This season, the BL hit series Sasaki and Miyano warms our hearts with its wholesome story about an underclassman who enjoys reading BL manga and his senpai who seeks to understand him and the genre. Based on the manga series written by Shou Harusono, the anime adaptation was released in January 2022. Anime Trending had the special opportunity to talk to Harusono-sensei about this adorable story.
How did you first come up with the idea for Sasaki and Miyano? What inspired it, if there are any inspirations?
Shou Harusono: Before working on Sasaki and Miyano, I authored a full novel which I published personally online called Hirano and Kagiura. At the time, stories set in schools were popular in the BL novel sphere. (Such as stories where a boy in the student council falls for a new transfer student. The original BL novel community had its own unique way of developing a royal beginning, like the now-popular isekai stories.) Hirano and Kagiura was my take on these thematic standards that inspired me, and became the roots of what is now Sasaki and Miyano. Looking back on it now, though, I notice how my preference for the romance aspects led to a solid 80% of Hirano and Kagiura’s story being composed of interactions between the two. I probably didn’t utilize the full potential of the background setting I was working with.
Sasaki and Miyano both make an appearance in that first story, as friends and underclassmen to the main characters, but the story came to an end without making full use of the two. Once work settled down a bit, I re-read my story and really fell in love with it again. I started thinking about how I might write it again today, which led me to post the very first of what became the Chotto Shita Hanashi. comics on Twitter. It was almost like fanfiction of my own work.
How do you create your characters? Do you draw them first and then come up with their personalities or do you create the personalities first?
I think I tend to come up with the stories before I begin creating characters. There are some characters who I have given more fleshed out backgrounds after designing them, however.
Did Sasaki and Miyano change in characters and story when you first came up with the concept?
The basics of the story all remained the same. I started off wanting to draw the scenes from chapter 31 and the jacket scene from the graduation ceremony in chapter 39, and was quite relieved that I was able to bring the story there in the end. I had always planned for chapter 31 to be followed up by the graduation and for the story to come to a close in chapter 39.
But all the fan mail I received during the serialization did leave me wanting to continue the story of the two after chapter 31 and after the graduation ceremony. The fact that the story has continued and is still being serialized is entirely thanks to all the fans. I truly owe them my thanks.
The overall community has widely praised the relationship between Sasaki and Miyano for its sweet and straightforward trajectory. How did you craft the tension and romanticism between the two characters?
I am of the belief that none of us are perfect and that we learn and grow through our interactions with different people and situations. I also believe we all, and I include myself here, are strange creatures who contradict ourselves, thinking and acting in ways which seem inconsistent even with our very selves. The US TV series ER did an outstanding job of delicately illustrating that, and as a fan myself I often sat fantasizing about the lives and stories of the characters that didn’t get presented in the main story.
Both of these ideas were something I made sure to keep in mind. I thought of the characters as living beings, imagining what would go through their heads in each moment. I envisioned the sort of illogical emotions that would well up inside of them, the sort that can’t be put to words. This process would sometimes drive me to tears as I wrote. But this story is centered on their relationship, so I also worked to omit and abbreviate everything that didn’t directly tie in to this theme. I wanted to leave readers with upbeat and happy impressions when they finished, so I worked to draw out a fun, positive sort of curiosity from them, trying to leave them excited for what lay ahead rather than concerned about what might happen. This was sometimes a cause for difficulty in expanding the story, however…
A good example of what I mean here is in the way Shumei Sasaki felt apprehensive about being overbearing due to his situation at home. Through his relationship with Yoshikazu Miyano, this mentality shifts from a more negative one, seeing it as being pushy or forceful, to understanding that his desires are rooted in an urge to cherish someone he loves. A much more positive attitude.
There’s a particular emphasis towards hands in Sasaki and Miyano. From Sasaki’s first touching of Miyano’s shoulder to his gentle touch of Miyano’s cheek, what was the reasoning behind framing these romantic gestures at the characters’ hands?
