Kojima Lalako “Kimi ni Utsuru Hoshi”
Kimi ni Utsuru Hoshi is the second in a string of four releases by Kojima Lalako this fall/winter, and her third release overall for the year 2012. Though it’s released through Chocolat it also includes a couple stories from different publishers, including her debut story from LYNX as well as her contribution to the Syrup anthologies released just over a year ago.
I was initially thinking this book would have a lot of stories from moca, which is an anthology I don’t buy and thus there would be lots of stuff I hadn’t already read. But unfortunately in a show of my lacking luck there were only two chapters out of six that I hadn’t already read, both of which are a continuation of a story I had already read. But actually those ended up being some of my favorite chapters in the whole book so in the end I really can’t complain too much.
The title story, Kimi ni Utsuru Hoshi, is one I read for the first time in the first issue of moca I ever bought (volume eight) and I’ve already talked about it here for anyone who wants a long review but the tl;dr of it is that it’s about two boys, named Kazuya and Kenji, who fall into a strange relationship where they end up being there for each other in some of the worst events thusfar in their young lives and fall into a love that borders weirdly toward platonic. Which brings us to the continuation: even though they kissed Kazuya is having trouble figuring out if they’re just friends or something more, and Kenji is always so vague about his advances that Kazuya can’t tell if he’s actually coming on to him or if Kenji is just a horndog who likes to make out with and sexually harass his friends. But when there’s suddenly a cute female classmate in the picture, Saechin, and she is adorably shy but obviously has a crush on Kazuya they’re forced to finally fight it out and figure out just what their feelings for each other are.
Then there’s also one more chapter, which has probably become my favorite Kojima Lalako release of all time, which is centered around the difficulties caused by Kenji’s homosexuality (because unlike Kazuya, Kenji is actually gay) and his guilt for bringing Kazuya down the same hard path in life. It’s a pretty gorgeous chapter, but I’ll touch on that more later.
The fourth chapter in the book, however, is where the unrelated stories start. First is Nanadome no Gomen ne which I’m sure most Kojima Lalako fans have already read since it’s been scalated but it’s about two brothers, one of which—Tooru—has turned into a recluse due to a strange guilt he holds within. His brother Satoru is in love with him and tries to help him, but there’s one problem with his brother he can’t fix. Or can he? Next is Kojima’s debut story from LYNX (iirc), Koi no Awai no, about two friends Yurikawa and Saeki whose friendship is thrown down a strange path when Saeki—who previously was attached at the hip to Yurikawa—suddenly starts a romantic affair with his (married) male teacher. Then the last story is the one from Syrup, Afuretara Saigo. This story once again deals with childhood friends; Segawa has started dressing in women’s clothing and staying out late at night to attract the attention of a man he’s in enamored by, and while Takasaka tries his best to be supportive he’s frustrate by Segawa’s willfulness and desperation to change who he is for a man who doesn’t even seem to love him back.
All of the stories are pretty amazing, some of which are actually incredibly depressing (Nanadome and Afuretara) but they all have Kojima Lalako’s signature bittersweet fluffiness in common. In particular I want to talk a bit more about the third chapter of the title story—the one that deals with Kenji’s sexuality in a painfully realistic way. The plot of that chapter is essentially this: while Kenji and Kazuya’s relationship is going well overall and they are very much in love, Kazuya is starting to feel the effects of dating another male in a society where such things are swept under the rug or frowned upon. So one day when Kenji shows up to school with a beaten-up face, Kazuya has a strange suspicion that it has something to do with Kenji’s sexuality. But Kenji keeps rejecting his attempts to talk about it, and even though that night they had plans to enjoy some time alone together before going to see fireworks something is very obviously wrong when Kenji asks in the middle of making out whether Kazuya would prefer to do such things with a female. After that they have emotionless, rushed sex and then head out to see the fireworks.
