While I have been a big consumer of boys’ love titles in high school I have rarely watched anything from the genre in the recent years. The reason is simple: the older I got the clearer I could see how terrible some of the reoccurring tropes are in the genre and the titles could rarely meet my expectations.
That is until I met Cherry Mahou and it completely blew me away with it’s characters and writing.
When I first read about the Cherry Mahou manga, I was dubious that I would like it. After all, the premise of the story is an adult who gains the ability to read other people’s minds on his 30th birthday for no other reason that he is still a virgin. Adachi never dated anyone because he was too afraid that he wouldn’t be liked back. He has his work and lives a quiet but somewhat lonely life.
Immediately, I could see in my head all the scenarios on how the usual bl tropes would take advantage of Adachi being a virgin; the story and the characters trying to “fix” him, like being a virgin is anything to be ashamed of. We’ve seen Galavant and how they turned Richard’s possible-highly-hinted-at demisexuality into yet more virgin jokes.
Surprisingly though, most of the feedback on the Cherry Mahou manga was positive and talked about wholesome characters and storytelling. Then by an accident I found the live-action adaptation on Crunchyroll. If I wasn’t such an advocate for stories that feature asexual coded characters I probably would have left this alone.. but I figured I would take a look at it for myself.. and well, everyone, watching this show was the best decision of my life.
I went in with zero expectations, trying to steel myself for when all the terrible tropes start to pop-up, and even the main character was worried about a coworker jumping him, which made me worry even more.. but they never do.
Adachi finds his new ability to read anyone’s mind he touches really annoying, commuting has become a nightmare and even an elevator ride can be super stressful. After an accident at the feared elevator, our Adachi learns that his super good looking coworker has a crush.. on him. Adachi has trouble believing this, Kurosawa is his perfect opposite in every way: social, handsome with a blinding smile, kind, well liked by all the women in the office, trusted by their coworkers and bosses.
After a late night shift Kurosawa offers Adachi to stay over at his place. Adachi is worried that Kurosawa might try something with the two of them alone so he keeps his guard up.. they go have their separate baths and since Adachi is afraid of further socialization, he pretends to go to sleep. That is when Kurosawa walks up to him and Adachi fears for dear life, except, well, nothing happens.
Because dearest Kurosawa is literally the best love interest anyone could dream of, and he just came to get his phone from next to Adachi. It is a small bonus that he also got to peak at Adachi’s sleeping face, but the fact remains, that he never tries to take advantage that night. Or literally any other time after that. Because, believe me, the story offers him plenty of scenarios where any lesser love interest would claim they cannot control themselves anymore due to lovesickess and would force themselves on Adachi.. but Kurosawa passes all of these tests with flying colors and these scenarios are played off for jokes instead.
Instead, with Adachi being able to read his mind, Kurosawa’s selflessness and considerate nature turns out to be one of the major reasons why Adachi starts to think it might be nice to date him or at least get to know him better. And we learn that the reason Kurosawa likes Adachi is not for some superficial reason either: while Adachi thought no one really noticed him at work, Kurosawa could see him all along and knows how much of a hard worker Adachi is and likes Adachi for who he is.
For the first few episodes I couldn’t believe it.. but the fact remains that while Kurosawa actually wants to have a romantic relationship with Adachi, he stops himself every time from overstepping Adachi’s boundaries. This is something that we desperately need to see more of in romances. I cannot remember the last story where you could see such a selfless love interest who supports and cheers on the main character while also paying close attention to how the main character is feeling and reacting to his closeness. No, this is not something he should be given a medal for, and it should be the base requirement for any mature relationship yet.. can you name the last series that actually did this? Any boys love stories?
And it is such a game changer for all the boys love (but also all the romance) series out there that Cherry Mahou does not work with a one-sided romance. This story is not about a couple where one party is constantly vying for the other’s attention and pushes them until the other gets tired of being pursued all the time and gives in..
Sure, it is Kurosawa who initiates a lot of their contact at the beginning, but every time Adachi visibly feels uncomfortable he takes a step back. And the relationship between them only progresses when Adachi is actually ready to take a step forward as well and voices this to Kurosawa. In fact, Kurosawa would have been happy to be friends and angst about his one sided feelings. The only reason this changes is because Adachi learns about his feelings and actively seeks Kurosawa out and tries to get to know him better.
Adachi struggles a lot with peoples expectations towards him and he is super scared of a relationship of any kind, but once he starts to like Kurosawa he goes out of his way (and his comfort zone) to talk to him or ask him to go out for dinner. And seeing how much Adachi struggles with feelings of self-worth and the fear of disappointing people, it makes all these gestures from him even more meaningful.
Later on when they get to know each other better, Adachi even takes the initiative to make sure Kurosawa has fun when they are together and that he knows he can depend on him. Something that would have seemed impossible for Adachi from episode one to do so.
The series does a wonderful job showing how the two of them being together allows them open up and improve themselves for the better. And not only do we see them date, we also see why these two like each other and how they fall for each other more and more. There is also quite a bit of flirting happening later on ensuing in the cutest workplace rom-com scenes I have ever seen.
