I enjoyed following along as Ikuo and Yosuke made their individual and combined journeys to the happy-for-now ending. I appreciated that although Yosuke was reserved and easily embarrassed, he wasn’t timid or a pushover, he didn’t fall prey to the conventions of those traits. He had no problem speaking his mind or setting boundaries. And while Ikuo was gregarious and often oblivious, he didn’t get stuck in a cycle of complacency thinking that everything will be fine if he doesn’t rock the boat. Although, in the story Ikuo was labeled a people-pleaser, I disagree. Completely. That may have been what the author intended or something lost in translation (more on that later), but that’s not at all how he acted.
To me it seemed that he was a problem solver with a more practical than emotional bent. I know it seems contradictory to say someone is both oblivious and a problem solver, but people are complex. If he wasn’t fully invested in something he subconsciously took actions that would distance him from the situation–actions he didn’t fully understand himself. Ikou was actively invested in the outcome of his projects at work and his sister’s education, so he committed himself to seeing them improve. And in the flashbacks to their baseball club days, despite what it meant to Yosuke, Ikuo’s interference with the bullying was not an act of sympathy or an attempt to please anyone; it was about keeping everyone focused on their goal of making it to Koshien and stomping out anything that distracted from that. I think that because he is a kind person at heart, his methods make it look like he’s trying to make everyone happy, but in truth, whether or not anyone is pleased by his actions is almost incidental. Even if he doesn’t realize it, he aims to placate people so they’ll fall in line or not throw a wrench in his plans, whatever they may be.
Ikuo and Yosuke were both stymied by their narrow expectations and assumptions, but those motivations guided their actions in different ways. Yosuke never believed that there was a chance for them to be in a romantic relationship. He convinced himself early on that he didn’t want anything from Ikuo and just being around him was enough even though most of his thoughts reeked of a desire for more. He needed to be shown through the actions of someone else what it meant to own your feelings.
For Ikuo’s part, he didn’t understand the difference between being a partner and adopting the actions and mannerisms of one. He applied a one-size-fits-all approach to all his intimate relationships and did what he thought was expected of him. Doing so meant that it didn’t matter who was on the receiving end of his gestures and that’s why the relationships never lasted. And he didn’t change his methods for Yosuke, at first. When he didn’t get the reaction he was expecting, he assumed it was because Yosuke was a guy. And like Yosuke, it took a little outside perspective for him to realize it had nothing to do with that.
It is because they both went through several stages of revelation that when they finally get together it feels real and earned. So, good story all around.
Now, about the translation. I may as well howl at the moon for all that anyone is going to hear me, but I really wish they would keep honorifics in manga, particularly in stories where hierarchy plays a big part in the relationship dynamics. For those situations, I can always tell where it was removed because either the translation is awkward or the scene lacks something because the tension between the characters underscored by that hierarchy seems misplaced without it. Just leave them in.
Between that and the subpar editing, I don’t know which was worse. The manuscript looks like it didn’t pass through the hands of a line editor or a copy editor. Even if the honorifics are excluded, there are better ways the appearances of “Mr.” and “sir” could have been finessed. Also, why use “senpai” as a qualifier for why an order should be followed but not as the honorific that supports the privilege behind that order? Why allow -chan but no other honorifics? And why did Nana call her brother Arimura throughout the story? It’s their last name. And then you reach the afterword and the author is talking about Ikuo and Yosuke this and Ikuo that. Who is this Ikuo all of a sudden?
The majority of the readers picking up this title have a firm grasp on Japanese honorifics. For those that don’t, it should be simple enough to throw a cheat sheet on the page after the table of contents. But don’t diminish the story by westernizing it so much that it loses integral elements.
The odd thing is that they know who their audience is and–mums the word–they also know that a significant number of them read unofficial translations. If they didn’t there’d be no point in noting in their IG post for this title that it’s the prequel to Love Nest, a title that hasn’t been released in English yet. But they know that’s the main selling point for this title. Sayonara Game and Change World stand on their own, but anyone interested knows that Love Nest is better–one of the best series out there now–and most people, me included, are really waiting for that and letting Yosuke and Ikuo serve as an aperitif before the full course.
But I digress. I know a lot factors into the final product and somethings are restricted by the licensing contracts, but I don’t think that’s at play here. It just seems like this was a rush job and the narrative is more awkward for it. I hope that they work it out before the rest of the series comes out. I know they can do it because the amount of money I spent on my SuBlime library says so.