“I’ve never been in a relationship before. I dunno how it’s supposed to work!” Taichi, confused.
It’s spring. Kohei Sugihara and Taichi Sagawa, onetime fellow students, are now going out together. Hearing-impaired Kohei is in his final year at university and has begun to look for a job; lively, impulsive Taichi (who dropped out of uni to work full-time) is given a trainee to oversee. But then, who should appear but Ena, who – Taichi learns – went out with Kohei in junior high. She, too, is looking for a job and, to Taichi’s discomfort, seems far too keen to renew her acquaintance with Kohei. The young men are not yet openly sharing their status as a couple, so when she invites them to a meal at the café/restaurant where she works part-time, things get awkward pretty quickly. For starters, Taichi (who once upon a time would have only have been interested in the food) realizes that he feels an unpleasant emotion welling up when he thinks of Ena and Kohei together – and suddenly he’s making his excuses and beating a very hasty retreat. Kohei hurries after him – and confronts him. “Don’t you see? You ran because you’re jealous, Taichi.”
However, there’s another reason Ena turns to Kohei: she’s being harassed by a stalker. Faced with no help or advice from her aunt or the police, she asks Kohei if he’ll pretend to be her boyfriend for a little while to discourage the stalker. Kohei refuses and tells her – without naming names – that he’s currently in a relationship and such a pretence would be deeply unfair to his partner. However, when he tells Taichi about his response, Taichi – ever the crusader for justice – says that Kohei should have been more supportive, as Ena could be in real danger from the stalker. Taichi, impulsive as ever, takes matters into his own hands and goes to see Ena, not anticipating that the stalker might be hanging around…
‘I, for one, would be very happy to meet Taichi and Kohei again,’ I wrote at the end of my review of the preceding volume and my wishes have been granted, thanks to One Peace Manga and the BL magazine Canna in which this very readable slice-of-life manga is ongoing. Six volumes in to the ongoing story of Kohei and Taichi and mangaka Yuki Fumino (in spite of her sweet but self-deprecating comments in the afterword) shows no sign of stopping. Which is great for readers who’ve become attached to these two young men and their awkward but very believable friendship which has slowly but surely deepened into love. Aside from a little gentle teasing of readers about sexy scenes (or the lack of them so far because she did promise at the end of the last volume…) she manages to pull off something rather more skilful: a convincing and ongoing portrayal of the back-and-forth of the pair’s relationship. We get to see the negotiating, the give-and-take that slowly but surely reveals the strength of their feelings for each other in spite of misunderstandings and outside events over which they have no control.
The ongoing theme underlying these stories is that of Kohei’s loss of hearing – and by extension, how having to adapt to living with a disability feels. We’ve seen Kohei go through different stages of denial and gradually come to acceptance, helped by getting to know Taichi. Kohei is ready to move on and face the world and the scene where he goes to a job interview is both moving and inspiring. However, we also get another glimpse into his past when Ena tells Taichi how she first came to know Kohei at school – and we learn about how distant he became after recovering from the illness that irreparably damaged his hearing.
Stephen Kohler is again the translator for this series for One Peace Books and delivers a very readable English version; the letterer is not named. Mangaka Yuki Fumino’s skill with colour means the cover – landscape this time, not portrait – is very attractively painted, the light colour palette representing the featured season of spring with dappled shade very effectively rendered. The volume also contains Transparent, a side story about Taichi’s senpais at work: Chiba and Tendou, Something Like an Afterword, Never-Ending Summer, a bonus story about the central pair as they try to work out their love life, and Channelling Tae, an extra one-page bonus (Tae was Taichi’s grandmother).
This volume ends on an intriguing cliff-hanger and, as Volume 2 is already out in Japan, readers can hope it won’t be too long to wait before it’s translated and released by One Peace Books (massive hint)!