By Gengoroh Tagame. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Futabasha, serialized in the magazine Gekkan Action. Released in North America by Pantheon Books. Translated by Anne Ishii.
Last time I wondered if Mike giving advice to a young Japanese teen who was also gay would lead to larger drama, and I’m happy to report that it did not. Not that this final volume is conflict-free, but the conflict is as low-key as the first volume was, In fact, it’s almost lampshaded by the author, as Mike has apparently said that Japan is not as bigoted about homosexuality as the West. But that’s only overtly, and we see some good examples of it being something that people quietly want to go away. This leads to Yaichi having a meeting with Kana’s teacher, who is upset that Kana is mentioning a gay an to her classmates, as the teacher says being gay is “an adult topic” kids shouldn’t discuss. Yaichi’s inner monologue comes to life again, as we saw in the first volume, and once again he represses the emotion, but this time he does not repress the objection, and this leads to a great moment where he defends Kana.
Speaking of Kana, she continues to be a terrific kid, and we see her bond with Mike grow more as the book goes forward. This actually leads to a bit of an emotional climax, as of course Mike can’t stay there forever – he’s going back home, and Kana is trying her best to repress her emotions (as her father does naturally), but isn’t really making it work as well. (Earlier she was given a version of Romeo and Juliet to read by a classmate – it devastated her, and we see her sobbing.) This leads to one of the best scenes in the book, where she asks Mike if he swears he’ll come back to Japan again, and he says he can’t do that, because he swore to Ryoji they’d come to Canada, but then Ryoji died. This leads to him teaching her the English phrase “see you soon”, which immediately lightens the mood and is quite heartwarming. Each moment of emotion or turmoil in the book is quickly followed by release or a gentle scene.
We also see more of Natsuki, Yaichi’s ex-wife. There’s a few more scenes that show they still have feelings for each other, but any reunion on their part is left implied on the final page, because this is not meant to be about Yaichi, but about the relationship between Yaichi and Mike. Yaichi’s growth in a mere three weeks is great to see, as is the final hug between the two men. And I loved the pictures we saw of Ryoji and Mike’s wedding, which looked like an absolute blast, though also led to us hearing that Ryoji blamed himself for the rift between him and his twin. As with the first volume, there isn’t a lot of big emotion here – many pages go by with no dialogue and just facial expressions, and sometimes the facial expressions are ambiguous. But Tagame is such a good artist that you understand what he’s trying to convey despite the ambiguity.
This ran in a mainstream magazine for young men, and thus tries its hardest to be friendly and easy to read. It succeeds brilliantly, and I finished the second volume wanting to immediately go back and read the first. Everyone will want to read the story of Yaichi, Mike, and Kana, and I urge them to add this series to their library as soon as they are able.