Everyone’s Getting Married (volume 2) 

In volume 2 of Everyone’s Getting Married, Asuka and Ryu have started a romantic relationship. Interestingly, although they remain at odds on the subject of marriage, it isn’t their conflicting views on settling down that causes them problems in this volume, but Ryu’s extremely busy and high pressure career.


I’m really enjoying this manga series. The majority of shoujo romance manga I see on the shelves are about teen relationships and can feature a lot of coy blushing and childish bickering. Asuka and Ryu’s relationship is mature, trusting and adult from the outset as they try to negotiate their intense work lives with the time they want to spend together, trying to grab private moments to be intimate whenever they can.

Asuka and Ryu continue to be well-written characters. Ryu is handsome and intelligent, and not just a superficially charming bishie. He cares deeply for Asuka and is well characterised as someone who is very much caught up in their career, to the point where he sometimes hurts Asuka. Asuka still yearns for marriage but doesn’t spend all her time pining over it, although she doesn’t apologise for it either. The two of them are honest about their standpoints and respectful of each other’s differences, taking the time to consider whether it’s wise for them to settle into a long term relationship when one wants to marry and the other doesn’t.

If you enjoy love stories and want a more grown up manga, give Everyone’s Getting Married a go!

Advertisements

Yaoi manga reviews (Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly/Ten Count/Flutter)

img_1794

Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly – Kou Yoneda 

Harumi falls hard and fast for Ryo when they meet at a bar. But Ryo is straight, or is he? When Ryo finds himself attracted to another man, Harumi realises he has a chance – and he has to take it.

I really enjoyed this manga’s style. The urban city life of late night bar conversations and falling asleep on the train richly evoke the life of young Japanese professionals, and Harumi is a great character, covering his emotional vulnerability with wit and self deprecating humour even when alone.

The dialogue is informal and flows easily, especially between Ryo and Harumi during the love confession. Their push and pull of feelings is really interesting and moving to read as they try and cross the divide of gay and straight. I even laughed out loud during the love scene as Ryo’s approach is hilariously awkward and feels refreshingly human. I would definitely like to read more manga from this author.

10/10

Ten Count (Volume 1) – Rihito Takari 

Don’t be fooled by the sexy cover art and “Explicit Content” warning, volume one of Ten Count is quite a refined, slow placed affair. The story follows polite and dedicated corporate secretary Shirotani whose life is turned upside down when he meets Kurose, a counsellor who accurately diagnoses him on the spot as a man struggling with germophobia and OCD.

I’m not sure if it was an intentional attempt to avoid controversy on the author’s part, but the manga seems to aim to skirt around the ethical issues of a counsellor and client falling in love as Kurose from the beginning decides to counsel Shirotani outside of a professional setting, not asking for any fees and stating that he wants to be Shirotani’s friend. All the same their relationship remains largely professional, with Kurose outlining a ten-step program for Shirotani to work through.

I found Ten Count to be in some respects almost as rigid as Shirotani’s secretarial suit and gloves. His mental illness felt well portrayed as the story nicely balanced his triumphs and setbacks, complete with the physical symptoms and traumatic flashbacks and his relationship with Kurose is well realised but both Kurose and Shirotani’s emotions and interactions are often subdued which makes it harder to connect with their characters and relationship at times. Nonetheless this a very elegantly drawn and told story and I would consider reading the next volume to see how Shirotani overcomes his condition.

7/10 (but there’s room to grow in later volumes)

Flutter – Momoko Tenzen

Asada is always spellbound by a handsome coworker he sees every morning on his way into work. When the two are paired up on a project, he can’t believe his luck. The manga is quick to blur the lines of their professional relationship when Asada goes drinking with Mizuki and wakes up at his house the next morning, and then ends up going to see a movie with him.

