Disgusting. Halfway through, that’s the exact word that came to mind. That’s all I could really think while reading Senya Ichiya. It was utterly disgusting how good this story was. How is it possible for Aoi, who is rather severe, to shine so brightly? He was so broken; it was painful to watch. But at the same time he was so provocative; the kind of character that you just can’t turn away from. And Shouta…
It’s not always easy for me to warm up to a character who wants to “save” someone. They’re usually clingy, obsessive, and they’re always intrusive, usually to a degree that makes their rescue efforts seem more about comforting their own heart or conscience than about those of the one to be rescued. These characteristics alone are not a problem; they’re not even bad when they exist in a single character, but without some sort of allure or endearment they foster a situation where you start feeling as if the one to be saved will just be trading one cage for another.
And that’s why I loved Shouta; although he exhibited the aforementioned characteristics, his concern for Aoi was genuine and his actions gave me the feeling that if what Aoi truly needed was for him not to be there, he would have put Aoi’s best interests well before his own and removed himself from Aoi’s sight. Another thing about Shota is that, his investigation into Aoi’s past wasn’t about gathering information to be able to zero in on Aoi’s pain in order to expunge it, it was about understanding all of the things that took place and stringing them together to form a safety net to catch Aoi once the truth was revealed.
Shouta took a huge risk in confronting Aoi; he could have actually driven him further away. I used the term “save,” but since we see Shouta deciding very early on to be whatever Aoi needed whenever he needed it, it was more like he just allowed himself to be the rope that Aoi struggled up hand over hand. He never made it about himself. Shouta never said anything like “I’ll love you forever” or “I’ll never betray you.” Not once did he present himself as a choice; he just presented all the facts, appealed to Aoi’s reasoning–which had been all but stripped away–and simply stepped aside so that Aoi could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because it’s one thing when someone tells you that there is one, but it’s a whole other thing when you can see it for yourself.
Thankfully the story doesn’t end there. We get to see the two sometime after, living the life they fought for. At the end and in the atogaki, Okadaya gives us a peak at what they’re up to 10 years on–I soundlessly squeed with clenched hands because it was great and I would love to see more. She hoped to do more, so maybe, just maybe…
I like the emotion she’s able to convey with the character’s facial expressions, postures, and gestures, although, the men’s physiques are not my cup of tea–on or off the page. However, that doesn’t matter, in the same way it no longer matters for Nishida Higashi’s art style, because their stories pretty much blinded me to it until I got used to it.
I’m going to call it and say that Senya Ichiya – Shitone no Himegoto (One Thousand and One Nights – Pillow Secrets) is my favorite of the titles I’ve read by Okadaya. The overall tone is quite somber and it lightens up toward the end, but not without showing that not all wounds heal completely.
Notes: When I first wrote this, I had people at my door–ready to fight–because of the opening. Even my friends, which I was completely tickled by. Sorry for having a laugh at your expense, but it all turned out well in the end.