Good Morning, Good Evening, Good Afternoon! Josh here! You know, I’ve been an anime fan for a little over 20 years now, and over the course of those 20+ years, I’ve watched shows or movies where I’ve said to myself, “I really don’t think I’m the target demographic for this one.” When I heard the premise of The Stranger by the Shore, I originally thought, “Meh, this just looks like one for specific fans of this genre. Probably not for me.” But this past Sunday, I saw Twitter go crazy over this movie, heaping prodigious praise for this rather short film, so I figured “Meh, why not? I need to watch something to wash the tastes of Girlfriend, Girlfriend out of my mouth” and checked it out.
Three viewings later, and I can honestly say that I was, in fact, exactly in the target audience for this one. Why? Because it’s about love. And after watching the farce of Girlfriend, Girlfriend, I kinda needed to be reminded what pure, genuine love looks like, and how this particular kind of love has many challenges both internal and external.
So what makes this movie so good? Let’s get into it. I’m Josh, the Cajun Samurai, and this is my review of The Stranger by the Shore...and interestingly enough, this is my very first review of an LGBTQ+ anime!
Okay guys, time to be a bit serious here. I know, it’s weird coming from me, but don’t worry, it won’t last long. I am duty-bound to let you guys know that this movie is rated “TV-14” on Funimation’s website, and honestly, were I in charge of the rating scale, I would probably rate it a little more mature as it does feature talk about sex and features characters engaging in intimacy. While nothing is seen, much is implied. If you decide to watch this film, but are put off by this sort of thing, it starts at 47:00, and ends at 49:30 if you’re streaming on Funimation’s website. Okay, end of disclaimer. Let’s get into it.
The Stranger By The Shore is based off a manga series by Kanna Kii. It begins with Shun, a writer living in Hokkaido with his aunt after running away from home. Why would he run away? Simple. Shun is gay and would not enter into an arranged marriage with his childhood friend. His parents were naturally upset over this revelation (How dare you not marry the bride we picked out for you?! And how dare you have other preferences for who you love?!) and so Shun hot-footed out of there to his aunt’s house to work on his book.
One night, Shun sees a young man making like Otis Redding and sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away. Shun’s aunt explains that the boy, named Mio, is now an orphan after having recently lost his mother (his father died earlier). Shun decides that he wants to try and befriend the boy, but Mio is having none of it, misinterpreting Shun’s advances as pity over the loss of his mother. However, this misunderstanding is quickly cleared up and Mio apologizes, saying that he was actually glad and didn’t mind if Shun was trying to flirt with him. After a day of unsuccessful fishing and a delightful dinner of curry, Mio reveals that he’s being sent to an orphanage on the mainland of Japan, and would only be able to communicate with Shun by phone once he arrives. Shun is pretty down about this.
Time passes and Shun’s cousin is moving out to live with her girlfriend, leaving an open spot at the house. Who could possibly fill it? Why, it’s Mio of course. Our boy is now 20 years old and is able to make his own decisions in life, including but not limited to love. Mio is fully ready to start up a relationship with Shun, not caring what society thinks, but Shun, having been on the receiving end of rumors and teasing about his sexuality, tries to get Mio to think twice about his decision, not wanting him to be ostracized as he was. This results in a couple awkward moments where Mio really wants to take their “relationship” to the next level, but Shun dragging his feet, just barely able to say “I love you” to Mio.
Oh, and if that weren’t enough, later on, Shun’s former fiancé, Sakuraku, comes to the village with some news: His father is gravely ill and wants to see his son before he punches his ticket on the Midnight Train to Georgia. Naturally, Shun is not too excited to see the parents who shunned him, nor is he excited to see the woman who he was once engaged to (albeit through an arrangement). Mio meanwhile is showing some signs of jealousy and a little insecurity at this new arrival. Is this new girl going to take Shun away from him? Will Shun actually go back to the girl that he left at the alter?
Find out next time on DragonBall Z!
So yeah guys, I really and truly like this one. As I mentioned, I’ve watched it three times so far since it came out. The first time I watched it on my own just to see what all the commotion was about. Then I watched it a second time to take screencaps and offer up Twitter commentary as I typically do, and the third time…well…it was because the movie is just that freaking good.
It’s awesome just viewing a romance play out over time and watching two people deal with their respective issues to find one another. That’s part of what drew me to shows like Toradora, Kare Kano, Yuri on Ice, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku, and Horimiya. Watching a romance from the very beginning and see it work itself through to its inevitable conclusion is beautiful, and that’s what you get with this one.
I also love the fact that this just isn’t a typical high school romance story. Yes, I know how ironic that sounds after the last sentence where I praised a bunch of high school based shows, but still… sometimes you just want a story with two mature adults instead of two crazy kids who are probably operating more on hormones than true love…even though there are times when Mio, young lad that he is, REALLY wants to make his relationship with Shun more physical, bless his heart.
