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Blank screen, and then—

A video is loaded up. The title reads, “TakaRitsu Interview with Sasaki Yui”, then in all caps, “TakaRitsu are Totally CP???” The thumbnail is a snapshot of Japanese actors Onodera Ritsu and Takano Masamune sitting next to each other in separate armchairs in the interview room, with Onodera smiling at something Takano is saying. There are hearts edited around Onodera’s head and a meme of a cat giving a thumbs-up in the bottom right-hand corner, with the words “I approve” written over its head.

Press play—

It begins with a shot of Sasaki Yui, a veteran reporter for a Japanese magazine that deals with up-and-coming actors. She is wearing a cream-colored blazer over a black blouse with a sensible black skirt. There are some cue cards in her hands.

“Before we begin today…” she starts, clearly speaking to someone off-screen. “I’d like to say: hello, Onodera-sensei. Takano-sensei. It’s nice to meet you.”

The camera cuts to the other side of the interview room, where two young actors—Onodera Ritsu and Takano Masamune—are sitting. Onodera has a polite smile on his face while Takano simply nods.

“It’s very nice to meet you as well, Sasaki-san,” Onodera says with a laugh. “I’ll admit, I didn’t think we’d get the opportunity to speak with you like this.”

“Oh?” Sasaki replies.

“Yes.” Onodera nods, his enthusiasm a tad different from that of his character namesake. “I’ve watched your interviews since before I started acting, and I admire you greatly. I never believed going into the business that I would be sitting in front of you today. It’s a very exciting chance.”

Sasaki laughs, hand hovering over her mouth. “Well then, Onodera-sensei. Thank you very much for your kind words.” She clears her throat and fixes her stack of cue cards on her lap. Her entire demeanor seems to lighten as she changes from regular person to interviewer. “So to begin… Onodera-sensei and Takano-sensei, the two of you have just finished filming the first season for the anime series Sekaiichi Hatsukoi… what is the series about, and what role do you two play in it?”

Takano doesn’t seem inclined to answer, so Onodera jumps in for him.

“Well, Sasaki-san, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi is a series about first loves. My character, Onodera Ritsu, meets Takano-sensei’s character, Takano Masamune, in high school and instantly falls in love with him. The two of them date, but, unfortunately, break up not long afterwards. 10 years pass, and shockingly enough, Onodera Ritsu realizes his new boss at Marukawa Publishing is his first love, Takano Masamune himself!”

Onodera seems to be at home in front of the camera; his voice leaps and drops at appropriate times during his explanation, and the expression on his face is animated, alert. Takano, on the other hand, doesn’t add in anything save for a faint smile in Onodera’s direction.

“What an interesting premise,” Sasaki comments after Onodera has finished speaking. “Is there anything you’d like to add to that, Takano-sensei?”

Takano tilts his head slightly—probably thinking through his words. When he finally speaks, his voice is softer and more hesitant than one would expect, “No, I believe Onodera-sensei explained it all.”

Sasaki nods and moves on to the next cue card. “Onodera-sensei… you mentioned that your character ended up working at Marukawa Publishing underneath Takano-sensei’s character, Takano Masamune… what kind of company is Marukawa Publishing?”

Again, Takano doesn’t appear to want to answer.

Onodera eagerly replies instead. “Marukawa Publishing is actually inspired by Kadokawa Shoten in Chiyoda, Tokyo, a publishing company that, believe it or not, publishes the manga series that Sekaiichi Hatsukoi is based off of.”

“Ah, I see I see!”

“Yes.” Onodera nods, eyes bright. “Though the story focuses on the manga aspect of Marukawa Publishing, there are several other departments that focus on literary fiction, non-fiction, and even cookbooks!”

“Would you work at Marukawa Publishing yourself, if given the chance?” Sasaki teases lightly.

Oddly enough, Onodera does not laugh at this jibe. His smile tightens, and the light in his eyes dims a little. “Ah—no, I don’t think so,” he finally says with a nervous laugh, though Sasaki does not notice.

Takano notices, however, eyes shifting to look at Onodera, but he does not say anything in response.

“Besides,” Onodera continues quickly, smile returning, “acting is the only career path for me. I don’t think I could do anything else.”

