I’ve read only two novels with insert art by Kane Hikaru sensei and though I don’t like her artstyle, both novels instantly enter my “treasure chest” because the stories are too wonderful. This is my first time reading a novel by Sunahara and I think she’s famous for creating characters with complexes. In “Innocence”, the uke is slightly retarded and in this novel, he has a complex with his appearance.
According to Shirasaka Kazuha, he has a very ugly face and his stepmother kept telling him he looked awful. At school, his friends did not like him and when he tried to apply for work after university, he got rejected over 30 times despite brilliant results from college. This was all because he looked very ugly. His life went so wrong that when he was driving, he fell down the cliff and his face was seriously injured. When he recovered from his injuries and heard that he had to have a facial surgery because of the accident, he felt much better because his new face looked pretty. He was happy and so he tried to “murder” his past by burning all the photos featuring Shirasaka Kazuha and assumed the identity of “Imai Kazuya“, who was really his cousin from the countryside. In this way, he started a new life. One day, a woman invited him to work at the host club. An honor student in college, it’s really not Kazuya’s nature to be a host but he was glad that people appreciated his new appearance so much. When he went for the interview, he met Kuroishi Atsunari, his old classmate and the man he hated the most in his life. He hated Kuroishi because when he was young and had no friend at all, Kuroishi confessed to him and said he liked him. Although they were both males, Shirasaka was really glad that a person would come to like him. So, he told Kuroishi he would think about it and he really thought very hard about it. The next day, he replied that perhaps they could start from being friends. They became the best of friends and were happy together. Unfortunately, Kuroishi had to transfer to another school because of his family. A few weeks after Kuroishi left, Shirasaka learned that Kuroishi did not confess to him out of love. He did that simply because it was a punishment game and they wanted to punish him by making him confess to a guy. They never imagined that Shirasaka would even think about it seriously. So, from then on till graduation, people kept mocking Shirasaka “gay”. Already troubled by a facial complex, the extra humiliation really hurt Shirasaka and he became even more isolated than he originally was. At the same time, his father also died when he was in high school and his stepmother vanished. He succeeded at university (at least getting good grades) but since he could not lift up his face to meet people, he could not land on a proper job. However, all was going to change now. With his new look, he wanted to take “revenge” on Kuroishi. SInce Kuroishi was the “#1 host” at Purachina (the name of the host club), Shirasaka decided to take the job and aimed at beating Kuroishi to be #1 at the club. For the next half year, he worked VERY HARD to make his way to the top. Since he was not a natural host and not even good at drinking, all he could do was to help his clients as much as he could. It was very difficult because his clients would summon him to do trivial things but he endured all of it. Finally, after six months, he became the top host and beat Kuroishi. However, Kuroishi did not seem to mind being topped by Shirasaka. In fact, he appeared to be very kind to Shirasaka, which made Shirasaka a bit confused because did not really “know” him as he was no longer Shirasaka Kazuha but Imai Kazuha.
One day, there was a celebration at the “K” host club and their boss sent both Kuroishi and Shirasaka to congratulate the owners of “K”. Kuorishi tried to stop Shirasaka from going but Shirasaka did not know why. When they arrived and the doors of the elevator opened, Shirasaka was surprised to find his old classmate – Kanezaki Shinji. He was the guy who laughed at his acceptance of a confession from a guy and called him “gay”. He was shocked at meeting Kanezaki again and Kanezaki immediately said Shirasaka but he remained calm and pretended to Imai Kazuya and not know Kanezaki. As Shirasaka worked at Purachina, the relationship between him and Kuroishi also started to change. Finally, Kuroishi confessed to him and said he really loved him. Shirasaka asked Kuroishi what he liked about him and Kuroishi said “his face”. Shirasaka was completely hurt. Kuroishi did not like “him” per se, but only this new face, which did not belong to him. He already lost his face in the accident and since he threw away all the photographs, he could not even remember his original face. Still, he was not done with getting revenge on Kuroishi and so he pretended to accept Kuroishi and he repeated the same old words he said when they were still high school students – they would begin from being friends. The two gradually got closer and closer but the troubles inside Shirasaka’s heart never subsided. Then one day, it all exploded and he drove Kuroishi away and said he just pretended to be friends with him and told him not to touch him. Kuroishi was very hurt, so deeply hurt that a cool and previous #1 host man stood in the rain for 30 minutes and cried. Shirasaka was surprised how deeply Kuroishi loved Imai Kazuya. So, he brought him home and the two had “light H” but not all the way as Shirasaka would not allow it. Shirasaka also learned that Kurishi’s parents left him with lots of debts and ran away, that’s why he had to transfer school that summer. The two seemed to progress a bit but Kanezaki suddenly appeared before Shirasaka and told him he knew his secret – that he borrowed his identity from his cousin. He wondered if he had done something illegal, like committing murder. Of course Shirasaka denied but he could not speak the truth. So, Kanezaki threatened Shirasaka with the secret and forced him to transfer from Purachina to K. At the same time, Kuroishi said he wanted to give up being a host and opened an ordinary bar instead as he worked as bar tender previously and had experience. Of course, he invited Shirasaka to work with him and Shirasaka wanted to work at Kuroishi’s bar too. However, he was afraid his secret would be revealed. So, he purposely said very harsh words to drive Kuroishi away and kept all the pain in his heart.
One day while working at K, some girls came and greeted him. They immediately recognized he was Shirasaka. He was confused as he introduced himself as Kazuya but they thought he was joking. Shirasaka got confused so he asked Kanezaki how come he recognized him right from the beginning when they first met at K. Kanezaki said “his face” of course. He then went on to say it was he who picked him for Kuroishi to confess because he hated him for not participating in the cheating during their exams at high school. He also said he knew that Kuroishi was gay (because he only liked a man throughout his life) and Shirasaka was scared he was going to hurt Kuroishi with that knowledge. The two ended up in an argument where Kanezaki beat the heck out of Shirasaka but Kuroishi passed by and interfered. He then brought Shirasaka home and tended his wounds. It was then Shirasaka realized that his face did not change at all. Before the operation, he did not choose the option of “having a new look by plastic surgery”. He chose “to recover his original face”. That’s why everyone recognized him right from the beginning, including Kuroishi. It was his psychological troubles that made him hate his face, so much that he never really appreciated his own beauty. As a result, he avoided eye contact with people and so people disliked him as well. However, when he thought he looked different, he had confidence to look at people and that’s why he felt his face was different. His face never changed. The only thing that changed was the psychological perception of his face. When he figured out the answer, he understood what Kuroishi meant when he said he liked his “face”. Kuroishi liked the face of the person who did not laugh and make fun of him when he jokingly confessed to him. He liked the warmth and sincerity Shirasaka showed him during the first confession. When he got to know Shirasaka more, he learned to appreciate the “beauty” beneath that gloomy and ugly face that was created because of Shirasaka’s inferiority complex. In the end, to celebrate their shop’s opening, their old high school friends came and showed Shirasaka the picture when he was in secondary school. That was proof to him that the basic structure of his face was the same. When they were about to take pictures to celebrate the bar’s grand opening, Kuroishi whispered “Kazuha”, and he smiled at the camera, for the first time, from the bottom of his heart.