August 29, 2009

Toko Kawai – June – 2009 – 1 volume

This had been recommended to me, so I was looking forward to reading it, even with the heavy subject matter the title promised.

Now… there were lots and lots and lots of taboo things in this book.  One of them I’m not going to be able to bring myself to state overtly.  To me, worse than the cutting (which I was expecting) was the relationship the main character was in prior to finding his partner.  Now, it was one of those “not really related, not really incest” relationships that manga uses from time to time, except this one was… er, not the usual brother or cousin, if you understand what I’m trying to get at.  I found myself deeply, deeply troubled by this, and even more troubled by the fact that the relationship is an extremely abusive one.

So there.  There is cutting in the story, and not without cause.  The cutting doesn’t actually come into play until much later.  After we realize what is going on with the main character and his relationship, he starts happening across a classmate more and more frequently.  Except it’s not in the usual places.  These places were inevitably the park at 2 am, or the school roof when he was cutting class.  Nobody at school seemed to really know this boy either, so obviously he’s not all about interacting with people.  We find out that this boy was also a victim of abuse, which is obvious right away, but he doesn’t really discuss it until later in the book.

This was a massive, massive downer for about 3/4 of the story.  It was quite literally one of the most depressing one-shots I’ve ever read.  And yet, it’s hard to fault it for that.  It tells this horrible story in the most tasteful way it can be told (which is admittedly not tasteful at all when it comes to the main character’s early affair), and when the two boys find each other, the typical yaoi plot devices don’t come into play… you know, where they figure they are soul mates and start having wild sex that motivates them to fix everything wrong with their lives.  I appreciated this, and it helped me to take the subject matter much more seriously.

The interaction between the boys is actually limited to just meeting and sitting in silence, more often than not.  The partner character doesn’t like or appreciate small talk, and the main character learns early on not to drive him away with advances.  The main character is addicted to abuse mixed with his affection, so he does try to force himself on the partner a couple times, but it’s nothing like how other yaoi books might handle it.  Eventually, they do get together, but the story doesn’t really focus on it, and comments more on the fact that both of the boys are using their relationship as an escape from reality.  And then several things happen that give them both the motivation to… well, live.

As horrible as the subject matter is, the story takes itself very seriously.  Considering this is a yaoi story, that is almost unheard of, but it is necessary when telling this type of story.  The relationship is slow and sensitive, and incredibly, it’s not all about the sex.

It probably bears repeating that this was one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, but it’s also worth reading if you feel like that won’t stop you.  I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, but it is a different type of story, it covers subject matter most yaoi wouldn’t touch (and I wouldn’t normally touch in a yaoi), and it does the best it can with it.  Which winds up being pretty darn good, in the end.