Flutter unfolds as a pretty standard romance, with the obstacle to Asada and Mizuki’s relationship being one of Mizuki’s old flames, a university professor. The art style is also very typical for yaoi with angular faces and large broad bodies, but the expressions are well conveyed and the story flows well with no panel ever feeling flat.

Flutter doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary for a yaoi manga, but it does it well so if you’re looking for a typical boy’s love read, give it a go.

8/10

 

N.B. Another thing I enjoyed about all of these manga is they all steered clear of the seme/uke stereotypes yaoi is known for in which an older/more masculine man pursues and seduces a younger/more feminine man often in a disturbingly non-consensual way (Junjou Romantica, I’m looking at you).

Everyone’s Getting Married

IMG_1228

24 year old Asuka has made a successful career for herself. But she has a secret – she really wants to jack it all in to be a wife and full time homemaker. Her dream is thrown into turmoil when her boyfriend of five years ends their relationship, but Asuka vows to put herself back out there and find Mr. Right. When she meets handsome, charismatic newscaster Ryu he seems like the perfect catch. But Ryu has no interest in ever getting married…

Ryu doesn't pull any punches about his stance on marriage...
Ryu: charming, handsome, extremely blunt about marriage…

Izumi Miyazono’s shoujo manga is a modern romance that closely examines and dissects traditional and non traditional ideas of love and partnership. Miyazono balances the opposing perspectives on marriage across men and women with four central characters – Asuka has a female friend who doesn’t want to get married who falls for a man named Ono who does.

Many adults will find it relatable to see the judgements and misunderstandings that Asuka and Ryu face for their personal choices when it comes to the binary stances on prioritising your career or following a more traditional route of marriage and children as soon as possible. The two have to deal with the outside pressure that colleagues, friends and even strangers place on them to conform to a particular life path, as well as the conflicting desires they face in their own budding relationships when one person is eager to settle down and tie the knot and the other isn’t.

IMG_1236
Asuka hopes to find that special guy with marriage in mind

Everyone’s Getting Married isn’t going to win any prizes for subtlety – the characters spend most of their time discussing marriage. In one scene, Asuka is even asked out by a man who says “please go out with me with marriage in mind” which seems excessive even for a traditional nation like Japan. However, it does effectively show how the institution of marriage bleeds into friendships, relationships and careers. This is a good manga if you’re searching for a story about the complications of love in a modern world, and it’s always wonderful to see another manga about adults when so many shoujo stories focus on teen romances. Another pleasing touch is that each chapter includes a quote about love or marriage from a famous person, such as “It is impossible to love and be wise – Sir Francis Bacon”.

If you’re looking for a grown up love story be sure to check out Everyone’s Getting Married!

 

Orange by Ichigo Takano (Volume 2)

IMG_0945

Shortly after receiving a letter from her 26 year old self warning her to protect and look out for the new boy Kakeru in her class, 16 year old Naho learns that her friends also received letters from their future selves, also with the protection of Kakeru in mind.

Now that she is able to be honest and open with her friends, they band together in their motivation to help and watch over Kakeru. Having learnt that Naho’s letter contains over twice as much detail as their own, the gang insist that Naho clearly means more to Kakeru than they do, and alongside helping him they want to push Naho and Kakeru together, with a romantic ulterior motive.

Naho determines to support Kakeru every step of the way
Naho is determined to support Kakeru every step of the way

Takano ups the dramatic stakes of Orange in a way that had me increasingly gripped while reading this volume. Gradually she uncovers the full extent of Kakeru’s struggle with depression and grief, and the bond he shares with his friends and Naho in particular make it easy to root them as they work desperately to support him and offer him moments of happiness. This is all too painfully paralleled against the friends aged 26 paying tribute to Kakeru and praying that their letters somehow reached their past selves and saved him in an alternate world.

