Narise Konohara – DMP / June – 2010 – 3 volumes
this is a novel

Uuuugh. This was wretched! I thought the last book, with its child abuse and whatnot, was going to be the hardest thing this series was going to dish out. I liked the first volume well enough, and while I hated reading the second, I thought the third would be more of what I enjoyed.

IT’S NOT. There’s not a whole lot to enjoy in this book.

It starts out promising, much like the second volume. There, I liked the change in perspective so that Fujishima was telling the story. Here, Tohru gets his memories back, but loses the ones he made with Fujishima in the process. This is super-interesting, and was a fun read initially. In its way, I mean. It was still pretty sad and melodramatic. Tohru slowly got his bearings and figured out what happened to six years of his life. He had no recollection of anything after a night of heavy drinking. I was worried, though, because it was obvious from the first two books that the former Tohru was a terrible person. How was this going to fit into the happy love story here?

It doesn’t. Fujishima takes care of this new version of Tohru. While Tohru is an absolute jerk to everyone and everything, it works much the same way the first volume did, just with an angrier Tohru. Fujishima says very little and offers silent and hands-off support while Tohru tries to get his life back together. Tohru hates Fujishima after what happened in his childhood, and while he is rather terrible to him, things begin to settle down after a bit.

Then Tohru finds out that he and Fujishima were lovers. What follows is 150 pages of Tohru beating the shit out of Fujishima and raping him on an apparent daily basis. Fujishima says nothing to this, and silently takes the punishment without trying to avoid Tohru, stand up for himself, or ask why. For months, in the context of the story. It was awful. I think I only finished the book because I kept waiting for Fujishima to finally snap. I wanted to see him get his revenge. I was hoping all that punishment he took from his mother would come to bear in the present, and he just wouldn’t be able to take any more. He doesn’t do anything. Things follow as you would expect in this kind of novel, but I think Tohru only “realizes he loves Fujishima” in the last 10-20 pages of the main story. There are savage beatings all the way up to the end.

Honestly? I can’t figure out which I liked least, this or Don’t Worry Mama. Probably this. Don’t Worry Mama read like an intentional trolling, whereas this was… ugh. Konohara writes a brief epilogue that explains that she wanted to write a story about a couple that couldn’t be happy together. Well, it is that.

There’s a story in the back of the volume that follows Taniguchi and Kurokawa. I believe this was the couple featured in the shorts in the backs of the other novels, too. Their story was lengthy in this volume, and overlapped with Tohru and Fujishima’s story a bit. But that couple wasn’t all that pleasant, either. I do like that Konohara is trying to write something other than happy storybook couples, but I don’t really want to read about people that hate each other this badly.

Uh. Well, I’m still looking forward to Castle Mango next month! I still liked About Love and The Man Who Doesn’t Take Off His Clothes! At least there’s that.

Cold Trilogy 2: Cold Light

February 29, 2012

Narise Konohara – DMP / June – 2010 – 3 volumes
this is a novel

Oh, Narise Konohara. This book. I don’t even know what to say about this. The Cold trilogy started last volume, with Tohru waking up from an accident with amnesia, and the story is told from Tohru’s point of view while he gets himself back on his feet. The history between he and his roommate, Fujishima, is left ambiguous intentionally by Fujishima. This time, the story is told from the cold and remote Fujishima’s point of view, and we find out everything. Now, I thought the change in perspective was interesting, and I was delighted when I started the volume. Fujishima really is a strange and quiet man, and I loved the opportunity to get into his head.

Until his flashback started. I don’t even like admitting I finished this book.

Strike one: Child abuse. Fujishima’s mother physically and emotionally abused him as a child. Borderline sexual abuse also occurs, though his mother never actually touches him sexually. We also find out that Fujishima is the product of an incestuous relationship. Major, major child abuse also happens to Tohru.