While watching explosions of color in the sky, Kazuya suddenly asks “are you gay?” Initially Kenji tries to joke about it but finally comes out with his heartbreaking story—in middle school his friends were looking at porno books and discussing which girls they liked most, but Kenji didn’t feel anything looking at them. In fact, he was only interested in the male partners. Panicked he went home and told his parents hoping they could help him, and his dad beat him. The only one who was supportive was his loving grandfather, who told him it was okay to live in any way that made Kenji happy. (Thus we know why Kenji was so close to his grandfather, which makes his grandfather’s death in the first chapter even more heartbreaking.) Kenji then admits that they were seen (presumably by Kenji’s dad) kissing the day before, and says he’s sorry for bringing the kind and wonderful Kazu-chan—Kenji’s first love—down this path. But that’s when my favorite part of the chapter happens; Kazuya refuses to listen to Kenji’s apologies and guilt and his response is pretty beautiful.
“It’s fine! I’ll make your parents understand! No matter how much we have to beg. I… I’m not scared. I’m not gay so I may not understand completely. But I won’t be scared! All the ‘things’ we did together, I did them with you because I wanted to! So don’t go deciding things on your own. Together… We’ll do this together!”
Afterward Kenji looks like he’s trying to joke about Kazuya’s words so he can not take them too seriously, but then his smile fades and his eyes fill with tears and he quietly asks “….is that it okay?” After that they part ways for the night, and when Kazuya is pretty sure he’s alone he allows the tears to well up in his own eyes and he admits to himself that he’s scared—he’s terrified—but he loves Kenji too much to just leave it at that. It’s scary, but he wants them to be together. Seeming to have sensed something was wrong, suddenly Kenji reappears and embraces Kazuya from behind. He’s calmer now, and it’s his turn to comfort his Kazu-chan, and he whispers “I love you. I love you more than anyone in this world.”
When Kazuya gets home he sees his father’s shoes in the entryway. Initially he’s surprised since no one was supposed to be home (as was the plan since he and Kenji were initially planning on spending a romantic night together at Kazuya’s house), but then it dawns on him that this is his chance to be true to his word to Kenji—to be courageous in the face of adversity regarding their relationship. He walks into the living room and sits on the couch with his father, and they’re quiet for a moment before he says “the person I’m dating… is male. He’s male, but we still want to find happiness together.” His father, never really looking away from his bento, offers him a fried shrimp and simply responds “eat this. As your father, I am not opposed.”
the chapter ends with Kuzaya’s inner dialogue:
We are only sixteen, and I don’t know what will come after this. But even so, tomorrow too I want us to walk down this path together holding hands.
I. BAWLED. I’m not even joking this chapter was just so incredibly touching to me—such a wonderful example of a BL story that does hold some semblance of realism in a way that’s incredibly touching. Even though I also absolutely loved all the other stories in the book, this chapter absolutely made it for me. It was just so beautiful and powerful and I loved how Kazuya initially wanted to be strong for Kenji and hide his weakness but Kenji would have none of it and proved that they would bear their burdens together as a couple. I was just so moved by these two and their strength, I cannot rave enough about this story. I hope it become available in English somehow and is widely accessible because I want everyone to be able to read it and bask in just how amazing Kojima Lalako is and just how powerful BL can be as a genre.
Anyway I have raved enough so here are some sample panels for you all:
general overview: I sincerely think this book has something for everyone and I definitely really recommend it. If you’re too picky to enjoy anything about this book then just… why are you reading my blog because this book pretty much encapsulates everything I love about the BL genre and if you don’t like this I probably have nothing to offer you. The only thing I love that this book doesn’t have is really overt porn—all of the sex scenes are muddled or hidden in some way. The most graphic this book gets is stuff like really heavy make-out scenes or someone on top of someone else. There are perverted things about this book, but none of the ‘doing you up the butt’ variety. Plenty of angst, plenty of fluff, plenty of really touching moment. I really loved this book, personally. Granted I am ridiculously biased about everything Kojima Lalako does. But I am biased toward her for a reason, and that reason is essentially this book.