Review: Kare no Aijou no Hakari
With a return to normal shoujo programming, here’s a look at a manga I picked up at random and enjoyed (and that depicted homosexuality in a non-shounen-ai, highly realistic way, YAY!), Kare no Aijou no Hakari!
(Warning: I will be mentioning a lot regarding the plot content of the manga than I normally do with reviews, but I will steer clear from revealing major plot developments!)
Summary: After breaking up with her boyfriend, Mioko starts to take an interest in Arishige, one of the most popular guys at school. Little does she know, Arishige has a secret he cannot confide in anyone, one that Mioko stumbles upon by accident that will change her worldview forever, allowing her to discover what true love really is.
Gosh, my summary made this manga sound so incredibly hokey. I’M SORRY! I really am doing my best, and that really is the best way I could think of to phrase it!
As you might have figured out from above, Arishige is, well, gay. And he likes one of his classmates (who is straight, I believe). Given the nature of Japanese society, which still does not register gay marriages in official family registers, this is a rather difficult situation to be in. Naturally, homosexuality is not universally accepted.
(By the way, if you’re homophobic and think that homosexuality is a choice, don’t read this manga. Just saying.)
So what’s Arishige to do? That’s the main conflict of this manga, along with Mioko’s developing feelings for Arishige as well. What’s a girl to do when she falls in love with a guy she can never have? That’s the question this manga answers, in a thought-provoking and surprisingly poignant way.
What I love about this manga is the transformation in the way Mioko thinks about homosexuality. At first, she’s completely unaccepting about it, until Arishige basically says, “Sure, I could like girls, but I’ve never felt the way about a girl than the guy I like”, and her total thought reversal after that was really natural. I really LOVED that about the characters in this manga – all of their interactions and growth seem so natural.
There’s something I’ve noticed regarding homosexuality as depicted in non-shounen/shoujo ai manga, though. Why is it that their classmates are always so vehemently unaccepting of it? Not to mention that this opposition is mostly uniform in its manifestation – girls tend to gossip about it while guys tend to bully both psychologically and physically. I know that homosexuality has yet to gain complete universal acceptance in a lot of places, but most of the Japanese people I know are mostly okay with it. I realize that most of the Japanese people I know personally are more westernized than most Japanese people, but it just strikes me as odd that classmates’ reactions as depicted in manga are so strikingly uniform.
On that note, this manga strikes a very particular point on the perception of homosexuality in Japan. Upon finding out about Arishige’s inclinations, Mioko is unable to really believe it at first. I think this reaction on her part also contributes to the resoundingly shoujo feel of this manga, despite it involving a truly gay character. The feel of the manga really makes it seem like they SHOULD end up together somehow – it feels like a “traditional” shoujo manga in how Arishige and Mioko interact and their emotional bond – but in the end, they can’t be together. I love how the author doesn’t shy away from this fact, and doesn’t use a cop-out like saying that Arishige was bi all along.
There is one thing I wish this manga was – LONGER. At three chapters, it’s simply too short to do anything really memorable. Yes, it was a great read, but it could have been so much more if things had been more expanded upon. Even two chapters more would have been good. The ending left me rather unsatisfied as well, so because of that, I really do wish there were more.
Also, the beginning was rather abrupt as well. Instead of establishing Mioko’s character in an effective way, it just depicts how she broke up with her boyfriend. I thought the whole scene could have been a bit more striking, especially since her relationship is going to play into Mioko’s general perception of love later in the manga. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but it’s just something I picked up on.
As for the art, it really seems like Touda-sensei likes drawing guys more than girls, since Arishige is well-drawn ALL THE TIME, while Mioko isn’t. Not that girls in this series are drawn badly by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that the female character design is a bit…boring.
By the way, the band geek in me appreciated the clarinet featured in the first chapter. Hehehe 🙂 It’s really realistic looking though! I was pretty impressed, since woodwind instruments are pretty intricate…so good job on that. (LOL and it was only featured in a few pages…)
Really, I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a quick read. At only three chapters, it isn’t too much of a time investment, and if you’re in a hurry/short on system memory on your electronic device for manga scans and looking for something good, this is a good place to go!