As a romantic comedy manga each series faces a lot of tough calls in terms of who will get paired with whom. Often times the romantic rival is cooler than the main heroine or main hero depending on who the lead is but you sort of can’t deviate from the main path. Then for the one who loses out you have to have a rebound ready and that’s usually where things get tricky. Well you don’t “have to” and in face you shouldn’t have a rebound ready but most series do and this one goes for one of the worst possible final ships possible. It is right there on the level of God of High School and it’s hard to see which one is worse. They’re neck and neck…I guess the other one is probably a little worse but it’s tough either way. It does hurt this title’s momentum.
The series revolves around a character named Ranmaru. He’s rather timid and doesn’t really like to be around people. Ranmaru is very detail oriented though and that helps him a lot when it comes to noticing things that most people would usually miss. He ends up joining the special effects art club led by Ryuji though. Ryuji is a fairly bold character who is the outgoing type and while you’d think that he may not get along with Ranmaru as they’re so different, it really works out. This is sort of a safe space for Ranmaru to really get used to being with people and becoming more confident in himself.
Timid main characters like this usually aren’t my thing so I wouldn’t say that Ranmaru ever ends up being one of my favorite characters. His romance is mostly tragic as he likes Ruka but is too shy to actually speak up about it. So for the most part he just ends up being good friends with her and can only watch as she gets farther and farther away. It’s an emotional plot for sure but one where you feel like if he just spoke up a bit then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Instead he’s digging a bigger and bigger hole for himself that will be difficult to get out of.
It’s only in the final volume or two really where he starts to truly get out of his shell so this is a series where the side characters really have to take control but I wouldn’t say that they really do. This isn’t the strongest cast all around. The main standout character here would probably be Ryuji. He’s the tough character a series like this needs to push everyone along. He does really well in that role to be sure. Ryuji also has his own tough backstory to get through and he’s really just putting up a tough front.
It adds some good depth to his character as he isn’t actually past everything and just does his best to move forward. He isn’t someone who is trapped by the past and makes no excuses for himself. Still, he just keeps on moving forward no matter what happens. By far he was the best character here. The main heroine Ruka is also good. She’s great at arts and crafts. Ruka likes Ryuji but is unsure of how to let him know about this when they have such a good friendship and then she has a lot of pressure from her family which makes it difficult for her to hang out with the crew a lot. That’s probably the toughest situation to get past since the others mostly just have to fight their inner selves to move on but she has actual people to deal with.
I feel like the series doesn’t spend as much time on this as you would expect but it still makes for an intense storyline. Ruka is also the main focus of a lot of the series in other ways with how she is connected to Ranmaru and Ryuji so you will have no shortage of screen time for her. If anything Maasa is the one who loses out here as she really wants a boyfriend but is mostly reduced to that one character trait. Well, I suppose she really loves slasher films which tends to scare the guys off.
As you go through the series you absently think she will probably be paired with one of the other guys but that’s about it. You never figure that she will be an integral focus in the series and well that is exactly what happened. Maasa seems like a fun character but doesn’t get much to do. Then you have Izumi who is really talented and tends to stick out for his good looks but he doesn’t really know about his past. This is probably the most serious plot in some ways. It ends up being connected to Ranmaru’s cousin Soh as she wants to be there to help him recover and lead into a romance subplot.
I give the series a lot of credit for how this plot goes. Izumi is flattered of course but he still treats Soh as more of a kid and doesn’t take the whole thing too seriously. He basically just tries to help her get past her infatuation and keep it moving. She is a bit younger than him so it would be hard for that to work out but additionally he just doesn’t see her in that way. Additionally the memory issues have also affected his ability to actually have real emotions so that was another thing to consider. He got some good points for that and also for generally being a nice guy even when he is being absolutely crushed by not even knowing who he truly is. That’s something that’s hard to simply deal with.
Finally you have Tomu but he never really got to do much. He’s always around as one of the main members and we know that he used to be a bit of a delinquent before falling in with the right crowd but that’s about it. He doesn’t get any big plots or shocking reveals so it feels like he’s just along for the ride. Maybe it’s good to have a character like that but I feel like you could cut him out and nothing would change. If that can ever be said about a character then usually it means that he should have been scrapped.
Finally you have Soh who deals with a lot of confidence issues like Ranmaru. She has carefully crafted a public image of being the really cool girl though in a way to avoid attracting attention to herself. That may sound contradictory but it actually does work really well. Put it this way, if you seem popular and are always surrounded by a few friends, strangers won’t approach you and you can just head home without worry. If you stick out for being anti social or quiet then people are probably going to walk up to you. Either to bully you if they’re mean or to try and talk to you if you seem lonely.
