All Kento Kumayaga wants is a family. Raised by his grandparents, the young teacher just wants to meet a nice girl, settle down, and raise children. But the girl he chooses is underwhelmed by his cut-to-the-chase proposal and then, to make matters worse, he ends up in bed with Akira Kazuki, a smart, beautiful, and very, very gay man. Now Kento must rethink the future he had laid out for himself, deciding between his dreams and the whirlwind that has upset his ordered life.
Saika Kunieda has been creating yaoi since the early part of the 2000s and creating shojo for at least 11 years before that as Sakai Kunie and her experience shows. Her love story was exactly what I wanted it to be, but not always in the way that I thought it would be and that’s what I really liked about her writing. I would think she was going one direction, but then she would veer off on a different path, but that new path would still be something plausible based on what had gone before. This is especially true in the bonus story which comprises the last third of the book. “Winter Rabbit” is a family romance (two cousins raised as brothers) that deals with unrequited feelings, teen angst, even abortion and abandonment. It ended up being different from what I expected, while still (mostly) being what I wanted it to be in the end.
The two stories that make up the Future Lovers section, “Memories of the Future” and “Heartstrings,”are very character driven. Kento is the narrator of the first and Akira the narrator of the second. Kunieda’s characters are interesting and she works hard to keep them from being stereotypes. Their voices are very different. Kento is serious and thoughtful, while Akira is impulsive and eager to end things in an attempt to protect himself. Their differences are reflected in the drawings as well. Kento is drawn almost like a seinen protagonist, strong jawed, but slightly hapless, every businessman. Akira is beautiful–the bishie of the duo–but Kunieda is not afraid to ruin his good looks with a realistically ugly scowl or shocked expression in humorous moments. She also has a good eye for pacing, switching between humor and seriousness as needed to keep the story engaging.
What I especially liked was that Kunieda doesn’t shy away from the idea of homosexuality. Akira is gay and Kento isn’t merely “gay for you,” like in many yaoi. As Akira tells him, “You can blame it on alcohol the first time, but not the second. I think you have a gay streak.” Kento knows the difficulties inherent in starting a relationship with a man and he knows that his grandparents will in no way approve. His decision to choose the person to whom he can say, “My life was happy because I met you,” is even more poignant for that struggle.
NOTE: This review was previously posted at an old blog of mine, Fujoshi Librarian.
Future Lovers, vol. 1