Cold personalities sometimes hide awkward feelings people don’t always know how to channel. Such is the case for the unfriendly behavior Kaneda Yuki (Seto Toshiki) shows towards his co-worker and mentor, Yanase Jun (Naito Shuichiro), in the new Japanese BL Senpai, This Can’t Be Love.
Adapted from the manga of the same name by Harekawa Shinta, Senpai This Can’t Be Love (Senpai, Danjite Koidewa!) is a fun drama with a lot of heart.
It’s no secret that I have a particular fondness for Japanese BLs and the way the writers behind them tell stories. There is a profound aspect to how they present relationships, even when combined with humor that manages to touch the heart. Senpai is no different. Centered around a 3D CG design world, it’s evident from the opening scene that part of what drives this drama is how one man’s design success attracts the love and attention of a man who looks up to him.
It’s as possible to find our dreams in a person and his/her/their success and impact on an industry as in our passion for a particular hobby. Kaneda falls for Yanase’s talent, and it drives him to be the digital artist he wants to become.
Work brings them together, and work sparks the romance waiting to be kindled between them.
The first two episodes set the stage, showcasing the unrequited love and admiration Kaneda has for Yanase, and the interest Yanase develops in his subordinate.
But it’s what they do for each other that really shines.
The way Yanase encourages Kaneda toward a hopeful future while Kaneda motivates Yanase to be the artist he deserves to be is the most beautiful thing about Senpai, This Can’t Be Love. Work is their love language, and it ‘works.’ Pun intended.
There’s something beautiful about two people pushing each other to be better versions of themselves, two people working to achieve the kind of quality they think their industry deserves.
Two people growing together, even if they are at two different levels in their field, is a beautiful way to start a romance. They balance each other. Yanase is the mentor Kaneda needs to guide his way, while Kaneda is the man Yanase needs to remind him why he’s passionate about his job.
Every time they thank and help each other, I get butterflies.
Saying “thank you” or “You worked really hard” or “Don’t you want to focus on quality” seems like such a simple thing. But each phrase is layered with the deep emotions that drive humanity: passion, gratitude, and resolve.
As much as we fool ourselves into believing love is the crucial factor in achieving happiness, the truth is, love only really works when you’re thankful for the partner you have. Love only really works if you appreciate the partner you’re with. Even if you want to strangle them at times. Love comes easily, but maintaining it requires respect.
So far, Senpai, This Can’t Be Love has filled me with the kind of motivation and gratitude that makes me excited for each new episode. But I can’t help but wonder if the workforce that brings them together will also be the one that forces them to compete against each other. Even so, it’s a way to grow stronger.
For a drama that speaks to the romantic dreamer inside of us, check out Senpai, This Can’t Be Love on Viki and Gagaoolala.
Rating- 4.5 out of 5