Itoshi & Lehanan Aida’s Orochi no Kishi is the first novel from the new indie BL/MM publisher, Yaoi Revolution. The story is set more than half a century into the future from now on what I hope is an alternate timeline. It’s like the frontier lands, sans the promise of and hope for a brighter future. Not quite Mad Max, but neither is it a far cry. The issues that plague today’s society are still doing their best to strangle the life out of the world. Among many other ills, there’s classism, racism, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, exploitative marketing, and the governmental appropriation (read: seizures) of resources for the greater good. So far, each element has made itself known by underscoring a scene or sequence and not by being trotted out and paraded around like blue ribbon stock at a county fair. In this respect, they are less like Wilbur and more like Templeton with a handful of Charlotte. These things are present in the story primarily to define the society; no one facet outshines the other, but each is integral in advancing the plot.
Orochi‘s story revolves around Mouse, a twenty-something mechanic, who’s scraping by–merely existing–with his uncle at his late father’s garage and Sadao, a thirty-something racer who’s looking for trouble and succeeds in turning Mouse’s life upside down in the process.
The first night I started reading this, I got about 15 to 20 pages in and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The story was interesting and the writing was good, but I was dead tired. My mind floated in and out of the story the next day at work and made me want the night to return so that I could dive back in. When night finally came, compared to the previous night, it was a whole other story. I got into bed before 11PM and although I was sleepy and nodding long before the end of this night’s stint, I read until something past 3AM. The only reason I didn’t continue was that I had to get up in approximately 2 and a half hours. It’s been a long time since a novel kept me into the wee moments of the morning. There were a few parts that I flipped back to read again, so I don’t know if I’ve gotten slower at reading or if it was due to my savoring the story, but when I finally called it a night, I hadn’t even reached the middle of the book. That didn’t happen until I got in a few more pages with a bit of savoring right before work.
Up to this point, reading this story has been like reading fanfiction. That is not to say that it is amateurish, not by any means. That actually shouldn’t be assumed of any fanfiction until you’ve read it, because there are plenty out there deserving of library binding. No, what I mean by “like reading fanfiction” is that the novelist’s love and understanding of the characters comes through loud and clear. The characters have personality; they are beyond well-defined, they are people–they truly seem to be some god’s creation–and they just happen to be creations that Itoshi knows intimately and loves and thought were so engaging that she was compelled to share with us their life as she sees it. It is often that writers seem somewhat detached from their story and characters. And rather than telling the story, they are simply compiling experiences and anecdotes and presenting them to you, leaving a wide berth for your interpretation and acceptance of the story. Of course I’m not saying that anything is wrong with this; the majority of fiction, good fiction, is written this way. However, it’s a completely different reading experience when a story is written in the manner that Orochi is. Itoshi writes in a way that tells you that she was there, not just a fly on the wall, but in the characters’ minds and hearts as each line was spoken; as each thought was formed; as each sigh was released; and as each curse was uttered. From very early on, you feel as if you already know these characters. Itoshi writes in a way that puts you in the same place she is. You get to witness the confusion, the frustration, the indifference, the fear, the jealousy, the heartbreak, and so much more, all from what seems to be firsthand. Itoshi writes in a way that gives you little choice but to feel what she feels and to understand the characters to the same depths that she does. What’s more is that she still manages to keep you at a distance that allows you to see somethings that the characters can’t, because you understand things about their world that they have yet to discover. It’s all quite good. It’s like reading fanfiction.
When I finally reached page 180, it was a good breaking point. The story could have ended there and with the exception of one loose end, I would have been satisfied. Mouse had been roughed up, kidnapped, chased, encountered the threat of his balls being removed, and nearly taken by a number of things including fire, water, and heat stroke. Meanwhile, Sadao continued on, from the looks of it, undisturbed and steadfast in his hunt for trouble. Once he found it, he did just about all that he could to make sure it stayed close to him. Even though he was far from OK with his new purpose or rather, how it came about, Mouse was constantly fighting against his desire to maintain it. At the hands of Sadao and his own expectations, Mouse was rendered jealous and heartbroken and sometime thereafter, by the same, his heart was mended. Then, after approximately 20 consecutive pages of very hot beautiful sex, they promptly rode off into the sunset, or morning sun, as it were. That’s a beautiful ending, don’t you agree? What could be better than that? I’ll tell you what: another 180 pages or so of what happens after the subsequent sunrise, that’s what. However, as most readers know, when you encounter a happy ending that’s nowhere near the end, whatever comes next is going to hurt something awful.