Saturday, May 5, 2018

Zetsuai 1989

So here's the granddaddy of them all, the 1992 BL OVA Zetsuai 1989. While not the first BL anime (the first volume of Ai no Kusabi preceded it by six months), Zetsuai is arguably the most influential in setting the style and tone (angst-ridden, intense, and operatic) of early BL shows.

Zetsuai is a compound word, meaning "desperate love," although the author preferred "everlasting love" as the translation. It tells the story of two teenagers, womanizing superstar singer Nanjou Kouji and soccer prodigy Izumi Takuto. Both come from damaged backgrounds. Nanjou is a running away from a loveless but highly successful family; he was a gang leader before he became a singer. Izumi is hiding from early abuse; his mother killed his father and attacked him as well.

The two meet by coincidence (or fate). After a night of barhopping, Nanjou passes out in the street. Izumi takes him home and nurses him back to health. Nanjou realizes that Izumi is the soccer player he saw and fell in love with six years earlier, although at the time, Nanjou thought the player was a girl. Nanjou becomes obsessed with Izumi and inserts himself into Izumi's life, eventually confessing his love. All this is accompanied by numerous melodramatic incidents, including life-threatening illnesses, near-fatal accidents, and stabbings and self-mutilation. Despite the operatic tone, the fat lady never sings; that had to wait for the sequel, Bronze: Zetsuai since 1989.

Hayami Shou (Nanjou) has had many featured roles, including Iason's friend Raoul in Ai no Kusabi, Hojo in Sanctuary, Pat Leivy in Starship Troopers, and Junoichi in Blazing Transfer Student, all Orphan releases.  He is still active, recently playing Popuko in Pop Team Epic. Koyasu Takehito (Izumi) is reputed to be the most prolific voice actor currently active, with more than 365 roles under his belt. He played Doujima Gin in Shokugeki no Souma, Thirteen in Grimoire of Zero, Dio in Jojo's Bizarre Adventures, the title role in Master of Mosquitron, Fool in Elegant Yokai Apartment Life. He also appeared in Yamato 2520 and Yuukan Club, both Orphan releases. Yamaguchi Kappei (Shibuya, Nanjou's "minder") has played Ranma in the Ranma franchise, Inuyasha in all the Inuyasha properties, Kudou Shinichi in the Conan franchise, Usopp in the One Piece franchise, Sakuma Ryuichi in Gravitation, Arslan in the first OVA series, the title role in Mouse, and many other roles. Nishihara Kumiko (Serika, Izumi's sister) has appeared in Dragon Fist and Blazing Transfer student, both Orphan releases. The score, including the instrumental opening and ending, is by the peerless Kenji Kawai and is very effective. The songs are IMHO not as good; they're very similar to the ones in Cathexis.

Contrary to AniDB, Zetsuai 1989 was never released on DVD. The most commonly available fansub release, by aarinfantasy, was probably done from a laserdisc rip packaged in a DVD ISO format. As a result, it has the wrong aspect ratio (too wide). This makes the characters appear more realistic than they are. The character designs are, in fact, very angular and spindly, which was quite controversial when the show first came out.

The Orphan release is based on a new encode, ripped by Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions from his own Japanese laserdisc. Erik also provided the original Lupin Gang Anime subtitle scripts, which formed the basis for Orphan's script. Yogicat transcribed the aarinfantasy release, and a few lines from that script were interpolated in the LGA script. Sunachan translation-checked the dialog and the songs; these changes were extensive. M74 timed; I edited and typeset; and Calyrica and M74 did QC.

Zetsuai 1989 was intended to be the first release in an ambitious project to redo the early hardsubbed BL shows. Because of various delays, it ended up being released after Cathexis and Ai no Kusabi. Its sequel, Bronze, is fully translated checked and should be done Real Soon™. Meanwhile, you can get Zetsuai 1989 from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on


  1. I'm not planning to watch this one, but I just wanted to use the opportunity to thank you for your work, overall - I was just looking for some old, obscure OVA and losing hope, then I found your neat release!

    1. You're welcome. Me and the rest of the stuff will try our best to bring more obscure shows to the public.