One author I truly respect is Shigeru Takao. In one of her previous works, Golden Days, there is a scene at the end in which a character pulls the newly recovered protagonist in close. The way they move their hands, and the way their clothing bunches up as they do left a strong impression on me. In just a few frames they managed to depict feelings of love, yearning, and a desire not to leave in a truly powerful way. From that moment on, I began to put heavy emphasis on motions and gestures.
I didn’t focus only on their hands, however. But even things like how loud of a sound they might make when putting a cup on the table, showing what noise others around the characters make and how accustomed they are to them, as well as what sounds they are okay making themselves, knowing that people don’t tend to make noises they themselves are uncomfortable hearing. And if, for example, someone closes a door more loudly than intended, they might be left upset at themselves for unintentionally signaling to others that they are in a bad mood. The same goes for the sounds of their footsteps, where I focused on how high they might lift each step, or if perhaps they drag their feet instead. Those who walk quietly were perhaps raised in a situation where they lived on the second floor of an apartment building and needed to be conscious of the noise they made in order to not upset their neighbors downstairs. I also thought of whether characters would place their bags on the ground. Were they raised in households with strict cleanliness rules? Were they scolded for doing so? All of these little things draw from the backgrounds of each character, and help to tell their story and explain how and why they think in certain ways.
Trust is built from the actions people take. The things Sasaki treasures about Miyano and what Miyano values in Sasaki in return are not limited to the words they exchange, but also draw on the distance they’ve worked out between one another and the things they’ve seen the other do. I wanted readers to be drawn in by and pay attention to these non-verbal cues. This might be why you notice such a particular emphasis on things like their hands.
Of the two main characters, the manga story tends to switch between their perspectives. Is there a perspective you like writing more than the other? And if so, why?
I enjoy writing from both of their perspectives. I switch based on the perspective I want to write from at a given time. But to be honest, I don’t really have particular skill in this regard, so I’d often start off trying to write a given section from one point of view only for it to not work at all until I switched to writing it from the opposite perspective. I ended up having to stop and think about which side I truly wanted to write from (and which would be easier for me to draw excitement from).
The story features time skips, but the relationship still feels natural without missing pieces despite the skips. How did you ensure these time skips would naturally fit into the narrative of their budding relationship?
I feel as though the readers are more interested in what the characters are up to “now,” so I tried to stay away from diving too long into past events. I was careful to ensure that any past scenes were only put in to add necessary information for the characters “now.”
What is the best part of writing the love story for Sasaki and Miyano?
Having people read my work.
We were informed that you just finished the latest volume of Hirano and Kagiura last month. For international fans, could you talk about the spin-off?
Hirano and Kagiura is a story that follows the character Hirano-senpai, who appears in Sasaki and Miyano. It offers a look at Miyano when he’s away from Sasaki, as well as how Hirano, who supported the two, spends his private time. I think re-reading Sasaki and Miyano after finishing Hirano and Kagiura will leave readers with an entirely new impression.
The story itself is intended to be structured in such a way that you can follow along even if you have not read both works. I hope everyone will pick up and read whichever one they are interested in.
Any final comments to fans who are reading and watching Sasaki and Miyano?
Thanks to everyone’s support, and the help and knowledge of so many people, Sasaki and Miyano has now spread beyond Japan’s borders and is being published worldwide! My younger self never could have imagined that one day my work would be sold around the globe. Thank you all for helping my work be spread to so many people all over!
At the time this interview gets published, some of my content published in Japan might still not have reached the overseas markets, but know that there is much to look forward to that fans in Japan are already excited about! I don’t trust myself, but I do trust my fans, so seeing them enjoy these works leaves me confident that everyone else will as well.
If you do read my works and enjoy them, please tell others about them and write to me or the publisher to let us all know! I’ll be sure to focus on the points that mean the most to you. Thank you all for your continued support of Sasaki and Miyano.
Sasaki and Miyano anime series is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and the manga series is available in English through Yen Press.