It’s been a long year, but a good one for BL fans. We kicked off with Twittering Birds Never Fly on Valentine’s Day, followed by the bara isekai, Titan’s Bride in the summer. Then we got the sequel to Given, and L’étranger de la Plage this August. Now, the year closes with BL FES!! screening the film adaptation of the popular light novel, Yes, No, or Maybe?!! (known in Japan as Yes, No, Maybe Half).
Starting off, the film was only one hour long, and the first seven minutes was a short animation of Marudase Kintaro from the hentai studio, Seven Animation. Said special was choppy and stiffly animated, at times even recycled, and with inconsistent and wonky faces every second. The plot centered around a high school boy named Makoto who’s relative passed away. In life, he had been the chairmen of a prestigious all-boys academy, without having decided who would take over in his absence after death. In his will, it was promised that whoever can seduce Makoto with their sexual prowess would inherit the position. To protect his virginity, Makoto enlists the help of his childhood friend, Kintaro, whom he has a crush on.
Marudase Kintaro felt like a one-dimensional excuse for a story about a pink-haired twink (Makoto) to be saved by a less-than-average edgy seme archetype (Kintaro) from consistent sexual assault attempts… and then proceeding to sexually engage Makoto, himself. Overall: crude and tasteless.
Moving right along, Yes, No, Maybe Half has its moments, but doesn’t compare to how entertaining and silly the novel is. Being the second finished work from the independent studio, Lesprit, there are bound to be shortcomings and a few flaws. Unfortunately, those shortcomings in this particular case leave the film feeling Yes, No, Maybe Half-baked.
The plot? Kunieda Kei is a TV Prince Charming, captivating all of Japan. While sweet on the surface, unwrap him, and just one lick is enough to see how sour he really is. Fun on the outside, and rotten on the inside. For two years, Kei will get home and quickly change into a lazy-guy disguise to go out at night without carrying the weight of his TV-famed reputation. All of this is threatened when he meets Ushio Tsuzuki.
When Kei ignores a traffic sign, Ushio crashes into him on his bike and breaks his hand. Being a stop-motion animator, having a broken hand slows his work-speed. On a tight schedule, Tsuzuki blackmails Kei (known as Owari in his lazy-guy disguise) to help him finish his work, nightly. To avoid a public scandal, Kei agrees only until Tsuzuki’s hand is healed. Unbeknownst to Kunieda, he has met someone who can handle, tame, and accept both his on and off-camera personalities.
With roughly 50 minutes left for the main story, Yes, No, Maybe Half wasn’t that great of an improvement from its opening short. Although delightfully colorful and pleasant to see in still frames, as a whole work of art, the film is lackluster to anyone who has read the book. Full body shots of characters are dis-proportioned to a point where some frames look like they belong in a 2008 Yaoi-Hands™ compilation. Several scenes and details are cut, such as Kei’s many crude conversations with his parents, or how his apartment is described as a total trash heap, for example. The film, lacking these takes away from Kei’s character, makes him seem less like the disgusting, selfish, hated-fueled person in the book, and more like a typical immature man-child.
With scenes involving characters other than the main couple being rushed through, or cut entirely, the secondary plot at Kei’s news station feels suddenly shoehorned into the story. In the book, it was a slow-burning conflict that flowed nicely with the main story. Kei’s own emotional struggles collided with his fear of losing his job after having new responsibilities thrust upon him made for great suspense. The pressure builds on him until he’s about to break, and he finds himself begging for Tsuzuki to ground his senses until his climactic success and high ratings on the first broadcast, becoming one of the most memorable and funny moments in the book. The film never shows Kei overcome this conflict in the news studio. As a result, the entire secondary plot lacks any suspense, and is rushed through to a point where you ask yourself “why should we care about this?”
By the time Yes, No, Maybe Half reaches its climactic love confession and ending sex scene (complete with Crying Uke™), I was ready for the credits to roll and leave. The second story arc in the novel also wasn’t covered.
There are a few pluses. During Kei’s many internal monologues where he’d maim his coworkers or love interest, Lesprit made clever use of animation to “show instead of tell” us his internal thoughts. While many would have probably dubbed over the scene with an echo of his real thoughts, Lesprit went the extra mile to always have an adorable chibi of Kei pop on screen to shout at everyone. It had a slight resemblance to Emperor Kuzco breaking the fourth wall in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove and was a creative way to keep the same kind of humor that Kei had in the book.
The ending credits were accompanied by a decorative collection of watercolor illustrations of the main couple.
While humorous or aesthetically pleasing, an angry chibi and a few watercolor paintings don’t make for a great film. Even if we focus on only the animated story arc and disregard the untold second half, the book still felt like a fully realized story with fleshed-out characters, suspense, emotion, and passion behind it. The film version felt like almost any generic yaoi OVA you might watch out of boredom or curiosity, wanting to tell its story as fast as possible for the sake of a quick fujoshi bait product. To cut things short, you’re better off experiencing Yes, No, Maybe Half as the book instead of as a film (and at half the price).
Although no formal announcement has been made by BL FES!! or Lesprit, a post-credit scene teased a possible future sequel, set to tell the second story arc of the novel.
Yes, No, Maybe Half has received a limited release in Japan, playing from now until Christmas. With this film out of the way, that marks the end of all BL animated media for 2020. See you next year!