Strike two: Tohru is his adopted brother. In the context of the story, this wasn’t really a huge issue though, since they didn’t grow up together and Fujishima was a senior in high school when Tohru came to his house.

Strike three: Fujishima still had sexual fantasies about Tohru when the two moved in together. I’ll leave Tohru’s age to your imagination, though I will say that as adults, their age gap is rather minimal.

This happens all the time! I hate it when I really get into a BL book, and then things like this happen. Usually it’s rape. But as I’ve said before, I like Narise Konohara for her ability to write about reluctant couples getting together without using non-con. And she does! There’s no non-con here!

After the lengthy flashback ends, the story snaps back to the present, with Tohru taking care of Fujishima after his stabbing at the end of the last volume (bonus soap opera points!). Tohru constantly tries to push a relationship on Fujishima, and although it’s obvious Fujishima has feelings for Tohru, Fujishima continues to turn him down. Fujishima is afraid of what will happen when Tohru gets his memories back and he realizes that he grew up hating Fujishima.

Fujishima’s crazy mom appears in both the past and present. She’d be a great character if her insanity didn’t focus mostly on her son. She really is absolutely insane, both then and now. Too crazy, in fact, and I think if she had been dialed down a notch or two, she would have made a great villain.

You know, I’ll probably read the third in the trilogy. Now that the flashback’s over, I know it won’t be nearly as awful as this. The problem is… one of Konohara’s weaknesses is that her couples get a little boring after they hook up, which they kind of are now in the Cold Trilogy. I’m hoping for some more drama about Tohru getting his memory back, but… I mean, it’s not like this series hasn’t surprised me before. Take that as you will.

Cold Trilogy 01: Cold Sleep

February 25, 2012

Narise Konohara – DMP / June – 2006 – 3 volumes
this is a novel

Narise Konohara is a recent obsession of mine. I like the way she can write a very dominant seme without treading into non-con territory. Plus, I’m completely obsessed with June novels. June translated a good number of hers, and has recently been publishing manga that she’s penned (About Love is a must-read, and I’m looking forward to Castle Mango in May). The Cold trilogy is a bit more difficult to obtain right now since secondhand prices are running high, but if there’s a will, there’s a way to find cheap BL books.

I have high hopes for the Cold trilogy though, since amnesia is involved. When has that ever not been the most drama-tastic plot point ever?

Anyway. Our couple this time around is Tohru and Fujishima. Tohru has lost his memory after a car accident, and the cold, distant Fujishima is the one that shows up at the hospital to claim him. Tohru isn’t quite sure what to make of this. Does he really know Fujishima? Does he really have no family, no possessions save for what was in his pockets at the time of his accident? Fujishima isn’t really a font of conversation or information. Living with Fujishima is difficult and rather dull, especially since Fujishima seems to forcing a career in photography on him. Tohru eventually tries filling his days with part-time and full-time jobs, but it’s not long before he attempts to find the truth of his past that Fujishima seems unwilling to share with him.

This book was interesting. While there was tension between Fujishima and Tohru, other than a scene at the end and some drunk kissing, this isn’t really a romance. Fujishima is almost too stoic for this. Tohru worries about the fact nothing really makes this man happy, and he eventually does find a happy medium for their lives. I assume this will begin again next time, because otherwise this wouldn’t be a june manga. But I quite enjoyed the focus, instead, on the fact that Tohru doesn’t have a life or past, and is a little freaked out by this.

Admittedly, Fujishima makes this harder than it has to be for Tohru. Tohru has literally no link to his past life, and despite a craving to know, Fujishima flat-out refuses to tell him anything. Except that he wanted to be a photographer, and would he please start studying photography now. Tohru has a troubled life, and the story does a good job detailing just how lost he feels. And, of course, he does stumble across hints of his past, and of course it’s dark and he was a completely different person.

It’s a bit of an awkward read, but I enjoyed it immensely. It definitely left me wanting more, and I’m happy I finally located a copy of the second volume!