Among the manga I find myself re-reading the most is a single volume work (a one-shot) called Constellations in my Palm. The story is by Chisako Sakuragi and the art by (one of my favorites) Yukine Honami. For a single volume work it is rather hefty 246 pages...of some of the most angst-filled, tension-riddled, sweetly painful writing/art that I've encountered in a manga. I am not particularly prone to weeping at manga, unlike a certain Lady-Bard I know, so when I say that this manga has the ability to bring me to tears, it's no insignificant thing.
The story is told from the point of view of college student Mizuho Odaima. When Mizuho was a child his best friend was his younger cousin Enji, they spent every family function together, and all summer joined at the hip...they dreamed about their future lives and followed their interests in astronomy and the universe. Enji looked up to Mizuho with something akin to hero worship, but eight years ago in the aftermath of a childhood accident an embarassed Mizuho pulled away from Enji entirely. Mizuho reflects on the incident and decides that after the accident all traces of admiration Enji once had for him had been replaced with a new and upsetting awkwardness, "I somehow sensed that this change came from his disillusionment with me. The realization was so heartbreaking--and so embarassing--and because at the time I was mired in a morass of self-conciousness I began to avoid Enji." Although Enji tried to contact him several times after that, Mizuho, trying to save face and avoid that "disillusionment," ignored him.
The story begins with the arrival of Enji to the Odaima household. Enji is starting his first year at a college nearby to study...you can guess...astronomy, while Mizuho has given up on his dreams to become what he believes is a more ordinary path, as a business major. When Enji arrives Mizuho is confronted by someone who seems a stranger to him in many ways, but someone he desires to become close to again. The cold awkwardness between the two cousins is well-written and effective. They try to find some common ground in their lives, to become friends again, but both are bitter and regretful of their separation, and each fails to understand the other's feelings as they struggle with their own. They are each so painfully nostalgic and uncertain that it is heartbreaking. Mid-story line it is clear to the reader, although not to Mizuho who is still struggling to make sense of things, that Enji's awkwardness comes from an overwhelming mixture of love and feelings of abandonment rather than disappointment and disillusionment. Mizuho whose lack of self-confidence has lead him to give up on every one of his grander dreams cannot accept the truth of Enji's love for him and sees it as another form of ridicule rather than a confession. Their misunderstandings and trepidation of the characters is ridiculous in many ways (each suspects the other of harboring feelings for a third party), but makes sense when framed in their long-standing, shared history and the true feelings they have for one another.
ARGH! This shit is painful! It's sweet and tender and clueless and angsty and just...awesome! Each of these characters is so broken and oblivous that it kills me. And scenes like the one below are gut-wrenching in context.
|Mizuho (blonde) currently cannot speak because he knows he will cry |
and believes that if he does Enji (dark-hair)
will be further dissapointed in him for being weak.
Why are those boys torturing themselves?
Thankfully, in the end, one of Mizuho's friends helps him pull his head out of his ass and convinces that sometimes things are actually worth trying for, and that his love for Enji is the one thing he shouldn't give up on. And Enji, who gets defensive when he's emotionally vulnerable, backs down when Mizuho bravely confronts him about his feelings while (finally) admitting his own.
Oh, it's so awkward on so many levels. But, then again, what wouldn't be slightly awkward about two male cousins harboring almost decade long infatuations with one another? Yeah, despite the (or perhaps even "because of the") skeeve-worthy taboo-ness of their relationship this is a manga that deals with some complex emotions and is well worth reading. I am impressed by the way it makes an art of awkwardness. The confusion and longing is palpable in these characters, and their breaking points (like the one pictured above) are tenderly squeeworthy. They're so fragile despite their defenses...le sigh. Star-crossed lovers...le sigh. For real.