Umematsu Machie “One-Way no Kagi”
This is Umematsu Machie’s second book through LYNX and was her second book in general, closely followed by the release of Canna’s Shokudou Dinner Show. While it doesn’t seem to have made an impact quite yet in the form of reviews or release and purchase rankings, I personally enjoyed the book immensely while I read it and feel perfectly comfortable saying that Umematsu Machie is quickly becoming one of the small group of mangaka I will always make sure to check out.
One-Way no Kagi actually consists of two joint stories. The first revolves around the relationship between Yamaguchi and his coworker Shiina. One night Yamaguchi accompanies Shiina out for drinks after work only for Shiina to get absolutely trashed and thus mopey about recently being dumped. After bringing Shiina home, though, Shiina mistakes Yamaguchi for his ex-lover and propositions him for sex. It turns out that Shiina’s ex, Masataka, is actually a man and Shiina is in fact gay. Yamaguchi, on the other hand, is completely straight and even has a casual girlfriend. But in the days after the incident, he can’t get Shiina’s aroused face out of his mind—and even imagines it while his girlfriend is trying to have sex with him. Is he falling in love with Shiina or is this a passing phase? And why the hell is he suddenly feeling so much spite for the man named ‘Masa’—a man he has never even met?
The second part of Shiina and Yamaguchi’s story deals with Yamaguchi actually meeting Shiina’s ex and thus losing a bit of confidence over whether Shiina is in love with him or still longing for a reunion with Masataka. But in the end Shiina is able to reassure Yamaguchi and they consummate their love for one another.
The second story is about Masataka, Shiina’s ex. It turns out that he’s the casual type who will always just let go of things instead of working for them. Even his dream job as a designer, which he stopped after just one failure. So when Shiina said they should break up he agreed and that was that. But as we were already told in the second part of Shiina and Yamaguchi’s story, Masataka really was in love with Shiina all the way up until their parting and even after it. So, heartbroken, he can’t get out of the funk their breakup caused—that is, until he meets a young ‘psychic’ bartender who seems to know everything about him from the fact that he’s gay to his job being computer-related. The bartender, Shinya, is finally someone who Masataka can lean on when he’s troubled. But what happens when Masataka’s cowardice toward failure starts frustrating Shinya and making him pull away? And how does Shinya really know so much about Masataka’s personality and life history? Who is Shinya, anyway?
Oddly, even though I buy Comic Magazine LYNX on every release month, the only part of this entire tankoubon that I read in the actual magazine was Masataka’s chapter. Which, as you can probably tell, didn’t make nearly so much sense outside the context of the previous story. A lot of Masataka’s story is tied in to the third chapter of Shiina and Yamaguchi’s story (such as Masataka returning Shiina’s key to Yamaguchi and ‘giving away’ Shiina to a man he feels can properly love him) and so it just seemed like a bunch of random scenes to me. But after reading the first part of the story I think it’s safe to say that Masataka’s story is still my favorite. I always find characters like him, though pitiful, who are so afraid of failure to be quite personally relatable and it adds an extra layer to their personality for me. I liked how Shinya didn’t coddle him but at the same time didn’t give up loving Masataka either. While Shiina and Yamaguchi were very cute together and I immensely enjoyed reading their story, there’s just something about Shinya and Masataka’s relationship (perhaps the fact that Shinya had loved Masataka all the way since he was in high school, making their pasts a bit more tangled and their relationship deeper) that is more endearing to me. They’re just so perfectly matched for each other.
Like in their extra chapter where, after they have sex (of course—it wouldn’t be a proper release through LYNX without at least some fanservice!), they’re in bed together just talking and you realize that they compliment each other perfectly: Masataka is the type to not say what’s on his mind and to not dig too deep into the actions of his lovers to find out what they’re thinking, so a blunt and straight-forward person like Shinya is best because Shinya won’t be passive-aggressive and beat around the bush. Shinya will tell Masataka when he needs attention or when he’s unhappy, which is what Masataka needs—that little kick in the butt—to realize that he’s faltering in the relationship. Not to mention the part where Shinya, cradling Masataka’s head close to his own, says “your ridiculous pride and even all your complexes… they are what make you human and are something I hold dear.” Haha I nearly started crying. Masataka did start crying—I think that was something he really needed to hear someone say. It was just all-around an amazing moment.
Not to leave Yamaguchi and Shiina out, of course. It’s just that their relationship doesn’t have nearly so many complexities and so I can’t go on and on about their chapters like I can with Masataka and Shinya’s. To me it’s almost as if Yamaguchi and Shiina’s story is more generic BL ‘feel good’, which in itself is immensely enjoyable but not something that you can go on and on picking apart and analyzing. So just because I’m not dedicating multiple paragraphs to them doesn’t mean you should assume that their story is any less enjoyable to read! I thought it was adorable how Shiina had started avoiding Yamaguchi because he’d accidentally started falling in love with him (which was bad since Yamauchi was originally ‘non-ke’) since the night they went drinking, while Yamaguchi assumed it was because Shiina didn’t like him anymore. The scene where they admitted their feelings and were both left dumbfounded was adorable. I also loved how lascivious Shiina was, which is something that is (sadly) somewhat unusual for uke-type characters. The scene where he whispered in Yamaguchi’s ear after they confessed their feelings “…you said you want me to call out your name? Well, then I’ll make sure to call it looooots in bed. Yutaka.” Uwaaa Shiina-san you’re so sexy! All-around a very cute, fun couple.
But the actual romances aside, I liked that this book also had a plot throughout of ‘moving on’. That Shiina and Masataka were left heartbroken from their relationships but were able to look forward and find new love in men that suited them better. This made the entire book flow together perfectly and feel more like one concrete story than two separate romances. I liked how meaningful it was for Masataka to give Shiina’s key back (which was him giving up on his chances of ever winning Shiina back and acknowledging that Yamaguchi was probably better for Shiina than he was) and then of Yamaguchi receiving the key at the end, proving that the only one Shiina was thinking of at that point was him and no longer Masataka. Masataka no longer held Shiina’s adoration and so it was easy for Shiina to pass on the key to his new lover. Both relationships had moved on.
Overall, not a particularly deep BL manga but one that I found incredibly endearing. I liked the differences in the two relationships and their interactions, and I thought the final extra, in which the four men are able to comfortably eat dinner together, was the perfect end to this book. Even with the hard times it still ended on such a hopeful, sweet note where both couples were happy for themselves as well as each other and able to move on. A very light but fun relationship-based read.