Going into this, I just knew I was going to have wonderful things to say about this title because I have come to appreciate Kinoshita Keiko as a storyteller and I know Boys Love Bang Bang will always produce quality work. I am somewhat heartbroken to have to report that I was disappointed. BLBangBang certainly held up their end of the bargain, but the volume left me on the hollow side of hungry.
Want to Depend on You is a single volume containing 2 stories that are unrelated as far as the universes the stories occur in but are very complementary in regards to the themes that are present within them: beginnings, endings and reunions.
The first story, the volume’s namesake, is about a college student, Yamato, who falls for Onodera-san, the former assistant of his late father. Without giving too much away, I’ll say, if the story was a lover… he came too fast and in an attempt to make up for it, he resumed foreplay. After he satisfied himself, his efforts to please me were half-hearted at best, perfunctory at worst. Upon waking up the next morning, he was hit by the notion that last night’s less than stellar performance could quite possibly lead to the cold shoulder, so he served a continental breakfast in bed.
A paltry peace offering is what the reprise, “You, My Beloved” was. The glass of OJ and buttered croissant did a fair job of filling the empty belly that was the end of “Want to Depend on You,” but it also made me painfully aware that it was really just a way to keep my mouth from expelling the obscenities that I dreamt up as a response to the previous night’s foolishness.
The second story, Slow ballad (Parts One and Two), tells the tale of Yuuya and Arata, former lovers who reunite. Many of Kinoshita-sensei’s stories include a parting of ways before a well-earned and well-timed reunion that precedes the dénouement. However, this time around we enter the story 10 years after the initial parting and find ourselves lost in a mist. I couldn’t tell if some of the dialog was meant to be instances of misdirection or if she was just as confused writing it as I was reading it. And before the truth about the past was finally revealed, rather than being kept in suspense, I felt more like I was waiting for someone who spoke primarily in parenthetical statements to get to the point.
At the beginning of the second story, Yuuya and Arata mention how the other has not changed from the way they were 10 years ago. At the end of the story this conversation is revisited, but with Yuuya claiming that Arata actually has changed and Arata agreeing with him. This is a device sometimes used by writers and often by Kinoshita-sensei to end the story by bringing it full circle; yet, when there is nothing enclosed in that circle, the conversations easily show themselves as a failed attempt to close the loop.
This volume isn’t all bad, while very few, there are some good moments and some other bits that were characteristic of Kinoshita-sensei. For example, a good moment in “Want to Depend on You,” is when Sensei takes a question often asked in jest and turns it into a sincere, guilt-tinged contemplation. Later, in the same story, Onodera-san wants nothing more than to hear Yamato call his name, but as this desire is fulfilled, not once, but twice, he realizes how much it can hurt to actually get what you wished for. This is a different form of the tie-back plot device I mentioned earlier. She likes to use this to illustrate the internal conflict a character is experiencing and usually does this very well, always with the perfect balance of subtlety and transparency. Also mentioned earlier were the complementary themes shared by the stories. Even though the stories seemed haphazard, the themes helped the volume feel somewhat complete.
There was a time that I was completely unimpressed with Sensei’s work. I could liken it to a tall glass of water that left me parched. Back then I felt that there were many points in the stories that were perfect for evoking a sense of angst, sentiment, embarrassment, or even awe, but instead they just stood still letting those opportunities pass them by. Then I read Kiss Blue and from that title I learned how to read Sensei’s work. Kinoshita Keiko is a good storyteller, but her skills really shine when she’s able to slow cook the storyline rather than microwaving it on high. From Kiss Blue, I was able to understand her style and pace and in turn, I was able to return to the previous titles and recognize her skill in its abbreviated form. I wanted to kick myself for not understanding sooner, but that’s the way it is sometimes. Unfortunately, I was unable to do the same for the stories in Want to Depend on You.
As I mentioned at the start, I was disappointed in the offering. HOWEVER, I don’t feel this is simply a bad manga; I would much rather believe that this is the work of a good mangaka on a bad day and that under better circumstances it would have been a collection worthy of her name.
If Kinoshita-sensei were to ever consider a redux, I would suggest a more developed prelude–the salad then the entree–to Onodera-san’s attack to balance the pacing of “Want to Depend on You.” And regarding “Slow Ballad,” a little time management goes a long way. While it was an improvement over the title story by having the courses served in order, I would have preferred if the waiter didn’t leave empty plates too long or serve the next course too soon. An apéritif to get you in the mood, a salad to further whet your appetite, the main course, and then desert, Turkish coffee, or a digestif as a chaser all served in appropriate intervals–this is a proper meal.
Although I said that the reciprocal themes made the volume feel complete, on the whole, I feel that it would have been more advantageous if they were released separately. You can’t pack a family dinner into a child-size bento box. Be it presentation or content, something will be sacrificed. Since it wasn’t as if there was no story to tell, many, if not all of the faults I found could easily be fixed if each story had more room to breathe.
Of course it seems like I wouldn’t recommend this title after nearly writing it into the ground, but I do. And here’s why: I want both fans and newcomers alike to read this story and then go read another title by Kinoshita-sensei. I recommend Kiss Blue, for starters. Read both and learn to appreciate a writer for their successes as well as their failures. Also, this localization initiative is still in its infancy and needs continuous support in the form of sales and encouragement from the manga, and more specifically the yaoi-reading community. Buy it, read it and tell someone about it. Supporting her through this work may make it possible for more polished works like Ikusen no Yoru to move down the digital pipeline quicker and cute & fuzzy stories like Uchi no Ouji Irimasen ka to be licensed as well. “…but you don’t have to take my word for it.”
I want to thank BLBangBang and DMG for giving me the opportunity to review this title for free via eManga. I would have been severely, though not fatally, heartbroken if I had bought it expecting a Kinoshita classic, but now when I buy it I’ll know exactly what to expect. Such chances are few and far between. To answer your question: Yes, even though I read it for free and was disappointed, I will still be buying it. Why? Because I really do mean to support the mangaka and the initiative. Also, an obsessive reader like myself won’t be satisfied only reading a title once or twice. I’m sure DMG knew what they were getting into when they solicited reviews, so I don’t think they’ll hate me too much.
Notes: My enthusiasm for the localization initiative as waned considerably.