And this is not rocket science really, it is just how a healthy relationship should work: both people working on it together because they like each other. Yet I see this dynamic so rarely in media especially among manga/anime inspired titles and that is what makes this show so special. I cannot remember the last time I could watch a tv show squealing and rooting for a couple without having to ignore some deeply disturbing tropes in order to enjoy it.
And I love the fact that Adachi, while occasionally uses his mindreading ability, it is never to trick someone or use it for his own gain. Instead it acts as sort of an aid-for-social-interactions to him, and at the end of the series it is discussed in detail what would happen if he lost this ability in the end. And I loved that while a romantic relationship is in the focus, it is not the only thing the story is about. Adachi also makes some friends, learns to be a better friend and even spends time thinking about his career.
You can just really tell how careful the writing is for all the character interactions and the way the focal themes of the story are being handled. We see people who jokingly mock Adachi for being a virgin, yet the narrative is always very clear that they are the rude ones. We see characters who identify as gay (they actually used the word and I was really surprised!) and the narrative is very clear that anyone who would think less of them because of their preference is in the wrong.
We have important conversations with coworkers and Kurosawa, and everyone who matters tells Adachi there is nothing wrong with him being who he is. That whether he has any kind of relationship or when or with who is absolutely up to him.
After Kurosawa learns that Adachi has never dated anyone before, he could have been thrown off or surprised but the only thing he says is that whoever gets to date Adachi for the first time will be the luckiest person in the world. Can he get any sweeter?
And I couldn’t believe it for a while that Kurosawa was for real such a sweet guy, there is always that other shoe dropping in stories.. but literally the most selfish thing Kurosawa does in the entire show is when he insists on taking over cooking duty from a coworker because he wants to be the one Adachi praises for the food.
I loved that we got to see Adachi’s side on how hard it is for him to open up to people, how scared he is that people won’t like him.. or that he won’t be able to get along with others if he looses his telepathic ability. And the show handles it in such an incredibly wholesome way, it teaches us that what is most important in any kind of relationship is mutual respect and communication. It was great to see someone dealing with social anxiety in such a real way, without being dissed for it. Sometimes Adachi gets scared and runs away, which is something absolutely relatable for someone who has anxiety. But every time he is given enough space and time to process things and when he is ready and brave enough to take a step forward he is rewarded with Kurosawa’s smile.
The story is also incredibly well paced and the last episode loops with the first episode perfectly (serving some Futurama realness) and I just love to see how much care and love went into creating this series.
If the show had any issues, and that is a very small spot on an otherwise perfect run is that the side couple and their relationship seemed a bit less.. polished. It was still enjoyable but it felt like they were the more chaotic, comedic duo to Adachi and Kurosawa’s mature foil.
There are also some really funny scenes as well, and some slightly depressing but relatable thoughts from Adachi. I will never forget the time when a high tension scene was broken by the elevator door closing in on Adachi. Pure genius. I also loved the little details put in the show, like Kurosawa carrying a big binder that is in rainbow colors. For anyone wondering he is probably bi, in the manga he mentions that he dated women before falling for Adachi.
Also, did I forget to mention that one of the returning tropes in the series is the boys just, literally running to each other?For no real reason? It is so funny and so extra yet something really sweet that whenever they have a revelation about their feelings and they need to talk to each other immediately they just.. start running like crazy.
And there is literally a five minute scene with Kurosawa just wrapping a scarf around Adachi’s neck.. for no other reason that he cares for Adachi and likes the excuse to be close to him.. that is the gayest shit I have ever seen.
And I have to praise the actors for the show as well. Kurosawa’s Keita Machida just has the sweetest smile and it is so easy to like him as Kurosawa. He really suits the popular handsome guy role and I love the little characteristics that come with the role, his smirks and the winks and whatever it is that he does with his eyebrows. Eiji Akaso is great at portraying Adachi’s adorkableness, while he is lacking experience in dating and sometimes appears younger than his age once he gets serious about something you see that Adachi is not a person to babied.
And something that is thanks to these amazing actors and the writing is how believable it is to see Adachi and Kurosawa go from awkward coworkers to two people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. At the beginning Adachi is jumpy and keeps a bigger distance from Kurosawa but as they grow closer he visibly relaxes around him and just cannot stop smiling whenever they are together.
The manga the series is based on is currently being translated to English and I wholeheartedly recommend it as well. It might be a little less polished on the conversations than the tv show but it has the same principles in focus and the same wholesome feel to it. The tv show also seems to follow the main plot rather closely so far and you can tell where things are headed if you watched the show (I only read until volume 3). I cannot wait to grab volume 3 & all the rest in English. The original series is still running with volume 7, I think, dropping soon.
The story also has two extra episodes – and very confusingly these are listed at the beginning on the episode list at Crunchyroll. It is best to leave these for the end, since they would be a bit spoilery otherwise. They were super sweet and really funny – Kurosawa using the work phone had me laughing for weeks.
Tldr; Cherry Mahou nominated for best boys love romance series ever. Please do yourself a favor and watch it on Crunchyroll (you can register for a free account and watch it online).