At 26, Naho and her friends
At 26, Naho and her friends hope to save Kakeru in another world

As Kakeru’s grief and depression is gradually brought to the forefront, Takano portrays a mind lost in despair and sadness with realism and ease. Kakeru’s depression is never shown to be something that is either impossible to fix or all too easy to fix. Rather, Takano emphasises the importance of emotional support as Naho and her friends continue to reach out to Kakeru in small ways, and attempt to prevent him from cutting himself off from everyone else. Takano neatly captures the nuances of what can and cannot be altered when it comes to depression – for instance, Naho attempts to avoid saying something that the letter tells her would make Kakeru lash out at her, but he lashes out anyway. This is clearly shown to be a part of his mental state at the time that could not have been changed, and reflects the complexity of depression in that sometimes kind words can help, and sometimes they can’t.

Kakeru struggles with his depression
Kakeru struggles with his depression

Kakeru’s struggle is brought to the forefront in this volume, but we also see Naho’s own journey as she realises what it means to help Kakeru, and that platitudes no matter how well meaning, aren’t always the solution. She remains a kind and sweet person, so it’s easy to feel for her happiness and pain when Kakeru lets her in or shuts her out.

x
Naho comes to understand mental wellbeing is more complex than she first thought

Orange is a wonderful, emotionally resonant manga series that any romance fan should make sure to add to their collection. Tackling themes of depression and suicide in a mature and heartrending way, it offers a balanced and moving look at what it means to support someone in the throes of grief and unwaveringly be their friend.

 

Orange by Ichigo Takano (Volume 1)

DSC_1453

N.B. This review contains some spoilers.

As sixteen year old Naho begins eleventh grade, she receives a mysterious letter claiming to be from her twenty six year old self. Her future self warns her that a new boy will be joining their class called Kakeru, and instructs her on all the things she must do and not do to watch out for him and prevent the regrets occurring that her future self has already had to live with.

Although Naho is initially sceptical of the letter’s authenticity, when Kakeru joins the class and events begin to occur as her future self had described them, she attempts to carry out her future self’s wishes and look out for Kakeru as best she can. Naho’s future self outlines particular “key moments” to her that she wants her to either carry out or prevent such as making him lunches, or ensuring that he joins the football team.

DSC_1493

Naho initially doesn’t understand the purpose of some requests, and is not able to carry out all of them, in particular the kind of requests that ask her to reveal her feelings to Kakeru or connect with him in a way that her natural shyness prevents her from doing. When she finds out that Kakeru’s mother committed suicide, it gradually becomes clearer to her that the requests from her future self are less about just befriending Kakeru, but more about offering him emotional support in a way that may help prevent his death that is due to unfold in the not too distant future should Naho not be able to alter the course of events.

DSC_1496

The scenes that the manga depicts of Naho as a sixteen year old are also shown alongside her life as a twenty six year old in the world where Kakeru’s death was not prevented. In this world, Naho has a baby with Suwa, a mutual friend in their group who held a torch for her since their teenage years. In this future reality, everyone leads a relatively happy life but painfully regrets the loss of Kakeru whose death they are not entirely sure was an accident. Naho particularly regrets that she had not been more honest and open with Kakeru about her feelings for him.

Orange is a stand out manga, with wonderful characterisation. Naho is a typical shy, caring female protaganist, but her feelings for Kakeru and desire to do the right thing by him and for her future self are wonderfully realised and never come across as overly saccharine or clichéd. Kakeru is presented as a warm and kind young man carrying a huge emotional burden which is always approached by the author with great care and sensitivity and never presented as something that can be fixed overnight. Naho and Kakeru’s unfolding relationship has all the sweetness and awkwardness of two young people coming to greatly care for each other and neither wanting to hurt the other or jeopardise what they already have as good friends.

DSC_1489

Orange has over one million copies in print in Japan, and I did not find it hard to see why. This is a story that tackles strong emotional themes of suicide and depression in a poignant, thoughtful way and overall presents a more mature and well rounded portrayal of teenage life and first love than many other manga out there. I will definitely be purchasing the second volume of this series!