Volumes 1 and 2 of False Memories includes two related stories. The first and main story which takes up all of volume 1 and half of volume 2 is about Nakano and Tsuda who, after 10 years, are reunited as a result of a partnership between their toy making and toy design companies, respectively. Tsuda is shocked and overjoyed to see Nakano, but Nakano couldn’t feel any more to the contrary if he tried. The second story features Tsuda’s colleague and senpai, Saeki, and Ueda, who is the son of their company’s receptionist. Saeki, a thirty-something otaku is confused and annoyed by the confession and interest of the bright-eyed and dangerously charming younger Ueda.
The title story had me smiling with watery eyes. Thinking back over the titles I’ve read by Natsume, I believe this is the first time she’s written one with this type of conflict. All of her other couples were embarking on their first go-round, but Tsuda and Nakano, while they weren’t an actual couple in the past, they were intimate. She’s done reunions (Devil’s Honey and Dash), childhood friends (Tight Rope), office romance, (Ameiro Paradox and Doushiyoumo nai Keredo), and the gregarious vs. the reticent (No Color), but none of them have been done quite like this. None of them have pulled at my heartstrings quite like this.
Natsume hit upon something that just gets to me, that I’m totally at the mercy of. There are few things that can turn on the waterworks faster than a character acting in earnest, but not being believed or taken seriously. And I also have a soft spot for a character denying their feelings because they’re afraid to get hurt again. I am so weak to these moments, especially the former and this is why watching Tsuda and Nakano’s courtship had me tied in knots. Tsuda was at a loss and he felt left behind and he didn’t really understand why Nakano severed ties with him, but their reunion was like another chance for him and he charged ahead half blind in pursuit of reconciling. Nakano, on the other hand, initially felt used and discarded because of what happened between them in the past, but as the story developed, his views on what exactly Tsuda’s intentions were, both in the past and the present, became more confused and continued to morph until they ultimately stabilized into what he assumed was a misunderstanding on his part. But at the same time, his original feelings never completely went away and it was those that he eventually expressed to Tsuda once he reached his tipping point.
There was a decent amount of build up that included a significant turns of regression on Nakano’s part due to him trying to figure out if he could actually be friends with Tsuda or if he just needed to treat him like any other business partner just to make it through, because there was no way for there to be anything else between them. He did his best in his tormented state, but his will was no match for his true feelings nor Tsuda’s aggressive pursuit.
And Tsuda was aggressive; not horrible, mean, or antagonistic, and his intentions were innocent enough, but he did not know where to draw the line. He only had a strong desire to be with Nakano again, though, to which extent was something that he was coming to terms with. Well, actually, he knew for a while prior to their reunion, but believing that he’d never see Nakano again meant that he could settle on a somewhat vague understanding which did not require any sort of commitment from his heart. But upon seeing Nakano again, he too had to wrestle with the past, present, and what they meant for the future.
Their struggle–which was both helped and hurt by Saeki–and how Natsume didn’t gloss over their reconciliation, but allowed them to have it out until the truth was revealed, is what convinced me that they earned their happy ending. And they were just the cutest–mostly Tsuda; he was unbelievably happy like he’d won the lottery and never had to work a day in his life again. There was no suaveness in his expressions; he was totally in love and he couldn’t hide it, not that he even tried. It’s rare to see a seme so enthused about being with someone and they not be the the usual overgrown puppy-dog type. And Nakano, not that he didn’t look like he was in love, but he seemed more relieved than anything else, like the lottery winnings would be able to cover things that he was at a loss to deal with before. He looked like he felt safe or rather, that his heart was safe in Tsuda’s hands.
All of that lovey dovey was much to Saeki’s chagrin. Not that he’d readily admit it. And to top off his smoldering jealousy–which extended beyond Tsuda’s love aura–his BFF and fellow toy designer, Fuku-chan announced that he was getting hitched. And all of that unfolded to usher in something I’m not used to seeing from Natsume: protracted inner monologues–copious amounts. Seaki talked to himself a lot. He moved about and interacted with other people, but the majority of the first chapter saw him deliberating over the current state of his life–a life that could not figure how and where a guy–15 years his junior, no less–could fit. This story was only two chapters long, so I can’t say much without getting into specifics, but there were two of things that I enjoyed quite a bit about the story. First is that Saeki was a lonely and bitter man and he had no idea that he was. And the second thing was Ueda’s assumptions about Saeki’s whole love situation prior to their brief and unconventional courtship.
I bought volume 1 some months ago and was a bit out of sorts when I found out that the digital for volume 2 had been delayed. I never did find out what the hold up was, but it’s fine, I have it now. In preparation for volume 2, I reread volume 1 so I could get the full effect. I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed it much more this time around. This series offers a lot of what’s good about Natsume’s work but still manages to bring something new to her repertoire. And I know my review focuses on all the love, but as you would expect, her humor is on point as well. I hope her titles are doing well for SuBlime, because I want to see more of her work licensed.