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’Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation’ review: A sweet and heartfelt epilogue

By September 28, 2023No Comments4 min read
Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation

Based on the manga series by Shō Harusono, the first season of Sasaki and Miyano was a beautifully adept adaptation that captured first love in all its tentative glory through soft lighting and even softer musical cues. Now, in the follow-up OVA Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation, the series aims for closure as we bear witness to the further blossoming of the duo’s romance. 

The main series followed Sasaki (Yusuke Shirai) and Miyano (Soma Saito,) having met when the former saved the letters classmate from a group of bullies. Following that random encounter, the two grow close, developing a friendship, one that’s strengthened by Miyano confessing to Sasaki that he’s a “fudanshi,” a boy who likes boys’ love (BL) manga. Already insecure about his appearance and slim and diminutive stature, he’s put off by others who refer to him as cute; fearing his features are too feminine. His relationship with his interests and his own self-consciousness change due to Sasaki’s earnest and eager interest, as Miyano begins lending Sasaki issues of BL and Sasaki’s crush on Miyano grows. 

The OVA picks up after this crush becomes a proper coupling, showing their growth with sweet and introspective callbacks to Miyano’s original hang-ups. He’s no longer insecure about his interests and he admits that while he used to hate being seen as cute, that’s changed since dating Sasaki. The two may be figuring out how to navigate their relationship, both in how they share the news with those closest to them and how they see themselves within the confines of their partnership — who is expected to do what and whether those binary expectations are right for them — but they never question their mutual affection. 

Made up of vignettes, the OVA only suffers because of how clearly there was another season’s worth of material here that Studio Deen could have delivered. At only an hour long, we breeze through certain landmark moments. From Miyano coming out to his mom and being lovingly accepted for it, to their first Valentine’s Day as a couple, to Sasaki’s past friction with his sister and its resolution, there are so many moments that deserve more time. Written by Yoshiko Nakamura and directed by Shinji Ishihira, the OVA still manages to give these moments the necessary level of tonal significance, it’s just a shame that clearly we could’ve spent more time with these characters in a way that would only enrich their love story. 

The animation remains stunning. The character designs put a great deal of tactile love into the details. For instance, a scene where Miyano visits a sick Sasaki, and the movement of their hair as they duck from embarrassment or Sasaki flops over from fatigue. While the animation resorts to chibi-style figures when looking to lean into the comedy, it’s not a default choice. Beyond the character designs though the animation soars in moments of scenery and landscapes, in particular an early scene where Miyano stands waiting for the train, and snow envelops the world. Capturing the calm of the moment and the feeling of being suspended from the time that early morning snow can create, it’s a gorgeous indicator of the delicacy the animators weave into the rest of the story. 

From the way light is reflected, to the comic book-style flash panels when characters are struck with a realization, to the animation style in the final moments where the past is interwoven with the present, the style is fluid yet consistent. Emotion is visualized with shapes of lights that float and hover around characters as a way to exude an overwhelming sensation of warmth and love as if the shapes that arrive around them are unbridled, a manifestation of the feelings Miyano and Sasaki can’t keep to themselves. These emotions bubble over, aided by the gorgeous score by Kana Shibue that flutters and trills with a sense of overwhelming romance. 

Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation remains an empathetic, compassionate story about two boys who fell in love. Their story will continue, Miyano promises at the end, something that Graduation leaves no room for doubt in. Both characters are so well-rounded, their flaws and eccentricities as integral to their growth as their strengths, and the way in which the series and now OVA have captured their progress separately and now, together, impresses with the limited time given. These two characters get to have their love story, and the production details allow us to simply bask in it. 

Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation is available on Crunchyroll September 28

Featured Image courtesy of Crunchyroll and Studio Deen

  • ’Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation’ - 8.5/10
Allyson Johnson

Based in New England, Allyson is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of InBetweenDrafts. Former Editor-in-Chief at TheYoungFolks, she is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Her writing has also appeared at CambridgeDay, ThePlaylist, Pajiba, VagueVisages, RogerEbert, TheBostonGlobe, Inverse, Bustle, her Substack, and every scrap of paper within her reach.

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