Yukimura's A Love Song for the Miserable has a great title, doesn't it. And it's pretty appropos of what to expect from the single volume work. The main character, Itsuki Asada, is a miserable guy who hates his job, his life and...well, he's a little bitter. The story starts with Asada drunkenly ranting about his position at a Tokyo department store to a co-worker. The co-worker, annoyed by his pity-party, leaves him half-passed out in some shrubbery (I love the word shrubbery) where a runner by the name of Iwasaki Nao runs, quite literally, across him.
Nao has a dilemma of his own. His father owns a bakery and wants Nao to take over, but Nao is unsure of himself and his abilities. He is an avid runner (with a very poor sense of direction), who uses running to sort out his problems and lost in thought finds himself in an unfamiliar area. They "rescue" one another: Nao pulls the drunken, sobbing Asada from the bushes and Asada gives Nao directions home. The ever-exhuberant Nao scribbles his own directions on a scrap of paper. The directions are to Nao's bakery "The Star," where he asks Asada to come by for a pastry as thanks. Uncharacteristically, Asada does come by and discovers that Nao is a very talented, yet untrained pastry chef. Nao discovers that Asada may be helpful in developing his skills, as a critic and a taster. The two form a quick friendship which temporarily lifts Asada from his slump. He finds himself feeling useful and relied upon for once and relishes the opportunity to be a part of something successful.
It is not until Nao decides to begin training in France that Asada realizes that his friendly feelings for Nao might be something more. Rather than confess his feelings to his friend Asada does the exact opposite, he snaps at Nao, plays down the importance of their friendship and snubs Nao's ambitions. The two part on terrible terms and Asada once again falls into his misery.
Asada is miserable. He's pretty much always miserable. Look at that anguish!
Three years later the two are thrust into a business situation and hurt feelings on both sides cause even more tension between the two. Finally the stand-off breaks, but unfortunately Asada realizes that not only is he still the same miserable person in an unsatisfying career that he was three years ago, he's also still in love with Nao who is now a world-reknowned patissier. As Asada himself says, he loves Nao but hates him at the same time. Nao, who is open and honest and almost puppy-ish in his devotion, has things that Asada wants (not just his body). Asada is jealous, bitter and heartbroken when he's around Nao, but he longs for Nao when they are parted. Asada is one tortured soul...and kind of a puss. Finally Nao reveals that he thinks he has figured out Asada, and that he wants to make him happy because "No one wants to see such a (sad) face on the person they love." Despite the love confession, Asada bolts just after this painful scene:
|Seriously, Asada, you have got to quit beating yourself up...it really isn't that bad.|
All in all, this is the kind of crappy manga I adore. It has long-standing secretive emotions, defensiveness to conceal heartbreak and some awesome looking desserts. It doesn't hurt that Yukimura, whom I have grumbled about before, seems to have solved some of her problems with foreshortening and perspective in the artwork. I really love the sort of stark anguish on Asada's face, and the way his posture and body language conveys his mood. She's improved by leaps and bounds over the years.
A Love Song for the Miserable may not be for everyone. It is (I keep saying it) a fairly miserable story. Thankfully it all turns around (a bit) in the end. Maybe nothing will put a smile on the beautiful Asada's face? Maybe some people wear tragic quite well?
NC-17 or whatever, not a lot of graphic sex in this book. What's there is sweet and fairly modest, but I warn you anyway.
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