Sometimes the person you love most is the person you shouldn’t have… Kyousuke Shiina knows this well. After all, he’s in love with his best friend, Kasumi. Has been for ages. Childhood friends who lost touch then reconnected, Kyousuke and Kasumi have been dancing around their feelings for years. Kasumi once wanted to date Kyousuke, but Kyousuke turned him down and now the shoe is on the other foot. Kinda. There are complications including Japan’s feelings toward homosexuality. Will Kasumi and Kyousuke be able to overcome everything and say the words that they just can’t seem to say?
First a little cultural background, Japan is a fairly conservative country. More conservative than a lot of Westerners realize. It’s a lot more 1950s in a way with their cultural expectations. Some of the expectations include: women should focus on being homemakers after they get married and not jobs; if a person is arrested for a crime, they must be guilty; having tattoos means that you’re part of the yakuza; and homosexuality is unnatural. The last seems counter-intuitive but it definitely exists. Having worked with people in the Japanese entertainment industry for the last 20 or so years I’ve seen this first hand. There’s a huge stigma associated with being homosexual.
So with that, I should probably give some trigger warnings. CW: Homophobia, CW: Internalized Homophobia, CW: Parental abuse/neglect, CW: Parental death, CW: Infidelity
The manga “There Are Things I Can’t Tell You” zooms in on that stigma through the lens of Kyousuke and Kasumi’s relationship. Kyousuke has known from a very early age that he’s gay, but he has also had to hide it because he overhears his mother calling homosexuals “disgusting.” This is something he carries with him. Internalizes. And it affects him throughout his life.
(I’m sorry I couldn’t resist this GIF) I found the story sweet, like the light shojo comics I devoured in the early 2000s. But there were deeper themes present. And this is definitely not a book for kids unless there’s an adult around to provide context or answer questions. I liked how the stigma of being gay in Japan was handled. It felt real to the stories my friends have told me. The Manga also captured the Japanese work culture really well – from the late nights to the perfectionism and nepotism. It reminded me of a lot of my own dealings. ^_^
One thing I didn’t love was that there were a lot of flashbacks in this to previous parts of their lives. Some scenes are told from both characters POVs. It’s not my favorite storytelling device – especially in a book this short.
The plot veers into pretty steamy territory. (Read: Very Steamy) For those who like that sort of thing. There’s some good consent, which I appreciate. And there’s some even better communication during the love scenes. Trust me, folks, communication is hot.
I related to Kyousuke quite a bit. His whole outward and inner selves warring with each other. The difficulty he faces in being who he wants to be and who society expects him to be. I could feel his yearning and desires.
The art is pretty in a very josei style. (It reminds me of Mayu Shinjo in a way.) Especially when it came to the romantic scenes. There’s some odd pattern choices, but that’s sort of par for the course. Plaids never translate well to animation or manga.
In all, I liked this story and its trip to a happy ending.
Four and Half Stars rounded up to Five.
If this is your jam, you can get it here! I received an ARC via NetGalley