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Chiaki Sakaguchi appears to be a cheerful, popular student at school with a carefree life, but that is the image he wishes to project. The truth about Chiaki is one of a much darker reality, and it is a secret he wanted no one to know. Or so he thought until the night his secret is observed at a local park by none other than Eiji Yukimura, a fellow student at his school. Eiji has his own inner demons that lead him to stay deep into the night at the local park, and seems disinterested in Chiaki's business, but when the two keep happening upon the other, a sort of uneasy, quiet camaraderie begins. As these two wary boys become accustomed to each other, and begin to trust one another, they each realise they have found someone who can understand the other's inner pain. They begin to explore avenues of pleasure with each other, to escape the daily pain of their own existence. Can Chiaki and Eiji give each other the emotional support they so desperately need, and can the two break free of the bonds that hold them in their own dark place, and find a bright future together?
Toko Kawai's Cut is not one of those Boy's Love stories where everything is fluffy, funny and light, nor is it one that has drama punctuated by lighter moments of comedy. It tackles several serious issues, ranging from survivor guilt, child abuse, mental unbalance, self harming, and incest and paints a portrait of two young men on the cusp of adulthood with them. It makes for a dramatic read that escapes from being mere melodrama thanks to the fine degrees of emotion her characters portray. Often BL stories of this sort layer on the trauma thickly, with one bad thing after another traumatising our already fragile leads, but she holds back from that and lets the mental and physical scars of the past do their job. It was quite refreshing to see the network of people who actually did care about the two boys hover about, but unable to connect as they wished thanks to the emotional barrier each boy has placed up: they and the outside "normal world" are simply too bright from where they sit in darkness. The two boys wish to escape reality, not rush towards it, and so they reject these kind hands, grasping only at each other. The sky imagery is a subtle analogy, but a powerful one, as the story begins speaking about how the sky is too bright, too blue, with references to the sun and sky afterwards popping up throughout the tale.
It is a one shot so the whole storyline moves at a deceptively slow pace in only 181 pages, though when the climax of the story occurs, the resolution seems to come fast upon its heels. Only, Kawai gives us an epilogue, and I'm quite glad she did. You see, mental scars don't really have a final resolution, as her epilogue demonstrates. You can reach a place where you can handle life, but deep psychological scars never truly fade. So, be forewarned, it's angsty, it's violent, and very disturbing to read, but it is also one of the sweetest love stories I have ever read. It is that all to often unseen BL story, the one where the relationship itself is of prime importance, and where each one of the pair looks to his partner's needs before his own. It's deeply meaningful, touching, and one where if you can handle the dark subject matter, will earn a special place within your heart.
This is available to purchase as a paperback from all major manga outlets, including Amazon and The Book Depository. I'd like to thank Digital Manga for providing me with my review copy. If you are interested in reviewing for Digital Manga, you can inquire by sending an email to Yoko@emanga.com or contacting @Digitalmanga on Twitter.