Manga-ka: Narise Konohara
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: February 2012
Synopsis: “Asaka is a dedicated wedding planner who’ll do anything to guarantee his clients’ happiness. Sadly, his own love life has all but vanished thanks to his ridiculous work schedule! But when Asaka’s first patron resurfaces, the precious spark of true love may finally fly for him. Can he plan the perfect affair…or will it just have to happen by chance?”
About Love is less a yaoi and more a straight up drama. It’s the kind of the story that could possibly happen in real life, but upon hearing about it your first thought would probably be ‘Geez, that’s messed up.’ This manga was uncomfortable to read at times, but even when I winced I still had to keep reading.
Asaka is a wedding planner who lives for his job. One day he bumps into Sasagawa, a man whose wedding Asaka planned a year ago, back when Asaka was still a rookie wedding planner. Neither of the men have much of a social life and the two quickly become friends. They go out drinking, have dinner and see movies together.
For Asaka, Sasagawa isn’t just a new-found friend but proof that there are happy married couples out there. In his work, Asaka sees so many couples who fight or break-up before their wedding, or get married only to get divorced later. Hearing about Sasagawa’s happy married life gives Asaka hope.
But it turns out that Sasagawa’s marriage isn’t as rosy as he makes it out to be. Sasagawa’s relationship with his wife is complex and more than a little unhealthy. At this point they’re pretty much only ‘married’ for appearance sake and live completely separate lives. Even though his wife doesn’t love him, Sasagawa is practically obsessed with her: when she doesn’t call him on his birthday, he gets drunk and breaks down in front of Asaka.
Asaka is upset that Sasagawa’s marriage is a lie, but he feels more pity than anger. The two continue to hang out and even start spending more time together since Asaka wants to get Sasagawa out of his depressing apartment and doing stuff. One night after a round of heavy drinking, they share a kiss. Neither of them have been in a relationship with another man before, and neither knows how to deal with their feelings. While Asaka is merely confused, Sasagawa goes into an emotional tailspin which threatens to wreck their friendship.
Even when the two finally talk things out and start dating, it’s far from smooth sailing. For one, they have to keep their relationship a secret from everyone. There’s a nice scene where Asaka and Sasagawa stand next to each other stiffly on the subway while in the background a guy and a girl make-out, indulging in the kind of public affection that the main characters can’t.
There’s a lot more plot packed into the book, but I don’t want to detail every twist as the manga does a good job pacing its revelations. The focus is pretty squarely on the main characters’ relationship, though there are some interesting subplots centered around Asaka’s work as a wedding planner. Asaka and Sasagawa’s relationship doesn’t follow the same trajectories most yaoi relationships do eithe: they don’t rip each other’s clothes off as soon as they confess their love, for one thing. Actually, there are very few sex scenes in this graphic novel. The characters might think about sex a lot, but because of how timid and unsure they are it’s a long time before either of them initiates anything.
Asaka is an appealing character. It’s nice to see a character who really likes their job, and Asaka really throws himself into the wedding planning business. He’s patient and understanding, but not a pushover. His main flaw is that he forgives Sasagawa a little too much, but people often make that kind of mistake when they’re in love.
While Asaka is sensible, Sasagawa is a total drama queen. He’s clinging, passive aggressive, sulks when he doesn’t get his way, and generally does whatever he can to sabotage his own happiness. None of this is played in a cute, comical way like it might be in other series. Instead it’s very clear that his actions just makes things worse for himself and the people around him. It’s a testament to the writing that while I personally thought that Asaka should get far away from this guy, I could understand why he doesn’t.
The manga was adapted from a novel, a fact which surprised me when I read the artist’s notes. Transitioning a story from one medium to another doesn’t always work, but here I couldn’t even tell that this wasn’t a manga to start with. It made sense afterwards, as there’s enough plot here for a novel. The art is kind of plain, which works for the characters as neither are supposed to be flashy guys. The artist does a really nice job with the layouts and her backgrounds are serviceable.
About Love is a really interesting read, though not something I’d recommend if you want either fluffy shonen-ai or hot guys getting it on. It reminded me of josei manga, like Erica Sakurazawa’s works. Just like in her manga, the characters might not always be likeable and their situations might be wince inducing, but like a car wreck you can’t look away.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures