May 17, 2009
Curses! WordPress ate this post, which was originally somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 words. Usually this would cause me to put off a rewrite for weeks, but this book was so good I needed to post about it tonight.
See, it’s books like this that make me love Deux so much. They have a huge ratio of books featuring older men and unusually touching stories. This one’s by Yugi Yamada, an author who apparently has several excellent titles available in English through June. I’m looking forward to checking more of her work out. This particular volume was a launch title for Deux, and the minimalist cover caught my eye some time ago, but I didn’t have an opportunity to pick it up until recently.
I actually wound up falling absolutely in love with the second story in this book, Wildman Blues. It occupies the second half of the book, and is told in two parts, first as a flashback from the point of view of Ayu, and the second part is the present storyline as told from Naoki’s point of view.
The story starts by explaining that Ayu and Naoki grew up together as next-door neighbors and childhood friends. Naoki was three years older than Ayu, and picked on him mercilessly while simultaneously helping him feel better about some of his insecurities. Ayu in turn was always very worried about Naoki, who gets beat up at school and tended to keep to himself and hold everything in. Worse yet, Naoki was often by himself since he only lived with his mother, who is mostly away on business. The flashback comes to a head when Ayu tries to defend Naoki from being abused by a much older boy. When Ayu goes in afterwards to see if Naoki is okay, Naoki tells Ayu that he’s gay, and the two of them… have an encounter. They don’t speak much after that, and eventually Naoki moves away.
Ten years later, the two of them meet up again and their friendship picks up basically right where it left off, with each offering advice to the other about relationships and just the finer points of life in general. The two slowly come together, and the subtleties in their interactions until it finally happens is really wonderful. After they get together, the story goes on a bit longer to indulge the reader in tying up the loose ends about both of them telling their parents about their relationship. This story had absolutely everything: a well-planned and executed story, excellent character development, happy and sad moments, a character who was actually gay, and even the best morning after panel I have ever seen in a manga ever. Bonus points for both Ayu and Naoki having a sense of humor to level off some of the drama, which never really got overbearing.
I liked the first story, Spring Fever, but I liked it much less after I read Wildman Blues. It’s about a relationship-crazy guy named Yusuke falling in love with a former next-door neighbor who recently moved back to the neighborhood. The catch is that the neighbor, Mr. Takami, is recovering from the recent death of his ex-wife and just got custody of his four-year-old son. Being straight never provides much of an obstacle in these types of stories, and there are some rather silly things set up in the name of melodrama towards the end, but Yusuke kept me entertained all the way through. He’s a pretty funny guy, and his way of dealing with both people he likes and people he hates is amusing, and everyone seems willing to deliver his weirdness right back to him. Bonus points for taking advantage of the gossipy nature of a close-knit neighborhood like this. A sense of community is quite rare.
Anyway. This book is an absolute must-buy for Wildman Blues alone. It’s rare to see a well-told BL story like this.