Scent of Apple Blossoms 1

April 3, 2012

Toko Kawai – SuBLime – 2012 – 3+ volumes

So, I love Toko Kawai. Pretty much unconditionally. When they announced the titles that SuBLime would be publishing, this was the only one I wanted. I’m hoping hard for a paperback release eventually (which seems unlikely, it looks like print editions are released simultaneously with digital if SuBLime is planning it), but to read this in English in any form makes me happy. Toko Kawai is always worth it.

The story this time focuses on Haruna, a young salaryman/salesman that is sent to win over a brewery whose sake his company would like to carry. The problem is that the owner and master brewer absolutely does not want to sell to them, but the company really wants him to. They send salesmen over every day, and he tells them to get off his lawn and throws things at them. It’s not a pleasant assignment, and Haruna dreads it. But the first time he arrives, he meets the brewer’s grandson Nakagawa, a cold and distant man who Haruna develops a crush on immediately.

But the story develops a little differently than the usual BL pattern. Haruna admits his crush to Nakagawa very early on, and is shot down, but not in a cruel way. Nakagawa is naturally grumpy and silent, and at first Haruna feels awkward going over to the brewery for his job after the confession. But the story is about Haruna slowly growing closer and closer to the master brewer and his granddaughter, and Nakagawa as a result. The two are friends before they are lovers, and Haruna isn’t as hung up and forceful as most characters in a BL book. The two open up to each other gradually, while Haruna learns more and more about the family brewery, and I loved that about this book.

Strangely, the main storyline stops pretty far short of the ending. I have no idea how that will continue (perhaps the thread about Nakagawa’s sister brewing apple-scented sake will be picked up in the next volume), but short stories that focus more on Nakagawa and Haruna fill up the rest of the volume. These are more relationship-focused than the rest of the series, and, strangely, develop their relationship to something more serious without the backdrop of the daily goings-on of the brewery. It sure does feel like a continuation of the plot, so I wasn’t quite sure of the difference myself. I am happy that the rest of the book wasn’t unrelated short stories. Though, admittedly, I love Toko Kawai’s BL shorts, too.

It’s got a light touch, develops the relationship slowly and carefully, Haruna is very charismatic and easy to like, and has something else resembling a plot going on alongside the romance. It’s a wonderful book, and my favorite of all the SuBLime titles I’ve read so far (which is, sadly, all but two of them). I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants a little more than the usual quick BL read.

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