Just Around the Corner

October 9, 2011

Toko Kawai – 801 Media – 2008 – 1 volume

One of the things I really love about BL manga is that, usually, if I enjoy a book, I can look up the author and find another that has been translated into English. In this case, I was fairly impressed with this title, and when I investigated the author, I found that she had quite a bit published in English. One of the books was Cut, which I enjoyed immensely when I read it a year or two ago. Another was Bond(z), which I picked up off my floor immediately after I finished this book. She’s got several more, including Loveholic and In the Walnut, both of which are on their way to me as we speak. I really, really liked her books.

This book opens with a pair of bored, casual lovers. One might call them “friends with benefits.” Kiriya and Yuuya meet one evening while Kiriya is upset over being fired from his job for sleeping with his boss and Yuuya gets news that his career as a pianist is over. They console each other, and become casual sex partners after that. But Kiriya suddenly gets a new job, which at first means that they can’t meet up as often. Turns out the new job is as Yuuya’s substitute homeroom teacher. Not only has Yuuya been lying about his age, Kiriya is now in a position where he absolutely cannot be seen with Yuuya after school.

He definitively breaks it off with Yuuya, and Yuuya assumes he’ll be okay with that. After all, they weren’t lovers, and he did lie about his age. But little by little, jealousy slowly eats Yuuya alive, until he can’t bear to see anyone else talking to Kiriya. He begs Kiriya to take him back again and again, and Kiriya constantly turns him down. There’s the job, the age difference, and the lie.

Normally, I hate older-younger relationships, and teacher-student in particular, but starting the book the way they did erased those boundaries between the characters, and almost made the story about the limits of my own viewpoint. Can I really root for Yuuya when I take such a dim view of the age difference? Or when, yes, it clearly does endanger Kiriya’s job? Yuuya is not 100% likable, but he’s portrayed as devoted, but impatient and mature when it comes to approaching his feelings. He acts his age, and showing just what a difference there really is “in real life” between Yuuya and Kiriya, when no differences existed before is where this manga excels.

Really, Kawai’s strengths are writing great, believable characters. I don’t like either of the characters here as people, but I still think they’re great in the context of the story. She also avoids a lot of the more creepy BL manga behavior. There’s no noncon, no stalking, no force at all. Unusually, Kiriya is the uke, and he’s the one in control of the relationship.

It’s great stuff. Perfect for BL fans with a taste for more mature stories.

2 Responses to “Just Around the Corner”

  1. Battleskull Says:

    Oh yes, Toko Kawai really has a a gift when it comes to characterization! I also enjoy how she manages to find a bittersweet balance between the dramatic moments and the happy ones which makes her manga so life-like, how all of her works creates a palpable feeling of passing time because her characters aren’t eternal cardboard cut-outs of “high-school students” or “salarymen with fail-safe careers” but are ‘real’ people who have to grow up or undergo changes, and how in her storylines, love seemingly must yield to reality but by doing so, love meets reality and then becomes the real thing.
    Loveholic and In the Walnut both have more mature characters and In the Walnut is really low on BL content, and yet, they manage that strange alchemy and have moving insights on love and life and well, cute boys. ;)

  2. And surprisingly good art in the case of In the Walnut, though I wish they would label some of the paintings more clearly. Can’t wait to read your reviews on the other stuff!

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