WARNING: May contain some spoilers as I discuss the context of my points.
Subtle yet in your face, but never overbearing, Umibe Etranger deals with very real issues that most gay men face as they battle against society and self-acceptance.
Shun and Mio is a classic lover affair hindered and struggling not just by society but against family and even one’s self.
But before we go about these issues, let’s talk about what I like about this movie.
Subtlety without ommission
The main draw of this movie is that it doesn’t seek to hide the same sex relationships both between male and female and the conflicts they deal with amidst a heteronormative society.
It tackles these issues head on without guilt, without shame and in a tasteful way.
So firstly, there are multiple issues to unpack here but since this is my first impression, I won’t be able to cover everything here.
Shun vs Self, a struggle with self-acceptance
Although aware that Mio reciprocates his feelings, Shun constantly delays and even at times denies Mio’s gestures of affection. From Mio’s not so subtle way of trying to kiss him to his often vocal declaration of wanting to have sex, Shun still struggles with accepting himself.
Though he already declares Mio to be his boyfriend in front of his ex-fiance, the trauma sustained from a judgmental past still lingers.
This is apparent when memories of his classmates often making fun of homosexual people constantly pop out of Shun’s memories.
And deep down, this is what’s preventing him from truly committing.
Shun vs Family, a struggle of Familial expectations and pleasing one’s parents
The reason why Sakurako went to fetch Shun is real and a very valid reason as to why he should come home. However, what’s stopping Shun is the past ordeal of having his own parents reject him.
His mom was in denial about his sexual orientation and his dad wanted him to marry Sakurako. So even when his family needs him the most, Shun is still conflicted, comforted in the fact that he has Mio to fall back to.
But as Mio said, by doing this, he becomes a mere convenience, which Shun later rectifies by the end when he finally took the initiative.
Shun and Mio vs Society, a struggle with judgmental perspectives
This issue applies both to Shun and Mio. When Shun dragged Mio to a hotel, we can see this happening when a group of girls commented on them holding hands.
This is a very real and powerful moment, even when the movie just glosses over this. It’s a struggle that most gay couples face in the real world.
The stares, the off-hand comments, the internal laughter that society won’t bother to hide is an all too bothersome concept that gay people must contend with even in the real world.
It is often a source of conflict not just between the couple and the society, but creates a discord within the couple themselves.
For example, one partner may choose to hide it when the other craves public displays of affection.
Mio’s struggle against heteronormative supremacy
Now this is glossed over in the Movie, but it is also important to highlight Mio’s growing insecurity, especially when Sakurako shows up.
There are multiple things that drive this point home. Firstly, Shun is still hesitant to show his love openly and even in private.
Secondly, the revelation that Sakurako and Shun have made love before. I don’t know if it was intentional, but Sakurako even mentioned how such a “gentle lover” Shun really is, as if she’s wanting to make Mio jealous.
Lastly, Shun’s enthusiasm in kissing Sakurako upon her request. In this point, I was internally screaming to be honest and was just happy that Mio interrupted, or rather “bit the bullet” so to say.
However, this still have a lasting impact upon Mio wherein heterosexuality always have an edge in the end. This is also a real issue that gay couples have to content with.
What if my lover chooses a woman? Isn’t it easier for him that way? And in a way, this is why Mio would later be relieved when Shun finally took the initiative in asking him to go back.
What Shun’s invitation entails, an acceptance of Mio, of himself and the courage to face his family
When Shun finally invited Mio to come with him to the city, it signifies a huge character growth for Shun. For one who’s constantly on the run from himself and his own family, he finally chose to face his love for Mio and embrace it fully.
What’s more, he declares to Mio just how much willing he is to finally show Mio to his family. This is why Relief washes over our dark-haired protagonist, inviting tears of joy and the dissipation of a huge weight upon his shoulders.
Resolution wrapped up with many loose ends
Although we were faced with these conflicts, it was wrapped nicely enough, but not nearly enough. There’s still a question of what happens when the two reaches the city and meets their family.
I am thankful that Sakurako had no intention of making trouble between Mio and Shun. Instead, she seemed to have respect for them.
She wanted to at first. At least when she wanted to make Mio jealous. But by the end of the movie, she decided to drop it, seeing Mio as a kind and amazing person.
She even loudly chastised Mio asking
“Why aren’t you such an awful person?”
This quote speaks volumes because it tells us how she wants to hate Mio for being the primary reason why Shun can’t be with her.
But she finds that she can’t hate him, and by extension, their relationship.
Umibe no Etranger is soft, subtle, calming movie. But the issues it presented and sought to tackle hits home to so many gay viewers. I like that they included not just gay but a lesbian couple, although this was just glossed over in the movie.
But this is precisely the appeal. It is the beginning of the normalization of LGBT couples in society. It shows great character growth not just with Shun but also with Mio.
It’s hard to be as extensive in a movie that portrays so many values in a short yet succinctly palpable one-hour run time. It has everything you can possibly think of.
It talks of love, of struggles against society, of dealing with self-acceptance, the importance of family, how gay couples feel insecure about straight love options and more.
A must watch for anyone, even if you’re not a BL lover. This is how every BL anime should be. Wholesome, subtle yet direct, succinct and unafraid to deal with real issues that resonates with very real people in a very real world.
How about you? Have you watched the movie yet? Comment below what you think. If not, give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.