Yoneda Kou: Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly

Yoneda Kou--Even So, I Will Love You TenderlyOnoda meets Deguchi through a mutual drinking buddy and three years later they’re still hanging out. In the interim, Deguchi suffers from unrequited love and Onoda suffers from obliviousness. After hearing about Onoda’s feelings for Shima, Deuguchi stumbles on the path of possibilities and makes his own feelings known to Onoda, but things go about as smooth as roller skates over cobblestones.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Even longer than I thought. I read this back when the bulk of the story was just spinoff doujinshis of No Touching At All. I know it’s not unheard of for a mangaka’s doujinshi to be collected or included in a work released by a publisher, but it’s not something that happens all that often, so I never even considered that the Onoda and Deguchi stories would. But here we are.

No Touching At All is what made me fall in love with Yoneda and while I loved the relationship between Togawa and Shima, I was seriously taken by the role that Onoda played in the story. He’s one of the most interesting secondary characters I’ve ever read in BL. Good stories usually make you want more of the main couple and great stories usually make you want more of everything. Onoda definitely made up the greater percentage of that everything for me.

In this release, the four original doujinshi are bookended by before and after chapters and an extra. There’s also an extended scene in one of the original chapters! This is a book I can pick up and read from any point, but can also read from cover to cover in back to back sessions. The story is really good and, both individually and as a couple, Onoda and Deguchi such a pleasure to read. I enjoy the assumed natural ease of their friendship, but the parts of the story when they were at odds with each other were the best for me.

Deguchi. Even after a botched confession, he didn’t flaunt his attraction to men, in general, or to Onoda, in particular, but he had no intention of acting like he was ashamed of it or that his feelings were a burden on Onoda. You get that a lot in BL. Probably second only to “I don’t want to ruin our friendship” is “I don’t want to be a bother/burden.” Especially when it comes to the gay uke/straight seme dynamic. But that is nowhere to be found here. Moreover, its absence sets the story in stark contrast to No Touching At All, where that was one of Shima’s biggest concerns, so it really stands out. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that Deguchi wasn’t interested in showing his best side to his crush…unless he thought being the stereotypical 3rd grader bullying their crush was his best selling point. But his impositions were rather endearing. And as for his crush…

“Damn Onoda,” Deguchi says as he stomps on the business card with a woman’s number on it that he found in Onoda’s pocket. He’s only Onoda; what’s he doing getting hit on? I’d say it’s because he is Onoda. Onoda who doesn’t mind being pushed around but will stand up to serious bullying. Onoda who will buy a drink for a poor student. Onoda who is quick to recognize his flaws, but pretty slow to identify his strengths. Onoda who is so earnest in everything he does and is truly a nice guy. That’s why he gets hit on, that’s why Deguchi loves him, that’s why I love him.

Seeing Onoda realize his own feelings when faced with the thought of never seeing Deguchi again was rather stirring. He says he doesn’t mind being pushed around, but he’s not a pushover and he wasn’t going to let Deguchi bulldoze him with his arsenal of assumptions. The second time, even Deguchi, who had quickly resolved to steel himself against any BS he believed Onoda was about to dish out, was shocked when Onoda yelled. Onoda didn’t want to be the frustrated, insensitive, and petty guy–he wanted to be the compassionate, obliging, and considerate guy that he thought Deguchi saw him as. Hurt feelings and misunderstandings aside, I think it’s because Deguchi still saw him that way that it seemed to be much more crushing than things simply not working out with a straight guy. So, no worries Onoda, you were still awesome in his eyes.

Depending on the story, it can be a case of instant boredom when by the time the leads become a couple, nothing about them has changed. That’s one of the reasons tsunderes annoy me; I see their behavior as a form of emotional manipulation and abuse. How exhausting is it that you can’t relax around the person you’re supposed to be in love with (and who returns your feelings)? How much time do you waste saying no when you don’t mean it? And for their partner, how draining is it to always have to convince someone to respond to you? Relationships are already enough work without people playing mind games.

There’s no way I can buy into that couple riding off into the sunset hand in hand. But for Onoda–generous and sincere–and Deguchi–charming and guarded–the fact that neither one of them changed is actually one of the best things about their relationship. What’s more is that the points at which they clashed didn’t change either, they were simply bypassed with the help of clear communication and the doing away with assumptions. Getting beyond Onoda’s lack of awareness and Deguchi’s disinclination for dating straight guys was the sum of the conflict, but those things still remain. Both Onoda and Deguchi still consider Onoda straight, so that wall will always be there and although Onoda can be pretty perceptive, he’s a tad naive and not entirely initiated in the ways of gay men, so there will definitely be things he won’t see and Deguchi will have to point out to him. So they will be tripped up by these things on occasion, but that fact alone doesn’t dissuade me from believing in their happily ever after. And it’s totally HEA for the win!

Now, about the book itself…

Yoneda Kou--Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly-03

This how I read print. Flags on the side are questionable word choices and typos, flags on the top are particularly interesting scenes (ignore the top one it misplaced itself somehow; also, there’d be no point, every scene is a particularly interesting one). I have to say, this is quite an improvement over past Juné titles.

I’m not going to go into all of them–most of them being typos–but there’s one that really bugged me. When Deguchi is describing Onoda at the end of their first meeting, he says he’s “soft and kind” and I cringed a bit. Soft sounds really odd to me. Personality-wise, describing someone as soft, makes me think they don’t have a backbone. However, as a general observation, it sounds like someone is disrespectfully suggesting that someone else is gay. It doesn’t really give me a good feeling. I think gentle would have worked so much better. But I also think if that is the most I really have to complain about, I have to say that Juné did a pretty decent job.

Not that she can do no wrong, but I’ve yet to encounter a story by Yoneda that I walked away from unsatisfied (save for her dropped titles), so I expected to love this and I do. The story was great, the characters were great, and Juné’s work did its part in rounding out a very enjoyable reading experience.

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