I thought Soh’s strategy was really good and she was actually being proactive in handling her weakness which is something that boosted her past Ranmaru. I just didn’t see Ranmaru putting in the same level of effort. Not saying he had to match her but this is why she was ahead for me. It also makes for a fun dynamic between them at home where they can be more open with each other but you still see how they are awkward at talking in general. At least having someone you can talk to is always a huge relief and that helps both of them keep going.
I would say where the series succeeds is that the angle of being a special effects group is really unique. It’s cool to see them help with the designs for different movies and shows and you get a lot of fun facts for setting up different practical effects. You may not be able to put most of them to use because you’d need specialized equipment to start with but it is shown quite plainly so you can try this at home if you do get the materials. It’s a fresh take as you would usually be focusing on the movie stars.
Additionally the series may be laidback but it makes for an easy read. Even if the characters may not stand out, you’ll be entertained all the way through which is important. I had a good time with the title. It feels a bit short by the time it ends and I didn’t think every plot got to be wrapped up (Like the ex delinquent not really doing anything) but as a result it also doesn’t drag out.
Now for the series issues, the ending really hurts it quite a bit. There will be spoilers for this paragraph and the next one so don’t read on if you haven’t read the series yet. As this is a romance series the final pairing is quite important after all so you don’t want to know about this before the right time is here right? Okay so here goes. Ranmaru ends up with Soh. Now to go into more detail on this, Ranmaru moved in with his cousin Soh and her folks as the series begins but he wasn’t always around there. Japan also treats that dynamic a little differently but either way it is the worst possible ship you could go with. I don’t care if they’re 5 times removed, it’s still a bad look. Even in series where they aren’t related but lived together for a while as a pseudo family like in Attack on Titan I tend to vent on that because it’s not a good relationship.
If you’re family or treated as family then that’s a no go. Do not pass start, don’t collect your reward. It’s just a non starter right from the jump and it felt like the series needed some rebound for Ranmaru since he was doomed with the main heroine due to how timid he was the whole time. This wasn’t the answer though and it was such a bizarre ending. A bad ending is one that you remember forever and so unfortunately this is now the legacy of the series. I don’t see how it can really come back from this and of course it hurt with the score for me as well. Definitely one of the weaker endings I’ve read in a bit. It’s no Attack on Titan of course but definitely a weak ending either way.
The art here is okay but not great. I remember having a hard time keeping character straight at some points and anytime I can mix up any characters (Unless there’s a narrative reason for that) I always take it out on the art. It can also get a little cluttered during some of the set pieces and design moments. It’s not bad but the art is below the average of what you tend to see from the Shojo titles for me. Maybe if the series went on longer that would have helped the artist clear things up but as it stands I wasn’t impressed.
We get a lot of good inspirational quotes and moments in the series as Ryuji tries to help Ranmaru stand strong. Part of Ranmaru’s character arc is about getting braver on his own as opposed to waiting for someone else to help him. I thought this was sound, you won’t always have someone out there to back you up. That being said, you absolutely can and should seek out advice and use any available resources to get past your fears but the final decision will be on you. Ryuji may be a tough character but he never held back on the advice and his tough love approach worked really well with Ranmaru. He would also let the kid have a break when he needed it and gave him space during the tough times.
In a way what this series lacked was more humor. I mean there are jokes and such as this is a fairly light hearted series but for the most part I would rarely find it funny. I liked the faces that Soh and Ranmaru would make when they were being timid as the author gave them really great facial expressions but that was it. Those visual humor moments were really the extent of what the series would throw at you. You had the really strict member of the movie club who had his dynamic with Ryuji and such but those scenes wouldn’t typically land as being quite as funny. As a result this series goes through the motions and is reasonable about it but I find that being funny can help a series and its replay value immensely. Every time you laugh or crack a smile is when the series has just risen up even if just a little more for you. It’s no surprise that all of the best romance titles are the ones that are part comedy like Nisekoi and Kaguya Sama. It just makes sense because when you laugh with the characters it is another way of truly connecting with them and so you naturally get more invested in the journey.
Overall, Behind the Scenes!! lives up to its name as sticking behind the scenes with the crew for the most part. This worked really well and it is part of what made the series solid in that area. It’s really just the romance that holds the series back but since that’s a major part of the series it is not something that’s easy to ignore. A sub par ending just doesn’t help matters at all and this has no real replay value. Without a lot of humor to stick up for the series or some grand climax, it will be lost in the wave of Shojo titles and can be safely skipped. I’d be interested to see another series try to tackle this angle. It’s probably not one that most should try for as it is more limited in how many fun situations you can craft around it but at the same time for a non action title, what really matters are the characters and interactions. You can make any backdrop work with good enough writing.