Yoshioka, a mystery to his classmates, and Kengo, who’s loved by them all, are both recovering from past trauma. Though they as well as their burdens are completely different, they somehow find a way to bring solace to each other’s lives. There are so many stories where the one guy feels like he has to save and protect the other and of course he manages to, but the relationship that develops out of that often feels very unbalanced to me. Particularly when the person is being saved from some kind of harassment, removing someone from the situation does nothing to address their trauma, so the falling in love/”it’s okay if it’s you” part always seems to come prematurely.
Anyway, the time of the traumatic events are mostly pre-story, so Yoshioka has had time to deal with some things before he even meets Kengo. The story doesn’t go deep into it, but Yoshioka left school long enough to be held back and even when he did return, he didn’t attend his classes with any kind of frequency, so I’d like to believe that when we meet him, he’s made some progress in his recovery, but still has some hurdles to surmount. Enter Kengo, who takes an interest in Yoshioka. Initially his interest wasn’t reciprocated. I was glad that he wasn’t pushy about it and I felt that when Yoshioka did respond it was because he wanted to and not because he was worn down or pressured.
Later, when Kengo learns the truth about Yoshioka’s past, he takes it upon himself to reconcile things. However, he–as much as he wants to and tries to–fails at saving (in a sense) and protecting Yoshioka. It’s this part that I really liked because when the “hero” takes action, it’s usually for selfish reasons. Not that no part of their effort is truly for the sake of the other person, but often, not enough of it is. Kengo does take action and he does so for Yoshioka’s sake, but for his own as well. And not “because you hurt my friend,” but because he really can’t wrap his mind around why someone would do something like that. But he fails and is utterly frustrated at his inability to bring any good out of it or closure to it. All that fuss and nothing’s changed.
The best part about his impotence is that it returns the right to take any progressive actions in that regard to Yoshioka. Yoshioka then gets to set the terms for his own saving. And because of that, “it’s okay if it’s you,” becomes “this is something I want to do and I want to do it with you.” Although the physical action is the same, I think, between taking that step of his own will and responding to someone prompting him to take that step, the former has more leverage in regards to Yoshioka healing. Also, none of it was out of the blue. The build up, the meaningful conversations, how each piece of Yoshioka’s puzzle was handled–it was all there, in perfect portions.
In the end, the story was more about Yoshioka’s journey than Kengo’s, but that’s fine. Even though he was a little lost with out baseball, Kengo didn’t need to travel as far to find his way home. Though I don’t think his way back would have been as rewarding without Yoshioka.
If there’s anything missing, it’s why Yoshioka was so resigned and distant to begin with. But I don’t think having those details would do much to change the story. It would still be a story that I greatly enjoyed and plan to read again.