Author: Mizushiro Setona
Format: Manga, Blcd
About a decade ago, Mizushiro Setona was very famous for her BL tragedies. However, she stopped for several years and turned into a shoujo mangaka. Recently she released this BL manga and I read a review by Middaystar-san from Aarinfantasy forum about this manga and I became interested, especially since her artwork improved over the years. I loved her stories but could find it hard to swallow her earlier artstyle but the recent style is just wonderful, and so is the title as well as the story.
Seven years after graduation from university, Ootomo Kyouichi (CV: Nakamura Yuuichi) met his fellow shoolmate Imagase (CV: Yusa Kouji), who was 2 years his junior again, in a restaurant. The difference from seven years ago was that there was no longer school grounds, no longer youth but a pile of evidence which would indicate Ootomo having affairs with women outside his marriage. Either Ootomo obediently follow Imagase’s orders or he would risk a divorce with his cute wife Chikako . Ootomo did not want his marriage to be disrupted and so he obeyed Imagase and let the latter kiss him (but all was permitted was kissing). Imagase was gay and he had wanted to be with Ootomo ever since high school but he never had a chance. Now he finally got the chance, even if it meant going the “dirty” way. After several rounds of kissing, Ootomo nonetheless faced divorce because Chikako planned on filing a divorce anyway. She just wanted to find evidence for his infidelity to win more money over the divorce but since she couldn’t find any as the person she employed was Imagase, who kept his promise to Ootomo and did not reveal any evidence of his adultery to Chikako.
Half a year elapsed since the divorce and Ootomo gradually settled into the life of a single man but one day, he had a surprise visit from Imagase . Gradually, Imagase managed to find his way into Ootomo’s life, cooking for him, giving him goodbye kisses, trying his best to love Ootomo . However, he could not stop Ootomo from sleeping with other women (as old classmates) because Ootomo was the kind who never really loved anyone from the bottom of his heart. He would not reject whoever that approached him, but he would also not go all out to “want someone”. Gradually, however, Ootomo began to care for Imagase beyond what he would usually do. When he saw Imagase with a “man” in a hotel (while on his way to sleeping with a woman), he got so pissed he would just go to confront Imagase. At that point, something already changed in Ootomo. However, there were still a huge problem – Ootomo was straight. He could not live in the same world as Imagase because the latter was gay. Ootomo could only be with women, and that’s the reason why when he was forced to choose in the end between a woman Natsuki whom he dated when he was at college and Imagase, he chose Natsuki because physically, he could only accept females . Imagase then walked out of his life as a consequence of the choice.
Two months elapsed but Ootomo still could not throw away the cigarettes Imagase left behind, and neither could he forget the smell of the cigarettes – the scent which almost became a trademark of Imagase. He was with Natsuki but he could not concentrate on Natsuki. Then one night, by chance he saw Imagase boarding a taxi. Reflexively, he hopped onto the taxi but Imagase remained cool and admitted he was on his way to his partner because he was lonely and Ootomo did not contact him. Ootomo contacted him but Imagase cut off his old cellphone. Ootomo also hesitated to contact Imagase directly at work because he did not know if Imagase would want him to contact him. Ootomo then broke down. The Ootomo who never loved someone from his heart was determined enough to force Imagase cut off his relationship with the guy whom he was about to see. The Ootomo who never seemed to care or ever been in love was sincere enough to risk crossing the boundary and “entering the other world”.
“Is it scary to have sex with a man?”
I thought I would never see this question in BL manga where sex with men is assumed to be a normality. However, for straight men, the thought of having sex with a man of course is scary. It’s scary because it’s not something “common sense” teaches you to do. However, when you really fall in love with a person, is common sense even necessary? I suppose the beauty of this manga is the transformation of Ootomo from a man who knows no love, who has no passion to a man who loves deep enough to risk entering into a world completely unknown to him for the sake of another man. However, Ootomo should take no glory because he’s not learned to “love” on his own. He’s “taught” to know how to love by a very patient Imagase. By judging from the length of my review, the plot of this manga is VERY SIMPLE but what makes it a “HIT” and captivates the hearts of the readers is the description of the emotions of the characters as well as the process of change. Henceforth, I’ll spend the chunk of my review on the critique of the two characters.
