readers. As Sae lets Jun into her world, Jun notices that her precious BL has no basis in reality. From a gay male perspective, the stories are contrived and bear no resemblance to what he experiences with his boyfriend. But of course, he can’t tell Sae his real-life experience because he is utterly and completely in the closet.

He hates that others think he’s “gross”. He himself is repulsed by his gayness. At the same time, he doesn’t want to disappoint his mother, who habitually asks if he has a girlfriend. He wants to have a family and be surrounded by those people when he dies. When one day, Sae confesses she has feelings for Jun, he accepts to date her. Alas, he tries to be heterosexual but just can’t change who he is. His situation becomes rather bittersweet and things suddenly go downhill. 

Kamio Fuju does an impeccable job of making Jun a believable troubled teenager. He manages to make the viewer relate to him even if they don’t know what it’s like to be gay.

What She Likes… is not heavy-handed, but rather aims to teach others that it’s okay to be gay

 

What She Likes… – 10:40 AM JST, November 6th, 2021 (Please note, screening times are in Japan Standard Time)

https://2021.tiff-jp.net/en/