Sasaki nods, as if understanding Onodera’s sentiment. “I see, I see. How about you, Takano-sensei? Would you work in publishing instead, if given the chance?”

Takano seems to hesitate, as if debating what to say, but he replies, “If I didn’t have acting, working at a publishing company wouldn’t be too bad.”

“Oh?” Sasaki asks, looking between the two actors.

She doesn’t appear to notice the sudden tension in the room, though anyone with eyes could see that the mood between Onodera and Takano has grown a bit awkward. Or maybe she just chooses not to comment on it. Instead, she moves on to the next question.

“Oh, I love asking this question,” she says after glancing at her cue card. “What was your favorite part of working on set with your co-star?”

A wide, somewhat playful grin appears on Onodera’s face. “My favorite part of working with Takano-sensei?”

Takano turns to Onodera with a vague frown. “I already know what you’re going to say. You said you would never tell anyone else about it.”

“Oh, you’re no fun,” Onodera replies.

“Onodera-sensei…” Takano warns.

“Alright, alright,” Onodera finally relents, though his smile does not waver. “If you’re asking me what my favorite part of working with Takano-sensei was, Sasaki-san—” Sasaki herself looks very amused by this banter, “—playing video games!”

That doesn’t seem to be the answer Sasaki was expecting. She blinks. “Eh? Video games?”

“Yep! Hehe, don’t you know that Takano-sensei here beat me at PUBG every single time we played after filming?” The light in Onodera’s eyes appears to have returned, his voice as upbeat as before. “You wouldn’t know looking at him, but he’s very skilled.”

Takano sinks a little in his chair, but the small smile on his face hints otherwise. “Onodera-sensei,” he says, trying to sound stern. “That’s only because you let me win, I know that.”

“Ah, how cruel,” Onodera retaliates, holding a hand to his chest as if in pain. “To accuse me of such a thing…”

Takano lets out a quiet laugh, which causes Onodera to sit up immediately, looking at his co-star in a way that a fangirl might have said looked ‘as if he had never seen Takano laugh before.’

Sasaki is laughing now as well, clearly delighted by these two actors’ dynamic. “I never knew Takano-sensei was so skilled in these kinds of things… speaking of, Takano-sensei, what would you say your favorite part of working with Onodera-sensei was?”

Unexpectedly, Takano answers right away. “My favorite part…” The look on his face relaxes, as if remembering something good. “Onodera-sensei is very considerate.”

“What do you mean?” Sasaki asks.

“I have health problems,” Takano begins to explain, “but they aren’t so bad that I can’t go through a full day of filming. But there are days where they’re especially bad, and on those days, all I want to do is lie down and do nothing. Onodera-sensei noticed when I was feeling unwell and helped me a lot on those filming days. That’s what I mean by Onodera-sensei being considerate.”

To his right, Onodera is sitting very, very still, staring at Takano with a different expression than the other ones he’s had before now. Nobody knows what he could be thinking, though Sasaki pinpoints some of the viewers’ thoughts with her reply.

“Ah…” she says with a smile. “I see, I see. Onodera-sensei is very kind, then.”

“Yes.”

Sasaki fusses with her cue cards, then moves on with a bright, “Well! Now I know who to go to if I’m feeling unwell.”

Onodera blinks, as if he had forgotten where he was. “O-oh, yes.” He clears his throat, jumping back into his persona with a laugh. “Of course!”

“Mm, I have an activity for the two of you,” Sasaki says.

“Oh, what is it?”

“In the next 60 seconds, I want you to go back and forth with a word you’d use to describe your co-star. It can be any word, though,” Sasaki laughs, “it’d be better if you’d use a good one.”

“Sounds interesting!” Onodera says.

Sasaki turns to Takano, who doesn’t look any more or less bothered by this sudden activity. “Are you ready, Takano-sensei?”

“Yes.”

“Onodera-sensei, will you begin first?”

Onodera makes a playful saluting gesture, then turns to Takano himself. It’s as if a switch has been flipped. Before, Onodera had seemed to be lighthearted, carefree. Now, though, his staring at Takano seemed intense enough to burn a hole through a wall.

“Begin!”

