Future Lovers, Vol. 2
By Saika Kunieda
Published by Deux Press
It’s been a year since the events of volume one and Kento and Akira have become comfortable in their relationship, though there are still a few surprises in store, beginning with a visit from Akira’s mother, a pampering, ostentatious multiple divorcée with a somewhat scandalous past. New revelations about Akira’s background cause some turmoil in his relationship with Kento but as with most everything in this story, the conflict gives each of them a deeper understanding of the other, ultimately strengthening their relationship. As the volume continues, the two of them confront coming out to friends and colleagues, Kento’s jealousy of a former teacher of Akira’s, and the complicated question of same-sex marriage in Japan.
With the “getting together” story taken care of in the first volume, this one is able to focus on the challenges of building a long-term relationship. This includes the challenges specifically facing gay couples but what makes this story feel so natural is that it is able to do that without losing sight of the things that are merely human. This story is no more about LGBT issues than it is about sex, which is to say that those things are most definitely there and vital to the story of these two men–inextricable from who they are and the life they are making for themselves–but what the story is really about is two very different people learning how to be real partners to each other.
There is a lot of mystery left in a relationship after only a year, and with so many obstacles coming at them, everything seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately, despite their differences (or maybe because of them), Kento and Akira are working from a very solid foundation, and are able to put aside their own fears and long-standing issues in an effort to truly understand each other. Kento, especially, is able to peel back a few more layers of Akira’s masterfully-assembled armor–insight that extends even into the bedroom. “I always thought that if there’s love, you don’t need technique. But that was probably just me being thickheaded… I don’t mean just sex either… When Akira says things like that, I can’t help thinking how much stronger he is than me. Entrusting his thin, fragile body to someone as idiotic, simple, and brash as myself. The gentle curve of his back looks like the curve of the moon,” mulls Kento, nearly waxing poetic as he makes love to Akira.
One of the most effective scenes in this volume takes place at a summer festival where Kento and Akira run into a married couple and child who are acquaintances of Kento’s. When Kento initially hesitates over how to introduce Akira, Akira breaks in, introduces himself as a colleague and makes a hasty exit. Kento pursues him, demanding to know what it was about, and though Akira brushes off his concerns as old-fashioned, he immediately betrays his own insecurities (as well as his deep-seated commitment issues) by insisting that Kento promise to tell him if he ever meets a woman he likes more. There is something so perfect and so real about the conversation that follows, with Akira hiding himself behind an animal mask from the festival as he reveals his true feelings, as though the mask will protect him from hurt somehow. The moment is poignant and a little bit heart-stopping, full of fear and longing and a deep, deep warmth.
That last sentence really could be used to describe this entire volume. Honestly, I feel like I could go on and on, describing each scene with great affection, but I wouldn’t know where to stop. One thing I must mention, however, is the humor. This series somehow manages to be funny at the very best (and often unexpected) times. The treatment of Kento’s disapproving grandparents, for example–something which could easily just be depressing and pedantic–is consistently good-humored, mainly due to Akira’s fantastic and oddly affectionate irreverence. How a character can be utterly charming while goading an old man about his mortality, I have no idea, but that is the true power of mangaka Saika Kunieda.
Warm, funny, complicated, and endlessly touching, Future Lovers‘s second volume manages to be even better than the first. It is a beautiful story of life and love, recommended for any fan of romantic manga.