Manhwa-ga: Yuki Shimizu
Rating: Mature (18+)
Released: November 2008
Synopsis: “The mysterious figure of Shiki finally appears in this flashback — we find a younger and more naive Aoe escaping his familial responsibilities to the countryside of England, where he shares a simple bed and breakfast home with Takamiya and Shiki. While Aoe can’t deny his feelings for the happy-go-lucky Shiki, he can’t shrug off his duties to his family. The tension and seduction builds to an unexpected event that will rock his world forever!”
Volume eleven marks the end of Love Mode, a character-driven story of men brought together by a bomcintion of their business and pleasures. As testament to her skill, Yuki Shimizu has left pinnacle events in characters’ lives a mystery until this final point, revealing to readers past events in what is easily one of the most dramatic books of the series.
I didn’t even realize how much I’d been waiting for this moment in the series until I saw it. Some years of Aoe’s life had been hinted at since the beginning though I didn’t find much interest in him as a character. Volume eleven did wonders to change that, building up a character through the entire series and then filling in a pinnacle chain of events in one moving swoop.
Aoe is a young man in these stories, travelling the world aimlessly during his vacation time in order to avoid returning to his family’s household and his abusive father. While he London, he’s scammed by a street performer who quickly disappears. One thing leads to another and Aoe is having a bad day, with no place to stay. It’s then he meets Takamiya for the first time (a character who becomes one of his closest companions), who offers a place to stay at his bed and breakfast after he drags Aoe into a bit of a lovers’ quarrel. Aoe hesitantly excepts. He meets the street performer, Shiki, at the bed and breakfast and learns he and Takamiya are family. Getting attached to the simple life, Aoe stays there with them in the charming home they’ve made for themselves.
There were a lot of sweet moments in this book. Watching Aoe get close to his two new friends and living a life much simpler than anything he’s lived before, and anything readers had seen him live afterwards, was really nice especially given what we know of Aoe from the rest of the story. Shiki is an amusing character, one whose personality is in sharp contrast with Aoe. The three form a charming little family of sorts, one with smiles, birthdays and oatmeal. Of course, this is until tragedy strikes. Some surprises are less of a surprise than others due to well-placed foreshadowing throughout the series, but none are any less powerful and bound to leave a depressed pit in readers’ stomachs for at least a moment.
At first I was a little bothered that the end of such a great series had such a sombre ending but it was an assumption I made too soon. The very end had some weird twists and ones that did work to sooth my sorrow and leave me appreciating that which the series had done. I’ve loved watching the characters grow and mature, learn to love and love each other, each in their own way, and having the remaining pieces of the puzzle put together here felt very rewarding.
All in all, volume eleven ends reminding me of the reasons I’ve loved following this series in the first place. You get attached to these characters so easily and can’t help but feel for them, and alongside them, as you go on. Whether you’re smiling in happiness or pretending your eyes aren’t a little glassy during the sad moments, it’s been a wonderful roller-coaster ride of fun and feeling. The story of Shiki and Aoe is a bittersweet, though beautiful, tale of love and friendship, and it marks the end of a highly recommended boys’ love series with memorable charm.