Matsumoto Miecohouse “Sawatte mo Ii ka na”
Sawatte mo Ii ka na is Matsumoto Miecohouse’s third BL tankoubon, and her second to be released by Taiyo Tosho’s HertZ line. Her hit manga Koi no Mannaka seemed like it would be a hard act to follow, even for Miecohouse herself, but I believe with this tankoubon she really cemented her ability to handle drama in such a gentle, believable way that can make even a more simple story really make an impact.
Sawatte follows two young men from the end of middle school all the way to their early college years. Shirou and Masami are good friends, and so are their brothers. But one day they accidentally happen upon their brothers having sex. They are both startled by what they see, but Shirou is the one most bothered. Slowly Shirou starts having dirty dreams about Masami, seemingly triggered by the shock caused by seeing their bothers having sex. And Masami seems to reciprocate. But due to what Shirou’s brother Yuu said when Shirou mentioned seeing the two having sex (“If you tell anyone I’ll kill you, and then myself”) Shirou is terrified of the consequences of such a relationship and doesn’t want to be touched by Masami anymore. But Masami keeps pushing him, asking him if love is really such a terrible and disgusting thing. Finally, in an act of desperation to escape these sexual feelings for Masami and to prove that he’s ‘normal’ Shirou starts dating a female friend from school named Mako.
Cut to high school, and then college. Shirou and Masami are still friends, but ever since Shirou started dating Mako and told Masami to forget all about what happened between them, Masami has started to become withdrawn from Shirou. But Shirou is still constantly drawn to Masami like a moth to flame—whenever Masami is avoiding him he’s upset and longs for the other man. And Mako, of course, notices his longing and becomes more and more frustrated about her inability to make Shirou look at only her. The more Masami gives up and pulls away from Shirou, the more Shirou has to face his longing for Masami, and the more Mako has to try and hold the man she has loved for years to her side.
Part of the reason I found this manga so powerful to read is the contrast between Masami’s easy acceptance of his love for Shirou and Shirou’s absolute fear of his love for Masami. It wasn’t a personality trait—their reactions are completely proportionate to how their brothers reacted about their own sexual relationship. While Masami’s brother Tetsu could easily say he was in love with Shirou’s brother Yuu, Yuu was evidently ashamed of his attraction to Tetsu and pushed that shame off on Shirou. All Masami saw was love, even if it was somewhat unusual. Shirou, on the other hand, connected their brothers’ sexual relationship with a threat and thus wanted to pull away completely from the idea of two men in a romantic-sexual relationship.
I also liked the way Mako’s desperation was shown. Though her lie about being pregnant was vaguely cliche, it was handled in a way that didn’t make Mako just look like a crazy jackass—you could really feel her desperation to make Shirou finally fall in love with her, and to keep him at her side. Throughout the book you feel bad for her for having a man use her just to prove his own manliness and normalcy. Though I’m sure she enjoyed her time with Shirou, it’s sad that she had to waste so much time on him when she could have been with a lover who wasn’t having sex with her just to avoid having it with someone else.
And in the end, I really loved Shirou’s inability to run from his feelings. Mako once told him that the cycle of love takes three years, so Shirou dutifully waited for his feelings for Masami to turn into those of a normal friend and his feelings for Mako to turn into romantic love. But he wasn’t able to force it; no matter how hard he tried, in the end there was no way for him to deny his feelings for Masami any longer. To deny them would be to lose Masami, and losing Masami was the one thing he wouldn’t be able to stand.
Then the scene where they’re making love for the first time and Shirou says “I love you” in a way that isn’t shame-filled and painful and followed by the horrible phrase “but it’s no good” and then Masami can’t hold his tears back anymore and can finally openly admit his love for Shirou. I thought that was really powerful—you really feel, at that point, all of the longing that Masami had to deal with on his own for all those years that he was pulling away from Shirou to avoid being hurt even more. That was such a beautiful way to end the story, because you really get a feel for the rush of love and relief that they’re both feeling at that moment. Like finally, everything is as it should be and they can both start healing.
As I said before, it’s a really simple but powerful story. If any other mangaka had written this same plot, I’m not so sure it would have had all the nuances (the longing, the connection of fear and homophobia, the idea of ‘touch’ holding the story together) that Matsumoto Miecohouse’s story had. This would have been an easy story to mess up, but she really finessed it in my opinion. She spun a beautiful, powerful manga that’s oddly believable and filled with very understandable emotions and reactions. Even with all the painful drama this book held, there was never at any point where it became too melodramatic or cheesy for me. It was really just perfect.
Previously, I has missed the first two chapters of the book since I read this in HertZ. I was thinking for a while that I wouldn’t buy it since I’d already read a big chunk of the story and I was short on money last month, but in the end I opted to make the purchase if only because I had already really loved the manga at that point. And I’m so glad I did—even though I already enjoyed the manga without knowing a single bit of the plot caused by the brothers (which is all in the first two chapters—chapter three cuts to them in high school and four and five is them in college), their story in the beginning is really what turned this manga from ‘great’ to ‘amazing’. All the gentle intricacies of Shirou’s homophobia add a completely different layer to this manga that I would have completely missed out on.
Anyway, if you can not already tell from the entire review, I highly recommend this manga. Even Matsumoto Miecohouse’s signature adorable artwork aside, the story itself is just brilliant. It’s light on sex and comedy but filled with emotional impact and really leaves you with a great feeling when you’ve finished reading it. In fact, I have already read it three times since the book arrived at my house and if I didn’t have Kumota Haruko’s Itoshi no Nekokke sitting at my side and waiting for attention I think I would be reading it a fourth time tonight.