Onodera. “Quiet.”

Takano. “Loud.”

“Careful.”

“Reckless.”

“Strict.”

“Lenient.”

Sasaki looks back and forth between the two of them, realizing that their words don’t match their expressions. Though the words appear harsh and negative, Onodera is struggling not to laugh while a smile threatens to burst on Takano’s face.

“Stiff.”

“Lazy.”

“Awkward.”

“Spontaneous.”

Finally, laughter breaks out of Onodera. “Hey, hey, spontaneous isn’t that bad.”

“It is if it’s coming from you,” Takano quips back.

“Sasaki-san said ‘no insults.’”

“Ah—” Takano sits back a little, as if realizing that they’re, in fact, in a live interview. His smile, which had grown to the point of a grin, wilts slowly until it is very small and very faint again. “I’m very sorry, Sasaki-san. I’d gotten… immersed.”

Fortunately, Sasaki only waves off his apology, trying to keep her own laughter restrained. “It’s quite alright, Takano-sensei. I had only meant this activity to be something quick and fun, but, well… it really was quick and fun, wasn’t it?”

Onodera settles himself as well, though he keeps sending smiles in Takano’s direction. “It was very fun, Sasaki-san, thank you.”

Sasaki taps her cue cards once more. “Well, there’s one more question I’d like to ask you two before we cut to break.” She clears her throat. “There is something that many fans would like to know, and that is… your love lives! We’ve received many questions regarding this topic and only now have we been able to have you two in the studio to answer. In fact, many fans have begun calling you ‘TakaRitsu’, as an homage to your characters in Sekaiichi Hatsukoi. So…” Sasaki leans forward a little. “Do you have any comments about this?”

It is as if the two actors have frozen in place. Though Onodera is still smiling, Takano appears to have shut down completely. Neither of them reply for a long moment.

Finally, Onodera manages, smile strained, “It’s… really interesting to see what fans have come up with nowadays! ‘TakaRitsu’, you said? That’s very creative.”

“Yes, even I was surprised at the amount of questions we received about this,” Sasaki says with a nod. “It appears that two young actors such as yourselves have difficulty avoiding such things, especially with the type of series Sekaiichi Hatsukoi is.”

“…yes, of course,” Onodera says in the same tone as he did before.

“Mm, Takano-sensei, do you have any comments about this?”

Takano blinks and, realizing that he has been asked something, turns to share a look with Onodera. In that moment before Takano answers, there seems to be some sort of understanding that passes between he and Onodera, but whatever that understanding is, nobody could know.

“I think…” Takano begins slowly, “Sekaiichi Hatsukoi can be brought into this type of situation.”

“Oh? How so?”

“In the show, Onodera-sensei’s character, Onodera Ritsu, struggles to figure out what he wants out of life, whether that is to please his parents and An, or to focus more on his relationship with Takano Masamune. In the end, he tells his mother and An that his engagement with An cannot happen, and he nulls it. I think those kinds of circumstances are important in learning what sort of life you want to lead and how you can fight for your own happiness.” Takano’s expression doesn’t change as he speaks, but next to him, Onodera seems to become more and more alarmed, eyes wide and face pale.

“That’s why I…” Takano continues as he shifts so he is half out of his chair towards Onodera’s, “we—”

“Ah, Takano-sensei!” Onodera interrupts, hands flailing.

The next few moments happen in a blink. Takano is leaning towards Onodera. Sasaki’s eyes are widening. Onodera essentially leaps out of his chair in Takano’s direction. Takano’s eyes are widening as well.

And then, just as absolute chaos happens on national television—wherein Onodera Ritsu and Takano Masamune were probably-but-definitely going to accidentally-but-maybe-not kiss in front of thousands of people—the interview cuts off, and the screen goes dark.

The video ends.

Views: 10 million

 

Top comments:

They’re a couple. +8.6k -1.2k

Aaaah, did you see the way they were looking at each other? They’re so cute! +3.3k -250

Onodera-sensei was definitely going to beat him up at the end there. +200 -2.7k

How could they be a couple? Isn’t Takano-sensei dating that model? +450 -1k

Holy shit, they were about to kiss. +2.4k -3k