Another thing that I really loved about this story are the differences in how Shun and Mio see the world with regard to their sexuality. While Shun sees their relationship through a somewhat wary lens, and doesn’t want Mio to be hurt like he was, Mio is much more of a free spirit, not allowing anyone or anything deny him from what he really wants. Part of me feels like the differences between these two are because of the times they grew up in. Shun is older than Mio, and no doubt grew up in a time where being LGBTQ+ was something to be scorned, mocked and bullied for. Mio, being a more modern and in some ways a more mature young man, understands what he’s in for and yet has no problem with it because he knows he loves Shun and in his mind, that’s all that matters.
One other thing that I find refreshing with this movie is that it doesn’t have any complex or mystical story lines. While I enjoy movies like Weathering With You and Your Name, sometimes those movies can just be too complex for their own good, adding mystical elements to a story that can at times clouds the waters. In fact, there are two moments where the characters seemingly pass out at different times during the movie after highly stressful situations, and I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, here comes the magical mystical stuff…these two are the reincarnation of some long lost, Feudal Era star crossed lovers that are bound by fate by the red string of something-or-other and they have to find the mystical key of the twilight or something…” But to my great surprise, these dorks were just TIRED. No magical journey, no mission they have to accomplish, just…tired. That is surprising. The Stranger by the Shore pretty much makes the characters the standout elements. These guys don’t have mystical powers, there’s no legend they have to figure out in order to save the world, there’s no time travel or dimension portals… it’s just a love story like any other.
Speaking of things that aren’t a big deal… I feel the need to address the elephant in the room. Yes, the intimate scene between Shun and Mio. Honestly… it’s a non-issues, as it should be. It’s two characters that are of age sharing an intimate moment with each other and they just so happen to be two males. It happens in loads of different anime and it’s not a big deal. Honestly, I found the way the moment was executed to be very realistic, gentle and tastefully done. If you avoid BL anime entirely, (and no judgement whatsoever–it’s not for everyone; watch whatever makes you happy) I suggest you check out our recent articles examining yuri and yaoi anime and see if those give you some food for thought, and maybe make you more likely to try out The Stranger by the Shore. Yup, I’m a true southern gentlemen–offering up Food for Thought. You always offer food to your company, thought or otherwise. Now go and get your grub on.
If I could find any faults with this movie, it’s probably that it’s too short and doesn’t give the characters enough developmental time. There’s just so much more I wanted to know about these adorable dorks: What was Shun’s life before the arranged marriage? How did he end up becoming a writer? What was Mio’s father like? How was Mio’s time in the orphanage? At just under an hour including credits, it feels like this movie could’ve explored so much more and expanded this beautiful world it created. This movie does a great job giving us endearing and lovable characters, but not enough time to fall even deeper in love with them.
Also, as a somewhat unrelated complaint, Funimation, please do the streaming anime community a favor. Please, please, PLEASE fix your video player! It’s just a mess! Sometimes the volume bar would be stuck on the screen long after I adjusted it, thereby ruining any screen captures I wanted to get. Also, please add closed captioning to the English dub video. It’s really a drag that the hearing impaired can’t enjoy the writing in the dub like everyone else, and it also sucks when bloggers like myself don’t have the text at the bottom of screen captures for context of a particular scene. You are partially owned by Sony Pictures… you can do better than this! But, I digress…
Speaking of Funimation, this movie was dubbed and released by Funimation Entertainment with director David Wald in the director’s chair. Honestly this was quite a shock to me as I would’ve expected Sentai Filmworks to put out a title like this, as they have never been shy to license and dub anime with LGBTQ+ themes. Yes, Funimation has put out a few here and there, the most famous being Yuri on Ice, but in my eyes, Sentai has always been THAT company to go to for movies and anime series like this. In fact, Hi Dive, Sentai’s streaming service, has an entire section devoted exclusively to LGBTQ+ anime and movies. Funimation? Not so much. But I digress.
Director Wald does an amazing job with this production, getting outstanding performances out of Josh Grelle (Shun) and Justin Briner (Mio). These two are just AMAZING in their roles, and captured these characters perfectly. Just try not to think about that when watching the English dub of Dr. Stone, as these two guys also play the bodyguard brothers Kinro and Ginro respectively. Speaking of Dr. Stone, listen closely and you’ll hear Senku Ishigami (Aaron Dismuke) as one of Shun’s classmates in a flashback.
So where does that leave us? Simple. This movie ranks a prodigious 9/10 for me. A must see. The Stranger by the Shore features a story that’s simple yet beautiful, adorably awkward and engaging characters, and acting that is just top notch in the English dub. The only thing that you may find a problem with is that there isn’t more of it. By the time the ending credits roll, you’ll want more of this one. Trust me.
Yes, I know that the story of two guys starting a romantic relationship might not be in everyone’s wheelhouse and the intimate moments might be something that gives you pause, but honestly, wherever you fall in the sexual identity debate or however you feel about it on a religious level, I can’t stress enough that you owe it to yourself to give this movie a chance. Because, at the end of the day, The Stranger by the Shore has much to say about love and acceptance, things we ALL know a thing or two about and long for—gay, straight or otherwise.
The Stranger by the Shore can be streamed through Funimation.