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Unmasking Love: A Review of 'Mask Danshi: This Shouldn't Lead to Love'

As the landscape of the boys' love (BL) genre continues to diversify, fresh takes on familiar tropes are always a welcome sight. Enter 'Mask Danshi: This Shouldn't Lead to Love,' a manga series that puts an interesting spin on the classic 'opposites attract' and 'hidden identity' tropes. This engaging and beautifully drawn series, helmed by Mitsuru Sangō, has captivated BL fans since its serialization in Libre Publishing's Be × Boy P! magazine. And for good reason.

First off, let's talk about the premise. Our protagonist is Sayama, an unassuming high school student who dons a mask to stay off the radar. This clever twist on the shy, underdog trope, literally and metaphorically masks his true self, thereby laying the groundwork for the series' exploration of self-perception and identity.

However, things start to get interesting when Saikawa, the most popular boy in class, takes an interest in Sayama. Saikawa's attraction to Sayama defies the typical BL formula of the popular guy falling for the overlooked underdog out of pity or circumstance. Instead, Saikawa is drawn to Sayama because he's intrigued by what's behind the mask.

Saikawa is not just the popular boy; he's complex, warm, and has a keen sense of understanding that helps Sayama step out of his comfort zone. It's this depth to his character that makes him a fascinating figure in the story and serves as a refreshing deviation from the flat characterization often seen in the genre.

The dynamic between Sayama and Saikawa is filled with tension, chemistry, and an undercurrent of unspoken feelings that keep you hooked. Their relationship develops naturally, moving from curiosity to friendship and slowly blossoming into something more. It's a slow-burn romance that takes its time, allowing readers to appreciate the little moments of intimacy and understanding that accumulate along the way.

The manga also explores themes of self-worth and acceptance, primarily through Sayama's character development. Sayama's journey from hiding behind a mask to embracing his true self is both relatable and moving, making him a compelling protagonist to root for.

Additionally, the series strikes a delicate balance between drama and humor. Sayama and Saikawa's interactions are sprinkled with light-hearted moments that prevent the narrative from becoming too heavy. The secondary characters also add to the humor, providing comic relief at just the right moments.

The art style of 'Mask Danshi: This Shouldn't Lead to Love' is another highlight. Sangō's attention to detail, expressive characters, and skillful use of visual storytelling enhance the emotional depth of the narrative. The panels flow seamlessly, making the manga a joy to read.

And now, the series is about to make the leap from the page to the screen with an upcoming anime special. With a talented voice cast that includes Yusuke Kobayashi (Senku in Dr. STONE) as Sayama and Takuya Eguchi (Loid in SPY x FAMILY) as Saikawa, the anime promises to bring the captivating story of Sayama and Saikawa to life.

The anime's production team, including director Naoko Takeichi and scriptwriter Fumiyo Sakai, has a solid track record, raising expectations for the anime adaptation.

Moreover, the anime's successful adaptation could open the door for more underrepresented stories in the boys' love genre to be told, paving the way for a more inclusive BL landscape.

So, whether you're a seasoned BL fan or a newcomer to the genre, 'Mask Danshi: This Shouldn't Lead to Love' is worth checking out. It's a heartwarming story about acceptance, self-love, and the courage to be oneself, masked behind a boys' love tale that will leave you wanting more.

So here's to Sayama, Saikawa, and the wonderful universe of 'Mask Danshi: This Shouldn't Lead to Love.' Whether in manga or anime form, their story continues to resonate with fans, reminding us all that love can indeed find a way, even when it seems like it shouldn't.


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