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How to Control a Sidecar - Makoto Tateno

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Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Makoto Tateno / Paperback / 200 Pages / Book is published 2010-04-20 by Digital Manga Publishing

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      26.05.2010 23:19
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      Apathy blinds Kousaka to his surroundings with tragic results tinged with comedy

      It is a return the cocktail bar the Maria Elena, and as usual, the bar staff are gorgeous, the drinks divine, and the personal lives, well..errr...interesting! It is perhaps just as well else Makoto Tateno would not have a tale to regale us with, and what a story we have indeed!

      Kiyohito Kousaka is a genius bartender. Young and good looking, his creativity and innate talent for mixing drinks led him to win the cocktail design contest that brought him to the attention of Naoyuki's then girlfriend. Genius bartender he might be, but in many other ways, he is a bit slow on the uptake. Not only is the bar owner gay and in a rather unusual relationship partnership choice wise, but he totally failed to note the significance of occurrences and things said before him during the whole Naoyuki and Okada saga that occurred previously in "How to Capture a Martini", Indeed, the fact that Naoyuki and Okada were a couple totally escaped him until he went to the back one day and caught them stealing a kiss. A kiss he actually had to ask about as he was unsure he had seen what he thought he had. He then astounds them them with the confession that its fine, but he was not sure and that it was the first time he had seen a gay couple. He was even more astounded when they pointed out that 90% of their clientèle were gay, as it was predominantly a gay bar.

      After this revelation, he has to concede that now that he actually LOOKS at the clientèle, it is pretty obvious that this is true. This doesn't phase him in particular, until he takes note of two new regulars. Young and cute Fumi and older and more sophisticated business executive type Kanashiro always come in together, sit at the bar, and order two Sidecars. Not only do they always do this, but they come every single day, telling him they have come to see him in particular, and comment on his skills with the shaker in a flirting manner. If that wasn't bad enough, they invite him back to theirs to mix private cocktails for them. Just what is their deal? They are together right?

      Well, yes and no, as he discovers the hard way. They ARE together, but once again, it is not anything remotely conventional. When Kousaka breaks Fumi's heart by changing the drink to better suit his tastes, he realises that the young man's disappearance is on him. Unfortunately, he discovers the whole vanishment and his part in it the hard way, when a distraught and out of his mind Kanashiro takes it out on him in a sudden violent attack that leaves him bleeding and beaten after an assault that turns sexual in nature. Fumi runs off every now and again, and then they get back together. Only, not the way people think and this time thanks to Kousaka, this time he might not come back.

      Seems they shared a boyfriend before, and he looked a lot like Kousaka. Fumi had his heart set on making him their very own sidecar passenger as a replacement, and the times Fumi previously took off is when he went in search of the boyfriend who simply took off on them. The boyfriend was the one actually pulling the strings, and it pretty obvious that the pair are left feeling alone, sticking with one another out of a feeling of solidarity rather than any desire to get together romantically. The whole current debacle was triggered by Kousaka's appearance, as he apparently closely resembles the man who cruelly dumped the pair of them by simply moving away and not looking back while they pined.

      Kousaka is quite flummoxed, needless to say, and has never even considered having a relationship with a man before. Not that there is anything wrong with it, and he is not dating anyone right now, but the whole gender issue aside, he is not someone to be shared about like a bowl of snacks! Needing help in his weakened state, he takes himself to Naoyuki's. Okada, Naoyuki and the boss are not happy about this turn of events, but pride won't allow Kousaka to press charges or have the man banned from the bar. He simply refuses to serve him, and things stand like that for some time. With Kanashiro bitterly regretting with genuine grief his rash, unplanned assault, Kousaka's wounded pride, and Fumi's desperate need to replace his lost lover, things don't stand still for long. The victim, the assailant, and the innocent wounded party come together to try to work things to an amicable conclusion for sanity's sake and a feeling of closure.

      To everyone's disbelief, Kousaka decides to have social contact with the pair, leaving the door open for dating one of them, and as the three of them begin to learn about the other, bridges get somewhat mended while the two men vie for Kousaka's affections The sidecar seat still remains empty, but will it remain that way? And just who is going to be the driver, and who the passenger?

      This manga is one the surface a pretty light hearted piece of work, but the rape aspect and Kousaka's apparent brush off of the event may bother some readers. However, it is not so much as a brush off, as his refusing to let someone feel empowered because of it, and refusing to be a victim. He does go to a doctor, has the evidence collected, and is prepared to press charges if another foot is put the wrong way forward. Why so seemingly generous though? It is not just male pride at being pushed down by another man, but his own unwitting interference that set the chain of events in motion that no doubt partly motivates him. Fumi was quite emotionally fragile and and his unthinking action by way of a deliberate one one-upmanship against the flirty pair caused the young man to break down emotionally.

      In this unpredictable state, he vanished, and a desperate Kanashiro cannot find him. Kanashiro is standing in the back, soaked to the skin and and obviously in an unfit mental state. He quite simply was not in his right mind, and his reaction is like a wild animal when the cause of their distress appears before his eyes. Kousaka is well aware of this, as he is the fact that when it was over, Kanashiro came to his senses and was aghast, and tried to take care of the wounded and unconscious Kousaka, fully prepared for the consequences. It is not an excuse, but the two men face the aftermath of the tragic events together, and forge ahead determined to not be victims, neither of each other nor of cruel former partners who used and left, and decide to heal each other and Fumi.

      The whole point of the story is actually about emotional loss. Kousaka's is emotional damage from his assault and the knowledge that he greatly wounded two people almost irreparably. Kanashiro's is the loss of his lover, his lover's lover and his current emotional support and friend (Fumi), and the knowledge that while lost in a maelstrom of emotion he did something unthinkable to someone he actually cares about a great deal (Kousaka). Fumi's loss is his illusion of having found a replica of his lost lover and the knowledge that his lover did not return his love as deeply as he gave it, and that he is not getting him back.

      It is a deep pit indeed, and only by crawling out of it and limping to this crossroads can the three men move forward in their lives. Kousaka to connect to the world about him and the people in it that he had not really noticed before, and for Fumi and Kousaka to let go of the past and find a new love that is theirs alone and not shared with one another. It forges a deeper bond between the three men, one that is literally forged with suffering, and it is no doubt one that will last a lifetime. It makes this not so much as a rom com as a serious comedy drama with thought provoking themes. It takes a look at the raw emotions that loving someone can bring out, down to the most animalistic levels, brings it back to the world of the rational, and settles to a comfortable place somewhere between the two.

      As for the sidecar, all I have to share is this:
      2/4 brandy
      ¼ white curacao
      ¼ lemon juice
      Blend with a mixer.

      ***I would like to thank Digital Manga Publishing for providing me with this review copy.***

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