No, fair readers, I did not forget you today. I just found myself busier than usual today!
A Love Song for the Miserable by Yukimura
Asada, a hopeful young businessman, has gotten depressed because he feels like his ideas haven’t been acknowledged at work. After getting drunk one day, he collapses into a bush until another man named Nao, who is lost and looking for directions, finds him there. As a thank you, Nao offers to treat Asada to a cake at his family’s shop.
A few days later, Asada shows up to find the shop closed, but Nao lets him in and treats him to cake anyway. This strikes up a friendship between the two as Asada’s taste tests help Nao to improve his baking skills. Asada even begins to fall in love with Nao, but suddenly Nao announces that he’s moving to France to become a true pâtissier, and Asada freaks out and ends their relationship on a sour note.
Three years later and Asada is finally where he wants to be at work. During the planning stages of an event he’s working on, he runs into Nao again, who is now an up-and-coming pastry chef in Japan. The situation between the two is tense, however Asada not only needs Nao for his event, but he wants to rectify things with his old friend.
Unfortunately, Asada finds out his division is about to be outsourced right as he patches things up with Nao, which sends him spiraling back into a depression. Nao tries to console him and confesses his feelings for Asada at the same time, but as he tries to get more intimate with Asada (read: jack him off without paying attention to the fact Asada is saying no,) Asada pushes him away and decides he cannot stand to be with Nao.
Asada then tries to quit his job before he’s outsourced and run back to his parents’ house in the country. His plan is foiled, but since he won’t speak to Nao, Nao thinks that he’s already gone away. Asada gets in contact with him before Nao makes it out to the boonies, and that’s when Nao convinces Asada that he loves him despite any faults or failures. The two reconcile and Asada goes on to discover that he can pursue his passion at other companies instead. D’aww.
This was actually a REALLY GOOD MANGA. Perhaps I feel that way because there are pastries involved. I’m part-Austrian and I’m convinced there’s a genetic disposition that Austrians have that results in a manic of good sweets.
But more importantly, I like how this manga treats depression. I suffer from it myself and while the first depiction of Asada’s depression is a little dramatic, the way Asada comes out of it and the second depiction of his depression feels much more spot on. Basically, Asada falls prey to his own mind when he sees Nao being so easily successful when Asada feels like such a worthless failure. It completely incapacitates him to the point where he cannot feel happy about Nao’s feelings for him, something that would instantly perk up someone who isn’t feeling depressed. I can tell you from experience that depression can really mess up things that should otherwise make you feel happy, and that even someone’s passionate love for you can’t bring you out of it.
I also like Nao as a character. He is wonderfully supportive of Asada, even when Asada is depressed. Despite the fact that he ignores Asada’s protests about getting intimate, it’s clear that he just wasn’t paying enough attention when he does realize what Asada wants. (More on consent later.) He also persists in trying to help Asada through his depression and expressing his love as a means of support. All in all, I just really like that Nao doesn’t ever give up on Asada after confessing to him. Not everyone sticks around when they realize you’re depressed, so having someone who is a true support pillar no matter what makes all the difference.
As for the situation where Nao accidentally… I’m willing to not let it affect my judgment of this manga. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that a) Asada was sending out mixed signals like pulling Nao closer despite not wanting to get intimate, b) Nao was under the impression that Asada was saying the opposite of what he truly meant out of shyness (meaning Nao would think that “stop” meant “go,” and c) Nao immediately stopped when he realized that Asada was crying. In fact, I really like the fact that the creator allowed Asada to break down and cry, giving Nao a chance to realize what he did was wrong and that he should stop.
A lot of yaoi mangaka would try to smooth things over with slick, romantic dialogue here or ignore it completely. But both Nao and Asada are true to life here: if a person was having an emotional breakdown as they were being sexed against their will, they would start crying; and if the other person truly loved them, they would stop what they were doing and try to honestly comfort them.
That being said, this is why it’s important to get clear consent from anyone and everyone you’re hoping to sleep with. Even in a relationship where feelings are supposed to be mutual, people can be on different pages sexually. It’s best to check in with partners in a manner that doesn’t pressure them, even if just to be extra careful.
Back to the review: The art toed the line between kind of sketchy here and there, and somewhat clean. For example: there are a lot of suits in this manga, so the suits would be drawn carefully and turn out clean, but the faces and other body parts would be more sketchy and stylistic.
I am quite sad to find out that the only other Yukimura manga published in English is a short story in a multi-artist collection that’s probably long out-of-print. I think this mangaka has lots of potential, as evidenced by crossovers into the mainstream manga world, so I’d love to see more from them.