I actually read a couple of more Japanese reviews and it suddenly dawned on me that I might be wrong. At first, I thought the “mouse” referred to Imagase and that after seven years of waiting, he finally got a taste of the cheese he dreamed of. However, from the subtitles of the manga, Imagase, as well as Ootomo’s women were symbolized as “cat”. The symbol on the lighter that was given to Imagase was also a black cat. In fact, Imagase called Natsuki the cat thief and then I saw the most CRUCIAL PHRASE in the manga I neglected to see before, the fact that Natsuki compared Ootomo to the mouse who followed “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. For those interested, you can see my discussion on the link between “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” to this manga.
Ootomo, I have no doubt, is the OBJECT OF HATRED for many female readers because he’s NO LOYALTY whatsoever to his wife, or Imagase, or anyone. He would sleep with anyone and he would not love anyone from the bottom of his heart. If his partner wants it, he will sleep with the partner (even if she’s married). On the other hand, if the partner says “no”, he’ll call it the end without even putting an effort to save the relationship. He can be so free because he doesn’t know how to “love” another person. In order to love a scum and a$$hole like Ootomo, a person must be trying five to ten times as hard, and that’s where our Imagase come in 😛 . Still, I must say as terrible a man as he could be, Ootomo still was a man and not a heartless beast. In the end, he was touched by Imagase and was willing to go as far as s*cking the latter’s p**nis so
The major attraction of this manga is really the seme Imagase. He is cool, gorgeous looking, and manages to suppress his feelings very well on the outside. In short, he’s LIKE A PRINCE on the outside. However on the inside, he’s an extremely sweet person. For seven years, he’s continuously in love with a person whom he knows he can never fall in love with. For seven years, he would not even let go a tiny cigarette lighter which he got from Ootomo even though Ootomo didn’t really care or remember about the lighter. For seven years, he waited and he tried his best to approach Ootomo. Again and again, Ootomo hurt him, injured him by sleeping with other women but again and again, he waited. When Ootomo, who selfishly chose Natsuki over him, and then suddenly boarded his taxi and told him to kill off the relationship with another guy he was about to date, he didn’t even doubt for a second. He just cut off the relationship. . If Ootomo were the worst type of man who could be a husband, then Imagase would be the best husband you could ever dream of (but would never be able to get unless you’re a man) . I guess Imagase is the real reason why I love this manga more than I should.
Natsuki is also a lovable woman because like Imagase, she also loved Ootomo though the latter could not return her feelings. For seven years, she still lingered on her feelings and that’s why when she had the chance, she tried again. She was close to winning but I suppose what she failed to do and Imagase could was to change Ootomo from within. She could not give it all, like Imagase, without hoping for return because for her, she was a woman and she would expect an equal relationship even but for Imagase, he was not expecting an equal relationship, he was willing to give more than he knew he would ever receive. Still, the mouse in the end was rewarded with the cheese he dreamed of. Of course, it’s not “happy end”, not so soon because Ootomo was not a loyal man and probably would continue to sleep around with women. However, the fact that at least Ootomo would try to cross the line and really showed jealousy, that was good enough, for now.
EXTRA: I would like to point out that this manga is very interesting because the WHOLE STORY has strong reference to Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” . Just a little background to this story. In 1284, the town of Hamelin faced a terrible rat plague and a man said he would get rid of the rats if the villagers paid him one Schilling (Austrian currency till 2002) per head of the rat. The villagers agreed and using his pipe, he lured away 999,999 mice and drowned them in the river. The villagers refused to pay up and so the man also used his pipe to lure the children in town to a cave. This manga was strongly related to this story because Ootomo was one of the 999,999 rats that was DROWNED. There were “two hints” that he was “drowned” in the end – the first being Natsuki’s CURSE, and the second being the fact that in the very end, when Ootomo refused to pick up the call from Natsuki, the weather report said there was heavy rain in Tokyo and a risk of flooding. This is VERY INTERESTING because the “end” synchronizes with the end in the “Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Wonderful. I like stories that intertwine and make references to old poems and literature.
This departs from traditional BL in that you only get one FULL H-scene between the guys and plenty of pure BG sex. If you can’t stand BG, I won’t recommend it. However, if you can, then this is a wonderful piece because of the way the characters are described, in particular Imagase. I swear such good men won’t exist these days. Middaystar-san said this was similar to Mister Mermaid and that the plot lacked originality. I have never read Mister Mermaid (maybe I should) but then most BL plots lack originality and so even if the description itself is wonderful, I suppose it can more than compensate.