Candy Boy: Nonchalant Talk of the Certain Twin Sisters in Daily Life
Twin sisters Kanade and Yukino Sakurai are second-year students who're originally from rural Hokkaido, currently attending a girls' high school in Tokyo. The two have a very, very close relationship and are pondering what to do after they finish school; Kanade, an artist, is trying to pursue her dream but the two aren't sure how they'll support that, while the amount of work they have often keeps them from spending as much time together as they'd like (as does Sakuya, another girl from their school who wants Kanade all to herself).
I don't really like using the phrase "guilty pleasure" anymore. For one thing, it implies that there are shows you should or shouldn't like, and I try not to tell people that, most of the time. Also, it was a phrase that I overused back when I was trying a bit too hard to take a "sophisticated" approach to anime, and I'd use it to describe anything I liked but was embarrassed to like because it was somehow "trashy," whatever that actually meant. But honestly, it keeps coming to mind when I think about Candy Boy (clumsily titled Candy Boy: Nonchalant Talk of the Certain Twin Sisters in Daily Life officially...let's abbreviate from now on). This is a show that I actually really, really like overall, and I wouldn't call it "trash": it's a cute show about a cute lesbian couple, and if you know me at all, I don't even have to tell you that this is almost always a huge draw for me. Plus, while it's not as realistic as Whispered Words or Sweet Blue Flowers, where the characters are constantly dealing with people's assumptions that they should (or will eventually turn out to be) straight, it also has a (mostly) pretty mature couple who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves and how to navigate the transition from high school to adulthood, and I really liked that aspect of the show. But there's one thing that makes me hesitate about all of this, and it's a bit hard to ignore: that cute lesbian couple happens to be a pair of biological twin sisters. The strange thing is that the show (perhaps fitting one of the words in this title) is weirdly nonchalant about this fact, maybe because there isn't much in the show that's actually sexually explicit, but no matter which way you spin it, they definitely act like a couple. It's something I had a hard time with when I first reviewed this show, and even now, my take is: I really like Candy Boy, but for the first time in a while, I do feel a bit guilty about enjoying something so much.
For the record, I did review this show about six years ago, and I think a combination of me not being honest about certain aspects of my personal life, having a very poor-quality stream, and watching this show way too quickly (in time for some sort of "pop-up review" challenge some of us were doing) meant that I didn't have the time and space to appreciate it. But when I rewatched it earlier this year, I was surprised by how much I actually liked it, this time. The two girls actually make a very cute couple, even if they do bicker a fair bit (if you've ever read any of the webcomic Magan and Danai, it's a lot of the same type of good-natured quibbling). Kanade, who's the younger twin but definitely is way more mature, is an artist hoping to go to art school after she finishes high school and dealing with the heavy time commitments her track brings, and she's burned out by the stress of trying to spend enough time with Yukino while balancing her work, along with some guilt over the amount of part-time work that Yukino's taking on for their sake. Yukino, for her part, is a bit of an airhead and goofball who loves trying to push Kanade's buttons; for one thing, she maintains a blog where she likes to talk about cute but slightly too private aspects of their life together a little too much. And the two of them do bicker a lot, but it's always in the sense of Kanade saying "damn it Yukino, you're making me blush!" and mostly, it just made me smile.
There's a lot of cute scenes of the two just being affectionate, and of them adjusting to their life together; I definitely would suggest watching the first special episode, because it shows Kanade especially shifting from fretting about the tiny size of their room and not knowing their way around the city to having a nice walking-together slowly type of date and calming down, and in the main series they start to appreciate having a cozy space to live together (there's two bunk beds in their room, but guess how many of them actually get used?)....they're very much an "attached at the hip when possible" couple. I'd say that this show falls into Class S territory in that these two get to be far more affectionate than you'd almost ever expect most straight couples to get just from spending so much time together without raising any eyebrows, but Candy Boy doesn't have some "tragic" ending or some understanding that they'll be expected to date men, later in life. If anything, we see them doing a lot of what lesbians do in Japan, where most LGBT people still tend to be pretty quiet about it: they're affectionate in public, they go on cute lady dates to get pastries together when they have the time (and lament how much work they have), but they don't actually kiss unless they're by themselves. They might be each others' besties, but they don't cross the line from "bestie" to "more than bestie" unless nobody's watching.
And all things considered, I'd say they do have a pretty mature relationship; yeah, there's some bickering and fooling around, but one of the big points of the show is that Kanade and Yukino are trying to balance work and life, and learning to communicate about that. Kanade spends a lot of time dealing with her guilt complex over Yukino taking on more part-time work to support them, and the possibility of her having to work even more if she doesn't get into art school and has to retake her exams. The two of them do, actually, get much better at making compromises as far as that goes, which is admirable; Yukino might absolutely push herself for Kanade's sake, but Kanade's mature enough to know that she isn't entitled to that and that neither of them can just do what she wants and expect the other to follow, which is something that so, so, so many couples struggle with, and something that plenty of anime romances just brush aside. Given that a lot of same-sex relationships aren't taken seriously enough to be seen as something that's even going to survive past high school, I actually really appreciated this.
