Manga-ka: Shoko Ohmine
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: March 2007
Synopsis: “In the emergency room where he and his parents were brought after a fatal car accident, Sumi-sensei was one of the surgeons who helped save Naoyuki’s life. During the time that Naoyuki recovered under Sumi’s care, the two developed a bond that transcended that of doctor and patient. For Naoyuki, this was his first step towards believing he was worthy of love. For Sumi, their burgeoning relationship represented all the possibilities and goodness that love brings.”
Lovely Sick is a classic Florence-Nightingale story, a caretaker finding himself falling in love with his patient during their time of need. In this case, the young boy’s time of need spans to nearly his whole life, going through the slow rehabilitation process after the accident that left his legs shattered. In this second volume, we are brought back five years to when the two characters first met. It is also through this that we are reminded just how far apart in age doctor and patient are, and through what means their relationship comes to be, leaving, for this reviewer at least, a bit of a sour taste left behind.
A car accident has left young twelve year old Naoyuki without his parents, now alone in the world with none to care for him past his family lawyer. Enter Sumi-sensei, the first-year intern who is called in to aid in saving the boy’s life. Through their first interactions, we learn a little more about Naoyuki’s bitterness, stemming from the trauma of losing his parents and the love he felt he never got from them. In turn, Sumi-sensei not only sympathizes with the boy, but also requests to be his lead caretaker. Through Naoyuki’s reluctance to Sumi-sensei’s will to help him, a kind father/son sort of relationship seems to be forming. It’s a heartwarming tale that soon seems to turn down a slightly darker road as Sumi-sensei’s love for Naoyuki is quickly revealed to be much more than that. After plans are made to have Naoyuki live with him, Sumi-sensei asks his young patient to become his lover… someday.
Flying back to the setting of the first volume, two years later, we see the two continuing to live together, a tender balance between tolerance and acceptance. While the relationship has remained innocent, Sumi-sensei continues to remind the ever-stubborn Naoyuki of his feelings towards him. Still at his every beck and call, Sumi-sensei’s obligations to his patient seem rooted more in obsession, while inner monologue of Naoyuki reveal his strong insecurities and complete reliance on his doctor’s care. Small lines of dialogue are thrown in at times that seem purely intent on justifying their feelings for each other. Often these justifications fall short of masking a relationship that seems based on exploited vulnerabilities. In particular, a scene near the end of the book, the fifteen year old Naoyuki tells the now twenty-six year old Sumi-sensei, that the pain he endures from sex is fine as long as it means Sumi-sensei will stay home with him that day. Though most likely implied in a romantic way, it coupled with the boy’s age and his severely limited ability to leave the house without his doctor’s aid, has the line sounding more like a desperate attempt to alleviate loneliness.
The artwork is still consistent and pleasing to the eye. While some pages may seem a bit cluttered with panels and dialogue, everything is still easy to understand and flows nicely. One confusing aspect at times is the use of transparent dialogue boxes over characters and scenery, easily mistaken for thought bubbles and vice versa. Characters however are drawn well, easily distinguishable from each other. Naoyuki in particular has a rounded face that sets him apart even from other characters of his role in different yaois. The cover image is attractively painted in pastel colours and includes a full colour collage page inside.
This is a story with touching sentiments, leaving readers awaiting the final conclusion of their relationship. However, it also leaves much to be questioned about the innocence of their ‘love’, as Naoyuki seems more trapped by Sumi-sensei’s advances than invited by them. It’s a love or hate story, not only with Naoyuki’s feelings for his doctor, but for the readers as well. Attractive artwork makes it a good read but the content may not appeal to everyone, as different readers will leave with varied opinions.