In the Walnut 1

November 24, 2011

Toko Kawai – June – 2010 – 2+ volumes

After reading Bonds and Just Around the Corner by Toko Kawai, I became completely obsessed and ordered all her books. Happily, they all are available in English, save one that appears to be forthcoming from suBLime next year. I’ve since read all of them save Our Everlasting, but I haven’t gotten around to discussing them yet. In the Walnut was my favorite of this second wave, so I’m going to cover it first.

This is a BL story that takes place in an art gallery. It’s a BL story with an established couple, and it’s told in an episodic format where the main plot points deal a lot with art history. It’s also fairly well-written.

I LOVE IT.

The couple goes together well. One of them is a messy, shaggy, unshaven, and very lazy gallery owner who seems to need coerced through life by his cheery partner, who works in video production. Tanizaki is the gallery owner, and Nakai is the video production worker. Both seem to be openly scornful about the interests of the other, with Nakai openly bored with visits to the art museums and Tanizaki showing no interest in helping Nakai make his videos. It’s not really a romance, and a lot of the interaction between the two involves Nakai brow-beating Tanizaki to take baths and change his clothes and things.

But the meat of the story is about the goings-on in the gallery Tanizaki owns, In the Walnut. Sometimes his business dealings are shady, and Tanizaki is one of the best art verification specialists in Japan, and often uses this knowledge about legitimate paintings to do very good forgeries. But Tanizaki is a good guy, so his forgeries usually help people or punish the bad guys. For example, one of the stories is about a small boy who is trying to obtain an original Paul Klee sketch for his sister, who is on the brink of losing her eyesight and is a big Klee fan. The little boy asks Tanizaki for help, and offers to buy one for $60, and Tanizaki has to explain to him that Klee’s sketches are in museums and aren’t for sale. Later, Tanizaki asks the boy to pray to God for one of the Klee angel sketches, and while the boy is praying, Tanizaki draws a very good forgery. It is ADORABLE.

Conversely, in a two-part story, we learn a little bit about the history of the gallery, and about how Tanizaki conducts business. He’s bullied into paying big bucks for a painting he knows is a forgery, and has to think of a way out of the situation without disgracing the name of his gallery. Naturally, the solution is highly illegal, complicated, and just about the sweetest revenge you can think of.

Tanizaki is the main character, but Nakai is there by his side for all the stories. And yeah, it’s not really a romance, but the requisite “how did Tanizaki and Naki meet and fall in love” chapters are crammed into the back of the volume. And you know what? They’re short, and Kawai clearly didn’t enjoy writing them as much as she did the main stories, but they’re still really, really good.

And ahh, the art history. I love it. I’ll talk more about that in the next volume, though. I did like that there was a full list of all the featured artwork, including stuff glimpsed in the splash pages, on the publication information page in the front of the volume.

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