Aside from the main pair, it's a very tiny cast of characters, which isn't that surprising given that this is a web release; the low budget becomes a lot more obvious when you realize how many still shots there are in this show, and while the character design and background art are well done, the animation really is pretty limited (but I can live with that). Aside from some background characters, all girls (as happens in a lot of yuri, the two go to an all-girls school), there's Sakuya, a rich first-year student with a way too obsessive crush on Kanade, and their younger sister Shizuku. Sakuya was a huge reason that I didn't warm to this show that much, the first time I watched it; in the pilot episode, she tries to date Yukino as a means of getting closer to Kanade, which completely backfires, and afterwards she follows the two around, totally oblivious of the fact that they're trying to enjoy their time together. There's even an episode where the books an extra plane ticket to follow Kanade home; of course, she gets her comeuppance when she realizes that they live out in the middle of nowhere in Hokkaido, with a train station that doesn't even get any bus service. A lot of her behavior crosses a line, and even just as far as tone goes, she ends up in a lot of slapstick situations that don't always fit into the rest of the show; she's clearly meant to be comic relief of some sort. At the very least, she's too much of an idiot to actually accomplish any of her ridiculous plans; in one episode, she tries to reserve a whole floor of a building that her (very wealthy) parents have built for her and Kanade at the start of the new school year, without realizing that Kanade and Yukino filed the paperwork to live together months and months before she even thought of this crazy idea. Shizuku, meanwhile, is far closer to Yukino than Kanade and, if anything, is like a jealous, clingy little sister who doesn't want her previous "onii-chan" taken away by some girl, except of course that it's her big sister and not big brother, here. I warmed to Shizuku a lot more, this time around; she's pouty, but her deadpan delivery made me giggle, and I do understand why she feels jealous and left out, since the general feeling of "being too young to have any fun" is always difficult. Near the end of the show, she's actually the one who gives Kanade the advice she needs, in a moment where she almost forgives her for stealing Yukino from her; she'd actually broken down, earlier, watching them be so close, because it ruined her desire to tear them apart.
But......it's time to come to the elephant in the room, the reason why this show didn't get a very nice review the last time around. There's really no way to ignore the fact that Candy Boy, as lovely as it is in so many ways, is literally about two biological sisters in love; they at least kiss and hold hands, and I'd bet that's not where the physicalness of their relationship stops. If there's something that I still don't completely understand, it's what the show was actually trying to accomplish by doing this; Candy Boy isn't a hentai, and if it really was just written this was to explore a fetish, there's plenty of actual hentai out there for that...plus, that doesn't really fit with the tone of the rest of the show. At the same time, nobody really comments on their being this close; sure, they do tend to keep the "explicitly dating" part under wraps, but Sakuya and Shizuku obviously know and seem to be jealous more than they're actually put off by their being sisters (and Shizuku dating Yukino wouldn't be any different, obviously). Perhaps Candy Boy is trying to make a "Class S" point about girls growing up being affectionate in the same way that high school girls do, but then, you'd expect this to not treat their relationship as explicit, or to have them go their separate ways. If anything, you could mess around with the subtitles enough and frame this show as being about two close childhood friends being in love, and it would still mostly make sense, when put together with the visuals: it's not implausible that one of them would stay over at the other's house a lot, or that they could have spent a lot of time growing up. When I think about this show now, I'm almost more baffled than offended when I think about the premise.
Candy Boy isn't going to be for everybody, but even with whatever the "sisters" aspect is meant to be, this is still a really good yuri show; the only other aspect that remotely gets on my nerves is Sakuya, and it's possible to watch the show and ignore her behavior, though that sometimes can be difficult. I'd definitely suggest getting your hands on a version that has all of the episodes, for some more context, and if you can look past one (large) aspect of the premise, the whole thing is actually pretty sweet.
A cute and surprisingly mature yuri series...if one that has a premise that's slightly too weird in one way. If you aren't interested in yuri, then this probably won't be your thing; also, Sakuya's behavior could easily lead to you knocking a star off, depending on how much you notice it. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: There's some slapstick violence, mostly against Sakuya (which is largely played for laughs). The main thing, of course, is that the main couple is a pair of (biological) twin sisters.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source (Japanese with Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (10/10)
Candy Boy: Nonchalant Talk of the Certain Twin Sisters in Daily Life © 2007 Takafumi Hoshikawa / AIC
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