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Junya Sawa has been working for his company for four years now and is up for an important promotion. His current supervisor knows this, and as it will place Sawa above him in the office hierarchy, Kashima is keen to get in his good graces. As Junya is single, he is facing pressure at work to conform by settling down and showing he is an all around responsible person. What better way to help them both then than by getting Junya to come drinking at a cabaret bar to become buddies and then set him up on date with a marriage seeking woman of good standing and solid business connections? It is not that Junya hates women, and indeed, has gone out with a few, but it always ends up less than satisfactory as he gave his heart away long ago so does not have it to give to anyone else.
It was his first and only love, back in his senior year of high school, and a more unlikely candidate could not have bee found by those who know this serious, upstanding citizen. Transferred after an act of physical violence against a teacher at his prior school in the city, the son of the Kobayakawa crime syndicate transfers to Junya's quiet rural school. Uzuki Kobayakawa is extremely intelligent, but rebellious. He rarely comes to class, is sloppy about his appearance, and everyone is afraid of him. Everyone except Junya that is, who as student class representative is told to look after the new student. Facing Uzuki with spirit, it was not long before the two became inseparable and one thing led to another.
With Uzuki's future as the new leader of his yakuza family syndicate about to commence, it is obvious the two youths are from entirely different worlds. So much so that Junya knows he must let Uzuki go or pose a peril. Eight years on, Junya's act of loving betrayal comes to smack him in the face at the very cabaret his boss has dragged him off to. It soon becomes evident to Junya that Uzuki is not done with him yet, and that Junya's heart still beats only for Uzuki. But as Uzuki torments Junya in the hotel room they continue to meet at, just who is he punishing? Junya for leaving him, or himself for allowing it?
Manga publishing imprint June and mangaka Jinko Fuyuno presents a prose novel for the post 18 crowd. It belongs to the class known as light novels, that is, shorter length novels that use uncomplicated prose and have full page illustrations scattered about. Uncomplicated the prose may be, but this is not to say it is simplistic. Fuyuno shows her mastery of expression by managing to compose a book that is a comfortable read with an engaging plot full of appeal to the more mature reader. Translation By Design's effort reads smoothly and feels natural, without any stilting of expression or loss of emotion. It reads s well, one would be forgiven if they thought it had been in English originally, for which commendations should be made.
The illustrations by Noboru Takatsuki are delightful. Done manga style using the beautiful man bishounen aesthetic, they lighten the angst ridden piece and provide a nice gateway for manga readers to the light novel experience. My only quibble lay not in the expressive quality of the pieces, but with the editing. I don't know if it was done due to local publishing standards back in Japan, or by Digital manga, but the invisible body parts made me giggle. There is just simply something very funny about gazing at a picture of a man on his knees doing what appears to be a mime of a sexual act as the organ is nowhere to be seen. Given the age rating and content advisory, I think if this sort of image edit is going to be done, using a different image elsewhere would have been preferable. It is my only quibble however, though the inappropriate burst of laughter that it caused me to spring forth makes me take away a star as it did ruin the mood so carefully set by Fuyano sensei's emotive prose.
At 255 pages it is longer than a novella but shorter than most other works of fiction, making this an attractive read to those looking for a quick literary fix. Indeed, this is what light novels are for, providing entertainment to the busy masses as they commute via public transport, snatch a quick red during breaks, or just want to relax after along day's efforts. As such it serves quite well and I enjoyed this enough that I sincerely hope that Digital Manga's June will publish more of this writer's work, whether another light novel such as Kuu ka Kuwareru ka (Eat or Be Eaten) or a manga such as Dekiru Otoko (Successful Man). I just hope that if they do, no mimes are included.
****I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing me with a review copy****